April 22nd, 2008

THE EYE (2002) * ½

Okay so what’s the first Video Vacuum rule of horror movies?  If it was made in Hong Kong, then it’s probably sucks schlong.  The Japanese can usually crank out a good one every now and then, like Audition or Entrails of a Beautiful Woman, but the horror imports from China are always fairly lame.  Case in point:  The Eye.  With The Eye, the directors, The Pang Brothers, show us that they can make crappy shot on DV horror movies just like us Americans can. 


At least us Americans don’t have to READ our damn movies. 


The Eye is all about a blind chick who gets an operation so she can see again.  While getting adjusted to her new vision, she starts seeing pale faced monkey people, chalk eating children and blurry looking motherfuckers who try to scare her.  Eventually she learns what she’s seeing is suicide victims who are doomed to endlessly repeat their fates over and over again. 


While I appreciated some of the film’s subtle humor (The heroine gets kicked out of “The Orchestra for the Blind” after she regains her sight.  Talk about discrimination!), the film was completely devoid of any horrific moments.  (When are these Asian horror people gonna learn that little scrawny kids just aren’t scary?)  The ending is particularly infuriating.    


This flick was later remade by America with Jessica Alba earlier this year.  Watching this flick didn’t necessarily make me want to put that film on my Netflix queue, especially considering that Americanized remakes of Asian horror films are usually WORSE than the originals.  (The Ring, anyone?)  The Eye is a notch or two better than most Asian horror crapfests, but that is far from a glowing compliment in my book. 


AKA:  Seeing Ghosts



After two solid entries, the Samurai trilogy kinda peters out with this long-winded tale of how Miyamoto Musashi (Toshiro Mifune) finally gets around to dueling his arch-nemesis Kojiro Sasaki (Koji Tsuruta) to the death.  Sadly you got to sit through a lot of substandard romance and interminable chivalrous clichés to get to it.


Although the flick is lushly photographed (it looks like friggin’ Gone with the Wind with samurai swords), it often gets bogged down in a lot of melodramatic crap that the previous films somehow managed to avoid.  While the deliberate pacing of the other movies routinely paid off with a modicum of swordfights, this one is curiously slack in the action department.  The final battle LOOKS impressive (Love that sunset!) but it’s kind of a lackluster finale, especially when you consider you’ve been waiting two movies to see it. 


Mifune commands your attention at all times as per usual, but everyone else involved (both in front of and behind the camera) seems to just be going through the motions.  Even the attempts at “action” fall flat and the subplot about the bandits raiding some farmer’s home was lifted from The Seven Samurai.  


If you’ve seen the other two Samurai movies, you’ll want to see how everything pans out, but on it’s own terms, Samurai 3 just doesn’t have enough sword slinging action to make it worthwhile.


AKA:  Bushido.  AKA:  Duel on Ganryu Island.  AKA:  Musashi Miyamoto Conclusion:  Ganryu Island Duel.  AKA:  Musashi and Kojiro. 



Paul LeMat stars as an entomologist whose ex-wife (Diana Scarwid) dumps their snot nosed kid on him then hightails it to her Midwest hometown and promptly disappears.  LeMat shows up soon after to look for her but is baffled when he discovers that the town is still squarely stuck in the 50’s.  (The big tip-off:  Someone uses the word “swell” in a sentence.)  After his dog is evaporated and his car is blown up by a mysterious bolt of lightning, he skips town PDQ.  Eventually he gets a tabloid reporter (Nancy Allen) to do some digging and they learn that everyone in town is a bug eyed alien walking around in human disguises.  Including his wife. 




Strange Invaders is one of those movies that was made in the 80’s to capitalize on 50’s nostalgia, but over the years has become more of a relic of the 80’s than anything else.  The film was a throwback to such flicks as Invaders from Mars, Invisible Invaders and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (basically any movie with the word “Invaders” in the title), but watching it now, Strange Invaders just looks more like your average run of the mill cheesy 80’s sci-fi movie.  And not a very good one at that.  Even though the film features cameos from such 50’s icons as Kenneth Tobey and June Lockhart, even they could’ve been found hamming it up in such 80’s flicks as Gremlins and Troll. 


What I’m getting at here is that the appeal of this movie is one of pure nostalgia, but nostalgia all by itself doesn’t necessarily make for a good movie. 


There is some fun to be had with this movie though.  The face ripping effects are easily the best thing about the flick and are some of the ickiest and gooiest set pieces ever filmed.  The scene where Fiona Lewis spews forth gallons of slime from a gunshot wound is also pretty memorable and I even kinda dug the part where Michael Lerner’s wife and kids got turned into high tech disco balls, but regrettably the movie is completely undone by the plodding pacing.  After a promising start, things get awfully tough going throughout the middle section and the film never fully gets back on track.  The earnest performances help, but in the end, Strange Invaders is a thoroughly banal and utterly underwhelming hunk of nostalgic sci-fi junk. 


File it under the Great Idea, Shitty Execution category.


Co-scripter Bill Condon later went on to direct the critically acclaimed Gods and Monsters.  

MADMAN (1982) ***

Of all of the slasher movies that came out in the wake of Friday the 13th’s success during the early 80’s, Madman has to be one of the best.  Sure the performances are lousy, the characters are stupid, and the pacing is pretty erratic, but it’s got a simple story, an eerie electronic score, tons of creepy atmosphere, and a handful of genuine scares.  It would make a terrific double bill with the equally entertaining, The Burning. 


At a summer camp for “the gifted", an elderly counselor tells the story of Madman Marz, a farmer who went Chris Benoit Crazy and butchered his entire family with an axe.  Some locals exact vigilante justice on Marz by hanging him in the woods, but when his body disappears, he becomes an urban legend.  Now, whenever anyone speaks his name out loud in the wilderness, Madman comes out of the shadows to kill everyone with his trusty axe. 


Of course, the jackass of the group shouts out his name. 


You know what that means.  Ol’ Madman’s got to roll up his sleeves and take out the trash.  Throats are slashed, people are hung from trees, heads are separated from their necks, spines are cracked, axes are planted into sternums, and women are impaled on meat hooks. 


Madman is significant in the genre as ALL the sympathetic characters get killed off and the idiot who started everything by yelling out “Madman Marz!” is the only survivor.  Not only that, but it also features one truly priceless murder where a girl is working under the hood of her truck and Madman jumps on top of the hood, effectively decapitating her.  (The head later turns up to be the cause of some major engine trouble.)  There’s also an unintentionally hilarious hot tub lovemaking scene that has to be seen to be believed. 


While it’s no Friday the 13th Part 2, Madman gets the job done and is a solidly entertaining Maniac Stalking Teens in the Woods Movie. 


If the heroine looks familiar, it’s because it’s Gaylen Ross from Dawn of the Dead using a pseudonym.  I’m not sure why she used a fake name because this movie is pretty great. 


An open letter to director Richard Kelly, director of Southland Tales:


Dear Mr. Kelly:


I enjoyed your first film, Donnie Darko, but honestly your new film, Southland Tales was absolutely THE worst piece of shit I’ve ever seen. 




Mr. Kelly, can I call you DICK? 


Dick, stop making films.


If I ever see you with a camera in your hands again, I will be forced to Rodney King you into submission. 


If you happen to capture video footage of me beating you within an inch of your life, I can assure you it would be a billion times more entertaining than the bloated, self indulgent 145 minute eyeball raping I’ve just endured.




Mitch Lovell

The Video Vacuum


PS:  Die.