Sunday, September 30, 2012

Jaws 3-D (1983)

As a spoiled little brat Jaws 3-D was my favourite in the series, mostly because the underwater base felt like something out of a James Bond movie and it had a couple of cool scenes with a very rubbery shark. It also had a strong eighties feeling (remember I'm born in '77, so when this arrived on tape in Sweden it felt like it was the same time more or less, and therefore even cooler. Like I was living in a eighties-retro-fashion movie myself, except without killer sharks around the corner. A dream for a boy living in the grey Sweden.

Jaws 3-D started like parody film with Joe Dante attached to direct, "National Lampoon's Jaws 3, People 0", but when Spielberg heard of this he threatened to walk away from Universal and it quickly became a serious (well...) sequel instead. This time we follow the Brad boys, now grown-up and working at a Sea World-park. Everything is fine and everyone is happy and in love until the day that darn shark (or just another shark of course, because like Jason Voorhees he's killed in every film) decides to create havoc with crashing the capitalist-party and destroy this fine animal-torture park!

It hasn't aged that well, mostly because the visual effects - those who probably looked bad even in 3D looks terrible. And people say special effects was better in the past! Here it's like the shark is floating around in another dimension with big, black bars around him. The rubber version is funnier, but not especially realistic and somehow I feel its a missed opportunity. Why didn't they do even more disaster scenes at the park, more people being stuck down in the underwater tunnels, the shark attacking other floating devices and houses and shit like that? It's a dream come true for a shark-movie. But nooooo! It's just not enough.

Now I sound quite negative here... and I might be quite negative also, but it's still a fun film and I enjoyed a lot now when I finally gave it a spin again. The cast is fun, Dennis Quaid is cute and Louis Gossett Jr. is as cool as usual but in a very underwritten characters. So also Simon MacCorkindale, an excellent actor who probably took this job just because of the paycheck. But he's still great.

When we travelled to China four years ago we actually visited smaller Sea World-style place, but with focus on smaller sea-living creatures. One part of the place felt exactly like Jaws 3-D including a nasty, nasty shark following us on the outside of the tunnel, looking very hungry - and mean. Here's proof:

Hardly a sequeltastic masterpiece but good fun, especially on a slow Sunday and for fans and lovers of rubber sharks and cheesy helmet-haircuts. One day I might give Jaws: The Revenge a try also. Wish me luck! ;)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Jaws 2 (1978)

Before Freddy, before Jason and the same year as Michael, came Bruce the Killer Shark as Jaws 2 was released and officially transformed Peter Benchley's first novel to a slasher-franchise. Oh, this is not a new idea, I've heard Jaws 2 been called slasher many times over the years and even if it's the normal killer animal movie it (and the rest of the sequels) share some similar ideas with all the slashers that came during the eighties. But instead of a machete or a knife we have a set of big, sharp teeth!

A new season is about to start in Haddonfield... eh, I mean, at Amity Island. It's been a couple of years since the infamous killer attacked the peaceful town, but one who hasn't forgot is police chief Brody (Roy Scheider) and when new disappearances occur he suspects Bruce is back! Like a wandering hornybord (a Smörgåsbord, but with horny teenagers instead of bread and vegetables) a bunch of kids takes their sailingboats out and soon finds themselves chased by the serial killer shark!

Like a typical slasher sequel Jaws 2 simplifies the story a lot, injects more deaths (I'm not sure about that in this case actually, but it has a nastier tone), more sexual innuendos and forces a couple of the original actors to join with the help of money and blackmailing. But it also has more spectacular shark attack scenes where you see the shark - sometimes way too much, but that's how I want my killer sharks. The killer is more rubbery, more unrealistic, but still have a lot more screen time. It makes a visually very interesting film who also borrows heavily from the style of Spielberg, but with less flair.

I actually think Jaws 2 is a damn fine sequel, mostly because of it's willingness to take a beloved super hit of a movie and make it a little bit trashier, a little bit cheaper. It has two of the best attack scenes in the franchise, the water ski-scene (which gives Bruce his - for this movie - trademark burned look) and one of the first sequences when he attacks the kids out at see at the end. It's a goody bag of sharkadelic awesomeness.

I'm even willing to say that Roy Scheider, who really didn't want to do the sequel, is really good and the supporting cast does a good job also. There's some small references here and there to scenes and characters in the first movie and it feels like a fair sequel that honours the original by this. The original vision of Jaws 2 was even more interesting: Amity Island would be almost dead, abandoned, on the brink to bankrupcy, with boarded up stores and houses. It was just the people on the real island, Martha's Vineyard, who refused to do this and the idea had to be scrapped. Fuckers!

Jaws 2 is a good, slightly exploitative, sequel, not yet in the same absurd league as Jaws 3 and Jaws: The Revenge (both of them worth watching if you know what's coming...). If you want good shark attacks and an army of teen clichés I'm pretty sure this is the movie for you.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Strangler (1964)

Here's a short review for you, but that doesn't mean the movie's not worth watching. Victor Buono was one of the more interesting character actors in the United States. Big and heavy and with an enormous talent for poetry and cooking, a loved guest in talk shows and always witty and charming - and a very unlikely actor to play the part of Leo Kroll in Burt Topper's interesting thriller The Strangler. Loosely based on the Boston strangler case and released just three months after the real killer was caught, this is a low-key and creepy drama with Buono in one of his best roles ever.

Buono is Kroll, a mean and bitter lab technician who suffers from a controlling mother. She's handicapped and stays in her bed at the hospital all the time, but she still keeps an eye on him. What she doesn't know is that he has a nasty hobby: to strangle beautiful young women! After each murder he more or less molests a new doll and brings it home to his collection - who grows bigger for each day...

What I really like about The Strangler is how close to reality it keeps itself. There's no big, amazing scenes of spectacular horror or action, it's just a story of a very disturbed, cold man who hates women and kills them instead of doing it to his mother. The direction is workman-like, nothing out of the ordinary, which also brings more power and energy to the script itself and especially the brilliant performance by Victor Buono. I mean, he looks like a doll - absolutely charming, a smooth and peaceful face and a lush persona - but here he's so mean and cold, calculating. This casting is brilliant.

Okay, I admit that The Strangler isn't that scary, but it's an excellent and sometimes slightly corny road down the mind of a depraved sexual serial killer. The black & white photo is very atmospheric and even if it's way smaller and cheaper then The Boston Strangler (starring Tony Curtis) and No Way To Treat A Lady, these would be a very interesting triple feature.

I'm not sure which is the best way to watch The Strangler, but I have the release from Sinister Cinema and it looks quite okay. I'm sure there's a better and more official version out somewhere, but if you can't find it I think this DVD is worth a purchase. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Night of the Ghouls (1959)

The same year as the legendary Plan 9 From Outer Space our hero Edward D. Wood Jr squeezed out another classic, Night of the Ghouls! It was actually not released until the early eighties when Wade William's - after Wood's widow told him about it - paid the lab-fees and released it to a fresh generation of unsuspecting audiences.

A mysterious medium, Dr. Acula (Kenne Duncan) holds séances in an old house out in the forest. It was previously owned by a crazy scientist who created monsters there! Anyway, nowadays Dr. Acula lures stupid people there and with the help of homemade special effects and actors fooling them he's in contact with the dead - or...? Because outside in the forest, two ghosts is messing around, the white ghost and the black ghost and yeah... Acula also have Bolo (Tor Johnson) to protect him from those who might want to stop him...something...

