Thursday, January 2, 2020

Fool's Views (12/1 – 12/15)

We're here for the Old Year....

Howdy, folks,

Well, with the self-defense schedule relatively clear after the first week, December provided rich and varied cinematic terrain to explore and celebrate with others. Just in the nick of time, I held my first official Share the Scare of 2019, during which we knocked out eight, count 'em, EIGHT flicks in the course of one afternoon. I also started notating which years had been thus far neglected and rented accordingly from the local library shelves: 2005 (Tsotsi), 1963 (Bye Bye Birdie), and 1951 (A Place in the Sun). Sometimes – nay, usually – my OCD tendencies yield interesting fruit and these were no exceptions.

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



Color Out of Space (2019) d. Stanley, Richard (USA) (1st viewing)


The Final Conflict (1981) d. Baker, Graham (USA) (3rd viewing)

Outside of giving New Zealand sensation Sam Neill the gateway to his Hollywood career, the concluding chapter of The Omen trilogy has never gotten much love from fans or critics. While it definitely has its faults, I’ve always had a soft spot for its far-reaching conspiracy theory material, not to mention the inept band of would-be assassin monks who clearly haven’t done this type of thing before. The plot to murder every child in England born on a certain date (in an effort to halt the second coming of Christ) is supremely dark stuff, as is the fact that Damien’s followers have reached an estimable number such that they are less a splinter group terrorist organization and more a legit political party. There is undeniably a stronger plotline at play than in Damien: Omen II, which was simply a cavalcade of creative deaths, although it’s hard to defend the literal deus-ex-machina conclusion.

Available now as part of Shout! Factory’s The Omen Collection box set, featuring the 1976 original, the 1978 sequel, the made-for-TV misfire Omen IV, and the 2006 remake.

Friday the 13th (2009) d. Nispel, Marcus (USA) (2nd viewing)

Jason’s back, or is he? Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes re-envisions everyone’s favorite hockey-mask wearing psychopath as a longbow-shooting, trap-laying, machete-swinging mountain man. Clearly made “for the fans” with an increased boobs and blood quotient, there’s a lot of energy on display even if it’s wanting for the whiff of inspiration. (There’s not a truly memorable murder in the entire running time.) Derek Mears is a dynamic Jason, all sinewy muscle and physicality, and he has a dandy time facing off against his fresh-faced cannon fodder (Supernatural’s Jared Padalecki, future Flash regular Danielle Panabaker), while Willa Ford and Julianna Guill make strong impressions with their extended topless scenes. Nispel also helmed 2003’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre redux, but don't hold that against him.

Man-Made Monster (1941) d. Waggner, George (USA) (2nd viewing)


The Maze (1953) d. Menzies, William Cameron (USA) (3rd viewing)


The Prey (1983) d. Brown, Edwin (USA) (2nd viewing)

A fair-to-middling campers in the woods slasher, hindered by an inordinate amount of padding and superfluous cutaways to flora and fauna. (Sooooooo much Nature B-roll.) With the California Redwoods standing in for the Rocky Mountains, a group of attractive city slickers heads out for a weekend of hiking, casual sex, and occasional evisceration. Between the sporadic kills, medial attempts are made at characterization (banjo-pickin, joke-tellin’ park ranger Jackson Bostwick is working overtime), but the only semi-novel aspect on tap is the malformed killer’s (Carel Struycken) ultimate motivation for his bloody exploits, leading to an eyebrow-raising final tableau. There’s also a bizarre Addams’ Family connection: Jackie Coogan, who played Uncle Fester in the TV show, is on hand as the head ranger while Struycken played butler Lurch in the 1991 film version and its sequel.

Available now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video in a two-disc collector’s edition (!), featuring the “International Cut” and the “Composite Cut,” because what we all needed was for this overlong film to be longer.

Silent Night Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (1991) d. Kitrosser, Martin (USA) (1st viewing)

Yes, it’s the infamous “one with Mickey Rooney,” and it’s far more engaging and inspired than one would expect from a franchise four sequels deep. Producer Brian Yuzna (Society) and Kitrosser (who scripted Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter) team up to deliver this twisted reworking of Pinocchio with Rooney playing “Joe Petto,” a troubled toymaker whose mechanical creations start doling out death (Screaming Mad George’s surreal special effects are the high points, unsurprisingly). No relation at all to the killer Santa storyline from Parts 1-3, and I found myself wishing that Yuzna had not decided to shoehorn it into the series, as I expect it would be in greater favor amongst horror fans seen for its own merits.

Slaughterhouse Slumber Party (2019) d. Mills, Dustin (USA) (1st viewing)

I was provided a sneak peek of this latest venture from Ohio indie flickmaker Mills (Puppet Monster Massacre) and I gotta say, if you’re looking for a ribald and raucous celebration of feminism and flatulence, drinking and demons, pillow fights and practical-effect frights, supernatural haunts and spectacular taunts, and comic flair and pubic hair, you have come to the right place. A fuller review may be forthcoming, but in the meantime, keep an eye out for this one on the 2020 festival circuit.

Spookies (1986) d. Joseph, Genie / Doran, Thomas / Falkner, Brendan (USA) (2nd viewing)

What a wacko little film. Or rather should I say, what a wacky couple of films, since it’s clear that there are (at least) two completely different artistic visions going on in two completely different storylines married together after the fact (to whomever’s credit, pretty seamlessly). It’s a pretty standard haunted house flick in the spirit of the original Night of the Demons, with some genuinely impressive (spider lady sequence!) and/or charmingly goofy rubber monsters and gore. Newly released to Blu-ray by Vinegar Syndrome, with TWO feature-length documentaries on how the madness finally found its way to the screen. (Apparently Faulkner and Doran ran into creative differences with producer Michael Lee, leading them to exit the project and Joseph coming aboard with a whole new storyline and a bagload of special effects.) Well worth checking out, especially in the company of fellow fiends.

