Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A CHRISTMAS NIGHTMARE (2001)

O Axe of wonder, heads to hit,
Axe that really makes you shit,
Downward leading, death's proceeding
Guide it to a skull to split

THE CARD:

12 axes chopping, 11 gardeners peeping; 10 jerks a-slapping, 9 ladies drowning, 8 broken cell phones, 7 damsels fleeing, 6 snipers aiming, 5 weenie husbands, 4 possessed agents, 3 holey shovels, 2 gloomy ghosts and a Psycho not far from Elm Street!

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

According to the fake news cast, a politician is gunned down on live TV. Edward Anderson (Charlie Finelli) and his wife Alice (Tiffany Baker) witnessed the slaying and can identify the killer. For their own safety, they are sent into hiding by the FBI in the Witness Protection Program. Just a few days before X-mas, Agent Simmons (Hugo Armstrong) escorts them to their new life in the countryside, but they have to brave a violent storm to get there. Wet and exhausted, they arrive to find the house unfurnished and ill-prepared to receive the Andersons, especially Alice who’s a few weeks pregnant. The Andersons share a tense relationship, possibly due to the impending arrival of the child, and there is trouble brewing between the pair. Simmons leaves them in the dark house to get a better signal on his cell phone, but when he returns in the morning, he acts strangely towards the Andersons, eerily distant as if under a trance. As they wait for help over the next few days, Alice begins to see and hear strange things in the house – shadows moving, disembodied voices, and the apparition of a strange man in overalls and two sad ladies in white floating in the pond. She finds a diary in a creepy barn that belonged to a man who worked for the long-dead owners of the home. She learns the tragic history of the farm where the man murdered for revenge and desire before hanging himself from the windmill. The strange stuff intensifies but skeptical and clueless Edward is in denial about the emerging evil in the house that has taken a grip on Simmons. Meanwhile, a bigger threat looms in the scary woods. A hired killer, perhaps the same man who killed the politician, is stalking the Andersons and Simmons’ every moves. Simmons’ behavior gets weirder and weirder and the Andersons begin to fear for their lives as something far more sinister than a bullet may be waiting to claim their souls.

THE FINISHER:

Sometimes the best X-mas gifts are those wrapped the lousiest. And the X-mas thriller A Christmas Nightmare is wrapped in the usual low-budget trappings of irritating electronic soundtrack, amateurish acting, and lack of characterization. But after all that is tossed aside, the movie turns out to be quite a nice surprise. We have a good old fashioned ghost story here, told from the perspective of a tragedy in the past that continues to affect the present, an essential theme of a cracking good ghost story. Director Vince De Meglio, now a seasoned Hollywood screenwriter, displays solid if economic filmmaking here, holding back big scares and gory effects for an atmosphere of intensity and uncertainty, borrowing just a tad from The Shining. The pace is slow, however, sometime exceedingly slow but the story remained engaging enough to hang in there until the bloody end. So don’t prejudge Uncle Jeffro’s pineapple- shaped present wrapped in twine and street porn ads. What may look like a low-budget truck-stop DVD cheapo may turn out to be an effective, nicely shot, and spooky thriller perfect for a cold winters night.

Monday, December 21, 2009

ONE HELL OF A CHRISTMAS (2002)

You better not watch, You better not buy,
You better not rent, I'm telling you why,
Shaky Gonzales is filming ...
A cheapo turd.

THE CARD:

A three-hour credit sequence; a Carlitos in search of a way out of this movie; that part of Nevada where everyone has a silly accent; not-so subtly numbered taxi cabs; the Russian dude from 2012; Death Fridge, the Fridge That Eats; the busy seaport of Las Vegas; Glad Hooker Disposal Bags; and a Very Coked-Out X-mas!

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

A portly Englishman visits a weirdo in a Wise Man outfit, some fruitcake named Ibrahim, and sells him a mysterious object, a fang-shaped symbol encased in a smoky chest. Ibrahim is overjoyed at receiving the object but we can't learn much about its significance because we're interrupted by a endless credit sequence. Cut to a prison in the Nevada desert where small-time hood Carlitos has been paroled and awaits a ride from his slimey con pal Mike who forgets to show up. During his hitched ride into town, Carlito decides to turn a new leaf and set his life straight for his little boy who lives with his estranged wife.

The King does not approve.

Meanwhile, Mike is up to his old shenanigans at the docks (after all, this is Nevada) and runs into Ibrahim who's killed by a mysterious and powerful stranger who's searching for the black fang. He is able to escape but not before stealing the fang which when snorted gives him incredible strength and invulnerability. Carlitos is back sulking at his old house, spurned by his ex-wife, when Mike shows up at his door. He tempts Carlitos into snorting up which causes him to strangle a hooker during violent hallucinatory sex. After disposing of the body, Mike ditches him to go bang Carlitos' ex-wife, leaving him in a paranoid state, besieged by odd sounds and violations by major appliances. Left alone, hungover, and freaked out, Carlitos is attacked by the zombie hooker...

Ahh, they don't make whores like they used to anymore.

...assaulted by a werewolf doll...

Guess he's not on Team Jacob.

and threatened by a monstrous cowboy who came to life from a movie poster.

Spare some brains, Pilgrim?

Carlitos fights for his life against these horrific manifestations but eventually the mysterious man comes around to claim what is his, and at stake will be Caritos' soul. Well, after he wipes down all the hooker sweat.

THE FINISHER:

One Hell of a Christmas is yet another misnamed holiday movie. Other than the setting, there is very little about X-mas in this film and Hell only makes a very short cameo. The director of the movie is named Shaky Gonzales. If this is in fact his real name, it is particularly apt, for it describes his plotting and storytelling style. It is very Gonzales-y. I guess the only real connection I can make to X-mas is that it plays out like a really cheap and not very well thought-out re-envisioning of A Christmas Carol. Carlitos is the criminal Scrooge forced to confront his past and drug abuse and seek deliverance after visits from three spirits – the zombie hooker, the stuffed werewolf, and the undead cowboy - all universal symbols of soul redemption, right? Mike is Jacob Marley and the audience is Tiny Tim, barely hobbling along through this painful mess. That's pretty much where the comparison ends. The DVD print is terrible - murky, dark, and pixelated. The Carlitos guy does the best he can with what little he has to do, but his silly accent kept from taking anything happening to him seriously. By the looks of it, Shaky desired to make an earnest movie about Hell, sin, and salvation and there are moments of skilled filmmaking in all-too brief spots in the movie. To be fair, I have heard good things about Shaky's more recent efforts, particularly the bigger-budgeted actioner Pistoleros which comes recommended. Perhaps Shaky straightened out since this sophomoric effort, turned nice from naughty, and put behind him this well-intentioned but ultimately stinky lump of bad movie coal.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

TO ALL A GOODNIGHT (1980)

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see brain splatter.
Away from the window I ran like hell,
When Santa tore open my belly and forever I fell.

