April 23rd, 2008

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION (1997) **

 

After not being involved with the second and third installments of the series (cleverly referred to here as “minor incidents”) the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre screenwriter, Kim Henkel bought the rights back and decided to try to direct Part 4 by himself.  He got together a reasonable budget, hired two unknown actors who had just finished shooting a little low budget movie called Dazed and Confused and went to work. 

 

The results are decidedly mixed, but since the two unknown actors were Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger, this got re-released and actually played in theaters.  It’s not very good, but if you want to see McConaughey acting positively apeshit, you may have some fun with it. 

 

A quartet of teens get into an accident on prom night and wait for a tow truck.  The tow truck driver, Vilmer (McConaughey) turns out to be a walking nutjob with a remote controlled leg (!?!) and the kids end up getting abducted by Leatherface’s increasingly bizarre family.  Leatherface whacks a dude on the head with a sledgehammer (again), puts a girl in a freezer (again), chases a girl through the woods with a chainsaw (again), hangs a chick on a meathook (again), and sits everyone around the dinner table (again). 

 

All the teenagers are all annoying and deserve to die, but they’re all killed off rather quickly.  That leaves only Zellweger to be tormented for the last 45 minutes or so.  She escapes and is recaptured again and again and it starts to become a little repetitive and grating by about the third time she breaks free from the family.  The biggest sin Henkel commits though is that he turns Leatherface into a complete pussy.  It was fun in the first film when Leatherface dressed up like a woman, but in this flick he spends more time in a fucking dress than Divine.  (The length of his mullet also varies from scene to scene too, which is pretty annoying.)  He’s largely absent for most of the movie, which allows McConaughey to steal all his thunder. 

 

The film has it’s moments (like the rooftop chase) and for about an hour or so, it’s a fairly decent flick.  Until the Iranian businessman with odd body piercings shows up that is.  Then everything pretty much goes out the window.  The scene where Zellweger turns the tables on McConaughey by fiddling with his remote control and making his leg twitch uncontrollably is a classic though. 

 

If you are watching this movie expecting to see Leatherface do what he does best, namely kill people with a chainsaw, you will be severely disappointed.  (He pretty much puts the saw down about halfway through the flick.)  If you’re watching this movie expecting to see some good old fashioned cannibalism, you will be severely disappointed.  (Nobody eats human flesh in this movie and the family orders PIZZA for Christ’s sakes!)  If you are watching this movie expecting to see a good Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel, you will be severely disappointed.  (The remake is marginally better than this one.)  But, if you check this out to see a before they were famous Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger earn a paycheck, you might be mildly amused.

 

At least it’s better than Part 3.  

 

AKA:  The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. 

CYBORG 2 (1993) **

I admit, I’ve never actually sat down and watched the first Cyborg all the way through, but if you ask me, the prospect of seeing a before she was famous Angelina Jolie and an over the hill Jack Palance in a low budget straight to video sequel seems a lot more appealing. The funny thing about this flick is that Palance had won an OSCAR two years earlier and was still only able to get roles in low budget straight to video sequels like this one.

 

In the future, there are two warring corporations (one is Japanese, the other American) vying to corner the market on cyborgs.  The Americans make a breakthrough when they create a cyborg blow-up doll.

 

And when I say blow-up doll I MEAN blow-up doll, as the bitch literally explodes during sex.  (“Every time she screws somebody, she’ll explode!”) 

 

They then program another kickboxing blow-up doll (an 18 year old Jolie) to destroy the competition.  Things don’t go as planned when she falls in love with her martial arts instructor (Elias Koteas) and rebels against the corporation.  Together they try to elude the corporation’s stooges with a little help from an omnipotent freedom fighter played by Palance. 

 

Palance presides over the film by showing up on the TV a lot, introducing scenes from the first Cyborg movie, and spouting a bunch of gibberish.  (“I can throw a monkey into anybody’s wrench!”)  His character may be utterly stupid, but his appearances are always good for a chuckle.  Jolie is little more than sexy eye candy, but just seeing her naked during her barely legal days is almost enough to make this flick worthwhile.  Koteas makes for a bland hero, but the always slimy Billy (Delta Force 2) Drago makes a pretty good impression as the junkie bounty hunter who dresses like a 40’s gangster.