Tammy and the T-Rex (1994) d. Raffill, Stewart (USA) (2nd viewing)

I was really quite worried that this early Denise Richards/Paul Walker vehicle would not hold up outside of its once-in-a-lifetime Cinepocalypse screening this summer, but it thankfully manages to deliver the goods on the small screen as well. Within its knowingly WTF premise (Walker’s brain ends up inside the skull of a robot dinosaur, much to Richards’ dismay and confusion), there are a wealth of intentionally comic moments, the character interplay is perfectly on point, and the gore moments are hilarious. In addition to the two future stars, we have thoroughly enjoyable turns from Terry Kiser (Weekend at Bernie’s), Ellen Dubin (Napoleon Dynamite), George “Buck” Flower (Escape from New York), Ken Carpenter (Hellraiser III), John Franklin (Children of the Corn), and secret weapon Theo Forsett as Tammy’s bestie Byron. Available now on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome and comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


Bye Bye Birdie (1963) d. Sidney, George (USA) (1st viewing)

The Broadway hit gets the big screen treatment, wherein an Elvis-like rock star (Jesse Pearson) is being drafted into the Army, with a wild publicity stunt involving him giving a goodbye kiss away to his biggest fan Kim McAfee (Ann-Margret) on the Ed Sullivan show accompanying the big send-off. Dick Van Dyke stars as a struggling songwriter who schemes with his lover/secretary (Janet Leigh) to get Birdie to sing his latest tune during the broadcast, while Paul Lynde huffs and puffs as Kim’s prudish pop. Ann-Margret became an instant star, but hadn’t really learned to modulate her animalistic sexuality quite yet – her baby doll voice is more annoying than alluring and she’s only given a few moments in which to shimmy and shake. Similarly, Pearson is more doofus than dreamboat, a hunky and charismatic Elvis stand-in he is not. It’s fun to see Leigh in a comic role, while Van Dyke delivers his charming well-intentioned loser shtick.

Knives and Skin (2019) d. Reeder, Jennifer (USA) (1st viewing)

I know a lot of people went gaga for this indie dark comedy/drama, but considering it’s being sold as a genre film as opposed to the feminist Twin Peaks wannabe that it patently is, it’s hard not to suffer from flummoxed expectations. I went from puzzled to annoyed pretty quickly, because for all the artsy-fartsy posturing and symbolism surrounding a small-town community’s reaction to the disappearance of a female high school student, it’s mostly just weird for weird’s sake with humans acting like no humans ever acted before.

A Place in the Sun (1951) d. Stevens, George (USA) (2nd viewing)

Montgomery Clift stars in George Steven’s remake of Joseph von Sternberg 1931 version of An American Tragedy. A weak young opportunist (Clift) is torn between the poor warehouse worker that he’s knocked up (Shelly Winters) and the beautiful wealthy girl who falls in love with him (Elizabeth Taylor, in her first “grown-up” role). Winner of six Oscars, including Director for Stevens, but lost out to An American in Paris for Best Picture.

Slaughterhouse-Five (1972) d. Hill, George Roy (USA) (5th viewing)

This daringly faithful adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s celebrated novel confounded many with its slippery narrative, following its main character (Michael Sacks) who has become “unstuck in time,” bouncing from service in Germany during WWII to his comfortable middle-aged married life to being kidnapped by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore and being asked to breed with a sexy B-movie actress named Montana Wildhack (Valerie Perrine). Personally, I’ve always loved it, so it’s nice to see it given such stellar hi-def treatment by the good folks at Arrow Video.

Tsotsi (2005) d. Hood, Gavin (South Africa/UK) (1st viewing)

Winner of the Best Foreign Film Oscar, a young Johannesburg gang leader kidnaps a baby during a bungled carjacking and grows surprisingly attached to the infant despite his complete ignorance of child-raising. While occasionally overly sentimental, there are more than enough nuggets of truthful reality that resonate.

Turkish Jaws (aka Col) (1983) d. Inanc, Cetin (Turkey) (1st viewing)

How much onscreen shark action does a film need to have in order to be considered a Jaws ripoff? About 38 seconds, apparently. But while it’s hardly a scene-for-scene redux of Spielberg’s smash, it’s still pretty damn entertaining with Turkish action star Cunyet Arkin (The Sword and the Claw) smashing every opponent into smithereens and still finding time to drive the cars and woo the ladies (in and out of their continuity-flouting swimwear).


Mark of the Beast: The Legacy of the Universal Werewolf (2019) d. Griffith, Daniel (USA) (1st viewing)

Informative if rote documentary about how the cinematic shapeshifter evolved from Werewolf of London to The Wolf Man to An American Werewolf in London, all under the Universal Studios umbrella.

The Stories Behind the Making of The Blues Brothers (1998) d. Kenny, J.M. (USA) (1st viewing)

Yes, there are all the car crashes and blues legends to marvel at, but there was also the Belushi Watch, with director Landis and co-star Dan Aykroyd trading off who was supposed to be keeping an eye on the party-hearty comedy star and make sure he showed up on set each day.

2019 Totals to Date: 438 films, 207 1st time views, 234 horror, 41 cinema


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