A madman is accidentally released from the nut house and returns to the college where he murdered several co-eds years before. Belinda Montgomery seems to be the only doctor concerned with his unexplainable disappearance. While everyone else at the facility makes excuses, she heads on down to the college and with the help of a local newspaperman, goes undercover as a sorority sister to stop the killer before he can murder more co-eds.
Silent Madness was made at tail end of 3-D craze of the early ‘80s and has enough stuff thrown out at the audience to make me believe it could’ve gotten an extra Half Star if I saw it on the big screen in its intended format. Since I saw it in 2-D on video, I can’t be so forgiving. Of all the various gimmicky things that are hurled at the screen, the hatchet was my favorite, if only because it turns into a cartoon as it nears the screen. I don’t know how this looked in 3-D, but in 2-D, it’s pretty damn goofy. Other kills involve a sledgehammer, vise, steam, nail gun, and a big drill press.
Belinda Montgomery makes for a spunky heroine. She kinda has a quality similar to Lynda Carter as she always remains plucky no matter what she’s up against. The supporting cast is solid. We have Sydney (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) Lassick as a useless small town sheriff, Viveca (Stargate) Lindfors as the bitchy sorority house mother, and Elizabeth (Friday the 13th Part 7: The New Blood) Kaitan as a co-ed who gets murdered while riding a skateboard.
Despite one cool black and white flashback (which kinda plays like a precursor to the one in Night of the Creeps), this is pretty standard slasher stuff. The kills are bloodless for the most part, but there is just a high enough body count to keep you watching throughout the slower sections. Said slower sections mostly involve a tedious subplot regarding the mental hospital conspiracy to hush up the killer’s escape. The scenes with the two hospital orderlies trying to silence Montgomery are clunky and fudge the pacing (although it does lead up to one halfway decent murder set piece).
Lassick gets the best line of the movie when he says: “Just because the broad is so goddamned good-looking don’t mean we have to start thinking with our dicks!”
AKA: Beautiful Screamers. AKA: The Nightkillers. AKA: The Omega Factor.
The next Horror-Ween movie will be: The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll!
A woman gets raped by a bunch of degenerate bowlers in an arcade. The next night, they go to a bowling alley where they play in an after-hours league. When the bowlers aren’t yelling at each other and being obnoxious, they’re getting picked off one by one by a killer wearing a bowling bag on his head.
The characters in this movie are all awful and disgusting. They are some of the most annoying characters I think I’ve ever seen in a horror film. They all say “fuck” and/or “bitch” in every other sentence like we’re supposed to think they’re cool or something. Not only that, but you have to put up with a nasty prolonged gratuitous rape scene that goes on forever that culminates with the woman getting raped by a bowling pin.
I guess I’ve should’ve known what I was getting myself into, since it was directed by Ryan Nicholson, who also directed the deplorable Hanger. I will say this for Nicholson: He does deliver on some truly memorable and gory kills. In addition to bowling pins being inserted in every orifice known to man (and woman), people are choked with bowling shoelaces, have their head crushed by bowling balls, get their face shoved into the ball washer, and have their decapitated heads found in the ball return. Most of these kills are obvious for the most part, but the over the top gore certainly helps.
The best death scene isn’t even gory. It occurs when a couple is performing a 69 on the bathroom floor and the killer forces the woman down on the man, effectively suffocating both of them. Not only is this scene one of the most inventive deaths I’ve seen in a while, it also features some surprising XXX footage.
So it’s a toss-up. The deaths are all appropriately gory, but some viewers might not make it that far because of the despicable rape scene. If you really want to do yourself a favor, put the movie on mute in between the murder scenes and save your ears all the unnecessary vile dialogue.
The next Horror-Ween movie will be: Silent Madness!
I originally had another title in mind for The 31 Movies of Horror-Ween, but since I had so much fun with Stalked by My Doctor, I couldn’t help but check out this sequel. While it’s not quite as good as the original, it still has enough memorable moments to qualify it as a better-than-average Lifetime Movie. That is to say, Eric Roberts is given plenty of opportunities to act like a deranged psycho.
Roberts returns as the certifiable Dr. Beck who is now laying low in Mexico after the events of the first film. While on the beach, he sees a teenage girl drowning and rescues her from the surf. After he gives her mouth-to-mouth, he instantly goes into Stalker Mode. He follows the girl and her widowed mother to San Diego and begins keeping tabs on them. Beck then devises a plan to date the mother in order to get close to her daughter.
This is basically a wilder and campier version of what happened in the first movie. It’s played a lot looser and less realistic, which results in an uneven tone. Still, it’s funnier than that Will Ferrell Lifetime Movie.
There’s some shit in this movie that is just too stupid for words. The whole subplot with Roberts teaching his girlfriend to conquer her fear of heights is ludicrous. (Her husband died from falling off a ladder and now she can’t stand to be off the ground.) You just know her phobia is going to come in handy during the finale.
I think the funniest subplot had to do with how Roberts drives a wedge between the object of his affection and her boyfriend. When she goes to him for a check-up, he forges her paperwork and tells her she has an STD!!! Since her boyfriend is the only one she’s ever been intimate with, it immediately makes her think he’s cheating on her. Unbelievable.
Another miscalculation is the overdone daydream sequences. They were funny in the original because they gave us insight on Beck’s twisted frame of mind. Here, the filmmakers double-down on the fantasy sequences and make them even more outrageous. (Like the scene where Roberts cuts a woman’s throat in a crowded restaurant and then yells, “Check, please!”) These scenes are good for a laugh or two, but they come at the expense of the narrative.
No matter how goofy the plot gets, it’s Roberts’ expert performance that keeps you watching. I wish they hadn’t turned the whole thing into a camp-fest, because if things were played with a straight face, his performance would’ve really been menacing. Still, any movie that ends with Roberts winking at the audience is okay by me.
The next Horror-Ween movie will be: Gutterballs!
Slip (Leo Gorcey) wants to get a vacant lot turned into a baseball park for the kids in the Bowery. He goes along with Sach (Huntz Hall) to the owners of the lot who live in a spooky house to ask for permission to use the field. The boys are of course unaware that the twisted family wants to put Sach’s brain into their gorilla, fasten Slip’s head onto their robot, and feed the leftovers to their pet man-eating plant.
The Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters is a breezy bit of harmless fun. It was directed by Edward Bernds, who did a lot of Three Stooges shorts, so he knows how to stage all the various pratfalls and tomfoolery. He also knows a thing or two about directing monsters as he went on to helm Return of the Fly. It all adds up to one of the better entries in the latter-day Bowery Boys cycle. Gorcey and Hall still know how to wring laughs out of their well-worn shtick, but in the end, it’s just not quite up to snuff with their similarly-themed Spook Busters and Ghosts on the Loose.
The freaky family seems to be inspired by The Addams Family. There’s a butler named Grissom (the boys call him “Gruesome”) that looks a lot like Lurch and the foxy sex-starved vampire niece Francine is similar to Morticia. They’re pretty funny and give Gorcey and Hall plenty of ammunition to bounce jokes off of.
Speaking of Gorcey and Hall, there aren’t many other Bowery Boys in the film as most of the movie is devoted to Gorcey and Hall running around the haunted house. It takes about half of the running time for the other Boys to show up and even then, they get kidnapped almost right away. It really doesn’t matter though since Gorcey’s wordplay and Hall’s mugging are the backbone of the series.
Their best exchange:
Slip: “How can you read in the dark?”
Sach: “I went to night school!”
The next Horror-Ween movie will be: Stalked by My Doctor: The Return!
Well, here’s one of the worst pieces of vomit I’ve seen in some time. Just when you think they can’t find a horror subgenre more annoying than Found Footage, along comes Unfriended. The footage in this one isn’t “Found”, it’s just all shown on someone’s computer. You can even see a mouse arrow clicking on various video clips and going back and forth between multiple browser windows.