THE CARD:

Christmas the 25th; Nightmare on Santa Claus Lane; Harry Reems: Airplane Pilot; the amazing teleporting killer Santa; an X-mas porn without the stuffing; and the last bad slasher on the left.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

One night during X-mas at the Calvin Finishing School For Girls, a terrible accident occurred: a movie lighting crew member forgot the turn on the lights on, and a skinny white girl who was being chased by her hazing sorority sisters fell to her death. Unfortunately, two X-mases later the same lighting crew member still hasn't turned the lights on and apparently a slasher movie of some sort occurred. From what I heard (and not saw), a group of girls stays at the expensive boarding school over the holiday vacation and when they invite a group of boys to stay over, drink, hump, and be obnoxious, a Santa-clad killer begins picking them off one by one. Or so I'm told as I COULD NOT SEE WHAT WAS GOING ON! Anyway, after a dimly lit massacre, timid Nancy (Jennifer Runyon, you know the cute “psychic” girl at the beginning of Ghostbusters) is the last one to confront the tinseled terror of our unknown assailant, who may or may not have a link to the girl who fell because the FREAKING LIGHTS WERE TURNED OFF. Could the killer be Crazy Bible-Quoting Janitor? The Mustachioed Pilot/Manservant? The Cannoli-baking Jewish Broad? The Ghost of the Girl in the Dark? Jason Vorhees Gone A'Caroling? The Guy Who Forgot To Turn on the Lights? Meh, who cares. Maybe our murderous St. Nick should have gone after Con Edison.

THE FINISHER:

As a rather seasoned horror fan, one of the most embarrassing things I have to admit is the fact that I am not too familiar with David Hess, the infamous star of the gruesome Last House On The Left. It's just one of those movies I haven't had the chance to watch, even though his performance in the movie is notorious in the annals of horrific thespians. And so my first exposure to Mr. Hess (aside from his bit part in Swamp Thing) is his directorial debut, the Santa slasher To All A Goodnight. Unfortunately, this forgotten and unavailable on DVD 80s slasher is not much of a debut. This is the second school break-related slasher I've seen so far (besides Pranks) and neither can hold a candle to the seminal and classic 1975 Bob Clark-directed masterwork Black Christmas, of which this one weakly recalls with ample borrowing from Friday the 13th in plot points and effects. Yes, Virginia, there are some Santa kills, a little sleaze, and nudity. But it's all half-heartedly executed, especially the naked parts which play out like watching your little sister take a bath. Ewww. You'd like to expect some unintentional hilarity and camp value in these low budget slashers, but this damn thing is so despairing and DIMLY LIT (did I mention that yet?) that there's not much to enjoy, mock, or SEE besides maybe one good bikini shot. Boring, slow, and bleak, To All a Goodnight is, much like last Christmas at your Auntie's apartment that always smells like feet, better off left a forgotten X-mas nightmare.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

TWO FRONT TEETH (2006)

All I Want For X-mas is My 70 Minutes Back,
My 70 Minutes Back, My 70 Minutes Back,
Gee If Only I Could Get My 70 Minutes Back,
Then I Could Forget I Paid Full Price For This D-V-D!

THE CARD:

A K-mart Clark Kent; a Walmart Jennifer Carpenter; a Big Lots Tony Todd; a Pic ‘N Save Santa; Neiman-Marcus Sexy Nuns; and a $.99 Store X-mas Horror Movie.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Gabe Snow (Johnny Francis Wolf) is a nervous journalist who works for the X-mas Files, a tabloid dedicated to covering holiday-related paranormal stories such as mutant snowmen, murderous desserts, and very bad Santas. While he’s at work on X-mas Eve, his two-timing wife Noel (Megan Pearson) is getting her stocking stuffed by a co-worker underneath the X-mas tree. But then a clatter arises, and the dude springs from the bed to see what’s the matter. But there are no chubby bellies that shake like a bowlful of jelly to be found, only a vicious vampiric elf!

The only elfin magic this guy knows is hemophilia.

But the screechy but plucky Noel swings into action against this itty-bitty blood-sucking bad-dass.

Honey, it’s a vampire elf, not Tiger Woods.

Gabe (um, where do I know that name from?) comes home he finds Noel tied up in X-mas lights and sets out to sniff the nasty elf out.

Umm, don't think a Vaseline candle can ward away vampire elves.

Turns out that Gabe had been working on a story involving the plane crash of flight 1225 (nice) which was apparently caused by an errant reindeer that collided with the plane. Commanded by the power of an unseen force, the vampire elves seek the source of Gabe’s story at any cost. Barely escaping from these holly hemogoblins, Gabe and Noel argue their way to the home of heavily armed X-mas conspiracy theorist Pete (Joseph L. Johnson).

I thought you said you quit me!

The gang gets all worked in a complex scheme to destroy X-mas forever involving Rudolph’s shiny nose, a treacherous Tooth Fairy, additional vampire elves, and more vomit-inducing than normal fruitcake. And pulling the strings in this insidious plot is the Big Man himself:

Dracufa-la-la-la-la!

THE FINISHER:

When I heard that there was a vampire X-mas movie floating around that didn’t involve whiny teenagers and the sparkly undead, I jumped at the chance to check it out. And it appears that X-mas has arrived a week early with the viewing of the chuckle-filled Navidad nightmare Two Front Teeth. But like most of my X-mas presents, this plucky low-budget independent gushfest isn’t perfect. The movie is marred by spotty comedic timing, an uneven plot which appears to have been made-up as they went along, and the presence of the annoying, screeching, irritating foul-mouthed Noel is perhaps the most hateful character ever and I’ve watched many Renee Zellweger movies. But hell, Bad Cinema Santa ain’t perfect, right? The X-mas icons are appropriately skewered here and the script is highlighted with plenty of soul-aching puns (Clausferatu, anyone?) and holiday weirdness.  So, exactly why were the elves after Gabe and his flight 1225 source? What makes Rudolph’s nose a bane to vampires? How did Santa and the Tooth Fairy learn the martial arts? What little characterization is featured is given up for easy laughs and a further plunge into ridiculousness. I realize these were comedic devices but really, movie-makers, make an effort to help us get into your gloriously ludicrous movie world. But the comedy is real gift here, and you'll find guffaws and face-palmings replacing carols this X-mas Eve. Yeah, that and the …

Sexy nunjas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

PRANKS (1982)

Movie the mis-named Slasher,
Was a total waste of time,
And if you never watch it,
You’ve got better sense than mine!

THE CARD:

A Princess Vespa clobbering; Bort, the Lost Belushi; The Shining fade-out; skin-crawling Lynard Skynard fans; Plain Jane Consommé; and the NBC Mystery Movie Slasher.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Wow, even in the early 80s California’s state budget was in the shitter. It was so bad that student volunteers have to stay over the holiday break and clean up a building that’s scheduled for demolition. Now that’s some school spirit. Or stupidity.

Man, why does Serial Killing 101 have to be so haaard???

So five kooky college kids including sexually placid Joanne (Laurie Lapinski), goofy hunk Brian (David Snow), forgettable chick Patti (Pamela Holland), prankster who doesn’t prank Craig (Stephen Sachs), and late 80s Tremendo crush Debbie (Daphne Zuniga) sacrifice their X-mas to clean the filth left behind from classmates not on Pell grants. But there’s a murderous stalker on the loose on the campus grounds, and it might be the weirdo janitor, the even weirder school hobo, or the weird set-to-11 shirtless classic rock-listening Bobby Lee Tremble (Dennis Ely).

Steven Wright? Nooooooo!

So the number of these sprite volunteers dwindles as our killer gets busy on their academic asses. Like an undecided undergrad, the killer just can’t commit to any one method of disposal. One is beaten with a bat. Another is knocked unconscious and then skid-marked to death. Another is dropped in a vat and cooked alive.