In many ways this feels like something of a sequel to both Plan 9 and Bride of the Monster. The villain, Dr. Acula (played by a very, VERY boring Kenne Duncan) is an obvious nod to many of the exotic characters Lugosi did during his fine career. The story references a house where a mad scientist created monsters (Bride of the Monsters) and the "black ghost" in the forest echoes Vampira in Plan 9 a lot. Maybe it wasn't the meaning, but there's a lot of Wood in this  movie - including fun in-joke where a portrait of Ed Wood is visible in the police station, hanging on a wall in the back ground.

The thin plot is almost impossible to trace, but I actually think this film has a couple of really neat ideas. I think the final twist is quite good - but could have been made a lot better and maybe more logical (if that's possible) and the INSANE séance gives it an extra dimension of wackiness. It has everything from a flying trumpet, obviously played by a ghost who can't play to a flying afro-American head, wearing a safari hat, who talks with a grotesque slowed voice! Much of the sets is just a flat wall - or even worse, a totally black room - and most of the actors is behaving like they really wanna be somewhere else. The big exception is Paul Marco, a Wood-veteran, who does his mumbling cop once again. You can't blame him for being a good actor, but at least he gives everything he has in the performance.

Another interesting idea, who predates X-Files and all those TV-shows, is that one of the characters, Police Lieutenant Daniel Bradford (not a bad job by Duke Moore) works for a special section of the force, dealing with the unknown and supernatural. It's a pity Moore's performance is hampered by some really crappy editing, which makes his reaction shots look very out of place.

And hey! I almost forgot! Criswell, my role model in life, stars as himself and as some supernatural being. I love the knullrufs Criswell have the first time he raises from his coffin in the beginning of the movie. He might be the coolest guy on earth, but the fact is that he can't act himself out of a wet paper bag and can't keep his eyes of the signs with dialogue just beside the camera. Way to go, you're the best anyway!

Night of the Ghouls is not the best movie Wood made, but the title is very cool and it has a couple of brilliant, crazy, scenes that's hard to forgot + pretty interesting ideas. 

A classic case of knullrufs.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bride of the Monster (1955)

When everything else fails I just watch a movie by Ed Wood and everything is fine again. Bride of the Monster is actually one of the few financial successes in Wood's filmography, at least when it was released. Not a surprise actually, because it's one of his most even and "normal" films, even if that in the eternal Edwoodian language means it's completely nuts at times. But like all good movies it's just over an hour long - which is good, I'm tired of overlong shitfests - and keeps the pace quite good.

Dr Vornoff (Bela Lugosi) has one dream in life: to create, with the help of nuclear power, super humans who can - I guess - take over the world or something. To his help he has Lobo (Tor Johnson). When yet another man disappears in the swamp, a brave journalist, Janet Lawton (Loretta King) takes it upon herself to solve the mystery... and of course she's caught by Lobo and soon realizes she's the next in line for his horrible experiments!

Wood always had a good eye for striking visuals, and even if this movie is so cheap it's hard to build a good atmosphere there's some wonderful shots - for example when Prof. Vladimir Strowski (George Becwar) is laying in the arms of the giant octopus, a gorgeous shot that somehow reminded me of what Luigi Cozzi did later at the end of Contamination. Several of Wood's trademarks is here, including not-so-fitting stock footage and corny cops trying to solve the mystery, but the real interesting story is in the mansion, the characters of Dr Vornoff and Lobo.

It's a touching little story, a story about two lonely characters trying to survive in their own ways. The good doctor by trying to creating super soldiers, something that he obviously never succeeded in doing earlier and his brute butler, Lobo (an interesting performance by Tor Johnson), a severely retarded fatso who obviously is kinda nice in real life (he just do what his master says)- and with a nice healthy fetish for angora! The lack of characterization of the rest of the cast just enhances the wonderful madness of our baddies and they end up being the only interesting folks in the whole movie. I rooted for them, because who cares about a rude female journalist and stupid cops? Not me.

The special effects is something special here and even if it's not as packed with wacky effects like Plan 9 it still has the infamous (stolen) octopus without a motor, a monster poor Bela battles in the end - while its completely unmovable! Some says it's a stuntman doing the battle, but no... I think it looks like Bela and it's really not a battle either. He just lays there trying to get the arms of the octopus to move! The prop itself is nice, it just very... dead.

Bride of the Monster might not be the best Ed Wood-movie to start with - it's too normal and too mainstream, but it give it a try after Plan 9 and Glenda and you'll have a lot more fun and admiration for the unique creative craft of Edward D. Wood Jr. 

Sand Sharks (2012)

Shark movies. Just these words creates reactions like few other words. Forget about famine, war, poverty. Shark movies makes even the most hardened fan boy upset, because shark movies is the lowest of the lowest, stuff for those who has given up. Those who's seen everything and needs that extra kick of generic movie making. Well, I happens to one of those (but not an extreme fan like Joachim!) and I can't stop myself when I find a movie titled Sand Sharks. I mean, come on! It's sharks! In sand! And this one is starring Corin Nemec - who also produced it! And as you all know, he can't loose!

Corin plays Jimmy Green, a wannabe-businessman who has big plans to give his old home-island a big push into success with making it the new, cool spring break-place for all the drunk, horny teenagers to go to! His father, the mayor, reluctantly agrees on this - but soon there's trouble in paradise: sand sharks - prehistoric sharks that evolved enough to be able to swim IN the sand! Jimmy have no plans to stop his big beach party and soon everyone there becomes the perfect snacks for the... SAND SHARKS!

Sand Sharks is actually quite close to a subtle parody. It's not a full-out comedy, but it has a certain amount of humour and never takes itself that seriously. There's references to "lame shark movies" and Roger Corman and they're using a real dead prop shark from something called "Shark Attack 3D", to fool the town they've caught the real shark. It's a lot of jokes sprinkled all over place and most of the time it actually works. The story is so damn absurd that everyone kinda goes with it and that's good. The humour is the best when it hints as Jaws. My favorite is a spoof on the scene where Brody think he sees a shark in the water and it's of course just someone joking, here the sheriff think he sees a shark in the sand... but it's just some wacky teens who built a shark... with sand! That's comedy!

I've always enjoyed Corin Nemec and I think he's a fun, laid-back actor who found a perfect career in these creature features (the best one is Sea Beast by the way, see it!) and seem to enjoy himself tremendously here, playing a real sleazebag! The rest of the cast does okay, but Corin is the best and have most fun.

The effects? Pretty basic, nothing amazing - but the concept of shark fins swimming around ON the beach looks hysterical and gives another dimension to the comedy. The shark(s) itself looks cool, very "dinosauric" and the animations ranges from bad to pretty good. There's some gore and blood, but I wished there was more. Maybe in Land Sharks? Plz?!

Sand Sharks is a lot of fun and if you understand it's a comedy you will find it a lot more entertaining. It's not a bad movie, it's very aware of the clichés it's playing with, and this genre could need that every tenth more or so! 