Hey jackasses, if I wanted to watch a movie on my computer, I would’ve watched some porn.
Anyway, the whole thing is set-up like this: There are five teenage friends who are all talking to each other on webcam.
Again, if I wanted to watch girls on a webcam I’d just watch porn on my computer.
So they get an uninvited member in the chat room and can’t flush them out. This person then starts playing a “game” with each of them. When they lose, they die right on the webcam.
I guess they should’ve just called it Chat Russian Roulette.
This is no way to run a railroad. Why the Hell would you even want to film a movie this way? It’s not realistic at all because if it was anyone with half a brain, they would’ve just unplugged the laptop once things started getting weird. To make matters worse, long sections of the movie are devoted to people text messaging in real time. There are also unending scenes of people checking their Facebook. Hell, there’s more Facebook in this movie than was in that David Fincher movie that was about Facebook! Seriously, I could film my mom trying to use Facebook and it would be a whole lot scarier than this shit. (It’s also funny to see how rapidly the film has dated since teens have long since given up Facebook as their social media of choice.)
It also pissed me off to no end to see these kids live streaming, watching YouTube videos, and engaging in real time video chat. I mean, what the hell kind of internet provider did they have? If I tried to do any of that shit, my internet usage would be off the chart! I guess these bozo kids don’t have to work or pay the bills so they can spend their time doing anything they want on the computer and it won’t cost them a dime. (Here’s an idea for a horror movie: Show me getting my internet bill in the mail.)
The death scenes are minimal and the filmmakers find some way to ruin what little blood and gore we do get. The scene where a guy puts his hand in a blender is choppy and hard to see thanks to the feed having to buffer. There was one scene though that made me laugh. That was when a chick shoved a curling iron down her throat and the teens in the chat room get sent a picture of her dying accompanied by the words, “Looks like she finally STFU”.
Yes, this is the first and so far only instance of a killer meme in motion picture history.
Most of the time though the film just gets on your nerves. The teens are all annoying and whenever someone is about to die, the whole thing just devolves into them screaming at the top of their lungs at each other. You know things are bad when the best part of the whole movie is a porno pop-up ad.
The next Horror-Ween movie will be: The Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters!
Scientists doing cancer research accidentally create giant cellular monsters that go around the countryside sucking the bones out of their victims. Peter Cushing gathers a team of doctors together to find a way to stop the monsters before they can do any more damage. They soon discover that radiation is the only thing that will kills them, so in the end they radiate a bunch of cows and feed them to the monsters! Brilliant!
The plot is a bit goofy in spots, but the cool monsters and atmospheric direction by Terence (Curse of Frankenstein) Fisher make Island of Terror breezy entertainment. Fisher does a good job on the opening scenes, which almost play like a Quatermass movie. He does however fail to keep the pedal to the metal as the film suffers from some stop-and-go pacing. Still, it’s just weird enough to be memorable, although it’s not quite good enough to make for a solid recommendation.
Although the pacing is a bit all over the place, the scenes of Cushing and company stumbling upon boneless victims are pretty cool. I also dug the scene where the monsters started multiplying and began oozing out stuff that looking like overcooked Ramen noodles. There’s also a gnarly moment when one of the monsters grab a hold of Cushing and his friend has to hack his hand off in order to save him. These moments alone salvage the flick from being just another forgettable programmer.
AKA: Night of the Silicates. AKA: The Creepers. AKA: The Night the Creatures Came. AKA: The Night the Silicates Came.
The next Horror-Ween movie will be: Unfriended!
Beverly Garland stars as a doctor who goes to the Amazon jungle looking for a cure for cancer. She’s heard that the local headhunters have a good recipe for shrinking heads. Her thinking is that if the potion can shrink heads, it’ll shrink cancer cells too. Standing in her way of a modern medical breakthrough is the Curucu, a legendary monster who stalks the jungle and preys on the natives.
Curucu, Beast of the Amazon was written and directed by Curt Siodmak, the man most famous for writing The Wolf Man. If anything, it’s painful proof that he’s a much better writer than director. Sure, the film boasts some lush color cinematography and decent location work of the Amazon, but for most of the running time, it feels more like a bad updating of a ‘40s jungle picture than a true horror movie.
Like the jungle movies of old, Curucu is loaded with tons of stock footage. There are lots of shots of crocodiles, snakes, and even piranha ineptly tossed in to make it look like Garland and her team is interacting with wild life. (The rear projection effects are even worse than the ones in the ‘40s.)
The pacing is also erratic. Even after you think all the stuff with the monster is wrapped up, the movie still plods along for another reel or two as Garland’s escape from the jungle is impeded by just about every animal known to man. This frustrating ending is further evidence that this is more of a jungle flick than a horror movie. Plus, Siodmak pads the running time by throwing in a couple of bizarre dance numbers of jungle guys and gyrating gals that eat up a lot of screen time.
I’m a fan of Beverly Garland, but this isn’t nearly as good as other similar Garland vs. Goofy Monster movies like It Conquered the World or The Alligator People. The monster is rather weak as it resembles a rainbow-colored variation of the monster from Night of the Blood Beast. Plus, there’s a predictable plot twist near the end that pretty much negates all of the horror aspects of the film, which adds to the overall frustration.
The next Horror-Ween movie will be: Island of Terror!
Sophie (Brianna Chomer) is busy living the carefree life of a typical teenager when her dumbass boyfriend ruins it all by texting and driving. He gets into an accident and Sophie is sent to the hospital where she fights for her life. Her suave surgeon Dr. Beck (Eric Roberts) pulls her through, but she’s unaware that he is a creepy stalker who can’t even go on an internet date without losing his marbles. He instantly becomes fixated with her and creeps around while she’s recovering. Once Sophie is released from the hospital, Dr. Beck can’t even wait until her regularly scheduled check-ups to see her. Pretty soon, he begins stalking her and tries to worm his way into her life. His behavior gets increasingly erratic and unpredictable and he eventually kidnaps Sophie and uses his know-how as a doctor to fake her death so they can be together forever.
Stalked by My Doctor is a Lifetime Movie, and I know it’s not the sort of thing you’d expect me to feature for The 31 Movies of Horror-Ween, but hear me out. For one, I have a soft spot in my heart for Lifetime Movies. I don’t have many guilty pleasures in my life, but they’re one of them. The second reason I included it is because there is just enough of a psychological element here that makes it qualify as a horror film or at the very least, one of those “From Hell” thrillers like you used to see so much of in the ‘90s.
The most important reason I’m reviewing this (and recommending it) is that it contains a great sleazy performance by Eric Roberts. It’s definitely the third or fourth best psycho performance of his career, and in a career full of great psycho performances, that’s really saying something. So if you’re a fan of Eric Roberts like I am, you’ll definitely want to check it out ASAP.
His performance is truly bonkers. I loved the way he took women he met online out for dinner and instantly started planning their lives together. When the dates start to get uncomfortable and try to leave, Roberts flips out and calls them things like “Fat ass bitch”! The way he chews up the scenery is a joy to behold.
Roberts’ acting only gets better once he goes full-tilt crazy. The scene where he kisses Chomer while she’s still under anesthesia is genuinely creepy, as is the way he rubs ointment on her fresh surgery scars. I also got a kick out of the part where he breaks into her home and begins sniffing her panties, laying in her bed, and fantasizing about her.
Once Chomer’s mom puts her foot down and forbids her to see him, Roberts uses his patient database to learn her medical history. He finds out her mom is allergic to penicillin and tries to kill her by putting it in her menopause medicine! This dude is a straight-up freak!
Roberts finally snaps and kidnaps Chomer and ties her to the bed. This is when the shit really hits the fan and Roberts’ acting goes through the roof. When he says, “I just want someone to be with me!” it’s the same intensity he had when he said “Charlie, they took my thumb!” in Pope of Greenwich Village.