Leftovers, again?

And yet another victime is subjected to dull TV-movie antics, white trash horror, Vinnie Barbarino hairdos, and boredom. And that victim would be yours truly.

THE FINISHER:

Pranks (aka The Dorm That Dripped Blood) is one of those holiday slasher flicks that has very little do to with X-mas, other than its setting which is during a college holiday break. Although red and green lights are strung in a few scenes, there’s relatively little to remind us that this is happening over X-mas. So then we just have a standard early 80s slasher movie with a predictable killer reveal and a few interesting kills scenes to serve as the rest spot for your ho-ho-horror movie marathon. Hell, the whole school-related slasher was done much better in Final Exam. Daphne “Sure Thing, Spaceballs, Melrose Place” Zuniga is the only real name in this flick besides a smattering of lesser names that although they were decent for their parts (such as psycho joker Craig) never did much outside this movie. The soundtrack is perhaps the standout of the flick, recalling Psycho with a hint of Friday the 13th chords. Other than some blood splatter and a horribly unattractive booby scene, most of the movie looks drab and grey with an equally dull and languid pace. The story lacks any kind of gross interest as the killer’s motivation adds up to simple “Hey, baby I was horny for you so I offed these chumps”. Also, I’m not sure why this movie was renamed from The Dorm That Dripped Blood to Pranks. Much like X-mas presents from Grandma, the ending - though remarkable for its stray from slasher convention - is a complete groaning jump-off-a-roof downer. Aside from the one of the characters being your stock 80s slasher jokester, there aren’t many pranks to be seen – well, other than the fact that I was completely pranked into believing that this was a X-mas slasher flick. Innocente!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

TREEVENGE (2008)

O X-mas tree, O X-mas tree!
How bloody is thy vengeance!
O X-mas tree, O X-mas tree!
A smashed baby is our penance!

THE CARD:

Lumberjacks that are definitely not OK; an X-mas ninja star kill; the truth about your neighborhood X-mas tree lot; a Holly Holocaust; the unfortunately absence of Woodland Critters; a bloody fir-enzy where no sap is leaved alone; A Very Lucio Fulci X-mas; and - finally - a fast-moving killer X-mas tree done right!

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

The annual butchery of X-mas trees is exposed in horrid detail from the harvesting of leafy victims to the subsequent destruction of X-mas tree families to the horrific display of ball trimming. The EEEVIL lumberjacks hiss in glee and apparent arousal at the annual massacre of our sappy forest friends:

Beardy.

Brawny.

Sue.

Following the slaughter, EEEVIL jerk-off carny-rejects unload the X-mas carcasses in parking lots formerly occupied by wanking-hobos and crackwhores to sell to EEEVIL tubby families, nose-picking brats, and horny dudes with chronic leg cramps (um, I guess you just had to be there).

A timid woodland Freddy Krueger.

Anyway, on X-mas morning the sentient, revenge-hungry, Ewok-speaking trees unite to destroy their ugly sweater-wearing captors and proceed with the most inhumane, atrocious, and bloody assault on the human senses since the last M. Night Shyamalan movie.

THE FINISHER:

Last year, I reviewed that I thought was the latest fast-moving killer X-mas tree movie released this decade: Trees 2: Root of All Evil. In that review I wrote about what was wrong with most fast-moving killing X-mas tree movies, and perhaps the genre as a whole which I felt was headed down a path of deteriorating quality. But my fears have been allayed with the release of director Jason Eisener’s Treevenge, a delightfully sick and twisted moonwalk-sized leap forward for the future of fast-moving killer X-mas tree movies. I can’t think of a single full-length horror film I’ve seen this year that had the amount of satisfaction that this Grindhouse-inspired short film provided. Gory, hilarious, and maybe even a little awe-inspiring. The movie is plenty ludicrous but like most good parodies the absurdity is executing with great skill and good timing with a hint of smart, albeit massively gruesome, humor. The things that work in this short are the casts’ gleeful, maniacal performances, the use of practical gore effects, and the tree puppetry that come completely with a shrieking language of their own. Hollywood, Bollywood – SOMEBODY – give this Eisener kid a feature. That’s the best gift I could think of to fill my film geek stocking.

Want to see Treevenge? Find out how right here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

DEADLY LITTLE CHRISTMAS (2009)

Shoot yourself a crappy little slasher,
Make it Yuletide-themed,
Get a camera and some shitty actors now,
And shoot yourself a crappy little slasher, wow!

THE CARD:

Tiger Woods’ X-mas Morning; the Cheapo Gimmick Knife from Hell, Darth Maul the Holiday Buzzkiller; the worst mental hospital in the world; the growing problem of murder victims and their lack of peripheral vision; The Tubby Latino Massacre (Oh shit, I better hide!); Miracle on Haddonfield Street; and It’s a Dinner Theater Reject X-mas!

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

X-mas morning, a time for families to bask in the warmth of the giving feeling of the holiday season. It’s a time for Moms to enjoy the laughter and joy of her children. It’s a time for kids to open wrapped wonders they oh so deserve. And it’s a time for Dads to nail the Swedish maid and then get mutilated by a paring knife. And that’s exactly what happens one X-mas morn in the home of mother Mary (Felissa Rose), daughters Taylor (Monique La Barr) and Noel (Leah Grimsson), and unstable son Devin (Samuel Nathan Hoffmine).

Mom Mary - Felissa Rose of Sleepaway Camp fame. Cameraman: please don’t tilt down!

Young Devin is accused of the crime and is sent to the nuthouse while Taylor is traumatized for life. Fifteen years later, Mary is a struggling single mother still haunted by the crime, Taylor is an aspiring Jesus play director, and little Noel is a coke-snorting slut. Mary goes to visit Devin during X-mas in the hopes of reconnecting with her maniac offspring.

Our pouty killer would have chewed the scenery if they could have afforded scenery.

But Devin’s not budging, and his increasing psychotic nature enables him to bust out of the hospital to apparently continue his seasonal slaying. The first victims are two potheads that were extras in Taylor’s play. Meanwhile, Noel is in denial about everything from her father’s death, to her brother’s insanity, to her spread ‘em like margarine sexuality. So naturally the next victim is Noel’s good-natured doormat boyfriend.

This dude’s spastic death scene was worth the price of the rental.

And then follows…well, lots of talking. And more talking. And additional TALKING. An inept detective enters the fray and does stuff but with all the TALKING it’s difficult to say whether or not he got anywhere. In the end there is like, a fifteen minute conversation / confrontation between Mary, Taylor, Noel, and the demented Devin and you’ll be able to see the “twist” ending coming like a Macy’s Santa marching down Park Avenue while a porking a red-assed baboon in reindeer antlers.