And hey, remember to join Ninja Dixon's NEW Facebook-page. Easier to use, easier to join :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I Woke Up Early the Day I Died (1998)

Around five years ago, not long after I met my G, we hanged out in my rented room outside Stockholm talking about watching a movie. Somehow, from someone, I had heard about this movie called IWoke Up Early the Day I Died - but because of legal reasons it was never released. I'm kinda stupid, so I checked the torrent sites, everything... and suddenly, there it was! Okay, I wanted to see it and I downloaded it. A few hours later I came to think of it and I wanted to try it, just check the quality. Ninety minutes later we had seen the whole movie!

That's how good this movie is. It's not a normal movie by any means, it's based on a crazy incoherent comedy/thriller script by Ed Wood (I think it was written in the fifties or sixties), without dialogue and with a bizarre cast of legends and has-beens. How is it possible to not love this?

It starts with Billy Zane dressed as a nurse. He's just escaping from an asylum and after fixing himself some less spectacular clothes he robs a bank, shoots one in the staff and escapes with money! Soon he looses the money and he needs to find them, but where? He has four suspects and goes after them one by one until... well, it's difficult story to describe, so try to find it and watch it yourself!

I Woke Up Early the Day I Died feels like a big, bold, colourful, crazy music video slash slapstick-thriller with a huge does or surrealism and anarchy! Billy Zane, who also is the producer, delivers a very funny and over-the-top performance as "The Thief", and everyone in the cast goes 100 % for the best form of overacting! And what a cast! From Tippi Hedren to Ron Pearlman, Christina Ricci, Ann Magnuson, Will Patton, John Ritter, Tara Reid and even Vampira herself, Maila Nurmi! Oh, and another Ed Wood-veteran, Conrad Brooks plays... a cop, of course!

The production is a bit rough around the edges, but it fits the story and the soul of Wood is all over the movie. Director Aris Iliopulos might be a little bit more advanced in his visuals than Wood, but never goes to far and is smart enough to keep it simple. He also uses stock footage, mixes day and night shots and other classic Ed Wood-trademarks to bring the movie even closer to what it might have been if Wood himself directed it.

It's also one of the best soundtracks I've heard, often more obscure indie-bands and old-school music in an odd mix, which perfectly to the always weird and tacky Los Angeles scenery.

There's a lot of love in I Woke Up Early the Day I Died, a lot of love for Ed Wood and to create something a little bit out of the ordinary. It's fun to see serious actors just having fun, not caring about looking good or without that silly shame that some actors seems to have after appearing in a "b-movie".

I wish this flick got the respect it deserves and that a proper DVD or blu-ray release could come sooner or later. It's well worth it. 

More artwork from Hermit: Monster Killer!

Here's yet another sketch from the pre-production of Hermit: Monster Killer, and just this scene is a tribute to one of my favorite werewolf-films: Silver Bullet. Director Ola Paulakoski och producer Henrik Sjöman is on their way to find funding for the movie and if you want to help a very cool movie (I know, because I wrote the script!) with tons of gore, splatter, humour and one helluva monster (I think 90 % of it will be animatronics to, not much animation) to be made - head over to IndieGoGo and support it with what you can afford! :)

Bad Faith (2010)

As a Swedish loser I'm kinda interested in the few genre films made in Sweden and I'm trying to watch everything, even if it's worthless. The last few years have seen a few films from Sweden that deals with death, murder, supernatural and horror - from excellent productions like Psalm 21 to mediocre failures like Marianne. What makes Psalm 21 strong is that it dares to be a horror movie, while Marianne never goes that far and delivers more or less nothing worth watching - not to mention that lame ending. Bad Faith (original title Ond Tro) kinda falls in the middle of these two.

Sonja Richter is Mona, a Danish woman who just moved to an anonymous Swedish town to start a new job. One evening she's invited out for after work but decides to take a walk first - and finds a stabbed man, bleeding to death in a dark alley. She leaves him and goes back to the after work, in shock. He's the latest victim of the Bayonet Killer - the fifth in just a couple of months. She stays home from work and soon she can't stop thinking of the murdered and it all becomes even more clear when she sees a man she thinks is the killer. The obsession takes over and she starts to investigate herself, getting closer to the killer - or is the killer getting closer to her?

Like my pal Cinezilla writes, there's a lot of giallo-vibes over the story and the haunting cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema surely invokes the seventies with those wide, almost voyeuristic shots - like someone is watching the characters from a distance all the time, trying to figure out what's going on. Something that's more worrying is that director Kristian Petri never seem to care for the thriller/horror aspect of the story, it almost feels like he thinks genre cinema is a bit to cheap for him (which becomes even more clearer when he's announced he's not terrible interested in zombies and his next movie is a movie about the living dead - I demand love for what you're doing).

Now, make no mistake, it's a well-told story with VERY uneven acting. Jonas Karlsson, one of the biggest stars in Sweden is almost unbelievably bad while Norwegian actor Kristoffer Joner gives a very fine performance. Leading actress Sonja Richter gives is both the worst and the best of her talent, which is a pity. Really. Ah, with bad acting I mean just very much "theater", an unability to say the lines natural. They sound weird, with words (and the order of words) like no one uses - and it's meant to sound realistic.

What I really like about Bad Faith is the almost mystical, odd feeling. It's something in the air, an electric atmosphere (much like another movie starring Kristoffer Joner, the good but still disappointing Next Door from 2005) , something is wrong. From the reactions of more or less every single character to the story itself. I was first very, VERY afraid this would be another of those twists where... well, I'm not gonna tell you, but they actually tries to put a red herring and there to that direction and that was my biggest. Thank heavens it didn't happen, and instead we got another ending that I liked - even if I felt that too many questions was unanswered in the end.

The Scandinavian DVD has English subs, so I think you should give it a try. But prepare it's a bit too pretentious for its own good. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Krakatoa: East of Java (1969)

My goal in life (and I have many of those) is to watch every single disaster movie ever made, especially those from more exotic countries. The US has always been the master of disaster movies, and it goes back to Deluge (1933) and San Francisco (1936), not counting the countless biblical disasters, Atlantis-stories and everything else between heaven and earth. One of the first ones I ever heard of as a child was Krakatoa: East of Java, but it's not until now, when I'm slowly crawling towards the golden years (there's some grey hairs coming, believe me...) I actually sat down and watched it. Was it worth the wait? Just wait and see.

Maximilian Schell plays Captain Hanson and he and his crew is out on a dangerous salvage expedition. There's a ship sunken and on that ship there's a collection of valuable pearls, and now it's time to bring 'em up. The problem is that it's very near the island of Krakatoa, and without no one of them knowing it, it's on it's way to erupt! Will the nuns and children survive? Will there be pointless singing? Will there be romance? You bet!

No, to be honest: this is not an especially good movie. Mostly because it's stuck between a more family-friendly Jules Verne/Disney-esque adventure romp and the more modern way of filmmaking and storytelling of the late sixties and early seventies. This means it even has a damn song number in the beginning and a silly theme song, not counting way to much romance and ladies walking around in nice dresses while their men is out on dangerous adventures. It's part religious, moralistic Mitt Romney-wacko and part Kirk Douglas in The Light at the Edge of the World, if you get that parable?