In short, this is a master class of psycho acting.
Roberts also gets the best line of the movie when he tells one of his dates, “I’m unfriending you!”
The next Horror-Ween movie will be: Curucu, Beast of the Amazon!
The Inner Sanctum was a popular radio program in the early ‘40s. It didn’t take long for Universal Studios to turn the program into a loosely connected film series. Although each film was introduced by a head in a crystal ball and starred Lon Chaney, Jr., they were all standalone stories. This was the first flick in the series.
Chaney plays a therapist who uses hypnotism to help his patients. He's married to a harlot who is cheating on him and when she dies, he naturally becomes the main suspect. Since he can't remember what he did the weekend of the murder, he has to hypnotize himself to retrieve his memory and clear his name.
Directed by Reginald (The Mummy’s Ghost) Le Borg, Calling Dr. Death suffers from pokey pacing and obvious plotting. It’s only an hour long, but it peaks early on and drags considerably from there on out. Chaney does what he can with the role, although it doesn't help that most of his dialogue is done in a histrionic voiceover that is often distracting. I guess the constant narration was supposed to be a nod to the radio show. However, what works in one format often doesn’t work in another.
The supporting cast is solid. Patricia Morison does a fine job as Lon’s long-suffering secretary and the always reliable J. Carrol Naish is fun as the detective who keeps pestering Chaney to confess. Their efforts aren’t nearly enough to salvage this ho-hum mystery.
The next Horror-Ween movie will be: Stalked by My Doctor!
House of Horrors is a spin-off of the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movie, The Pearl of Death. It focuses on The Creeper, played by Rondo Hatton as he helps a disgraced sculptor named De Lange (Martin Kosleck) get revenge on his critics. In exchange for allowing him to sculpt his ghoulish features, The Creeper offers to kill any critic that has harsh words for De Lange. When a pin-up artist (Robert Lowery) is blamed for the murders, his girlfriend (Virginia Grey) tries to clear his name and nab The Creeper.
There’s a sound premise here, but it’s pretty much undone by the flat direction by Jean (The Devil Bat) Yarbrough. It’s interesting because he teamed up with Hatton later that same year for the sequel, The Brute Man which is way better. That flick had plenty of atmosphere and gave a sympathetic edge to the character of The Creeper. This one has neither thing going for it, and as a result is rather lackluster in just about every way.
Hatton does a fine job as The Creeper, but like I said, he had a lot more to work with in The Brute Man. Here, he’s more or less just a pawn for the crazy sculptor. It’s Kosleck who is the true villain, but he’s much too fey and whiny to be a real threat.
The coolest thing about the movie is the Batman connection. Star Robert Lowery played Batman in the ‘40s serial and none other than Alan Napier, Alfred from the ‘60s TV show plays the nasty critic who draws the ire of Kosleck. Too bad they don’t share any scenes because it would’ve been neat to see two different eras of Batman and Alfred on screen together.
AKA: Joan Medford is Missing.
The next Horror-Ween movie will be: Calling Dr. Death!
You know it’s been sixteen years since we last had an honest to God(zilla) Japanese Godzilla movie in theaters? That of course, was the fun Godzilla 2000. Before that, the last Japanese-made Godzilla flick was fifteen years prior, Godzilla 1985. That’s a bit of a sad trend. Even though this new flick, Shin Godzilla has its share of problems, I have to say one thing to the people at Toho: Please do not wait another decade and a half to give us another Godzilla feature in theaters. I’ll be in my mid-‘50s by then.
Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I have to say, I like how this was released. It was only in theatres for a few days in a limited amount of theaters. This release was for the fans like me who love Godzilla and know that the only proper way to see him is projected thirty feet high on the big screen. I’m glad too because I think if I saw it at home on the small screen, I might have been a tad underwhelmed. I hope more fringe release titles are able to see the light of day in this manner. (Rob Zombie’s 31 also had a similar release.)
Shin Godzilla isn’t necessarily a bad Godzilla movie, but it’s definitely a third-tier sequel. It’s set in the “Reboot” mode where Godzilla is a new phenomenon that has never stomped on Tokyo before. That is fine. As a Godzilla fan, we expect to get one of these every couple of years. Sadly, most of the films that are set in this mold (which include the original film and the previously mentioned Godzilla 1985) are interchangeable in both content and entertainment value.
For me, the “VS” movies are usually better. They may be a bit uneven in terms of quality, but at least the plot can focus on multiple monsters, which gives us less time on the dispensable human characters. Heck, even the “Friend to Children” films at least have their WTF moments. Maybe that’s why I liked the 2014 Godzilla so much. It managed to take the best parts of Godzilla’s Reboot, VS, and Friend to Children subgenres and blended them all together in a satisfying way.
Sadly, this is a straight Reboot tale, but one that has its fair share of rewards.
Speaking of tails (see what I did there?), the political infrastructure of Japan is worried when a giant tail is seen off the coast of Tokyo splashing around and smashing tunnels. Eventually, the bug-eyed beast emerges and runs around the streets of Tokyo knocking down buildings and causing the politicians all kinds of headaches. Once the monster returns to the sea, the politicians begin to rebuild, but it doesn’t take long for the monster to grow to enormous size and become the Godzilla we all know and love.
Actually, he’s not quite the Godzilla we’ve seen before. This time out, he has red stripes that glow in the dark and pulsate whenever he’s about to shoot his fire breath. Some may not like this change, but I dug it. It’s like Godzilla went to the body shop and got a lot of Fast and Furious type of modifications. Among the modifications this incarnation has: A mandible mouth a la Predator that gives his fire breath and nuclear rays an even larger stream. He also has a bunch of blowholes down his spine that gives him the ability to shoot his rays out of his back so that he looks like a one-man disco ball dance party. Also, his tail is equipped with the same ability, so now he can not only level buildings with his tail; he can shoot them down with lasers too.
The opening scenes of the tail in the water are a lot like the appearance the shark fin in Jaws. It’s a great way to tease Godzilla’s presence without showing him, allowing for the big payoff reveal later on. Once he finds land, the baby Godzilla looks ridiculous, but in a good way. He resembles a giant rooster and even walks like one too. Like Mothra, Godzilla has a life cycle in this one and every time you see him, he looks a bit different and/or shows off some brand new ability that the government isn’t prepared for.
Most of the human-based drama deals with the government officials as they decide what to do with Godzilla. What’s surprising is that the first act, which shows all the various channels and red tape-cutting the officials must go through in order to do something about the monster is fast-paced and involving. Had the filmmakers used the same rapid-cut style for the other human sequences throughout the film, the whole thing would’ve flowed better. I mean the flick clocks in at nearly two hours, which is really about thirty minutes longer than a Godzilla flick really has to be.
Let’s face it; we go into a Godzilla movie expecting things to slow down whenever you cut away to the humans. Yes, when Godzilla is on screen, it’s fun, and that’s what really matters. However, at one point, Godzilla literally stops dead in his tracks, and when he does, so does the film.
A lot of my criticisms won’t mean much to die-hard fans. At the end of the day, we got another Japanese Godzilla movie on the big screen, and that alone is victory enough. I just wish it was a bit better.
AKA: Godzilla: Resurgence. AKA: God Godzilla. AKA: New Godzilla. AKA: True Godzilla.
The next Horror-Ween movie will be: House of Horrors!
Eli Roth goes to Chile to party with his friends and pick up hot girls. While at the club one night, the city is rocked by a tremendous earthquake. One of his friends is severely injured in the quake and Roth takes him through the crumbling streets to get medical help. An aftershock winds up toppling a local prison and the streets are quickly flooded with looters, robbers, and rapists. It’s then up to Roth and his friends to protect their hot friends from being violated by the disgusting prisoners.