THE FINISHER:

Cheapo homemade feature-length movies do have a place in film-watching society, albeit mostly to mock, serve as background noise, or to simply howl at in fast food or booze fueled delirium. And they are all pretty much awful. However, I have found exceptions like the poop monster epic Monsturd and a few others. These are the better homemade, micro-budget cinematic epics, made by folks who don’t take themselves seriously, know their spoofy place and cross boundaries of good taste skillfully, and are a chuckling wonder when discovered. Deadly Little Christmas is decidedly one of the awful ones, a jumbled mess of amateurism, mimicry, ineptitude and worst of all, boredom. The script appears to be improvised on the fly as characters say things three times constantly. For example, the detective gives Taylor his phone number and says (paraphrased) “You have my number. Call me if you need anything because you have my number. I can be reached anytime. Just call my phone number, which you have.” David Mamet couldn’t have put it better, well unless he’d just had an aneurism. And the acting, oh Jesus the acting. Eighties horror icon Rose plays Mary more ham-fisted than Porky Pig’s honeymoon. The rest of the cast is forgettable, each of them wallowing in bewildered states of confusion. None of the obvious Halloween-inspired plotline is explored in any great depth or utilized for scare. Characters just show up at places and say things. People get stabbed with a rubber knife while Casio music drowns out their screams. The murders aren’t even addressed by the characters and the threat of Devin returning home to continue the mayhem is played out like an afterthought. There is a scant trace of enjoyment to be found here but it’s all too brief, drowned out by the shoddy craftsmanship, illogical motivations, bizarre dialogue, and the sad whimpering of Baby Jesus crying. On His birthday even!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

CUENTO DE NAVIDAD (2006)

Feliz Zombie-dad, Feliz Zombie-dad, Feliz Zombie-dad,
Prospero muerte y cerebros.
I wanna wish you were buried this Christmas
I wanna wish you were buried this Christmas
I wanna wish you were buried this Christmas
At the bottom of a well.

THE CARD:

Karate Kid-inspired impalements; the cross-continental appeal of The A-Team; baby’s first extortion plot; a Tab, Omega Men, Simon, and V cameo; the Latina Shelly Duvall doing her best Jack Torrance; and Richard Donner’s Non-Union Spanish Equivalent.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Somewhere in Spain, mid-80s, Christmastime. A group of horror-movie obsessed kids find a prone body in a Santa suit lying in an abandoned well in the forest. The body turns out to be a woman with a severely injured leg who slowly regains consciousness. The kids half-heartedly attempt to rescue the woman, half-heartedly contact the police, and half-heartedly feel any kind of sympathy for her, well except for whole-hearted Moni, the only girl in this motley bratty crew who actually feels some compassion.

Los Goonies.

The naughty little shits include Koldo who has a soft spot for Moni, Ralph Macchio-obsessed Tito, and cruel ruffians Peti and Eugenio. They soon discover that the woman actually a criminal on the run from the police using the Santa garb as disguise after robbing a bank.

Mrs. Claus on the Verge of A Nervous Breakdown

After dousing her with Fanta and feeding her terrible Spanish cookies, the kids hatch a plot to exploit the situation and force the woman, who’s named Rebeca (Maru Valdivielso), into coughing up the loot she stole in exchange for her freedom. So they berate her. And starve her. And generally act like little dicks. Moni is the only one uncomfortable with the situation and tries to make things comfortable for Rebeca despite the other kids’ cruel taunts. Days pass, Christmas comes and goes, and the near-death Rebeca finally cracks and gives up the money which she used to stuff her Santa suit, but the kids take a long time to decide whether or not to release her. When the kids return to the well, it’s empty.

Presents aren't the only things getting opened this X-mas.

A decimated Rebeca has risen from the well with a renewed bloodlust and chases the kids around a miniature amusement park that plays terrible Euro-disco where these little greedy Spaniards are about to learn the true meaning of an X-mas stalking.

THE FINISHER:

Director Paco Plaza is best known for the taut and inventive zombie thriller [REC] which was remade in the U.S. as Quarantine. The effort prior to his break-out hit was this X-mas-set “kiddy” movie Cuento De Navidad (An X-mas Tale), an unsettling mixture of twisted thriller, 80s nostalgia callback, and episode of Amazing Stories if directed by Michael Haneke. The movie is disquieting for one central reason: the children are morally repugnant, even the ones that try to reverse the harm they heap upon the poor woman in the well. So this makes it especially difficult to identify with their dire dilemma as they are chased around the park Home Alone-style doing physical comedy shtick. The movie is not really gory or really scary, but does possess the disquieting ability to make you squirm and pray for the horrible deaths of ten-year olds, much like the holiday season itself. Plaza also inserts an amusing movie-within-a-movie, an homage to European horror of the 60s and 70s and maybe just more than a little nod to Italian zombie movies, that’s actually better and more interesting than the actual movie (isn’t that almost always the truth with movies-within-a-movie? Someone should make a list). Despite the upsetting kiddy-terror, Cuento De Navidad is pretty entertaining, thankfully short, and features a warped but rewarding ending that you could definitely see coming but was satisfying nonetheless.

Monday, December 14, 2009

JACK FROST (1996)

Jaaa-ckie the snowman was a cold and vicious soul,
With a pitchfork strike and a rubber hose
And a heart as black as coal.
Jaaa-ckie the snowman is no fairy tale, my friend,
He was made of snow but the children
Know how he made their sad lives end.

THE CARD:

Exposition through truck signs; Christmas Cocoa-Poops; Christ-humping Dogs; the Kool-Aid Icicles of Death; an Erotic Luffa Bath; the American Die Girl; Vidal Sassoon's Army; the Complete Schwarzenegger Stupid Pun Catalog; a Walking Pile of Puke That's Not Glenn Beck; and Satan's Squishy.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

It’s Christmastime in Snomonton, the most made-up named town in the entire world, and a dark snowstorm descends upon this burg of mildly mentally disabled hicks. Sheriff Sam Tiler (Christopher Allport) drive home in the storm with his wife and son, haunted by memories of the mass murderer he recently captured, the demonic Jack Frost (Scott MacDonald). Meanwhile, the condemned serial killer Frost is being transported on a snowy highway towards a prison where he will be executed for his numerous crimes. But sno-larity ensues when the prison van collides was a truck carrying an experimental chemical. Jack is able to escape in the aftermath, but is felled by a burst of the chemical which appears to dissolve his body into a fine goo that gets absorbed by the newly fallen snow. (Excuse me while I wipe a tear. Bad movie science always gets me misty-eyed. Sniff.).

Frost is reincarnated as a living killer snowman out for vengeance against the inhabitants of Snomonton, especially Sheriff Tiler who imprisoned him. Where's Jimmy Durante with a flame thrower when you need him? Over the next few days, a string of mysterious snow-based crimes take place including…

Bad ornament making.

Inappropriate hugging.

And snowman scat.

And throw in an old person smothering, a kid decapitation, and sarcastic one-liners and you got the entire Snowmonton populace in horrified hysterics. This draws the attention of FBI Agent Manners (Stephen Mendel) and goofy scientist Stone (Rob LaBelle) who arrive in town to capture the icy abomination. We discover that the chemical was part of a secret government operation, but for what no one knows. A secret army of snow cone assassins? Since bullets are useless against this slushy nightmare, the town takes up arms with hairdryers and aerosol cans to ward off this frozen freak of nature. And it’s a battle to the death against this cool killer who’s seemingly unstoppable and cannot be contained. We’re going to need one hell of a Slurpee machine.

