April 10th, 2008

THE ARK OF THE SUN GOD (1983) * ½

Antonio (Cannibal Apocalypse) Margheriti directed this dime store Raiders of the Lost Ark rip-off starring David (The Beyond) Warbeck as a British cat burglar named Rick Spear who is hired by a group of “international bankers” led by John (Caligula) Steiner who want him to steal “The Scepter of Gilgamesh” from a booby trap laden cavern.  A bunch of Arab baddies also want the scepter so they kidnap Spear’s best gal (who’s name is Pussycat) at least twice and Rick has to save her.  Spear travels to a swastika shaped mountain where he finds a bargain bin version of the Temple of Doom that predictably tumbles to the ground before the closing credits. 

 

This is far from the worst flick Margheriti ever did (Assignment:  Outer Space, anyone?), but the whole affair is tepid, tedious and downright boring.  The acting is awful, the dubbing is even worse and most of the action scenes suffer from a sufficient budget.  On the plus side however, there is one decent car chase, a pretty cool scene where Warbeck shoots a bunch of dirty Arabs with a water hose and a catchy theme song, “Future” which has to be the nuttiest Italian title tune since “Run, Cheetah, Run” from Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade. 

 

But the best thing about the movie is the dialogue.  Warbeck gets a smorgasbord of hilarious lines like, “You smarmy bastard!”, “Politics is not my bag!”, and “Why didn’t you tell me this job called for Roger Moore!”  But it’s an Arab villain who gets the movie’s best line when he says:   “May you drown in the dung of a thousand sheep!”

 

AKA:  Temple of Hell.

CURSE (1987) **

 

A chick has to deal with her lecherous, abusive crippled husband who likes to roll around in his wheelchair and smack her around a bunch.  (Kinda like a cross between Bruce Lee, FDR and Ike Turner.)  Not only that, but the dude’s brother also likes to throw her around the room and try to slip her the Saigon Surprise too.  Then her crazy brother-in-law murders the gardener who happened to be her secret lover and the only decent guy she ever knew.   What’s a girl to do?  Of course we all know what she’s gonna do.  Get revenge by going to an old mystic woman, refusing to drink some magic soup, committing suicide, and being reincarnated as a wealthy trophy wife. 

 

We’ve all been there before. 

 

So now she’s this other person and her boyfriend’s some other person too, but he’s too busy having long drawn out softcore sex scenes with his wife to notice her.  Since she can’t convince him that they are reincarnated lovers, she puts a spell on him so he’ll finally start having long drawn out softcore sex scenes with her for a change. 

 

Problem is that reincarnation comes with a price and it’s name is CANNIBAL MIDGETS!  (I have a similar clause on my car.  If I miss a payment, the bank sends a race of cannibal midgets to collect.) 

 

As much as cannibal midgets usually brighten up a movie, it’s at this point where the wheels start to fall off.  By this time, there are way too many supporting characters that get in the way of the flow of the story and the movie begins to get bogged down big time.  Things kinda gets back on track when two opposing sorcerers have a magic battle that involves a lot of lightning, alligators, and tons of stock footage, and the bad sorcerer gets his comeuppance when he inexplicably starts puking up worms, toads and rodents while snakes erupt from his belly button. 

 

The final animal vomiting showdown is impressive, but ultimately it’s a classic case of too little, too late.  The biggest problem with this flick is that it just didn’t make a lick of sense.  Imagine watching an episode of Passions on Telemundo played backwards and upside down and that’ll give you some idea of what to expect.  The flick tries to juggle too many ideas, too many characters and is wildly incoherent to boot, but it’s kinda hard to hate any movie that contains cannibal midgets, kung fu, sorcery battles and lots of Oriental girls showing off their Kung Pao Ta-Ta’s.  Say what you will, but you have to hand it to this flick as it knows how to toss in the appropriate amount of senseless nudity just when things are getting slow.  In the end, too many sorcerers end up spoiling the stew, but as WTF made-in-China bat shit insane horror movies go, you certainly can do a lot worse.   

 

Best line:  “I’m still a virgin!  I’ll sacrifice myself!”

 

AKA:  Cannibal Curse.

DAY OF THE DEAD (2008) ½ *

 

I wouldn’t say I was exactly looking forward to this flick, but I certainly was curious.  Despite how much I say I hate remakes on general principal, the fact is that I’m a sucker for ‘em.  (Case in point, I have Prom Night on my to-do list this week.)  My immediate knee-jerk reaction upon hearing about this remake was one of outright hatred.  I have nothing but love for George Romero’s 1985 classic, Day of the Dead; probably more than most.  It’s a neglected, underrated gem that featured some of the best special effects (courtesy of Tom Savani) you’re likely ever to see. 