 

Action fans shouldn’t let Van Damme’s absence discourage them from checking this out as it’s got plenty of B Grade kickboxing in it.  It’s not great by any stretch of the imagination, but there are hundreds of worse low budget direct to video sequels out there you could waste your time with. 

 

As much as I liked seeing Palance saying hilarious shit like “If you want to dine with the devil, you’re going to need a long spoon!”, it’s Koteas who gets the best line of the movie:  “I can’t get caught for Grand Theft Robot!”

 

AKA:  Glass Shadow.

THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING (1989) ***

 

The original Swamp Thing wasn’t too hot, but that shouldn’t stop you from thoroughly enjoying this sequel from Jim Wynorski, the director of Chopping Mall and Not of This Earth.  It’s cheesy, ludicrous, and borderline brain dead, but damn it, that’s part of it’s charm. 

 

The opening credits appropriately sets the tone of what’s to come.  We see some stunning artwork from Bernie Wrightson’s Swamp Thing comics while CCR’s “Born on the Bayou” blares on the soundtrack. 

 

The evil Dr. Arcane (Louis Jourdan) is meddling around in his lab splicing genes trying to find a drug that will give him eternal life.  He splices human DNA with elephants, alligators, cockroaches, hippos and leeches, resulting in a group of awesome looking mutants.  Arcane’s stepdaughter (Heather Locklear) shows up and since she has the same DNA make-up as her mother, Arcane wants to turn her into a walking medical experiment.  

 

Meanwhile two comic relief trailer trash kids look at porn and interrupted by a mutant leech man who wants to eat them.  Luckily, Swamp Thing (Dick Durock) shows up to battle him WWE style.  Locklear gets molested by a bunch of moonshiners and Swamp Thing beats them to a pulp, starting a love affair of sorts.  (She’s a vegetarian.)  Arcane shows up and blows Swamp Thing up, but in the coolest scene of the movie, Swampy rejuvenates himself and comes back in a bubble bath to rescue her and blow Arcane’s mansion sky high.    

 

The make-up for the half-human monsters is impressive and Swamp Thing’s new highly vegetative look is pretty cool, but it’s the non-stop monster mashing makes this flick a lot of fun.  There’s very little in this movie in the way of plausibility, realistic characters, or subtle performances, but what do you expect from a movie called The Return of Swamp Thing?  Oh, and the “love scene” between Locklear and Swampy is one of the nuttiest things you’ll ever see in a motion picture. 

 

Wynorski equips himself nicely with this modestly budgeted affair (the song rights for “Born on the Bayou” alone probably cost more than any movie Wynorski ever directed) and it’s a shame we never got a Swamp Thing 3 from him.

FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1970) ** ½

 

Peter Cushing returns as Dr. Frankenstein for this fifth entry in Hammer Studios’ Frankenstein films.  This time out, the good (mad) doctor gets a room in a boardinghouse and blackmails a coke dealing med student and his fiancée into becoming his unwilling lab assistants.  Frankenstein then sets out to turn a mentally deficient colleague (Freddie Jones) into his latest in a long line of botched medical experiments.

 

Director Terence (The Revenge of Frankenstein) Fisher keeps the proceedings drenched in a modicum of atmosphere, but for the most part this is a low key and muted outing in the usually durable series.  Cushing is splendid as always as the diabolical doctor, but the rest of the supporting cast pales in comparison.  It also doesn’t help when his creature is a sympathetic stumblebum.  While this portrayal is closer to what Mary Shelley originally intended, what’s the use when he’s kept on the operating table for 4/5 of the film? 

 

The main draw of these movies (for me anyway) is the gruesome operating scenes.  In that respect, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed comes up a little short.  There’s one nifty brain drilling scene, but other than that, the doctor’s handiwork is pretty tame in this one.  Also, the make-up on the monster himself is kinda weak as he basically just looks like a Parkinson’s patient with stitches on his noggin. 

 

Admittedly, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed is one of the weakest of the Hammer Frankenstein films (it’s no Frankenstein Created Woman, I’ll tell you that), but there are enough moments of invention (the revelation of a body buried in a garden after a water main bursts) sprinkled about to hold your attention.  The Horror of Frankenstein was next in the series.