So the first hour is mostly boring romantic melodrama with some good actors like Maximilian Schell (very dashing and handsome) sleepwalking through his part, Brian Keith doing maybe the only complex part in the whole movie and sexy Sal Mineo looking cute and cuddly without much to do. The worst thing is that most stories never really leads anywhere, mysteries is not mysteries and no one really seem that inspired to go on that trip to find the treasure. It's just... blah...

The production started without a script so special effects director (and genius) Eugène Lourié started shooting the volcano-affects at the back lot of Cinecitta first of all, and those are also the highlight of the movie. Lourié worked as a director, art director, production designer, special effects supervisor in Crack in the World, Gorgo, The Giant Behemoth, Burnt Offerings and a lot of other gorgeous movies and his work in this film is just fantastic. The miniatures, the cinematography involving these, tidal waves and destruction - it's all top-notch. Very classy and I can't imagine how it would have looked like in cinemas! It was actually re-released in cinemas in Europe during the 70's, edited down for length and re-titled Volcano!

Krakatoa: East of Java (yes, I know it's west of Java... but everyone mentions this so why should I? Ah, damn. Too late!) isn't the best disaster movie ever made and it's hardly the typical one either (and really not worth the wait). But this would have been a lot better if it focused on the disaster and not on some silly hunt for pearls and scrapped the romantic adventures - because in the end, no one cares about romance when there's a volcano about to erupt. That's the law of cool movies. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Nazis at the Center of the Earth (2012)

Time for The Asylum again, a production company I've been very fond of for a number of years now. No, it's nothing strange with that. I love how they create effective and simple entertainment with little money, without trying to make comedies of the genre movies - but still, some how, very aware of what they're doing. Their films have gradually been better over the years, with more polished production values, one or two semi-famous actors and slightly (but just very slightly) better visual effects. For me it really doesn't matter, because the story and how to tell the story is more important than the quality of the effects. Famous for their "mockbusters", I guess Nazis at the Center of the Earth is their answer to Iron Sky (a movie I haven't seen, but I'm not that fond of comedies either - one day, one day...) and as a movie it works quite well, a lot better than I expected.

Antarctica, a team of scientists discover something fantastic: under the ice is an unknown world, with forests (yes, the same ol' park that The Asylum always uses) and mountains - and it's ruled by surviving nazis! Their leader is doctor Joseph Mengele, who together with the rest has managed to survive through skeleton transplants! They need new flesh and body parts to keep the nazi army alive for the upcoming invasion of the upper earth! Soon our heroes is chased down and hunted for their bodies and there's very little time to stop the fourth reich!

Nazis at the Center of the Earth is so far one of the most ambitious and fun exploitation movies I've seen from The Asylum, and even if the rumours said it was more a so-called "torture porn" (hate that expression, silly crap!) movie I'm happy to say it's more of a good old-fashioned adventure/serial romp but with more gore (a lot more than the normal quota from this company, which is very nice!) and nudity! They squeezed in Nazis, something that looks like zombies, a robot, UFO's, snowy landscapes, blood and good deal of action during 86 minutes. Well done, and it's never boring!

Most of the visual effects are basic The Asylum quality, but they're getting better towards the end and they look really impressive after a while. But don't expect something ILM or stuff like that, this is still foremost a fun "b-movie" with a lot of energy and talent behind the camera. The director, Joseph J. Lawson, has been visual effects supervisor on a lot of their earlier productions which might explain how nicely they're used in this film. He's also a talented director with an eye for strong visuals and I hope he will direct more for the company.

Most of the dialogue is pretty cheesy, and stiff, but what to expect from a film about Nazis from the center of the earth? No one expects it to win an Oscar anyway and it's aware of what it is: fun DTV entertainment that's easily forgotten after the first watch. I liked it anyway, I liked it a lot and I would love to see more in the same genre from The Asylum!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Black Scorpion (1957)

I remember the day so well. It was down in Lund, the last day of Fantastic Film Festival. Me, Markus Widegren and Anders Östlund was there to show a movie we made (Kraftverk 3714 by the way) and we decided to check the town a little bit before hitting the train. My economy was very bad at this time but that didn't stop me from buying The Black Scorpion at a record store - I just needed it! Moments later we where sitting on a restaurant to grab a bite and then I understood I spent the rest of the money I had on that damn DVD. No money, at least three-four weeks until I was having money again. My nice friends helped me so I could eat and I never regretted buying The Black Scorpion that day! Since then it's become one of my all-time favourite monster movies and we should be happy it ever got made, because it was not only my budget that disappeared, theirs to - which left some interesting traces in the movie itself. But more to that later...

Mexico. Something is killing animals and people around the countryside and a couple of geologists go there to investigate. Not far after that they find a small scorpion trapped inside molten lava, it's been there for thousands of years! And it's not the only who has survived: under the local volcano a breed of gigantic scorpions has evolved and now they're hungry for human flesh! They starts roaming the area and soon they're heading for Mexico City!!!

The action-quota in The Black Scorpion is huge. The first half hour is quite slow - but not in a bad way - but when the scorpions finally attacks a Mexican village (after eating a couple of telephone technicians in cool sequence) it's all monster-action to the end. In fact, this movie is like the dream of a ten year old boy: there's monsters, more monsters, different monsters, a couple of spectacular set-pieces and the scorpions are drooling! Yeah, a lot. It could be called "The Drooling Scorpion (with bulging eyes)"  actually! Much of the epic look of the movie comes from the brilliant work of special effects visionary and animator Willis O'Brien (known for creating King Kong and several other classics). In one of the coolest sequences he even uses the trapdoor-spider that originally was used in King Kong (but cut), so it's an unique look at a monster that's more or less kinda lost - except in this movie. It's very well-made and the animation, especially the ultra-cool train-scene is among the best work I've seen O'Brien do.

Aren't we all fond of the stylish, not all the time so realistic acting in these movies? I think so, especially the traditional kiss between the loving couple - two pair of very firm lips pressing hard against each other totally lacking that important sensual and sexual tension. It's never convincing and it will never be and it will always look silly, but it works fine in movies like this. What's fun with the casting is that they've actually used Mexican actors to play Mexicans, except Mara Corday as the almost-not-helpless ranch-owner Teresa Alvarez. But strange enough, the accents still sounds fake!

No, I can't blame The Black Scorpion for being a smart movie. The total opposite actually, like they just didn't give a fuck about the science - not even the patented Pretend-O-Science that flourished in these movies. Maybe some of it was cut or never filmed because of the severe budget problems, but I have a feeling they just wanted to make a fun adventure romp that ends with military tanks battling a gigantic scorpion in a sports stadium. Don't we all wanna see stuff like that? Oh, the budget problems? Well, it's very visible during the attacks against the small village and Mexico City - we just see black silhouettes of the scorpions running around, like black shadowy ghosts! They could never afford to actually add the stop-motion puppets into the footage! This looks weird, but after a while you get used to it and every close-up is an awesome animatronic (and drooling) head of the scorpion anyway.

Yeah, The Black Scorpion is one of those monster movies from the fifties that actually delivers what the promises. There's a lot to love here - monsters and mayhem, stop-motion beasts and rubber-creatures. It's one of the few films that makes the dream of a ten year old Fred become reality.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cehennem 3D (2010)

After watching Biray Dalkiran's Araf recently I felt the urge to watch more modern Turkish horror, which I find pretty interesting because of several things that's common between them all: creativity on a low budget, very, cold, very stylish and the imitating of Japanese genre cinema. Turkish horror is a rare thing, especially during the golden years when Turkey mostly produced action and adventure movies, except the highly entertaining carbon copy of The Exorcist, Seytan. Cehennem 3D is the first, according the filmmakers, 3D movie from Turkey and from a technical viewpoint it's a polished affair with good 3D and slick cinematography. What might bring it down a notch or two is the very generic storyline - it works fine, but we've seen it a hundred times before and we will see it again.