If you can’t already tell, part of the fun of Aftershock is the way it slides from one genre to another. The first act is a lot like Hostel as the ugly Americans party it up in a foreign country. The second act more or less plays like an updated ‘70s disaster movie. The final sequences are dark and disturbing and almost feel like an old-fashioned rape n’ revenge movie in the vein of I Spit on Your Grave. All of this for the most part is gruesome, gnarly, and surprising.
Roth did not direct the film, but he co-produced and co-wrote the script. However, this feels very much like one of his films. (Most of the cast and crew also worked with him on The Green Inferno.) There’s an unforgiving nastiness about it that gets under your skin. Although the film struggles to find traction early on, once it kicks into gear, it never lets up. The gore is also unsettling and the sequence where someone is burned alive is rather hard to watch. There’s also a scene involving a dismembered hand that manages to be horrifying and hilarious at the same time.
It’s the nimble way director Nicolas Lopez juggles genres that makes the film work. There’s a stretch of the flick that feels like a Lucio Fulci-directed version of The Purge. I mean that’s just not something you see every day.
The next Horror-Ween movie will be: Shin Godzilla!
Lisa (Tara Spenser-Nairn) is trying to help her paraplegic boyfriend Sam (Jason Thompson) get legal help, but their lawyer (Michael Trucco) is unable to get a settlement from the company who manufactured the faulty brakes on his motorcycle. The lawyer also has the hots for Lisa and he gives her a jewel as a gift. She refuses the gift and when the lawyer grabs a hold of it, it turns him into an evil Djinn. He then grants Lisa three wishes, one of which is obviously to make her boyfriend walk again. Once Lisa reaches her third wish, it will open up the gates of Hell and the Djinn’s race will rule the world. The Djinn’s mission for world domination is complicated when he falls in love with Lisa.
This was the fourth Wishmaster movie, and the second to be directed by Chris Angel (not the magician). While I was not a fan of Angel’s Wishmaster 3, I have to give him credit on this one. He does a good job and working around the confines of the low budget. He knows he doesn’t have the money for elaborate special effects sequences, so he makes a point to concentrate a lot of effort on the paraplegic love triangle. The performances by the cast are all solid and the dramatic meat of the movie never feels like a Lifetime Movie or anything.
Trucco in particular does a great job. Once his body is inhabited by the Djinn, he amps up the yuppie scuzziness to eleven. It’s almost enough to make you wish they had made American Psycho 2 the proper way, without killing off Patrick Bateman in the first scene. They should’ve given him the role of Bateman because seeing him in a flashy suit and taking gleeful pride out of slaughtering people is pretty entertaining.
Sadly, that’s about where the fun stops. While this is perhaps the second best Wishmaster movie, it’s still not all that good. For one, the Wishmaster suit is awful. No wonder they made him take the form of Trucco. It looks like it came out of a Halloween Spirit store. His voice is even worse as he sounds like a reject from the WWE. The CGI effects are equally pathetic.
You also have to deal with a lame subplot involving a mystical bounty hunter who sets out to kill Lisa before she can make her third wish. The swordfight this guy has with the Wishmaster is just plain embarrassing as his sword looks plastic as fuck. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, the Wishmaster fights him off with a stick, which just magnifies the fact that the guy has been using a Wal-Mart sword the whole time. This shit wouldn’t have cut it in a bad episode of Highlander.
The kills are OK I guess, but they’re much too uneven. While we get some good face peeling, nose hacking, and tongue ripping, most of the scenes are just plain dumb. There’s a part where a girl wishes for some “killer sex” that doesn’t go anywhere. You’d think the filmmakers would’ve been more imaginative with her death. However, all that happens is that she moans, screams, and levitates before she dies.
Then there’s the scene where a guy wishes to be a pimple on a stripper’s ass!?! This sounds like a prime set-up for a good kill, but there’s absolutely no payoff as the guy simply just disappears. I mean, if you’re going to do something like this, at least have the decency to show the chick popping the pimple.
The next Horror-Ween movie is: Aftershock!
A cute archeologist and her father are on a dig in Egypt when they uncover a mysterious pyramid hidden underground. The government won’t allow them to go inside the pyramid, so they put a camera on a robot rover (named “Shorty”) and send it inside to capture some footage. When an accident disables the robot, the members of the expedition sneak inside to retrieve it and wind up getting lost.
Man, what can you say about a Found Footage horror movie that doesn't even have the heart to keep the Found Footage gimmick going? About halfway through, the flick drops all the shaky-cam and night vision shots for regular honest-to-God camerawork, complete with tripods and everything. While my eyes were grateful for that, I do have to ask, what was the point of even starting out as a Found Footage flick if you're not going to follow through with it? Choose a style and stick with it.
As bad as it is, the film does manage to break new ground in the Found Footage genre. The main innovation is the invention of the “Shorty Cam”. These shots of the robot roaming around the pyramid aren’t great or anything, but at least the treads on the rover help to cut down on the shakiness that mars most of the camerawork in a Found Footage flick.
The kills aren’t that bad. One member of the expedition is squashed by a rock, another gets bent in half, and one person is impaled on spikes. Actually, she survives the spikes. It’s the attack by feral, inbred CGI cats that she doesn’t walk away from. Speaking of CGI, the effects on the Anubis monster in the end is downright pitiful.
Produced by Alexandre (The Hills Have Eyes remake) Aja, The Pyramid has fleeting moments of invention, but for the most part, it’s the same old crap. Most of the flick revolves around people walking around and getting lost in darkly-lit corridors, and as a result, it often gets repetitive. It’s marginally better than the similarly themed As Above So Below, but that's not saying much.
The next Horror-Ween movie will be: Wishmaster: The Prophecy Fulfilled!
Greta Gerwig stars as a quirky college professor who is intent on getting artificially inseminated. Her plans rapidly change when she falls in love with a married colleague (Ethan Hawke). A few years go by and they get married, but they both quickly get restless in their new relationship. She then sets out to play matchmaker and get her husband to fall back in love with his annoying ex (Julianne Moore).
Maggie’s Plan sort of hits all the notes you’d expect from an independent comedy-drama starring Greta Gerwig. Throughout the course of the movie Greta: A) Wears a series of odd looking frocks. B) Has a scene where she does something bizarre in the bathtub. C) Has a random dance number. D) Has an awkward sex scene. Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough laughs to warrant watching it.
The cast is great. In other movies. Just not this one. I usually like Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph, but they just seem annoying here. Speaking of annoying, Julianne Moore, one of my very favorite actresses gives probably her worst performance in this. I don’t know who talked her into doing that awful accent, but it just grates on your damn nerves every time she opens her mouth. Ethan Hawke is just on autopilot here as he seems like he’s biding time in between Before Sunrise sequels.
Greta does what she can. The problem is that the punchlines she’s been given aren’t very funny and her character is wafer thin. Another problem is that Hawke’s character is a thoroughly unlikeable lout, so it makes it hard to root for either Gerwig or Moore to wind up with him.
Elizabeth Olsen goes to her family’s lakeside house with her father to pack the place up. Three things happen: 1) Her father disappears. 2) She gets locked inside the house. 3) She starts hearing weird noises. From then on, most of the movie revolves around Olsen wandering around the darkened house with a Coleman lantern and saying, “Daddy?”
Since she does so while wearing a low cut top, I guess I couldn’t completely hate it.
Directed by Open Water’s Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, Silent House was filmed a la Rope in a series of long unbroken takes. It’s a remake of a Uruguayan horror flick that also employed the same tactic. I haven’t seen the original, but based on the evidence presented here, I have to say that the quasi-unbroken take gimmick gets annoying quick. (If you look hard enough, you can spot the seams in the editing.)
The camerawork is another problem. Since it follows Olsen around for the entirety of the movie; that means it has to zoom all around to keep track of her. Because of that, the camerawork is overly shaky. Some parts even look like a goddamned Found Footage movie, which makes the continuous take gimmick rather unimpressive.