 

Having already sat through one awful Romero penned Night of the Living Dead remake (I still haven’t gotten around to seeing the Sid Haig 3-D version), and the great-but-nowhere-in-the-same-league-as-the-original Dawn of the Dead remake, I was ambivalent about this one.  The fact that it went straight to DVD and stars Nick Cannon filled me with a certain amount of dread, but since it was directed by Steve Miner, the man who directed not one but TWO of the best Friday the 13th sequels and one of the better Halloween installments (not to mention the immortal classic, House), was written by the dude who wrote Final Destination and features Ving Rhames from the Dawn of the Dead (albeit as a different character), that was enough for me to immediately put it to the top of my Netflix queue. 

 

Besides, it couldn’t be any worse than Day of the Dead 2… could it?

 

Well, it’s not worse than Day of the Dead 2, but it’s just as bad.  Maybe this will help me learn to trust my instincts.  (Probably not because I have April Fool’s Day, Sisters, and The Invasion still on my queue and they’re all remakes.)

 

Okay, I’m going to try during the course of this review to keep comparisons to the ’85 original to a minimum, because honestly, there's no way in Hell this flick will even come close to matching the original and besides, how in the world can you top the scene in the first Day where the zombie gets up off the operating table and all his guts fall out? 

 

The remake opens with a bunch of teenagers making out in an abandoned warehouse who go out “exploring” and become exposed to a virus that turns them into zombies.  That’s right, the zombie plague hadn’t even begun yet, so we get no scenes of the world in ruins as zombies march on the deserted streets of… damn… sorry I’m comparing this thing to the original.  I know I promised not to do that but c’mon, this set-up wouldn’t even cut it for Return of the Living Dead 6. 

 

Anyway, the plot is thus:  People turn into zombies and run amok in the streets while a bunch of soldiers led by Mena (American Pie) Suvari try to stay alive. 

 

You know when you think of a tough military leader; Mena Suvari is about the 761st actor you think of.  (Right in between Warwick Davis and Carrot Top.)  But I digress. 

 

Rhames plays Captain Rhodes, who if you remember in the original, was played by Joe Pilato and was one of the vilest villains in screen history.  Pilato couldn’t even say a single sentence without screaming at the top of his lungs and dropping the F-Bomb fifty times.  As played by Rhames in this movie, Rhodes is a complete pansy who says things like “please” and “excuse me”.  I’m not kidding. 

 

Again, I’m comparing this mess to the superior ’85 flick, I gotta stop doing that. 

 

Rhodes also buys the farm about a half hour into this abortion and unlike the original, his death is off screen.  That’s right, you heard me.  Off screen.  No gut ripping.  No “Choke on ‘em!”  Nothing.  Later, he comes back as a zombie and eats his own eyeball. 

 

You’ll want to do exactly the same thing before the movie’s over. 

 

Oh, and remember the Dr. Logan character, played with sheer manic brilliance by Richard Liberty?  Well his character in the remake is played without a hint of well… anything by some numb-nut underwear model with the all the screen presence of a used Brill-O pad. 

 

What’s worse is that there is no Bub character.  Bub was the soul of the original film.  He was proof that there was something more to the zombies than just mindless flesh eaters.  Unlike Romero, Miner is less concerned with the implications of the zombie’s intelligence, and more concerned with just rehashing the Dawn remake but on the budget of a Sci-Fi Channel Original.  The closest thing this bloody tampon of a movie can offer is a soldier named “BUD” who turns into a zombie but doesn’t eat anybody because he is a VEGETARIAN.

 

I shit you not.  I couldn’t make this crap up if I tried.   

 

The most telling thing about this embarrassment is that this flick takes place mostly at NIGHT.  What.  The.  Fuck.  This was called DAY of the Dead right?  If the filmmakers don’t even know the difference between night and day, what makes you think they know how to make a competent movie?  There IS an underground military bunker however, but it takes the characters 70 minutes to find it. 

 

Okay, I’ve completely given up accepting this thing on it’s own merits.  The comparisons are unavoidable.  The original Day is a classic.  This shit heap is just a prison raping of the original’s memory. 

 

And while we’re being completely honest with each other, let me lay it all on the line for you:  There are NO zombies in this movie. 

 

What happens to these people is that they get sick and their faces turn into one of the “Before” pictures from those Proactiv commercials, then they start running around like Jesse Owens on crank, wailing like a banshee.  Though they do eat the flesh of the living, that’s about the only thing they have in common with zombies as we know them.  Even the zombies from 28 Days Later were within the realm of reason.  They ran fast mind you, but not as fast as extras on Benny Hill.

