Entries in horror (11)

Tuesday
May122009

The Descent: Well, it plunged me into a dark void with no escape...

Hour long setup for a whole lotta gore for the sake of gore. Hour long setup for a whole lotta gore for the sake of gore.


At least it's not zombies. That's the only thing I can say positive about The Descent. Otherwise it's just another 'gore for the sake of gore' horror movie, this time featuring ravenous cave creatures that are mostly human, a little bat, and all ugly.


Okay, another difference between this and boring zombie flicks is this makes you sit through about an hour of set up where the characters emote about one character's tragic loss of her husband and child, and how they feel bad they didn't stick by her during the tragedy when she needed them the most, but hey, why don't we just get drunk and go spelunking to make up for it? Then we have to watch these women find a cave entrance, maneuver themselves deeper into it, let one of them have a panic attack when she gets stuck, and then have everyone else get all pissed off (rightfully so) as they realize the gal who coordinated the trip decided to take them into uncharted and dangerous territory.


Finally when things begin to happen, it's nothing more interesting than cave creatures that want to make them into meals. Yes, it's horrifying. Yes, it's bloody and gruesome. Yes, it would be a horrible way to die. But it's nothing original, even with the albino humanoid creatures who stalk their prey by sonar like a bat, and can crawl all over the cave walls and pop out of any place the director thinks will make you jump.


Through it all there is still all this angst among the characters as one of them finally realizes through her dense fog of grief and anti-depressant medication that her dead husband cheated on her with one of her friends. That it's the friend who decided they all needed to wander around a cave that no one ever made it out of alive before, well, that's just icing on the cake, since you need at least that much to get any kind of emotional connection with these characters.


Maybe I went into this with the wrong expectations, and that's why I'm so thoroughly unimpressed. But my expectations were so low it only would have taken a few good lines, one sympathetic character, or anything original in the horror vein to make me sit up and take notice, instead of grab another cup of coffee to try and stay awake. I see the rave reviews of this, and I just don't get it. Is it because the main characters all have British accents? Is that why other people think this is a class act of a horror movie? Or is it the long, drawn out setup before you even get a glimpse of the cave dwellers? All I saw was a bunch of tripe better suited for a 'chick flick' about how someone gets their groove back than the backbone of a horror movie. Then all I saw was gore for the sake of gore, cheap tricks to try and make me jump, and an ending that just made me roll my eyes and say out loud, "Well, that was just stupid."


This is definitely a movie I won't own on DVD, or watch ever again. I was curious about it because of the hype, but now I know that The Descent is just another movie that didn't live up to it. I need more than just 'beastie wants to eat me while I cry about my feelings', and The Descent barely even delivered that.






Monday
Feb022009

Skinwalkers: Biker werewolves, a Chosen One, red moons. So much wasted potential...

Not as cool as the graphic makes you think... Not as cool as the graphic makes you think...


This isn't going to be much of a review, because there's just not much going for Skinwalkers other than a lot of potential for a really interesting story that falls flat. And when I say 'flat', I don't mean it just tripped over it's own ungangly feet of a plot and landed face first into a muddy pile of weak dialogue, boring clichés, and people walking around in werewolf masks that are supposed to be scary. I mean it fell flat, as in flat, below the horizon, not visible to the naked eye because it is so one-dimensional flat.


God, this could have been so much fun! It starts off very slow, but I figured it was just taking a while for setup. I thought we had something going when a sweet grandma pulls a Dirty Harry gun out of her purse in front of her twelve year old grandson, leading a wave of exchanged gunfire between all the members of a small town, and a biker gang of werewolves. But it quickly regresses back to boring, clunky, and nowhere near enough actually cool werewolf CGI. Seriously, they just threw masks on the actors, told them to strut around like cavemen, and occasionally growl and snarl. The makeup on the Broadway musical Cats was more realistic.