Most of the time, the movie just tests the audience’s patience. This may have worked as a short, but the filmmakers are incapable of sustaining the gimmick for 80 minutes. To add insult to injury, many scenes are too dark to see, which gets on your nerves. Once Olsen finally starts seeing things and/or interacting with her past memories, the flick really goes off the rails. This twist isn’t all that surprising and the whole thing ends in an unsatisfying manner.
The next Horror-Ween movie is: The Pyramid!
Victor Buono stars as the titular killer who strangles nurses and plays with baby dolls. He hates his crippled, controlling mother and wishes she’d croak. Because of that, he blames all nurses for keeping her alive for so long. While he’s out and about murdering women, the police try and gather clues to bring him down.
The Strangler is a great showcase for Victor Buono. When he’s trying to avoid detection, he’s meek, polite, and soft-spoken. There’s a funny scene where his assistant goes on and on about how she’d protect herself from the strangler and he just brushes her off and says, “That’s nice”. When he flips out and kills his victims, he’s truly menacing and creepy.
What’s intriguing about his performance is that you actually feel a little sorry for him. The scene where he proposes to a woman he’s been stalking is particularly sad. (When he says, “But you were nice to me”, she replies, “You’re a customer. I’m supposed to be nice to you.”) Besides, the berating he endures from his overbearing mother would turn anyone crazy.
The film works because of the concentration on the psychological workings of the killer. Unlike something like Psycho where we don’t learn the killer’s identity and motivations until the very end, we know who the killer is right from the get-go and have a pretty good idea of why he’s doing what he does. Again, thanks to the likeable performance by Buono, we sorta feel like a co-conspirator when he’s tiptoeing around the police or faking his way past a lie detector test.
Director Burt (The Devil’s 8) Topper handles the police procedural scenes in an effective manner. Usually in these sorts of films, the parts where the detective interviews witnesses are dull, but Topper keeps them moving along at a steady clip. They’re psychologically more complex than your average episode of Dragnet and play almost like a precursor to something like Seven or Copycat.
Topper also delivers a couple of solid murder sequences too. My favorite directorial touch was the opening scene when Buono is peeping on a nurse. Topper shows her undressing in a reflection in Buono’s eye and the effect is pretty creepy.
The next Horror-Ween Movie will be: Silent House!
Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to stress that this review in no way endorses a belief in the occult.
I know this isn’t exactly a horror movie, but there’s nothing that gets me in the mood for Halloween more than The Making of Thriller. I rented this so many times as a kid (probably more than any other film) that I pretty much know all of it by heart. Nothing shaped my love of horror more than John Landis’ Thriller music video. It is a perfect piece of horror filmmaking that is scary and enormously fun all at the same time.
I know what you’re thinking. Mitch, this Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Yes, Jackson is great in it, and the song is a classic, but for me, Landis’ direction, along with the expert make-up and special effects by Rick Baker is what makes it work. Without Landis’ inspired handling of the big transformation, dance, and zombie sequences, it would’ve just been another Michael Jackson video. It’s because of Landis’ sensibilities that it’s the greatest video of all time.
The documentary is preceded by the video itself and no matter how many times I’ve seen it; it never fails to put a smile on my face. It ranks right up there with The Blues Brothers as the best thing that Landis has ever done. Although the transformation is just a riff on Baker’s legendary work on An American Werewolf in London, it’s still awesome enough to be equally as iconic. The zombie make-up is also stellar. Thriller served as my introduction to the world of zombie cinema. You see stuff like this as a kid and you don’t forget it, and when you see it as an adult; you instantly feel like your five-year-old self again.
As a kid, The Making of Thriller documentary was just as cool to me as the music video. It fired my imagination for behind the scenes movie magic and special effects make-up. Just seeing Michael Jackson in Rick Baker’s make-up chair is awesome. From then on, I was hooked. A horror movie fan was born. (This is probably also where my fear of having anything put into my eyes came from as the scene where Michael gets his contact lenses put in still freaks me out.)
Nowadays DVD extras are commonplace. You can probably watch a “Making of” documentary on just about anything. Back then though, this was something unique. No one was really doing this sort of thing, at least nothing that was marketed to a mass audience. The interviews with Baker, Landis, and Jackson are all enlightening, and the behind the scenes footage is awesome. (I love the part when Jackson is geeking out over a prop head from Videodrome.)
For fans of Jackson, there is a look at how the (now iconic) choreography was created. There’s a brief history of Jackson’s career at that point, and a couple clips of his other music videos and past performances. We also get to see glimpses of Michael Mania as some of his fans are interviewed while they hang around and watch the video being filmed.
That’s stuff’s great and all, but for me, this is all about the stuff with Landis and Baker. Even now, the footage of Landis on set is mesmerizing. I remember there was a time when I was a kid and only knew three directors: George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and John Landis. This is the film that introduced me to his work and to this day, he remains one of my favorite filmmakers of all time.
AKA: Making Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
The next Horror-Ween Movie will be: The Strangler!
Ah yes, it’s that time again. It’s time to celebrate the greatest genre in cinema and devote an entire month to watching and reviewing nothing but horror movies. For the past five years I’ve been doing this (and frankly, if you have a movie review blog, you HAVE to do this or they throw you in movie blogger jail), I’ve either reviewed horror franchise films or a bunch of multi-movie packs I found in a bargain bin. Well, I’ve pretty much covered just about every horror franchise that matters and I couldn’t find enough bargain bin DVDs to flesh out an entire month of movies, so I had to come up with something new this year. Something new being just reviewing 31 random horror movies that have been sitting on my “To Be Watched” shelf, taking up space on my DVR, or come in through the mail from Netflix.
Because of that, we’re going to be all over the map this year. I’m going to feature a nice mix of older and newer films. The quality is also going to fluctuate as I’m sure there will be plenty of winners and even more losers. Some of the movies I’ll be featuring I’ve already seen before, but most of them will be all-new viewing experiences. (In keeping with the previous years’ themes, I assure you there will at least be a couple horror sequels and/or a few bargain bin finds sprinkled in there.)
My intention was to review a different horror movie a day, but as you can see, I’m already running behind. Because of that, I’m just going to watch 31 random movies and post them whenever I can. That might mean I won’t review a horror movie for a couple days or so and then—BAM! I’ll review four or five. It’s just the way things are with my work schedule. (Not to mention the fact that I’m putting the final touches on my latest book, Revenge of the Video Vacuum, which should be ready to purchase by the end of the month and contains even more horror-themed reviews for your reading pleasure.) So I’ll definitely review 31 horror movies this month, just at an erratic pace.
Naturally, there may be a random non-horror movie review in there somewhere. I mean, Jack Reacher 2 comes out this month, and I’m not going to miss that, all-horror movie programming or not.
So what do you say? Let’s explore the weird, wild world of horror together!
A bunch of single people are corralled into a swanky hotel and are given 45 days to find a suitable companion. If they are still single at the end of that time, they will be turned into the animal of their choosing. When Colin Farrell’s attempt at courtship goes awry, he escapes to the wilderness to live among the single outcasts in the woods. It’s here where he falls in love with another refugee, Rachel Weisz, but is their love meant to be?
The first half of The Lobster works up to a point. Some of the hotel’s arbitrary dating rituals are bizarre, surreal, and often very funny (like when John C. Reilly is punished for masturbating and is forced to stick his hand in a toaster). Once Farrell escapes to the woods, it all starts to get a little tiresome. At 90 minutes, it probably would’ve played like gangbusters, but at two hours, it just goes on too long as it hammers the same joke home over and over again. It’s almost like a clever Monty Python skit that’s been needlessly drawn out for no good reason whatsoever.