Ogün Kaptanoglu plays a photographer who looks for a breakthrough in his work. When he finally gets a good job he decides to take the photos in the abandoned candle factory nearby and together with his wife and a (hunky!) male model he goes there. But something goes wrong and soon they have a spirit, filled with revenge, after them! It's after him and his family and he needs to solve the mystery and stop the ghost from hurting and killing more people!

It won't help that most of the actors is really bad, stiff and mechanic. The leading man, Ogün Kaptanoglu is good and carries more or less the whole movie himself. It's a pity because I think this film could have been a damn fine little unoriginal horror movie if it wasn't for the acting. Now it's just a decent scary flick. Like most Turkish horror films I've seen so far they seem obsessed by something taking over a person - a demon or a ghost for example. There's more than a few scenes with peoples faces changes to something demonic or black liquid starts pouring from the eyes. Very Japanese. Throw in the classic ghost child and you have a Turkish version of Ringu, The Grudge and Dark Water.

Cehennem 3D looks good and the effects is slightly better than the usual in the same style of low budget horror, but the visuals gets almost too clean, too sterile - like the movie is missing some dirt, some grittiness - something it really would need to make a bigger impact. Especially when you think about the backstory and twist, which is quite gruesome and not bad at all. The film has a dark theme, but keeps a distance from us by just looking too good. But I like the idea of the ghost using fire and heat to kill and hurt its victims, sadistic and graphic - the way I like it.

If you can stand low budget efforts like Araf you will enjoy this one, but the less than original storyline and the stiff acting might scare away most of you. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)

I'm not sure this is a movie review. I see it more like a love letter to a man I admire very much. 

I've seen Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space countless times over the years, from cinema to VHS to DVD and now, finally, a gorgeous blu-ray from Legend Films. I think the world since long has passed that stage where it was okay to laugh at Ed Wood, some kind of respect and admiration has instead replaced the mockery. No, I don't love Wood because he's considered a bad director or adore Plan 9 because some people consider it the worst movie ever made - because it's not the worst movie ever made. Crappy movies is forgotten, despised and never seen again. Plan 9 finds new fans every damn day.

The secret - which might not be that secret - to Ed Wood's success and especially the uniqueness of this movie is that every second, every frame of it is sloppily made and lousily written. Not a bad thing, please understand that. This creates almost pure, 100 % cinema. If one single scene was perfect, brilliant, technically outstanding, the whole movie would be less good. Now it's a league of it's own, something only one man could have done. He did it his way, and boy, don't we all love him for that?

Beyond the ultra-cheesy dialogue, the wobbling sets and insane script lies an enthusiasm that very few other directors has been able to reproduce. Imagine you have no money at all, you have hardly any sets and actors who - some of them at least - can't act, but still... you're working hard, doing your best, never giving up. Wood did that, up to a certain point - until something, that dreaded sadness, took control over him and alcohol was the best way to soothe the pain. Plan 9 is his magnum opus, a movie so twisted and crazy that he never could make a similar film again. Maybe it broke him indirectly, maybe it made him - some kind of odd self-loathing direct the actually quite good anti-porno exploitation The Sinister Urge before he dived into that particularly genre himself.

Well, back to Plan 9. The blu-ray from Legend Films looks excellent and pretty sure we will never see it in better quality. The cinematography is quite decent at times and so some of the actors, mostly the veterans like Lyle Talbot, Tom Keene and Gregory Walcott, but Bela Lugosi is okay in his last part ever (shot long before this movie even was a twinkle in Wood's eye) and my favourite, Bunny Breckenridge is splendid as The Ruler - just a little tiny bit miscast. Criswell is awesome, but you all know that. I hope. Oh, Tor Johnson is fantastic, but that's because he plays Tor Johnson and no one else!

I'm a sensitive person and included on the BD was something very touching: two home movies from the Woodian estate. The first one includes a fragment of something that looks like a party. We see a transperson, maybe Wood himself, and some people smoking. The next part is Wood eating birthday cake together with a young man (a relative of some kind I guess), looking happy. The third part is, well, it feels very private. Like we're entering the soul of Wood.

It's Ed alone in his living room. This is probably late sixties or early seventies. He's dressed in a wig, a dress and his beloved angora sweater. He admires himself, looks at couple of huge ladies undies, sits down and starts trying them on. Fades to black. Wood is a bit plump here, maybe his alcoholism has affected him, but what's more important: he's human, he's frail. He loves himself, he looks down at this man dressed in woman's clothing and loves him.

It's one of those moments where all the problems in his world couldn't touch him, when fiascos and failed love affairs is far away. It's the Ed Wood he always wanted to be: 


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Häxan (1922)

There's a sadness coming over me when I watch Benjamin Christensen's Häxan (aka Witchcraft Through the Ages), a sadness that a movie that wants to celebrate enlightenment and fight superstition and stupidity still is more relevant than ever. Now, in 2012, stupidity is on the same level as when poor women got burned alive for being witches, we're just not burning people on the same scale anymore. Our, the "modern" society have other methods to take care of minorities.

What is Häxan? Häxan is a documentary-drama that goes from the dark ages up to our time, which here means the early twenties. Christensen first examine old art, mostly engravings, who tells the story about those who was accused for dealing with the devil, being witches and the perverted idiots accusing them. In the end our hero, the director, makes direct comparisons with today and what might have caused people to think that innocent women was possessed by the devil. That's it and it's friggin' brilliant.

Häxan is such a strong movie in every possible way, from the graphic visuals - everything from babies being sacrificed, lots of different demons and devils, witches and wonderful, dark (everything was shot in darkness, with no sunlight at all - except the obvious scene with the airplane of course) cinematography. This is gothic horror: churches and cathedrals, shadows and fire. It has both a decadent and amusingly twisted atmosphere, not necessary negative in the portrayal of the occult, almost an admiringly view at the outsiders. At first Christensen seems to tell us how fantastic the twenties is, but then tells us how it actually differs very little from what we've just seen. There's always witches, no matter society or culture. What matters now is how much money they have.

Häxan is both - I would like to say atheistic, but it's not - a deeply critical deconstruction of the church and the clergy who used it power to control and destroy those opposing their view, but the movie stands firmly behind the poor people, those who can't defend themselves with money or fancy relatives. Sure, there's some stuff that feels less impressive, like the description of hysterical women with nervous problems - but I'm pretty sure Christensen would accept today's view on the matter. He just lived in a society where this was the latest, the best and the freshest take on the complexity of the human mind.

If Häxan had been made not it would have been even scarier. Today we have religious nuts running for president in the US, we have religions killing millions of peoples in war, there's an increasing level of racism and homophobia and science is treated like shit. Häxan is a worrying example of how times hasn't changed at all, except being a twisted and nasty horror movie.

