January 18th, 2008

THE MAJORETTES (1986) * ½

Some of the major talent behind the original Night of the Living Dead was responsible for this mess of a horror movie about a small town lunatic who is slashing the throats of the local high school majorettes.  Is it the perverted retard peeping tom caretaker?  The mean spirited live-in nurse?  How about the demented dope pusher?  Or could it be the sheriff? 

 

Actually it is the sheriff.  I’m not giving anything away here because his identity is revealed halfway through the film.  Once we learn who’s doing the killing, the movie switches gears completely and becomes a revenge picture.  You see, the mean spirited live-in nurse blackmails the sheriff into making the virginal majorette his next victim, but unfortunately a gang of rowdy drug dealers mow her down first.  Then, her wimp quarterback boyfriend takes off his shirt, grabs a semi-automatic weapon and starts blowing scum away and setting fire to seedy trailer parks.  In the end, the killer gets away Scot free. 

 

HUH!?!

 

The shame about this movie is that for the first hour or so, we have ourselves a fairly decent slasher flick.  There’s a great cheesy opening dance sequence where all the drum majorettes get to strut their stuff before heading off to the locker room to strut their OTHER stuff.  Speaking of women who know how to strut their stuff, we also get to watch a stripper do a snake dance.  It’s just too bad she wasn’t as top heavy as the plot. 

 

The murderer does get to off a few broads before the inane teenage Rambo subplot kicks in though, but his method is strictly of the neck slashing variety.  The camouflaged killer murders two kids necking in lover’s lane, kills a chick in her swimming pool, and slashes a teen’s throat after a shower and dumps her body in a locker.  The killer also likes to “baptize” his victim’s bodies to cleanse them of their “sin”.  Had the movie continued with the original theme of a killer murdering half naked chicks, The Majorettes could’ve been worthwhile, but the idiotic revenge subplot sinks it. 

 

The movie is good for a few chuckles though.  There’s a ridiculous looking gang that wouldn’t even have made it in a Troma movie, the Halloween-ish synth score, and actors with their scripts clearly in front of them. 

 

The director Bill Hinzman was the main zombie in Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead and went on to direct the godawful Revenge of the Living Zombies (AKA:  Flesheater).  John Russo, the man who co-wrote NOTLD, wrote the screenplay, based on his novel.   

 

The majorette leader gets the best line:  “We have to forget about the hurt and go on with our lives.”  Dr. Phil couldn’t have said it better.

 

AKA:  One by One. 

WANTED: UNDEAD OR ALIVE (2007) ** ½

 

Wanted:  Undead or Alive is a zombie-horror-comedy-western; one of the best I’ve seen since House 2.

 

The plot has an army deserter (James Denton) and a wimpy cowpoke (the always great Chris Kattan) reluctantly joining forces as they try to outride a zombie posse.  They meet up with a sexy Indian (Navi Rawat from Feast) who happens to be Geronimo’s niece and hole themselves up in a fort to fight off the zombie gunslingers.  Since Geronimo was the one who unleashed the “white man’s curse” (AKA: the zombie plague), his niece may know the cure. 

 

The humor is wildly uneven.  So is the tone, the acting and the effects.  It’s a thoroughly hit and miss affair, but when it does hit, Wanted:  Dead or Alive is pretty damn funny.  Kattan takes the acting honors and gets to showcase his patented fidgety persona.  I especially liked the scene where Rawat tells him that her grandfather told her a story when she was a little girl about brain eating zombies and he quips, “Gee… nothing about a bunny, or a train with good self-esteem?” 

 

The zombie carnage is fairly decent.  Heads, arms, guts, brains, and even penises get torn off by the Wild West zombies, and the progressively decaying make-up is quite good too. 

 

While Kattan is hilarious (“It’s just not right eating your wife and kid like that.”), it’s the zombie posse leader who gets the movie’s best line:  “Did you give birth to a ten pound ass baby?”

 

AKA:  Undead or Alive.

THE DARWIN AWARDS (2006) ** ½

If you’re not familiar with The Darwin Awards, they are awards given out to people who inadvertently cause their own death by doing incredibly stupid things.  This movie is a quasi-reenactment of some of the dumber people to end up on the list. 

 

There’s a man (David Arquette) who straps a jet engine to the back of his car and ends up speeding 3,000 miles an hour into a mountain.  There’s a hunter (Chris Penn) that tries to create a fishing hole using dynamite.  Unfortunately his dog knows how to fetch.  There’s a guy (Ty Burrell) who gets his arm stuck in a vending machine that ends up toppling over on him.  There’s a duo of stoned guys who try to sneak into a rock concert using a rope tied to their van, but put it in drive instead of reverse, causing them to get flattened.  But the best scene is when a woman (Julianna Margulies) puts her Winnebago on cruise control to give her husband a blowjob.  It ends up going off the road and crashing into a dentist office and she ends up biting his penis off. 

 

If the movie had just been reenactments of stupid people doing stupid things to wind up dead or maimed, The Darwin Awards could’ve been a lot of fun.  Unfortunately the movie is saddled with an extremely worthless framing device in which two insurance claim officers (Joseph Fiennes and Winona Ryder) investigating the deaths fall in love, that takes up too much screen time and gets in the way of the fun. 

 

If Fiennes and Ryder’s characters weren’t in the movie, The Darwin Awards may have been a classic.  Despite their annoying appearances (I have nothing against their performances, it’s just that their characters are totally unnecessary) the film is worth a look just for the great cast, which also includes Juliette Lewis, Josh Charles, D.B. Sweeney, Nora Dunn, Wilmer Valderrama, the dudes from Mythbusters and even Metallica.     

 

WORD WARS (2004) ***

If you enjoyed Wordplay, the documentary about the ultra competitive world of crossword competitions, you’ll love this similar look into to the people who participate in Scrabble tournaments. 

 

There’s Marlon Hill, a black man from Baltimore who yearns for his homeland of Africa.  Matt Graham, a part-time stand up comedian who’s more worried about gambling on the “side action” that the tournaments provide.  We have Joe Edley, a former champion who uses the art of Zen meditation to help him form letters.  Most interesting is Joel Sherman, nicknamed “G.I. Joel”, not for his military background, but for his gastrointestinal disorder. 

 

We follow these players as they interact with each other, their families and other players.  The filmmakers also deftly contrast the competitive nature of the tournament players with the more laid back approach of the denizens that play in the parks of New York. 

 

As a die-hard Scrabble player, this documentary would have been fascinating on it’s own, but the diverse personalities of the four players is what makes Word Wars compelling.  Anyone who loves to play the game will want to check this documentary out, but even if you never played the game, you owe it to yourself to see it just to see the assorted oddballs the movie has to offer.