The film often feels like a demented single person’s view of dating and marriage. That’s not a bad thing. There are certainly enough quirky moments and oddball behavior here for me to give it a marginal recommendation. It’s also fun seeing Farrell playing against type as he seems to be relishing playing a nerdy character. If only the flick knew when to quit, it might’ve been a minor classic. As it is, it functions as a bizarre curio, but that’s about it.
Okay, so you’re Billy Wilder and you’re fresh off the success of Some Like it Hot, one of the greatest comedies of all time. What do you do for an encore? How do you top that iconic piece of cinema?
You reteam with Some Like it Hot’s Jack Lemmon and make The Apartment, that’s how.
Lemmon stars as a guy who works in an office building who lends his apartment out to his bosses so they can cheat on their wives with easy women. In exchange, they’ll vouch for Lemmon’s character when he comes up for promotion. Meanwhile, Jack falls in love with a beautiful elevator girl (Shirley MacLaine) who works in the building. The head of the company (Fred MacMurray) learns about the scheme and offers Jack an executive position if he can use his pad to wine and dine his mistress. When Jack learns the mistress is in fact the girl of his dreams, he has to choose between his job and his heart.
The Apartment is an often devastating and depressing film. It is also quite hilarious too. The way Wilder deftly moves from comedy and drama (usually within the same scene) is thrilling to watch. The same goes for the cast. Lemmon is amazing in this movie. You really feel for his character throughout and sympathize with him every step of the way. Like Wilder, he’s doing a high-wire act between comedy and tragedy, and right when you think you’re on the verge of tears, he’ll come along and do something hysterical.
The supporting cast is equally fine. MacLaine is enchanting as the pixie who captures both men’s hearts. The scenes of her and Lemmon in the apartment are some of the finest acting either one of them ever did. MacMurray also makes for an ideal foil. He’s selfish and heartless, but he plays his character in such a way that it makes you think he buys his own lies as much as MacLaine does.
This is top-notch cinema of the highest order. I don’t know why it took me this long to see it. If you haven’t seen it either, you really need to check it out. It’s definitely one of the best movies of the ‘60s.
Well, if you thought Isabelle Adjani got naked a lot in Possession, wait until you see her in One Deadly Summer. Man, oh man. She does things in this movie that I’d only dream about. What’s interesting is that the film itself is actually really good. I mean I rented it just to ogle Adjani’s nude form, but I wound up getting caught up in the story.
Adjani plays a sexpot who arrives in a small town and charms the pants off a hapless mechanic. Soon, they’re engaged to be married and his mother naturally disapproves of her wanton displays of sexuality. Flashbacks eventually reveal that she is out to get revenge on the family for something that happened to her long ago. Even more flashbacks explain that…. Well… I won’t spoil it.
The title makes it sound like a horror movie and the plot seems like it came out of one of those “From Hell” thrillers from the ‘90s. Don’t be fooled by the bland title and ho-hum plot description though. This is an intricate thriller that unfolds like a good novel and the surprises are surprising enough that I’ll try to keep them unspoiled.
I loved the structure of the film. We follow a different character around for about a half-hour or so and really get inside their head. Each character has their own motivation and perception of past events. Since each person is missing a vital piece of information, it leads to misunderstandings, which leads to jealousy, hatred, and eventually murder. The plot gets increasingly tricky as it goes along and the way director Jean Becker springs the surprises on the audience is a joy to watch.
This is a French flick, so it’s pretty moody and longwinded. At 135 minutes, it could’ve easily been trimmed down as the plot sorta dawdles in the second act. Still, I can’t get too mad, especially when Isabelle Adjani is put into so many compromising positions throughout the film.
Her nude scenes in this movie are just glorious. (SPOILER ALERT—Not because I’m giving away plot twists here, but because I’m going to tell you some of the sexy highlights. Trust me, you don’t want them to be spoiled for you if you already haven’t seen the flick.) I particularly loved the part when she strips nude and takes a bath in her mother in-law’s kitchen to spite her. Even in the scenes in which she doesn’t get naked, she just oozes raw sex appeal. Like the scene where she brings her soiled panties to the breakfast table. That’s just hot in my book. Speaking of feeding time, there is one scene that will go down in Video Vacuum infamy. That’s the scene where the bonkers Adjani goes nuts and starts breastfeeding from her mother! Man, if that doesn’t scream “instant recommendation” I don’t know what does!
Los Angeles in the ‘20s. A guy named Nick goes to a burlesque house and watches a chick with an impressive rack topless dancing. He then has flashbacks to other people’s sexual exploits. Nick thinks about his buddy, who goes to see a hooker in a fleabag motel. He tells her how he’s watched her grow up from afar ever since she was a little girl. He further creeps her out by demanding to hear about her first time. Since she’s trashy and upfront about sex, it befuddles him. He yells at her: “You’ve taken all of the poetry out of it!” Another story has a sexy model posing for a sexy sculptress.
Nick then goes back to live with his old lady (he literally has an old lady) and they whip some girl. He then gets a scared black girl in the bathtub and while he bathes her, she has a fantasy where she throws him down the stairs before tying him up, covering him in molasses, and pouring ants all over him!?! Nick finally finds happiness with a hot chick, but his old lady ruins everything when she barges in and whips them both. In the end, Nick goes mad and imagines he’s locked inside a dirty book store.
I didn’t get it either.
Maidens of Fetish Street is truly an oddity. The combination of leering camerawork, weird distorted noises on the soundtrack, hardboiled narration, and film noir cinematography help to keep the audience off-balance. Say what you will about it, but it’s certainly unpredictable.
However, the whole thing is undone by the patchwork narrative that borders on schizophrenic. I guess that makes sense up to a point since the main character is crazy too. It’s just that it’s all much too uneven to ever really work.
AKA: The Girls on F Street. AKA: F Street.
The Abnormal Female begins with an awesome title sequence that features lots of lurid lovemaking while a tender romance song plays on the soundtrack. Then a psychiatrist listens to several of his patients as they talk about their wild fantasies and bizarre sexual tendencies. We meet Vicki, a sadist (“Sadism is the desire to cause pain and use force!”) who smacks a guy around, ties him up, masturbates in front of him using a banana, and feeds him lemon juice through a turkey baster (!?!) before doing a 69 with him. Sherri has been married for six months, but when her husband doesn’t give her the perverted sex she craves, she goes to dive bars to picks up guys. Another patient loves anonymous sex partners and resorts to hitchhiking to find the strangers she desires. (“I don’t want any man to forget me!”) She also gets high on LSD and does her hippie boyfriend (he doesn’t look like a hippie, he looks like Burt Reynolds). Then we meet a married couple who get bored with their mundane sex life and have a threesome with another woman. Finally, a woman has a lesbian affair and gets it on in the shower with a girlfriend.
The Abnormal Female isn’t great by any stretch of the imagination, but it does typify everything I love about these low budget sexploitation films from the ‘60s. It was shot in dingy sleazy apartments with no sound and what little dialogue we do hear is poorly dubbed. The outdoor sequences feature on-the-fly shots of the city and work nicely as a snapshot of the late ‘60s. The women in the cast are also a bit sexier than what you’d usually find in these sorts of pictures. Plus, they’re more than willing to get naked. The jazzy soundtrack is also pretty cool.
The running time is less than an hour long, but it still feels too long as there are some lulls in between the sex scenes. However, they are fairly graphic for the time (there are a number of full-on beaver shots), which certainly helps. It’s just a shame that some of them seemingly go on forever and aren’t very titillating.
Overall, The Abnormal Female gives you just about everything you could want from one of these movies. Nothing more. Nothing less. Even then, it’s just unremarkable enough to fall short of being wholly entertaining.
A douchebag businessman (that is, a businessman who is a douchebag, not a businessman who sells douchebags) moves into a swanky new apartment with his mousy wife. It doesn’t take long for him to get the hots for his secretary and pretty soon, he’s putting the moves on her. Meanwhile, the dominatrix who lives next door feels sorry for her new neighbor and sets out to whip her husband into shape… literally.