This is obviously one of the best movies ever made and it's still a movie that shocks and disturbs the viewer, not only because of it's graphic nature and mocking of religions, but also because it's closer to our time than we ever thought.a 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Monkey Shines (1988)

George A. Romero is without a doubt one of my favourite directors from the states and I've followed him since that day I received a Dutch tape of Dawn of the Dead (it was terribly expensive I remember) and watched it over and over again. I still think the man's a genius, even if some people claim the opposite - but at least he's not selling himself. He's doing what he want to do and never turn his back on his political agenda. Well, talking about selling himself - he did a couple of more mainstream movies during the eighties and early nineties, but even those keeps a very high standard. In 1988 came Monkey Shines, a very straight-forward commercial thriller and I think together with The Dark Half it's one of his most underrated productions.

Jason Beghe plays Allan Mann, a slightly over-aged law-student, who one morning gets hit by a truck and is paralyzed from neck down. One of his friends, a scientist played by John Pankow, arranges to one of his guinea pigs, a monkey, learns to be Allan's assistant at home - and then something goes wrong. Allan gets more and more bitter - for example, his girlfriend leaves him for his doctor - and soon he's so connected to the monkey that he suspects that the animal is trying to take revenge for him by murdering people. Soon everyone is in danger, even his mother and closest friend. Everyone who even the slightest anger him...

Monkey Shines is filled with interesting characters and odd enough, because Romero has always been first to have a strong feminist viewpoint, it also includes two of the nastiest women ever written for the screen. Okay, maybe I'm a bit unfair here, because both Christine Forrest's nurse Maryanne Hodges and Joyce Van Patten mother Dorothy has some humanity in them, something that becomes more clear when they're pressured and hurt. Maryanne is a Christian, very conservative woman who loves to have control over the house and Dorothy is the mother from hell who actually thinks her grown son loves having her around, helping him with everything from showering, feeding and visits to the toilet. They are broad characters, written with not so little comedy, but reveals a very touching honesty, sadness, when they're confronted with the harsh reality. Christine Forrest, also the wife and co-worker of Romero at the time, plays Maryanne and is brilliant! Why didn't she act more?

Jason Beghe was a brilliant actor at the time but nowadays he slums in neo-fascist trash like Atlas Shrugged: Part II (which I'm sure would make Romero throw up a little bit in his mouth) and guest spots in his buddy David Duchovny's Californication - I guess he just takes what producers offering him. But in the eighties, damn he was good. A star, a very convincing actor. I wish he could have stayed that way. He could have been one of the biggest in the biz.

It's pretty clear that Romero stands back a little bit, mostly the violence and some of his trademark humour, but you'll find both the greedy capitalist scientist doing everything for money to the wonderful mocking of religious wackiness, like good old Romero always has done through his career. He handles the direction like a master and keeps the thrills all through the movie, including a couple of very effective jump-scares. I think Romero really tried doing a break into commercial, mainstream movies here and still keep some of his personality. Both this one and The Dark Half is very good movies (and Monkey has a very distinct Stephen King atmosphere - if Beghe had played a writer I would say it could have been written in secret by King!) but also suffers from being a bit to lame, too much the work of skilled technician and not a passionate activist.

Monkey Shines is well worth a visit again, not only because it's a good thriller but also for the fun cast. And yeah, watch out for Romero's set-designer Cletus Anderson in a cameo at the beginning, just before the car accident. Always nice to see one of Romero's "family" in yet another movie. 

Christine Forrest kinda rules this movie.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Farewell, Pearl of Asia...

It's with shock and sadness I hear today that Pawana has left us. Yeah, that's the shittiest start of a Monday ever. According to Bangkok Post she was found drowned in her pool and some other sources says they also investigation her death as a possible murder. But that’s probably just to be safe.

Earlier this year I went to Thailand, both to meet dear friends and to have a well-deserved vacation. I met up with monster-maker Tong in Bangkok and we set out to hook up with actors and filmmakers we admired. One of them was the Pearl of Asia, Pawana Chanajit - star of countless Thai action movies and several Hong Kong films opposite David Chiang.

I met her at a restaurant outside Bangkok. She was a bit late, but when she arrived - an elegant, colorful, woman with a big smile - she welcomed this big, pale, bearded Swedish geek with open arms. Thanks Pawana! I will never forget that!

We sat down, me and Tong, for an hour or so, with her and talked movies and how she by chance became a movie star - and she made me eat some strange food also! :) She retired from acting in 1979 and was since then a successful business woman.

She was in a hurry – she actually forgot about our meeting – and was on the road to do other things, but took time to meet us , and after signing some posters for us she asked me when I would return to Thailand. Maybe in a year, or earlier I told her. She smiled, "Then we must meet again and talk longer, eat dinner and just hang out!" she said in excellent English.

I promised her that. And said goodbye.

Farewell you pearl of Asia, may you forever glimmer among the other stars that's left us.

(you can read more about my meeting with Pawana Chanajit here)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Araf (2006)

I'm very fascinated by Turkish neo-horror, especially if it's shot digital and on a very low budget. It always reminds me of the golden days in Turkey when directors and producers did what they felt for with a camera and some actors. It's not about originality, it's about creativity. I've reviewed the excellent Gen and the interesting D@bbe earlier and now I've just ordered a couple of other new horrors to have something to see after the interesting Araf. Shot on a budget that must have been very low, Araf is an interesting tale that wouldn't have been possible to produce in - for example - the United States. The international title, The Abortion, says a lot about the controversial subject, but surprisingly enough the movie comes off as quite politically and religiously harmless in the end.

Eda is a young dancer. She's happily dating a photographer, Cenk. One night she's more or less raped by a rich doctor and 16 weeks later she finds out she's pregnant. In panic she visits an illegal abortion "clinic" (a weirdo in a basement) and takes care of the problem. Time flies and three years later she's overcome the trauma and is about to marry Cenk. Then something starts to visit her, a little girl with black eyes. It's her child, out for revenge. Out to get her mother...

What makes Araf work is a fine gallery of interesting characters. The leading lady Eda, played by Akasya Asiltürkmen, is great and her boyfriend, Cenk (Murat Yildirim) is portrayed with good amount of intelligence and sensitivity - much more than what you would find in similar American movies. For example, he doesn't judge Eda for what happen - not even the slightest. He's a supportive and loving man who supports his girlfriend even in very hard times. I'm actually a surprised, mostly because we rarely see this kind of human behavior in the hard, cold world we live in today.

Araf is very cheap. I won't even speculate how cheap it was. For me this doesn't matter at all, all that counts is a good story that is well told. Director Biray Dalkiran handles the drama and scares quite well, and takes a lot of inspiration from Japanese horrors (something that seems - so far, with my experience - quite common in Turkey). Sometimes the effects doesn't work, but the dark and gritty subject makes up for failed scared tactics and keeps the movie going. The effects is quite primitive, but if you're in the mood you'll accept them without hesitation. I mean, it's just a movie and a movie is built around a story, and the story always rules over the special effects.

Araf could have been a disturbing morality tale about what will happen with women who takes abortion, but because of well-written character and a human look at what life is about - not easy - it actually manages to stumble around that booby trap and becomes a slightly disturbing horror tale instead of a religious or political statement. I'm impressed.