Many members of the cast are horribly wasted, because I've seen them in much better things than this. Elias Koteas was in The Prophecy, which still colors my nightmares about angels. Rhona Mitra was in the hilarious version of Beowulf with Christopher Lambert, and more recently in the latest Underworld flick. Natassia Malthe was in Bloodsuckers, a.k.a. "Vampire Wars" (and I'm embarrassed to admit I sat up straight when I recognized 'Quintana' from that riotous flick), and in the entertaining Blood Rayne 2: Deliverance as the lead role. All three of these folks I know can act better than their performance in Skinwalkers, but when the script is this weak, there's not much enthusiasm to be found. They all do as well as can be expected, but it's like a sense of resignation settled over the set, and everyone just went through the motions so they could call this one done.


The plot supposedly hinges on a Chosen One who will end the curse of lycanthropy when he turns thirteen. Yay. A 'Chosen One.' Never heard that one before. It's because he's half human and half werewolf, so there's the twist. Naturally he and his human mother are unaware of the central role they will play in this war, and suddenly find themselves on the run, protected by the 'good' werewolves who want the curse to end. The cool looking biker werewolves are naturally 'bad', and want to kill the kid so they never have to face being mere mortals again. When the moon turns red at night, that's the signal to all that 'it has begun'. Instead of the poor kid facing acne and embarrassing moments where he has to hold his notebook in front of him, he has to stand around and watch people he grew up with die to protect him, all so he can stop a curse by doing nothing more interesting than living to see the dawn.


I just couldn't make sense of where the story was trying to go. It had a couple of interesting turns, but not enough to make me forget how weak the entire affair was. When it ended, I just shrugged, deleted it from my DVR, and went on with my day. It didn't make any impact, and I don't think it will on anyone else who pays attention.


If you have to watch every movie ever made about werewolves, go ahead, bore yourself to tears with this. If you're like me and just have to watch something to know for certain how weak or bad it is, go ahead, and bore yourself to tears with this. It's not an affront to the gods, but if I offered it to them as a tribute, I would bore the gods themselves to tears with this. I think you can sense my overall theme here, which is oddly more consistent than the one Skinwalkers had.


Watch Cursed or Never Cry Werewolf if you want a good werewolf movie with a side of humor. For a sleeping pill, go with Skinwalkers.


And because I feel so badly that I had to give such a boring review of such a boring movie, here's a video that may perk things up for you: BoHeMan Rhapsody: (turn your speakers up!)






Tuesday
Jan202009

Super Gator: Roger Corman still knows how to make a creature feature!

There's a bit more gore in Super Gator than I like in my movies, but it's Roger Corman as executive producer, so there's plenty of humor to make me overlook it. Since I watched it on Sci Fi I was also spared the gratuitous flashes of nudity, but again, it's Roger Corman, so I can forgive. He's the reason there's a t.v. series of The Black Scorpion that I hope to own one day. But I digress.

The film is set in Hawaii, so there's plenty of pretty young things wandering around in skimpy attire, or making out with their boyfriend at the edge of beautiful waterfall. We don't have to wait long for the Super Gator to start snacking, and it's in typical Corman style. Lots of blood, some crunching, lots of screaming, and a flash or two of teeth and eyes before we get a full on view of one nasty reptile. The CGI on the critter is fluid, reflecting either a better budget than the days of Carnosaur, or just more dedicated programmers.

The premise is simple. There's a geologist observing a volcano, hoping to learn better how to predict an eruption. Meanwhile, a local animal preserve specializing in genetic tinkering have lost track of one of their projects. This is all happening awfully close to a busy resort, so you have tourists wandering around blissfully unaware of their future as an hors d'oeuvre. The volcano begins to rumble, the gator is running around chomping on anyone hapless, drunk, or scantily clad enough to get in its way. We quickly get to even more creature action as the paths of the scientist and geologist cross.

Kelly McGillis plays the role of Kim Taft, the woman in charge of finding the wayward gator. The beauty from Top Gun is showing her age, but she fits the role of a tough, no-nonsense broad very well. I have to place her in the "You Poor Bastard" category since she had a solid career going back to the '80s and then... Who knows what happened? She's at least still working, but it seems random, and occasionally desperate. Hopefully things will shape up as she comes back with roles on series like The 'L' Word, which I guess is a hit.

John Colton plays the hunter with a grizzled sense of humor. I rooted for his character right up until the end only because he reminded me of my grandpa, albeit with a lot more booze in his system. He plays off Kelly McGillis, and the two of them parlay their lines back and forth like pros. Their scenes together are brief, but a lot of fun.