One Shocking Moment is an early sexploitation film from cult director Ted V. Mikels. He gets things started with a memorable image of the evil dominatrix driving her high heel through the hand of our hero. Sadly, after that, the thrills are few and far between. (Although to be fair, the title only promised us ONE shocking moment; it just delivers it right in the opening scene.) Thankfully, there’s just enough nudity here (including belly dances and stripteases) to keep you more or less entertained. If only the stuff that happened in between the smutty sequences was as much fun.
Mikels also acted as his own cinematographer and he did a rather remarkable job. The flick looks head and shoulders better than your typical skin flick from the same era. The editing (also by Mikels) is accomplished as well. Too bad he didn’t write himself a better script. Like Mikels’ other works (I’m thinking specifically of Astro-Zombies and The Corpse Grinders), One Shocking Moment is fitfully amusing, but it just doesn’t have that extra something to push it into the realm of a “good” movie.
AKA: Suburban Affair.
This week, our local theater, The Clayton re-launched their classic movie line-up in fine fashion with Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. I’ve seen it so many times over the years, but this was the first time I got to experience it on the big screen. Talk about an offer you can’t refuse!
What can I say about the film that hasn’t already been said? There’s a reason why this thing has endured. It’s simply a note-perfect film. Seeing it on the big screen only amplifies its greatness. The horse head scene made everyone gasp (even when they already knew it was coming) and the tollbooth scene looked and felt even more intense on the big screen.
Sure, the big moments got everyone worked up, but for me, the smaller scenes felt big too. The scene where Michael finds out about his father’s attempted assassination really resonates more on the big screen. It always seemed that Michael’s evolution from goodie two-shoes son to kingpin was a gradual one. However, when you see it on the big screen, just from Pacino’s expressions, you can tell he’s immediately gone over to the dark side. I mean what’s he do as soon as he sees the newspaper about his father’s shooting? He runs to a pay phone and immediately shuts the door on Kay. Before (like during the wedding), he is forthcoming about his family and their business to her. It’s here where he begins shutting her out, both literally and figuratively. Slamming the door on Kay eventually becomes a motif throughout the series.
Another moment that sort of cements Michael’s almost immediately plunge into the family business is when he saves Vito from some gunmen in the hospital. Once he gets him safe in a darkened room, he whispers, “I’m with you, papa”. Now we can take that for its literal meaning; that Michael’s assuring his father that he is nearby and everything will be all right. Or we can believe that “I’m with you, papa” is Michael’s way of saying, “I’m a gangster now, papa”.
Another thing that gets hammered home when watching the film on the big screen is the importance of all the family events. The opening wedding scene not only deftly serves as an introduction to all of our characters; it also sets the Corleones up as a “normal” family. There are also important moments that happen during a funeral and (most famously) during a baptism. It’s truly awesome how Coppola intertwines the business of family rituals with ritualistic murders of the family business.
Not only that, but you get to see Brando at the height of his powers thirty feet tall. Plus, this might be the only time I’ve ever seen Joe Spinell (who made his film debut with this film) on the big screen too, so there’s that. That’s something I can cross off my bucket list.
I am Wrath first popped on my radar a few months ago when someone leaked a bunch of unused marketing posters that were so poorly Photoshopped that you just had to laugh. (Someone took the posters for Jack Reacher and The Equalizer and clumsily pasted John Travolta’s head over Tom Cruise and Denzel Washington.) I knew right then and there, I had to see it. As it turns out, it’s pretty darn good, but the whole business with the posters is kind of telling as the movie is just taking John Travolta and plugging him into a standard revenge drama.
The plot is basically Death Wish 6, but with John Travolta in the Charles Bronson role.
That right there should be enough for you to put it in your Netflix queue.
Anyway, his wife (Rebecca DeMornay, who probably filmed her scenes in like a day or two) gets killed by some street punks. When Travolta identifies one of the creeps, the cops conveniently let him go. He then looks up his old army buddy (Christopher Meloni) who runs a barber shop that has a secret weapons arsenal (not to mention a shooting range) in the basement, and together they go around tearing up the city to find the other guys involved. Eventually, they uncover a conspiracy that goes right to the governor himself.
Spoiler Alert: Travolta doesn’t wait until November to vote him out of office.
I am Wrath was directed by the great Chuck (The Blob) Russell, although he doesn’t really put much pizzazz into the proceedings. The action sequences are accomplished, but unremarkable, but at least he doesn’t resort to shaky-cam tactics. Because of that, he has my utmost respect.
Is this a great revenge movie? No, not really. Is it a perfectly acceptable revenge movie that is boosted by terrific performances? Of course. Travolta and Meloni have a lot of chemistry. Why didn’t someone put these two together sooner? Since things are left wide open for a sequel, I hope that they team up again to take out even more scumbags.
No one reinvented the wheel with this one. Then again, the wheel didn’t need to be reinvented either. If you love John Travolta and you loved Death Wish 1, Death Wish 2, Death Wish 3, Death Wish 4: The Crackdown, Death Wish 5: The Face of Death, Death Sentence, Taken, Taken 2, Taken 3, Punisher (89), The Punisher (04), Punisher: War Zone, Man on Fire, The Harry Brown, Ms. 45, The Brave One, The Equalizer, The Exterminator, or The Exterminator 2, you’ll want to check it out.
Peter and Buddy are a gay couple who live out on Fire Island. They invite a bunch of their gay friends to their home for a big Fourth of July party. As the party goes on, Peter gets jealous when Buddy starts flirting and after everyone goes home, they have to resolve their differences.
Sticks and Stones is notable for being one of the earliest films that featured almost exclusively gay characters and portrayed them in a positive light. There are very few stereotypes on display and the filmmakers take great pains to show them having a “normal” everyday life. That doesn’t necessarily make it good though.
The whole thing is slight and the relationship drama isn’t exactly involving. The humorous scenes are hit and miss too. The sequence where a gay couple try to change a tire goes on much too long and isn’t very funny, but I did get a laugh at the scene where a guy gets catty with an older “Leather Queen”.
All of this is amateurish to a fault. The performers aren’t quite convincing and the greenhorn directing makes the film look like a home movie in some spots. The writing isn’t much better. The scenes of characters endlessly pontificating about love go on much too long and their conversations during the party (there are discussions about dreams and the subconscious; not to mention an impromptu dance number or two) quickly grow tiresome too.
Although it’s not successful at being an entertaining or moving film, Sticks and Stones is still worth a look I guess, but only as a curio.
J.C. is a bisexual hustler on the prowl. He bangs a guy on the beach and helps a lonely housewife “move something” while her husband’s away at work. Later, a fat drag queen makes him dress up as a sailor, and a guy pays ten bucks to go down on him in a movie theater. J.C. returns to his apartment where he rescues a girl from being raped by his lecherous photographer neighbor. They accidentally kill him in the process and wind up falling in love. Their bliss is short-lived when his closed-minded lover learns J.C. also sleeps with men.
The Meatrack is a dingy and dark movie that treats its depressing subject matter in a matter-of-fact way. Although this is a sexploitation item, I can’t imagine that anyone gay, bi, or straight would find it arousing. It’s a sad film that’s more of a psychological exploration than an exercise in eroticism. The sex scenes are not sexy at all (nor were they meant to be) and are instead gloomy, uncomfortable, and true to life. The flashbacks to J.C.’s overbearing mother are also disturbing, especially when the image of her spouting her man-hating money-grubbing dogma is shown over him banging guys for cash.
The film really only veers into exploitation during the scene where two transvestites brandishing knives interrupt J.C. and his girlfriend making love and blackmail them into starring in a porno. The rest of the time, it’s a rather thoughtful examination of gay life on the street. Since J.C. is bisexual, he doesn’t really fit in. It’s only when he meets a girl that he starts to feel “normal”. When she dies, instead of grieving, he just goes into a movie theater (playing Night of the Living Dead) where he is hounded by men lusting after him.