THE FINISHER:

Simple formula for a holiday horror movie: take an icon of the holiday, even if it's technically not alive, and make it a killing-thing. It worked with Santa in Silent Night, Deadly Night, a turkey in Thankskilling; and a cookie in Gingerdead Man. Okay, so the term “worked” is subjective. In Jack Frost it’s not the icon of winter that gets the slasher treatment, but the perennial happy holiday snowman of Frosty yore and song, albeit in cheesy low budget fashion. To flesh out the killer holiday concept, you should arm the killing-thing with items associated with it. This holiday killer can strangle with Christmas lights, shoot sharp icicles through horny teenagers, and do unspeakable things with its …ahem…corncob pipe. (Yes, the frickin’ snowman bangs Shannon Elizabeth. Yeesh). Oh, and it’s probably a good idea to make the holiday killing-thing nearly invincible so that the last thing the heroes think of to destroy the thing is actually the most obvious. The movie works in the sarcastic killer horror comedy mode like Nightmare on Elm Street and Child’s Play, where the murders are basically set-ups for the killer’s awful one-liners. And awful they are with most of them landing with a squishy thud. But for the most part, the movie is a holiday indulgence into abject desecration of all that is cute and sweet during this cherished season. Jack Frost is supremely absurd, a hokey oddity filled with wonderful nonsense and tongue-in-cheek stupidity, and therefore an antidote for the syrupy hokum that fills the airways this time of year, the whole frickin’ reason I’m doing the 13 Days of X-mas in the first place.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

THANKSKILLING (2008)

Everybody knows a turkey with a TOW missile,
Helps to make the season’s fright.
Tiny victims with eyes all aglow,
Will find it hard to stay alive tonight.

THE CARD:

For Appetizer: Boobies; for Drinks: Fatty, Jock, Nerd; for first course: Shotgun Hillbilly and his Mutt; for second course: Slutty McWhore and Plain Jane; for third course: Ludicrous Legend of a Bedeviled Fowl; for main course: Said Deviled Fowl; and for dessert: One Big Dumb and Awful Fun Holiday Horror Flick.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Just in case you missed this in 3rd grade history, we discover that the Native Americans of the early 17th century placed a curse on the pilgrims by creating a demonic, bloodthirsty, and sarcastic turkey that lives to kill those funny-buckle-hat-wearing corn-not-maize smallpox-blanket-giving SOBs. Turns out our murder turkey likes to chase bountifully bosomed Goodwyfes through the forest to munch up their religiously oppressed innards. But the pious and surprisingly well-armed colonists are able to stop the onslaught of this satanic dirty bird and take it down Puritan-style so they can enjoy a relatively devil-free Thanksgiving dinner. So after centuries slumbering in some guy's backyard, the foul fowl rises again to fulfill its destiny as the second most dangerous Thanksgiving dish, right after your Auntie's carrot-lime Jello. So who's invited for dinner? Enter your typical horror movie cast of horny college kids who are – SURPRISE! - pretty much all assholes. You got your virginal Final Girl in waiting; your fake bulge Jock Cock; your Brainless Sultry Slut; your Fatty Loudmouth Lout; and drum roll ... NEEERRRRDDD. This mismatched group of “friends” (they are all horrible to each other) are sharing a ride home for the Thanksgiving holiday, but who would have known it would be their last! Our infernal bird that's who. And he's got a name – Tom Turkey. Who would've thunk? So the Thanksgiving theme kind of takes a departure when the kids' Jeep breaks down and they are forced to pitch a tent in the woods instead of, like, call for help. But it does set up the opportunity for them to get offed by Tom one by one. Their only hope seems to be virginal girl's Dopey Sheriff Dad who apparently prefers poop to sugar in his coffee. Yup. So you better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout I'm telling you why, Tom Turkey is on the loose and he's going to baste you in your own juice!

Eww.

THE FINISHER:

Yeah, I know Thanksgiving was like two weeks ago, but I just couldn’t pass up the chance to watch a horror movie set during Turkey Day that isn’t Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving trailer or the obscure 80s slasher Home Sweet Home. Nor could I resist the opportunity to do my best Gene Shalit impression and proclaim this movie the biggest turkey ever. Har har. Besides the aforementioned titles, Thanksgiving-themed horror movies are scarcer then an unclogged crapper on Turkey Night and no matter how good or bad this movie is, it is destined to becomea must-see among horror fiends during the holiday season. And for good reason. The movie is fairly hilarious in spots with some genuinely funny lines sprinkled here and there and a ludicrously designed turkey puppet that ushered many hysterical tears during viewing. Although his voice-work was a little off-kilter, Tom Turkey is like a murderous Triumph the Insult Dog, only a bit more delicious. The movie is stuffed with simple schlock and butt-dumb jokes, but if you're into quick, stupid comedy with aching Z-grade performances, coprophagous jokes, fully-clothed sex scenes, and a soul-sucking void of redeeming value, Thankskilling is your main dish at the bad movie table.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

HAPPY HORRORDAYS!

Dear Tremendo Time Readers,

You thought I stopped doing this.

You thought I came to my senses.

You thought I snapped back into reality to finally realize that the film geek dream is dead.

You thought .. WRONG

It's been a while since we last talked and I apologize for keeping you away from your portly masked addiction - namely, your internets pal and movie mentor EL TREMENDO!

This month on Tremendo Time, I will be examining unholy holly, unnatural nativities, pumpkin dies, and X-mas stalkings: Holiday-Themed Horror Movies all December long.

I hope you can pull yourself away long enough from watching that welp Charlie Brown, basting yule-meat, and shopping for ridiculous junk for people who hate you to visit the blog you may have forgotten during this busy time.

We got Satanic Santas, vengeful firs, unstable fruitcakes, and plenty of bad cheer to spread around. And I hope you can stop by and share a mug of turned eggnog with your old film geek pal.

May your holidays - whatever they may be - be happy, may you and your loved ones prosper, and may you all bow down to the Power of Christ with a Credit Card.

Smelly Cheez-mutts!

Thanks for reading,

-EL T.

P.S. As you can see, the blog is hardly decked out in holiday regalia but will be once I get the logo finished and some other minor details like actually finishing the first movie to be reviewed.

Monday, October 5, 2009

DANCE OF THE DEAD (2008)

ZOMBIE MOVIE SURVIAL TIP: Better make friends with that loud gun-obsessed former Army assassin crazy-as-a-shithouse-rat high school P.E. Coach down the block. You know, just in case.

THE CARD:

Undead growing pains; saved by the death bell; Zombie Kermit’s revenge; punk’s not undead; someone spiked the punch with corpse reanimation; Final Exam of the Living Dead; salvation by shitty music; and thank Sweet Zombie Jesus it’s not Twilight.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Cosa High School is filled with teenagers sharing the distressing experiences of the wondrous and traumatic time called adolescence. They are average high school types, from the beauty queens and cheerleaders, to the heavy metal guys and the chess geeks, to the poor kids and children of the privileged. You know – sarcastic assholes. Jimmy (Jared Kusnitz) is a geeky cool dork who’s just been dumped by his do-gooder girlfriend Lindsey (Greyson Chadwick) the day before Prom Night. Jimmy’s being forced to work his crappy pizza delivery job while Lindsey makes a date with Jimmy’s rival. Meanwhile, Jimmy’s nerdy pal Steven (Chandler Darby) pops a tent for cheerleader Gwen (Carissa Capobianco) who’s crushing for obnoxiously named rocker Nash Rambler (Blair Redford). Throw in Jimmy’s other poindexter pals trying to get laid; a lecherous science teacher; a jaded cemetery worker; an alcoholic principal, a badass gun-toting gym Coach (Mark Oliver), and half-the town’s cemetery inhabitants reawakened as voracious zombies after being contaminated by radioactive sludge from the nearby nuclear power plant and you have the makings of an epic set in a Sweet Valley in the Shadow of Death High. And no one will fucking sparkle.