Brad Johnson, Bianca Lawson, Mary Alexandra Stiefvater, and Josh Kelly all deserve honorable mentions as the main characters. I cringed a little bit at the hinted romance between the older geologist and the younger journalist, but I do that when it happens in any movie. The chemistry wasn't there, but the hint was mild enough to overlook. The four of them together provided a lot of entertainment, and some more good one-liners.  Even when they split up to go in separate directions, the actors still keep you focused on the movie, and wondering which of them, if any, will survive for a sequel.

The first half of the movie is setup for the last half.  It's not boring because this is where a lot of the cheesy humor is placed, including a scene with models at a waterfall with a sleazy photographer telling them to flap their arms like birds.  There's another scene with a trio of idiot friends trying to make up a local cure for a hangover, and naturally having to test it by getting sloppy drunk themselves.  We also have a pair of college girlfriends wandering around the lake bemoaning how boring their trip is, only to encounter...dun, dun, dun, dun! Super Gator!

The second half picks up the pace with some lava, even more Super Gator, and the requisite 'We're running out of time!' plot lines.  Between the volcano and the Super Gator, there's plenty to keep our characters busy, and the viewer entertained.

Overall Super Gator is prime Roger Corman. He's still going strong mentoring up and comers in the fine art of b-grade horror and camp. I may prefer less gore and sexual overtones than this dirty old man seems to like, but he's a legend, so he can put his name to just about anything and I'll watch it at least once. If you're a fan of Roger Corman, Super Gator is a must-see. The grand master is still going strong!
Thursday
Jan152009

Yeti: a.k.a. "The Donner Party versus The Abominable Snowman-Who Would Win?"

Abominable, that is... Abominable, that is...

Yeti starts off simple enough. A plane full of football players, their coach, and of course a cute team doctor, are all headed to a big game. Oops, they crash in the mountains where help may be days away, if they can be reached at all. After foraging through burning debris for something to light a fire with, the struggle for survival really starts.


You gotta kill off the coach, naturally, and you gotta make sure the coach tells the star quarterback he has to keep the team together. And make sure the pilot and co-pilot don't survive, too. You can't have adult supervision getting in the way of all that rivalry among football egos.


Oh, and kill the radio so there's no chance of calling for help. That way you can send two hapless souls off alone in search of the other part of the plane that is supposed to have the spare radio. Then when they don't come back by nightfall everyone can start arguing about how the heck they're going to make it out of this alive.


This is all setup, and it goes by quickly enough so you don't get bored or bogged down with mundane details. There's enough banter amongst the characters to keep it lively, especially after corpses of the ones not lucky enough to survive the crash start getting dragged away by something in the middle of the night. Creepy!


I'm making it sound like this is horrible and trite, but Yeti does have some surprises along the way, and some of them are pretty funny in a very, very morbid sense. For example, one of the characters breaks his leg and has to use the arm of a friend torn to pieces by the Yeti as a splint. You know, in a survival situation I could see that happening! Plus, it's original, as far as I know, and I've seen a lot of bad movies.


There was too much time spent on the Donner party element for my tastes, though. The surviving characters end up in heated debates about whether they should nibble on pieces of their dead comrades to make it through. That sort of thing is a heavier subject than I like in my fluff, so that loses Yeti big points in the overall score. Not that I keep score.


Let's get to the actual subject of the movie, the Yeti itself. I read that it took some poor sap over three hours to get into the suit. It was all worth it for the closeups and action shots. The CGI of the beastie hopping around like a crack-addict kangaroo was comical, and didn't match up with the costume, but because it made me giggle, I forgive.


The Yeti is as mean as legend would have you believe, and must have the metabolism of a hummingbird, because it's wanting to eat all the time. Okay, maybe that's because it's only had little rabbits to munch on until a trail mix of humans gets dumped in its back yard, but still, you'd think after a couple of people in a couple of hours the Yeti would go into some sort of food coma for a few days. Alas, for the poor remaining characters that isn't the case, so they keep getting picked off even after their rescuers arrive.


We get treated to a character whose name is Fury, played with glee by Ona Grauer. She's trigger happy and brings a little comic relief to the whole affair.