Speaking of theaters, the scenes of J.C. prowling around the city (sometimes shot in grungy black and white) are really cool. He often hangs out in front of movie theaters and it’s neat just seeing all of the movie posters and marquees advertising films like The Screaming Skull, Invasion of the Saucer Men, Attack of the Crab Monsters, All the Sins of Sodom, Where Eagle Dare, Pit Stop, Bury Me an Angel, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. So for that, the flick also functions as a time capsule.
The performances are all amateurish and sometimes awkward, but that adds to the authenticity. Although J.C. is quite an interesting lead, it’s the drag queen who is the most fascinating. At first, he’s presented as kind of a freak show, just because of his outlandish appearance. After his tryst with J.C., he bares his soul to him, which makes for a surprisingly poignant moment. (“Gay? That’s a laugh. It’s a lonely life.”)
I can’t say it's all great. Some stretches are better than others (the scene where a client falls in love with J.C. feels a little rushed). However, this is a rather unforgettable film that tackles the subject of male hustling in a more realistic and depressing manner than Midnight Cowboy ever dreamed.
Hey everyone, I just wanted to let you know that I have been busy putting the finishing touches on my latest book, Revenge of the Video Vacuum. Although there isn’t a firm release date set, it should be ready by the end of October, just in time for Halloween. Unlike my last two books, there’s really no general theme. It’s basically a mishmash of chapters devoted to some of my favorite genres, actors, and directors.
To give you an idea of what to expect, here is the table of contents:
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER 1: COMIC BOOK MOVIES
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (1990)* & TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (2014)*
COMIC BOOK MOVIES STARRING MARY-LOUISE PARKER: RED 2* & R.I.P.D*
SEQUELS TO FRANK MILLER MOVIES STARRING EVA GREEN: SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR* & 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE*
RUMBLES IN THE JUNGLE: SHEENA* & THE PHANTOM*
CHAPTER 2: ROGER CORMAN
ATLAS*, VON RICHTHOFEN AND BROWN*, COCKFIGHTER*, THUNDER AND LIGHTNING*, HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1980), BIG BAD MAMA 2*, THE BLACK SCORPION (1995)*, SHARTOPUS VS. WHALEWOLF*
CHAPTER 3: YOU KNOW, FOR KIDS
MAC AND ME*, TOM AND JERRY: THE MOVIE*, HOMEWARD BOUND 2: LOST IN SAN FRANCISCO, ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKQUEL, PLANES: FIRE AND RESCUE*
CHAPTER 4: EL SANTO
THE VAMPIRE AND SEX, SANTO AND BLUE DEMON VS. THE MONSTERS, THE MUMMIES OF GUANAJUATO, KILLERS FROM OTHER WORLDS*, 3 GIANT MEN*
CHAPTER 5: THE JAZZ SINGERS
THE JAZZ SINGER (1927)*, THE JAZZ SINGER (1953)*, THE JAZZ SINGER (1980)*
CHAPTER 6: CHARLES BRONSON
MR. MAJESTYK, 10 TO MIDNIGHT, THE EVIL THAT MEN DO, DEATH WISH 3, KINJITE: FORBIDDEN SUBJECTS, DEATH WISH 5: THE FACE OF DEATH
CHAPTER 7: THE CURSE OF NOSTRADAMUS
THE CURSE OF NOSTRADAMUS*, THE MONSTERS DEMOLISHER, THE GENIE OF DARKNESS*, THE BLOOD OF NOSTRADAMUS*
CHAPTER 8: BURT REYNOLDS
SHARK*, W.W. AND THE DIXIE DANCEKINGS*, HUSTLE*, SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, STARTING OVER*, THE CANNONBALL RUN, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER 2: “BROTHERS IN ARMS”
CHAPTER 9: SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHTS
SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT, SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT 2*, SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT 3: BETTER WATCH OUT!, INITIATION: SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT 4*, SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT 5: THE TOY MAKER*, SILENT NIGHT
CHAPTER 10: NICOLAS CAGE
SNAKE EYES*, NATIONAL TREASURE*, NEXT*, SEEKING JUSTICE*, THE FROZEN GROUND*, RAGE*
CHAPTER 11: BUDDY COPS
RUNNING SCARED*, LETHAL WEAPON, DOWNTOWN*, RENEGADES*, THE HEAT*
CHAPTER 12: FRED OLEN RAY
STAR SLAMMER*, EVIL TOONS*, THE SHOOTER, HOUSEWIVES FROM ANOTHER WORLD, LUST AT FIRST BITE
CHAPTER 13: THE GIRL(S) WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO(S)
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2011), THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2009), THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE*, THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST*
CHAPTER 14: UWE BOLL
HEART OF AMERICA: HOME ROOM*, RAMPAGE*, STOIC*, ASSAULT ON WALL STREET*, SUDDENLY*, IN THE NAME OF THE KING 3*, RAMPAGE: CAPITAL PUNISHMENT*
CHAPTER 15: FOUND FOOTAGE, GET LOST!
THE LAST EXORCISM*, TROLLHUNTER*, THE DEVIL INSIDE*, AS ABOVE SO BELOW*, DEVIL’S DUE*
CHAPTER 16: JAMIE GILLIS
THE VIOLATION OF CLAUDIA*, WATER POWER*, DRACULA SUCKS*, HOT HONEY*, SLAVE OF PLEASURE*, DRACULA EXOTICA*
CHAPTER 17: SCI-FRIED
SPERMULA*, AFTER EARTH*, DARK SKIES*, LUCY*
CHAPTER 18: JESS FRANCO
KISS ME MONSTER*, THE BLOODY JUDGE*, FEMALE VAMPIRE, CANNIBALS, BLOODY MOON, MACUMBA SEXUAL, LULU’S TALKING ASS*
(* denotes review is exclusive to this publication)
Here’s the official press release:
MEXICAN WRESTLERS! NICOLAS CAGE! BURT REYNOLDS! KILLER SANTAS! VAMPIRES! CHARLES BRONSON!
Are you a fan of wild, weird, and wonderful movies? Well, this book is for you! Author Mitch Lovell is back once again to take you on a guided tour of Hollywood’s highest highs and lowest lows. Here is a journal of one man’s plunge into the eclectic world of cinema, covering every genre from Buddy Cop action flicks (like Lethal Weapon) to Found Footage horror films (like The Devil’s Due) to movies based on comic books (like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). From the films of Hollywood maverick Roger Corman to the work of Spanish schlockmeister Jess Franco; Mitch profiles some of the world’s greatest low budget directors. From crappy kiddie films to silly sci-fi movies; Mitch tackles it all, leaving no cinematic stone unturned. If you love movies as much as he does, you’re sure to enjoy this book. Get YOUR Revenge now!
Mitch Lovell is the proprietor of The Video Vacuum, a website that specializes in reviewing every kind of movie known to man. He has also contributed to Exploitation Retrospect and Rupert Pupkin Speaks.
If you haven’t already checked out my other books, they are available at the following links:
THE BEST (AND WORST) OF THE VIDEO VACUUM (featuring an introduction by Jim Wynorski):
Direct from the publisher link: https://www.createspace.com/4843470
Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Best-Worst-Vi
THE VIDEO VACUUM’S UNEXPENDABLE GUIDE TO ACTION MOVIE ICONS:
Direct from the publisher link: https://www.createspace.com/4971853
Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Video-Vacuums-Une
DOUBLE VISION: HOLLYWOOD VS. HOLLYWOOD:
To buy directly from the publisher, you can go here: https://www.createspace.com/5312534
Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Double-Vision-Hol
I’ll give you all more information as it becomes available. I’m really excited about this one and I hope you are too. See you at the movies!