THE FINISHER:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: hormone and sugar-filled teenagers make great killers. And we have ten years of tragic headlines to attest to that. So they make natural candidates to fend off the impending starved multitudes of the living dead that are waiting to pounce upon us. Friends, when the shit goes down, don’t run to the local police station or armory. Learn the fastest route to your local high, middle, and elementary schools. When you get there, make sure the little rugrats are armed and ready to start bulls-eying zombie skulls. Goddamn Playstation better have prepared them for this! Anyway, Dance of the Dead is a nifty little teen horror-comedy that borrows much of the spirit of its 80s ancestors while tossing together some modern gore effects, teen angst, and high school wackiness. Most of the blood y effects looked practical with little to no evidence of CGI which was a heartwarming welcome back. Also the zombie types referred to the classic Return of the Living Dead where reanimated corpses crawled, dug and oozed their way out of graves to ravage the living. The film delivers a lot of action and fast-paced chuckles while obviously operating on a low budget. But fortunately, the makers are not skimpy on the gore and the laughs are expertly delivered without being excessively campy. And it’s not without nice touches of characterization, specifically the fate of Steven and his unrequited love Gwen. That was a very nice scene and worthy of a wormy tear down a decaying cheekbone. Also worthy of note is Oliver as the hyperactive commando Coach Keel who kicks in his share of laughs and zombie destroying action. The movie is yet another example of how zombie movies are now fully relegated to the category of comedy, further diluting the former ferocious fear of zombies that's now replaced by playing upon viewers' insatiable lust of desecrating human bodies for guffaws. Fortunately, Dance of the Dead is harmless hilarious fun which beckons the days when you used fantasize about mowing down your classmates only so that they could reanimate so that you could mow them again.

Or was that just me?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

ZOMBIELAND (2009)

ZOMBIE MOVIE SURVIVAL TIP: No sarcastic zombie survival tips from a masked film geek can top the sarcastic zombie survival tips of a virgin WoW-playing nerd.

THE CARD:

The Dead People vs. Larry Flynt; Deceased Roger Dodger; Little Miss Dawn of the Dead; Superbad Zombie Killstress; the disappointing absence of George Wendt; and possibly the greatest zombie movie cameo since the deaf Amish guy.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Geeky teen Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) has managed to survive the apocalypse of the undead that has laid waste to the world. Creating a valuable list of survival tips gleaned from video games, internet searches, and Mountain Dew-fueled common sense, Columbus ventures out in the world he’s only viewed from the window of his loser loner apartment, a world now infested with the ravenous undead. But despite his plucky lucky streak avoiding becoming a zombie’s stringy morsel, Columbus is desperately lonely. After a series of encounters with zombies that demonstrate his helpful list, he runs into Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a fearless and irritating yahoo with a vicious and multi-faceted talent of dispatching zombies. The pair hit the road, Columbus in search of his parents and Tallahassee in search of an elusive Twinkie. They eventually run into trouble-making sisters Wichita (Emma Stone) and youngster Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) who steal their truck and weapons, laughing their way towards the West Coast where they believe lies a zombie-free haven on the grounds of amusement park Pacific Playland. The guys and the gals then play a cat-and-mouse game on the eerily deserted highways of the Undead States of America, but despite their trust issues the sisters allow Columbus and Tallahassee to ride along with them in search of elusive safety. Along the way Columbus’ survival tips are tested, zombies are wildly and gorily trounced by Tallahassee, Columbus and Wichita get sweet on one another, Little Rock learns to cope in a Hannah Montana-less land, and this small band of survivors learns to bond and rely on each other. When they finally make it to California, they share an encounter that will not be spoiled here because of its complete HILARITY, but suffice to say that more than just salvation, make-out sessions, and 80s movies await them on the rollercoasters, thrill rides, and spookhouses of Zombieland.

THE FINISHER:

Film historian Thomas Schatz formulated a series of stages that film genres undergo over time, practice, and distribution. Although Schatz’s theory has rigorously been analyzed and deconstructed over the years, I use them to illustrate a point about where we are in terms of the evolution of the zombie movie. The first stage is the “classical period” where the groundwork and “rules” are laid out for the genre (Night of the Living Dead). The next stage is “refinement” where the rules are test and often broken to allow the genre to evolve (Return of the Living Dead). And lastly there is the “baroque” or “generic hybridization” period in which genre practitioners self-consciously parody the genre or combine it with elements of other genres. With the zombie-comedy-parody Zombieland, I firmly believe we are now in the late stages of the zombie baroque period which I predict the genre will be unable to recover for a long time. Zombies are now funny-scary, like the dopey horror clown or a ridiculous SyFy Original CGI monster, and are no longer scary-scary. For me, the essence of horror at the heart of the zombie genre – like the apocalyptic thriller – is the breakdown of civilization, the loss of common rationality and sense of community (which often feels like it’s hanging by thread anyway), and the idea that the living are far more terrifying than anything the undead can conjure. The other source of pure horror is the conceit of the dead have coming back to life, a concept that strikes at the very core of Judeo-Christian beliefs that threaten to unravel thousands of years of indoctrination. That said, Zombieland, a hysterical comedy that tears the horror away from the genre like a rampaging zombie, may very well mark the end of zombie horror, but not zombie comedy. Taking its cue from 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland revels in frenzied and gory slapstick against a backdrop of a romantic comedy with a sensitive theme of family and trust at its center. The movie amiably balances gore and slapstick with a fast-pace and hilarious turn by Woody Harrelson who could easily shape up to become the next Bruce Campbell if such a thing could even be conceived. Fortunately, the movie does not get complicated by the generic traps of the genre and tempting homages and references to prior works. Here, the focus is on the characters and their adventure together to an imaginary freedom from a globe of goopy ghouls. Zombieland is quality popcorn-munching entertainment, another landmark in the zombie genre which I can only hope will be scary again.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

DEAD SNOW (2009)

ZOMBIE MOVIE SURVIAL TIP: During a zombie attack, do not hide in the outdoor shitter, for the undead are not persnickety.