 

Let me ask you this:  Do zombies crawl on ceilings and walls like Spider-Man?  No they do not.  Do zombie’s heads explode whenever they get burned?  Uh-uh.  Do zombies dodge bullets like Remo Williams?  Not in my book they don’t.

 

The acting is awful.  Nobody gave a shit about their characters, so why should you?  The only memorable character is the Jabba the Hutt British hippie DJ, but even he isn’t given anything to do. 

 

The only worthwhile thing I can say about this flick is that at least the gore is somewhat decent.  Tattoos are ripped off their skin, faces are eaten off, and there are decapitations aplenty, but the rest of the movie is so mind-numbingly stupid that it hardly helps matters any.  (Spider-Man Zombies!?!  Are you fucking kidding me Miner?)

 

The only way to survive this flick is to take a shot of your favorite booze every time Nick (Roll Bounce) Cannon opens his mouth.  Even though the town is overrun by Peter Parker Pus Suckers, he still makes lame Ebonics fueled wisecracks like, “That’s gangsta!”, “What’s happening player?”, and “It’s a Puffy video!”  When the annoying douchebag finally DOES get eaten by zombies, Miner does the audience a great disservice by not showing us his demise.  I wanted to see that ass clown devoured by a horde of zombies and revel in every organ biting moment, but NO! 

 

Miner must have forgotten everything he ever knew about filmmaking.  You’d think a man that had made THREE slasher sequels, a haunted house movie, a killer crocodile flick (Lake Placid) and a demented Warlock movie (Warlock) would know what to do when it came to zombies, but you’d be wrong.  Miner also made the Mel Gibson cold-storage drama, Forever Young, which is infinitely more terrifying than this feces fest.  

 

Honestly, you’ll wish this had been directed by Uwe Boll instead. 

THE LAST DRAGON (1985) * ½

Berry Gordy founded Motown Records in the late 50’s and created some of the best music the world has ever heard.  In the 70’s, he started producing movies and they were some of the worst crap fests the world has ever seen.  (Remember The Wiz?)  The Last Dragon was Gordy’s final film production and it’s a freaking mess.  Although the premise is sound and it does offer up some (unintentionally) hilarious moments, it’s pretty much a disaster.

 

The plot has a kung fu student named Bruce Leroy (I swear to you by the blood of Christ that’s his real name) played by a guy called Taimak (I swear to you by the blood of Christ that’s his real name) who goes to the big city and falls in love with a rock video VJ (Vanity from Action Jackson).  While watching Enter the Dragon in an inner city theater, Bruce Leroy runs afoul of Sho Nuff, the Shogun of Harlem (I swear to you by the blood of Christ that’s his real name) who challenges him to a fight.  Of course, Leroy ducks him for half the movie until finally going toe to toe with him for the climax, in which both fighters start glowing like kerosene heaters and when they punch each other, sparks fly out of their chest. 

 

There’s also clips from two other Bruce Lee movies, a full DeBarge video, lots of breakdancing, and some truly hideous 80’s fashions in there too.  All of which could have been enormously entertaining, but the trouble is there’s an annoyingly gratuitous gangster villain who tries to muscle in on Vanity’s VJ racket that totally undermines the movie and brings things to a screeching halt every time he shows his ugly mug.  

 

Despite the numerous missteps the film makes, there are still some things to admire about it.  First and foremost is the character of Sho Nuff, who looks like Rick James’ psychotic brother on steroids.  As portrayed by Julius J. (The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.) Carry, Sho Nuff is easily the most memorable thing about this mess (he says stuff like “Kiss my Converse!”) and is one of the nuttiest screen villains of the 80’s.  Had the film just featured Sho Nuff as the sole villain and gotten rid of the greasy gangster, The Last Dragon could’ve been a classic in the same vein as No Retreat, No Surrender, but as it is, it’s only slightly more entertaining than Gymkata.  And at 109 minutes, it’s really about 29 minutes longer than it should’ve been to boot.

 

Still, any movie that features not one but TWO talentless one-named scrubs is still worth watching if only for curiosity’s sake.  You can also have fun spotting the soon to be famous William H. Macy and Chazz Palminteri paying the rent in supporting roles too.  Overall, The Last Dragon maybe dumber than a bowl of egg drop soup, but it’s still the best Blaxploitation Kung Fu Breakdancing Musical of the 80’s. 

 

The white gangster, annoying as he may be, gets the best line of the movie when he says, “A .45 will put an end to all this kung fu crap!”