Not to be outdone we get to see Peter Deluise as her partner in rescue. He hasn't changed much from 21 Jump Street days as far as I'm concerned, and is as charming as ever. Not that I admit to watching 21 Jump Street zealously every week way back when...


There is a lot of action in Yeti, and just enough plot to get us through. There's a hint of a romance, which you have to have, no matter how ridiculous the timing. The surprises occur sporadically all the way through to the end with a morbidly amusing, even cruel, ending visited upon one of the characters. Even with a lingering moral dilemma that doesn't belong in a creature feature that should just be for cheap laughs, I enjoyed this movie. I got my requisite giggle factor out of it, and would even be willing to watch it again so I can count how many times the Yeti hops. I'm guessing it's 18-21, but I just wasn't paying close enough attention. I will have to live with that shame, and endure despite it.


Thursday
Jan012009

"A" is for Army Of Darkness

The Best Worst Movie Ever! The Best Worst Movie Ever!

To me, Army Of Darkness is the quintessential cheesy movie. I often refer to it as 'the best worst movie ever'. Shockingly I have not made a proper reference to it in any of my posts thus far, so it's only fitting that Army Of Darkness is my first post of 2009.

It also kicks off a new category I will fill up during the year: The Cheese Alphabet. After gazing at my DVD collection I realized I have purchased or been given some of the cheesiest movies ever made, and I don't take enough time to pull them out and appreciate them. So as a treat to myself, and hopefully to my five readers, I plan to re-watch, enjoy, and review my favorite movies during the next year, all in glorious alphabetical order.

Army Of Darkness is full of what makes a B-movie great. Great one-liners, over the top acting, a plot you can actually follow, tongue in cheek humor, and skeletons with facial hair. Plus, it has another of my most adored actors, the Baron of B-ness himself, Bruce Campbell. He's a man I would be terrified to meet in person because I'm pretty sure he would verbally eviscerate me when I asked a stupid question or just stood there gaping at him, but I love him all the same... Maybe even more than David Haselhoff.

Sam Raimi's touch is clear all through the film, and gives you insight into why the new Spiderman movies were such runaway hits. The action sequences are awesome, including one with poor Ash dueling with a sword in each hand up and down a flight of stairs against two foes, which was apparently done, finally, in one take. Listening to some of the interviews and commentary on how Army Of Darkness was made, I'm shocked no one killed Sam Raimi, or at least doused him with honey and shoved him in a fire ant hill. He sounds like one tough to please bastard, but at least one with a sense of humor. He's the reason the ridiculously out of place, yet perfect, line of "Give me some sugar, baby" ended up in the film, suggested by Sam as he cackled merrily away at the idea.

If you have never seen Army Of Darkness, try it at least once. I have forced this film on my friends, and I think they understand me a little bit better because of it. That's not necessarily a good thing, but they are still my friends, so it couldn't have been too traumatic.

While this is part of the Evil Dead series, Army Of Darkness stands 100% on it's own. Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 were made to be horror, with just a hint of humor, but Army Of Darkness is quite the opposite. Yes, there are some horror elements, and some folks may not be able to get past the first twenty minutes, including a lovely fountain of blood and some horribly cheesy monsters in The Pit. I'm frightfully desensitized to violence, like most Americans, so I just giggled my way through it all.

There are several versions of the film available, but I still prefer the first one I saw. The ending just fits it so much better than what the true original ending was supposed to be. The true original is a bit darker and hard to laugh at, giving , as Bruce Campbell describes his character, 'idiot Ash' what he deserves. The first version released, and the one I've seen countless times, ends with Ash fighting off an S-Mart demonized customer, getting the girl, and just fits the overall vibe of the movie. Watch all versions if you get a chance, but I think you'll see I'm right.

I could spend a lot more time and a lot more paragraphs on Army Of Darkness, but I don't want to give away spoilers to anyone who may actually have never seen it. This movie is the slide rule I measure so many other movies against. It was the B-movie I watched that made everything suddenly click with why bad movies are so awesome. It caused me to have an epiphany, if you will.

Truly, how can I sum up a fan-girl review of this great, horrible movie? There's only one line which can pay homage:

Army Of Darkness is the king, baby!