THE CARD:

Wacky Norwegians and their wacky land of Norwegia; good ol’ fashioned outhouse humping; the most creative use of a snowmobile and slimy intestines, snow thrills and snow kills; and Nazi zombies not hired by Newscorp.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Eight young Norwegian medical students head out to the mountains for a weekend of ice-fishing, mullet-wine chugging, sitting around looking sad, and death metal listening. Or whatever the hell they do for fun up there. And of course, their remote cabin is located in bucolic icy splendor in the middle of nowhere with few amenities and no cell phone reception. You know, Norway. Our gang is comprised of Martin (Vegar Hoel) who ironically gets sickened by the sight of blood, his claustrophobic girlfriend Hanna (Charlotte Frogner), handsome adrenaline junkie Vegard (Lasse Valdal), horny fjord fucker Roy (Stig Frode Henriksen), movie nerd and mandatory fat guy Erlend (Jeppe Laursen), hot for fatty Chris (Jenny Skavlan), and the only looker in the bunch Liv (Evy Kasseth Røsten). They party it up and frolic in the snow while waiting for Vegard’s girlfriend Sara (Ane Dahl Torp) who has decided to hike to the cabin rather than drive. Big mistake as she becomes Nazi zombie fodder. Said SS of the Undead are the remnants of a troop of vicious Nazis that once controlled an outpost in this section of Norway in the last days of World War II. We learn this from Creepy Old Guy (Bjorn Sundquist) who shows up at the cabin to warum up and to rile the nerves of the rowdy kids. The Nazis were led by the uber-sadistic Colonel Herzog (Orjan Gamst) who pillaged and tortured the residents before pissing off into the woods after an uprising at the close of the war. For some unknown reason, Herzog and his men have been re-animated by some unexplained force and attack anyone who ventures into the mountain. So Creepy Old Guy gets disemboweled like der weinerschnitzel and our friends are faced with an unstoppable menace that require more than Simon Weisenthal, Captain America, and a box of Star of David ninja stars to stop.

THE FINISHER:

Loving or hating Norwegian horror pic Dead Snow doesn’t require a whole lot of energy. If you do not like gore, comedy, the trappings of zombie plots, and high-spirited horror references, then don’t bother. If you love the above plus you don’t give a crap about your mental health, then Dead Snow comes wholeheartedly recommended. Finally, someone took the initiative to come up with a Nazi zombie movie, a villainous concept that’s been referred to in earlier attempts such as The Keep (yeah, I know they weren’t zombies) but never fully fleshed out in zombie movie format as we know it today*. Although not a new hallmark in the zombie genre, the movie is nonetheless hysterical, blood-drenched, and a twisted homage to American horror films that have obviously shaped writer/director Tommy Wirkola. It’s also a lot of fun, so take that for what it’s worth. There are a couple of things that came up in the movie that irk me, but not just about this film. Irksome things come up in every new zombie movie I see, whether it’s a big-budget extravaganza or low-budget homemade fare. Be warned that these are probably nerdy nitpicks. One thing in particular is the strength of zombies. Horror fans argue about fast rampaging zombies over the slow stumbling zombies. This is an argument that I've gotten over. If the story, acting, scares, and gore are good, then I’m up for anything. What concerns me more is how powerful the zombies are portrayed. In Dead Snow, they crush a guy’s head like it’s a freshly boiled egg, yet they are unable to smash through a simple wooden building or a barely hinged outhouse. Dumb. Thing number two is how quickly “normal” characters transform into chainsaw-wielding deadshot warriors after only a few tangles with the hungry undead. This instantaneous character turn is actually a problem with most horror and action movies, but it’s most prevalent in zombie movies. I like to call this “Ash Disease”, a nod to Bruce Campbell’s character in the Evil Dead movies, whose instant-badass turn was actually a novel turn of genius, but overused since. Thing number three isn’t really a problem but a realization that 99% of zombie movies, with very few exceptions, are actually comedies. What other horror sub-genre allows you to completely enjoy the desecration of a human body with unfettered glee? In slashers, we cringe and scream. In torture films, we shudder and look away. In monster movies, we howl and gasp. But in zombie movies we laugh our bloodthirsty asses off. It’ll take more than a review of Dead Snow, a pleasurable, clever and frenzied zombie movie, to fully analyze this fantasy phenomenon that I’m sure other academicians of horror have already covered.

*If I’m wrong, please send me some titles!

Friday, October 2, 2009

BONE SICKNESS (2004)

ZOMBIE MOVIE SURVIVAL TIP: When cleaning up the goopy gore of the undead, better call the Shamwow Guy.

THE CARD:

One man’s video camera, plus a pleasing amount of nudity, a generous helping of bloody mayhem, a copious amount of gooey do-it-yourself gore, and a complete lack of plot, story, or coherence.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Dude, I picked up this DVD with this sick cover over at Video Hut that looks like this dude shot in his backyard and so it starts when this real ugly dude is like sick and stuff - something to do with his bones, I think - and his totally hot wife wants to help him, you know, but like he gets totally worse and then starts puking nasty shit like his whole body, his whole fucking skeleton, but like this other dude, some buddy of the sick dude who’s a mortician or whatever gets this green junk that’s supposed to, like, fix the bone disease of the puking dude but instead he turns into a zombie or something, and there’s more puking, then all these other zombies start coming out of the ground and start killing people in this old house where this SWAT team gets totally fucked by the zombies and then ..oh yeah…there’s some boobies, actually some really nice ones, dude, Beaver Hunt quality my friend…and so …what was I talking about…oh yeah…there’s like this lame-oh scene where another bone sick dude takes a bath and I’m like, dude I don’t wanna see your wang, you sick zombie fuck…so then there like all this gore and guts and shit and guys or demons in Halloween costumes like totally ruling over the alive people who are not zombies and then well… some other stuff happens, and then well I forget…man, it’s due tomorrow.

Boobs.

THE FINISHER:

Similar in budget and scoop to previously reviewed Night of the Dead, Bone Sickness is another example of the output by aspiring moviemakers grabbing their DV cameras and glutting the zombie movie market with micro budget gushers. Although this movie has the feel of a labor of love, its patchwork structure disjoints any sense of coherency and the story jumps around from one-room gross out, to zombie apocalypse, to a supernatural demonic war of epic proportions and may induce migraines for those who may have high expectations. But why would you? The acting is just plain hideous and woefully amateurish and the movie can’t exceed its home video feel. But you know what? I liked it. As an occasional lover of mindless gore this movie was a treat, so long as you don’t think too hard about the specifics of the undead goings-on. The makers of Bone Sickness are obvious fans of horror and their enthusiasm is at times infectious. If you can easily forgive such fare for lacking the basics of cinematic storytelling in exchange for high-octane homemade gore, then Bone Sickness is your best bet for bad movie night.

Dude.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

PANDORUM (2009)

ZOMBIE MOVIE SURVIAL TIP: If left with a member of the Quaid family as your leader in the apocalypse of the undead, please make sure it’s not Randy.

THE CARD:

A Sleepy-Head General Hawk; Salvation By Glowstick; Divining Ridley Scott; A Peek Into A Space-Pooper; Space Zombies that aren’t Space Zombies; The Real Paul Anderson; and Al Gore’s Outer Space-Horror Told Ya So.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

In the not-too-distant future, many, many Sundays A.D., there was a guy named Bower (Ben Foster), not too different from you or me. Well, except that he’s an astronaut who’s been in hyper-sleep aboard a gigantic spacecraft which is headed towards a distant planet that can be inhabited by the members of the crew. Said crew is the last remnants of a dying Earth which has been destroyed by war, disease, and global smarm. Bower is awakened by an unknown force and possesses no recollection of his role or destination, and he discovers he has lost contact with his fellow crew members. He finds who he recognizes as his commanding officer Payton (Dennis Quaid) who’s equally suffering the effects of amnesia. Unable to contact anyone aboard the ship, Payton sends Bower to find his way through a dark claustrophobic labyrinth of vents to get to the central power core of the ship in the hopes of restarting it. Unfortunately, Bower stumbles upon empty halls and rooms, half-eaten corpses, and nightmarish fast-moving flesh-eating creatures which have infested the ship. He meets up with a cute survivor space-mutant killer Nadia (Antje Traue) who has been awake for a while and is fighting for her life against these seemingly undead monsters. As they make their way to the ship’s generator, they fight off the zombie-like creatures who may be the reanimated corpses of the crew who did not survive the hyper-sleep. Alongside the pair are Mayan-speaking badass Manh (Cung Le) and slimly motor oil chef Leland (Eddie Rouse). Meanwhile, Payton encounters another survivor (Cam Gigandet) who might be suffering the effects of “Pandorum,” the deep space equivalent of cabin fever that turns astronauts into violent psychopaths who may or may not crap in their Depends. As Bower heads towards the generator and Payton deals with a potentially dangerous passenger, the pair peel off layers of the awful truth that lies at the core of the ship, its purpose, and its true destination which may be an empty hellish void from which nothing, not even a Quaid, can escape.