I'm well aware that Turkish shot-on-video movies is not for everyone, but I have dear friends who loves German gore movies - a genre I personally never cared for, but I'm willing to give it a try if the right movie falls down on my lap. Araf might not be the perfect movie to start with, but even if the budget is low and the visual effects is cheaper than cheap, it has something. It has a strong story, it has darkness. I like that. A lot. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Night Watch (1973)

I had no idea that director Brian G. Hutton, more famous for big budget adventure movies like Where Eagles Dare, Kelly's Heroes and High Road To China had it in him: to make a close to brilliant claustrophobic thriller starring none other than Elizabeth Taylor! Night Watch is the title and until I found it at Stockholm's go-to-store for rare films last weekend, I never heard of it before. First I thought it was a TV movie, but it seems that's not the case - but it could have been, mostly because it's set in very few locations and focuses on a good script instead of action. Interesting enough, Umberto Lenzi was the first person I thought if while watching this movie. Why? Lets see...

Liz plays Ellen Wheeler, a rich widow spending her days in her and her new husbands elegant home in London. He, John (Laurence Harvey), is a successful investment consultant and spends most of his time at the office or on travels and is not home to take care of Ellen, who's getting weaker and weaker from a nervous breakdown. One day she looks out from her window into the old house next to theirs and sees a dead man sitting in a chair. When the police comes the house is completely empty. Ellen is getting more paranoid and is convinced someone is in the house...maybe the strange neighbour who always pokes around in his garden, or is there something with John and her best friend Sarah? She's getting more and more worried and things is getting more and more strange around her...

Night Watch reminds me a lot of several of Lenzi's early thrillers, A Quiet Place to Kill, Oasis of Fear, Spasmo and Orgasmo and also Romolo Guerrieri's The Sweet Body of Deborah. Good mindfucks, smart thrillers more focused on clever scripts than murders and mayhem. Night Watch stands on it's own two legs and is maybe even better. No, not maybe, it is better. It's a classy thriller with a couple of wonderful red herrings and a very European atmosphere. It's a British movie, but could have been Italian or French considering the story and visuals.

The story is not the only giallo-esque thing here. It also has one or two scenes of surprisingly brutal violence, bloody and nasty and drawn out. It's more violent and graphic than any of the Italian movies mentioned above which was a nice surprise and made it even more shocking and goosebump-inducing.

But above everything is the acting and especially Elizabeth Taylor who's sensational. I always forget who damn good she is, something I ought to know after all these years, but maybe the role of Cleopatra is clouding my memory. What we see here is a STAR who actors so naturalistic, so edgy, so intelligent I'm surprised I haven't heard about this film before. She's totally convincing on every level, in every emotion and rules every scene. There's something very modern, very fresh, even today here. I think the always bashed Laurence Harvey is excellent as her husband and Billie Whitelaw and Robert Lang makes fine supporting parts, but Liz outshines them all.

I'm not gonna hold back on this: Night Watch is an AWESOME thriller. Bloody, twisted, intelligent and with great acting. I have a Spanish DVD that looks splendid, anamorphic widescreen and all. Highly recommended if you can find it!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Critters 3 (1991)

I'll keep this short, because Critters 3 isn't one of the most multi-layered movies ever made, but that doesn't mean it's bad. I would say so far that the Critters franchise is one of the more even franchises produced, with a constant level of entertainment. I'm not saying any of them is masterpieces, but I've never looked for perfect movies - I want entertainment and Critters gave me more than I asked for. A few years after the sequel fiasco someone at New Line Cinema discovered that the first two movies made a lot of money on home video and asked Barry Opper and his brother Don Keith Opper to return to Critterland with yet another... no, two new instalments shot back-to-back. First out was Critters 3, this time using the old trick of moving the story from the countryside to the big city (just like Jason takes Manhattan).

A family moving to the big city gets a big surprise when a bunch of Critters follow them and takes shelter in the old apartment building they're living in. But watch out, both the little smartass Josh and bounty hunter Charlie comes to the rescue, but first after some minor bloodshed and a lot of furry mayhem!

What really works is the change of location. The dark, dirty apartment building - just like Mulberry Street - does a great job of making the monsters less silly and more dangerous. Just sharp teeth and red eyes in a dark corner boosts the horror-quality of the film and this is also a lot more horror than part 1 and 2, to great success I would say. I love my creature features nastier and darker and more adult and Critters 3 delivers. Sure, it doesn't shy away from slapstick and comedy and we're seeing farting critters, food-throwing critters, critters who blows bubbles and well, all the crazy stuff a critter do when he's bored. The well-made creatures by the Chiodo Brothers helps a lot creating menace and walks on the line between silly and macabre.

This was the feature film debut of Leonardo DiCaprio, and even if he's not bad in it's hard to imagine that his annoying kid would grow up to be his generations most famous and celebrated actor. Here he just deserves a smack on the mouth and being fed to the critters for being such a nuisance! Oh, I'm a bit harsh there - but he can't help it, he just carries on a fine old tradition that the Japanese started with their "little boy with cap and shorts" that plagued the Godzilla- and Gamera-films for years and years. Like always the best and coolest person in Critters 3 is Frances Bay, who played many weird old ladies - sometimes with axes - over the years, maybe more famously in John Carpenter's In The Mouth of Madness.

Surprisingly fun after all these years, and visually darker and almost a bit nastier (bloody bites, lots of them!) than the first two parts. Not bad at all I would say, even if it hardly comes up in the quality of - lets say... - Yeah, the rat-people in Mulberry Street

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Lurking Fear (1994)

This is the third version of H.P. Lovecraft's classic short story I've seen so far, the other two is the underrated and almost brilliant Dan O'Bannon-penned Bleeders (aka Hemoglobin) and the very unauthorized Dark Heritage. None of them is perfect, but Bleeders comes closest to that wonderful dread we want to see in this story and also has the freakiest monsters of all the version + Rutger Hauer, which of course is a great asset. Here we have Lurking Fear, produced by Charles Band under his Full Moon-banner and shot in the exotic land of Romania. From the beginning this was a project under Empire Pictures with Stuart Gordon at the helm, which probably would have turned out a pretty good movie. Can't say that about this version, but it's not completely worthless.

The story is something with a drug affair gone wrong, some gangsters lead by a slumming Jon Finch (remember him from Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy? Great actor!) and involving Jeffrey Combs playing yet another doctor and the fine character actor Vincent Schiavelli in a smaller part. And yeah, the always talented Ashley Laurence honours us with a good part also. Anyway, they end up at a graveyard and there an underground mutant, an inbred, is lurking around killing them one by one!

Lurking Fear is told in a flat TV-movie style with more or less non-existent direction from C. Courtney Joyner. Some scenes is so badly shot that it's hard to understand why there wasn't a producer screaming somewhere in the background so the shot would turn out a little bit better. Compared to Bleeders this movie has very little atmosphere, except every time the cool monster shows up doing something, like lurking... or killing. And lurking some more. The effects isn't half-bad actually, the make-up effects and the monster suit looks cool and there's some fine explosions and fire stunts at the end. It's not totally un-bloody either, but far from as graphic as Bleeders (okay, I will stop comparing these two from now on!).

But I'm a sucker for underground inbreds - like The Descent for example. Pale, slimly, angry and aggressive monsters who just wants to eat and kill and eat some more. They're often quite scary and just the thought of something crawling around underneath me makes my hair stand up. Not that this monster is scary, but the face is cool and those big white eyes will follow you in your dreams. I like movies where you can see the monster properly and there's no shadows hiding this fella.