THE FINISHER:

Though not a traditional zombie movie, space horror movie Pandorum does possess elements of the genre that make it a somewhat effective scarefest: rampaging flesh-hungry creatures (provided by Stan Winston Studio), a survivalist-fueled plotline, and your typical “folly of man” subtext. Although some reviews has aligned the film with the space horror of 1997’s Event Horizon (directed by Paul W.S. Anderson who produced this pic) which explored space madness and the extra-supernatural terror of the cosmos, Pandorum has more in common with space chiller Dead Space: Downfall (even though it’s animated) with respect to abundance of gore, the ferocity of the creatures, and the production design. But it’s not without its problems. Director Christian Alvart displays a capable style and aesthetic, especially in regards to the near-choking claustrophobic atmosphere he’s able to convey, but it’s in the area of character development that the film falters to maintain interest throughout. This is also a problem with Anderson’s films as a director as well, but his frenetic pace and action set pieces make up for most of that lack. But then again I’m a Paul W.S. Anderson defender and apologist. Alvart deftly crafts a very uncomfortable settings and sense of tension, but without caring for the characters (although Foster, a superb and weighty performer who should be bigger than he is, does the best with what he’s given) all this work is for nothing. Also worthy of note is Gigandet who is intense as the psychotic crew member who serves as the twist at the end of the film. Unfortunately, the movie starts to crumble in the third act when the secret of the origin of the creatures is sort of cast aside for a predictable ending lost in a jumble of fast-cut action sequences. Pandorum would require more effort to argue as qualifying as a zombie movie, but as a piece of sci-fi horror with its share of twists, turns, and atmosphere it’s probably worth a watch in a field of very few effective, although not fully realized, outer-space horror films.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

TREMENDO WILL RETURN SHORTLY...NO, REALLY

Been slacking on the 80s movies, but I swear I'll return with a whole bunch of crappy wackiness. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 21, 2009

SWORD OF THE VALIANT (1984)

800S ARTIFACTS UNCOVERED BY MOVIE: Forehead gems, gigantic poofy shirts; mink necker-chefs; Cliff's Notes epic poems; medieval salad bowl hats; chivalric mooching; and Peter Cushing.

THE CARD:

Non-metric Keefe; OO7 meets Swamp Thing meets an X-mas Tree; Bunny-stuffed Pig’s Head for Dinner; Ghost of X-mas Resentment; a Hurricane of Halitosis; Friar John Milius; mini-wizards; the anti-Kermit; Graduates of the School of Acting Through Shouting; Armored but Still Wussy Toht; and Gimli the Lambchop Abuser.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

It’s X-mas time in Camelot and old man King Arthur (Trevor Howard) holds the usual celebratory orgy of pig-feasting, harlequin-abusing, and regal belching. But this year, something’s different. Dissatisfied by the opulent consumption of his court and the expanding waistlines of his knights, the King bitterly declares that chivalry and honor is dead. Suddenly, a mystical being who calls himself the Green Knight (Sean Connery) interrupts the proceedings, swings an axe around and challenges any man in the room with enough cajones to chop off his head.

Only Connery can make X-mas Wreath headgear look good.

His call goes out unanswered by the wimpy knights but when the Green Knight stirs up some hairy chest-heaving boasting to boil the blood of the King’s young nephew and squire, Gawain (Miles O’Keefe).

The Golem haircut was all the rage in the 800s.

Gawain successfully completes his challenge and we discover that the Green Knight can double as both an X-mas AND Halloween decoration.

“I knew I should’ve taken that Star Trek V gig.”

But it was all a ruse! G.K. quickly picks up his head and mocks young Gawain’s impudence. He lays out another challenge that in exactly twelve months they are to meet again so that G.K. can have a swipe at Gawain’s neck. But first, Gawain has to explore the world in search of a clue to G.K.’s riddle that will somehow involve…

Sexy but scary witches!

Evil but clumsy knights!

Cute but spooky babes!

And powerful but tiny sorcerers!

So faster than you can say “Joseph Campbell’s erection”, Gawain sets out with his humble servant Humphrey (Leigh Lawson) on a quest to find virtue, honor, and courtly love and maybe kill and violate a unicorn or tow. Along the way, he is conned by the treacherous Morgan La Fay (Emma Sutton), coerced into battle by the Black Knight (Douglas Wilmer), and courts mysterious and beautiful Linet (Cyrielle Clair) who may or may not be a pigeon. Midway through his adventure, the story comes to a full stop when Gawain is imprisoned by a crazy family of knights headed by Baron Fortinbras (John Rhys-Davies, doing his Brian Blessed impression), his weasel son Oswald (Ronald Lacey) and his weirdo spiritual advisor Seneschal (Peter Cushing). Following some ham-fisted swordplay, interactions with rowdy Friar Vosper (Brian Coburn), dull as a Classics lecture battle scenes, and dreary dialogue with miniscule wizard Sage (David Rappaport), goofy Gawain once again meets with the Green Knight to fulfill his agreement and get his head chopped off, not that anyone will notice.

THE FINISHER:

The 80s were a prosperous time for the fantasy/barbarian genre with offerings such as Conan the Barbarian, Dragonslayer, Krull, Hawk the Slayer, and many others which reeled in cinemagoers starved for swordplay, heaving bosoms, and dragon battles. But for the most part 80s fantasy films sorta sucked and never really delivered what their trailers promised (I know, the same can be said for any movie). Sword of the Valiant presents the very same disappointing suckage of the worst of 80s fantasy with an added ambition to resemble in form, language, and theme the far superior and serious King Arthur telling Excalibur with spectacularly failing results. Based on the 14th century epic poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, the movie strives to be a larger than life and self-important re-imagining of the ancient tale but without a modern context or any intent beyond bloody action and fumbling fight scenes. Muscle man O’Keefe of Tarzan the Ape Man fame does his best Prince Valiant impression with poofy shirts and confused look to match while Connery bellows out his lines, sucks in his hairy gut, and just hopes the glitter make-up won’t sweat off. The swordplay and fight choreography were especially bad, like those weirdos who meet in public parks and do that role-playing stuff. You know the ones, he said as if masked movie bloggers were any better. Produced by Cannon and the producer team of Golan-Globus, the movie has a slapped-together low-budget kind of feel, a hallmark of G-G’s output which can sometimes either be endearing or outright awful. Unfortunately, Sword of the Valiant falls into the latter category if you are expecting a fast-paced fantasy tale sent in the gilded age of chivalry and brave nights, but rather ripe for mockery and watchable with enough ale, wenches, and medieval Tylenol.