I have a feeling this could have been such a good movie with the right people behind the camera. The lack of love for the story and the flat cinematography is disappointing and it never really takes off. Most of the movie is just a bunch of people sitting inside a church talking with each other - and then someone wanders away or gets too near a window and 'napped by the monster and never seen again.

Okay, I wasn't bored. I'm one of those that rarely becomes bored by a movie, but I doubt I will watch it again. Lurking Fear is released on DVD in Germany and seems to be uncut. Well worth buying for those who must see every adaption of Lovecraft or for the few Charles Band-oholics out there. Like me. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Invaders from Mars (1986)

Tobe Hooper is without a doubt one of the few directors who can be called underrated, just because he directed The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and after that tried to do everything but copying his first hit movie. Eaten Alive is of course just a spin on TCM, a great spin to, and the sequel with Dennis Hopper is a witty black comedy - but that's about it. He obviously wanted to do other kinds of genre movies. His most interesting period was during the eighties with masterpieces like Lifeforce and TCM2 and close-to-masterpiece. Invaders fromMars was one of three movies he made for Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan, all flops - if I've got the correct information - but also highly personal and original. Invaders from Mars is also an alien invasion film but the total opposite to Lifeforce, which seems like a very conscious move from Hooper.

In something that looks like a dream world, an idyllic parody of the American lifestyle, an alien spaceship lands behind a hill and digs itself down into the soil. A boy, David, sees it - but his parents thinks it's a dream. The next morning his father is changed and has a weird scar on his neck. He's taken, controlled by the aliens and soon everyone is controlled by a device deeply injected into their neck. David finds a friend in the school nurse Linda and together they decides to strike back and try to stop the aliens taking over their friends, families and the whole earth...

It's easy to blame Invaders from Mars to be a strictly special effects-driven flick. Maybe it is, in on way, but it's also a full-blown adventure and has some of the most ambitious visuals I've seen in one of these trashier, more exploitative, big budget films from the time. The effects is actually excellent. From the visuals stuff to the AWESOME rubber monsters stumbling around in the underground spaceship. This is very creative puppeteering and it took me a while to figure out how the creatures were constructed. Hooper goes for a big look, with big sets and wide angles - and it fits the style of the film perfectly. Many other directors would have done it more claustrophobic, but here it's just big and wide and lots of colours.

Karen Black is one of my favourite actresses and while I can agree that her look got odder and odder over the years, I must say she looks beautiful and sharp here as the nurse being the sidekick to our boy-hero David (Hunter Carson, which also is her son in real life). Poor Timothy Bottoms, a wonderful actor with extreme bad luck in his career, gets another flat character to play, even if he seems to enjoy himself when he's going bad than when he's playing a normal father. James Karen, a welcome face in eighties horror, has a smaller but cool part as the military leading the operations against the aliens. Gotta love that guy. Oh, lets not forget Louise Fletcher, who plays one of her classic psycho-ladies - and she's great as usual. Very few actresses can give the audience that empty shark-eyed look and it's still damn scary.

Where Lifeforce is dark and moody, with a low-key emotional atmosphere, Invaders from Mars is big, bold and colourful with a weird addition of almost sadistic pleasure - but in a toned down way, almost, to make it fit a younger audience. The slightly disappointing final twist that echoes both the sentimental values of Wizard of Oz and the demented charming stupidity of Umberto Lenzi's Nightmare City leaves us on the edge of the seat. What did he just see? What the fuck is going on? But Hooper is cruel, he's not gonna let us know the final-final twist, instead we can imagine all the horrors meeting the young eyes of Karen Black's son when he opens the door to his parents bedroom.

Invaders from Mars is another very fine film from the fucked-up mind of Tobe Hooper and the juicy wallets of Golan and Globus. Without those two many interesting genre flicks couldn't have been made. Bless them - in a non-religious way. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Critters 2 (1988)

I love a good sequel, and there's quite a few that even is better than the original: Maniac Cop 2, Hellraiser 2, Children of the Corn 2, Warlock 2, Halloween 2 (yes, and I'm not gonna join a debate about it), Psycho 2 (a film on the same level of quality as the first one) etc. Yesterday I watched Critters and kinda liked it, but today I sat down and watched the sequel, Critters 2: The Main Course, and found out that it's actually a damn fine and fun sequel and superior compared to the original. What makes a good sequel? When it comes to this form of genre cinema I think the budget plays a big part of the creativity. Sometimes the sequels gets less money, but here it feels like New Line Cinema believed in the projected and gave the Opper's and director Mick Garris both a lot of love and freedom to create something out of the ordinary.

Charlie (Don Keith Opper), the village idiot from the first movie is now an intergalactic bounty hunter together with Ug (Terrence Mann). They thought the Critters was dead and extinct, but some eggs has survived and now they're ready to hatch! At the same time Brad travels back to his old home town to visit his grandma, but soon he realizes that something is wrong and the space monsters he's been trying to forget is back and they're even more hungry! Lucky for him he gets some help from Charlie and Ug... and the whole town is now ready to kick some Critters-butt! If they survive...

In cinemas Critters 2 seemed to be a flop, but it must have made a big buck on home video - remember it spawned two more sequels, direct to video. It's a pity, because Critters 2 is a lot better than the first one. It also feels more adult, which I like: more blood, some nudity and a fun orgy of monsters and special effects. It has a more epic feel to it, more characters involved and a whole town under siege at the end. Mick Garris knew how to boost the production values without forgetting interesting characters we cares about. Scott Grimes is back as Brad, and here he's two years older and with more character. He's not just the annoying boy, he's more a of a hero and a proper sidekick to Charlie and Ug (and Zanti, the third bounty hunter who transforms into a naked woman in a memorable sequence). The only thing I feel is odd - and somehow fresh - is the little, almost non-existent, love story between Brad and Megan, it's very visible that she's like 6-7 years older than him...

The comedy is also darker and the script is filled with fun and somewhat macabre ideas. The easter bunny sequence, from when they places the "eggs" outside the church to when the poor bunny comes crashing through the church window is brilliant, cheesy and loving filmmaking. It's the suburbia of John Waters mixed with the dark, family-friendly splatter of Gremlins. Yeah, Gremlins. Critters 2 is a lot closer to that movie than the first movie, which is good. It was during that time in the US when movies for young adults could be a bit bloodier, a bit more extreme. Not so damn wimpy and correct. We've seen some similar quality productions recently, J.J. Abrams Super 8 and Joe Dante's underrated The Hole for example, but except those it's hardly anything worth mentioning.

Like every good monster movie it ends spectacular. Critters 2 brings all the artillery with an awesome sequence starring one big mother of a Critters, put together by every other Critter around. I didn't remember it to be so effective, but it looks cool and the creative special effects helps a lot. If I was allowed to make a sequel  would want to see even more big Critter-piles eating humans while rolling over them!

Even if I wish I could, I can't complain about this movie. It's made with a lot of love and creativity and with a fine cast of actors who seems to care about what they're doing and not just cashing in the paycheck. Can't say that about every movie I've seen. Recommended and if you haven't seen this one since it came it, give it a new try! I'm sure you won't regret it.