June 16th, 2008

VACATION OF TERROR (1989) **

The Mexican exploitation gene runs strong in Vacation of Terror director’s Rene Cardona III’s family, so I figured this horror flick would be pretty good.  I mean his father; Rene Cardona, Jr. directed the despicable Jim Jones cash-in, Guyana:  Cult of the Damned and his grandfather, Rene Cardona was the man who made the ultimate Mexican WTF movie, Santa Claus.  Unfortunately, Rene III isn’t quite as adept as the rest of the family when it comes to laying on the South of the Border exploitation goodies. 

 

In a very Black Sunday opening scene, a bunch of Mexican peasants burn a witch at the stake.  Afterwards, the villagers throw all of the witch’s baby dolls down a well and seal it up.  Several years later, some smug Mexican bastard inherits the witch’s digs out in the country and takes his family out there for a much needed vacation.  The family isn’t there for five minutes and his snot nosed brats have already opened up the well and stolen the witch’s doll babies. 

 

And these toys ain’t from Fisher Price either. 

 

These are possessed toys that can do nasty things like make mommy’s stomach grow and distend like she was about to give birth to Alien.  Daddy quickly takes her to the hospital and leaves the kids with a sitter and that’s when things REALLY start to get weird.  The demonic doll baby causes all sorts of supernatural shenanigans:  Fires start and disappear, rats and snakes begin turning up in the fridge, paintings bleed, and all the sinister toys start moving around by themselves.  The babysitter finally starts earning her 20 pesos an hour when she finally throws the doll into the fireplace.  Even though the toy is sufficiently burned to a crisp (along with the vacation home) in the end, that doesn’t stop it from showing up for the gratuitous set-up for a sequel that happened two years later. 

 

Honestly, it would’ve been scarier if all of this happened to the Griswolds. 

 

Okay, so what starts out as a fairly decent South of the Border witch movie quickly switches gears to being a second rate haunted house movie to becoming a dreadful psychic killer doll flick.  As bad as all of this is, it’s really hard to truly despise any movie that blatantly rips off House by the Cemetery, Ghosthouse, Dolly Dearest, Poltergeist, Cathy’s Curse, Amityville Horror, Carrie and Xtro with such head-spinning incoherency.  Even with a scant running time of less than 80 minutes though, your patience will still be tested once too often to make this a vacation worth taking. 

VACATION OF TERROR 2: DIABOLICAL BIRTHDAY (1991) ***

 

Okay, so this movie may not be the best flick since the creation of time and the universe, but let me just say this for it:  Vacation of Terror 2:  Diabolical Birthday has to be the greatest title of any movie ever made, or at least of any movie made in Mexico in the year 1991. 

 

Whereas the first flick was more or less a mishmash of haunted house and killer doll movies, this sequel is more similar to the Demons franchise, except it makes LESS sense.  It almost plays like a Mexican version of Troll 2 (though not quite as batshit insane), which is to say, it comes quite recommended. 

 

The movie starts out with the babysitter’s ex boyfriend from the first Vacation of Terror running a junk shop in Mexico.  When a sexy customer invites him to her little sister’s Halloween themed birthday party, he readily accepts.  The chick’s sister is played by this Mexican version of Danielle Harris who brings the evil doll from the first movie back to life when she cuts herself while slicing a piece of birthday cake.  What makes this movie different is that the doll remains a doll for all of about 2 seconds before it almost immediately turns into a rubbery looking slime monster that wolfs down a partygoer. 

 

The party is quickly canceled.  (Hey, they don’t call it a DIABOLICAL birthday for nothing, folks.)

 

Anyway, the little girl gets sucked into thin air (in a scene almost exactly like Poltergeist) and pretty soon, the slime monster is running around Mexico making all kinds of crazy shit happen like turning Latinas into pint sized Selena action figures, making green slime shoot out of telephones and turning houses upside down.  The hero (the scrubby ex boyfriend from the first movie) sets out to rescue the little girl and make time with her big sister.  Turns out our hero is INVINCIBLE because he’s wielding a sacred Puka Shell necklace, but that doesn’t stop the slime monster from chucking dozens of flaming marshmallow smores at his noggin. 

 

Then for 45 straight minutes, it’s nothing but Mexican Slime Demons jumping from dark corners and scaring the guacamole out of people. 

 

Look, I’m not going to sit here and dredge up all the literally thousands of teeny, tiny little faults that would make me NOT want to like Vacation of Terror 2:  Diabolical Birthday.  I won’t do it.  I simply refuse to.  Life is too short, and plus I just don’t have enough room on this blog to do it.  What I will tell you is that Vacation of Terror 2:  Diabolical Birthday (Damn, I love that title!) is a Hell of a lot of fun. 

 

This movie has everything you want in an early 90’s South of the Border horror movie and more.  Slimy transformation scenes?  Check.  Mexican guys with mullets straight out of the Rico Suave video?  Uh-huh.  Swirling Evil Dead style POV camera shots?  You betcha.  Hilarious Tiffany-esque dance numbers?  That’s what I’m talking about.  

 

If Mexico makes a few more fantastic cinematic treasures such as Vacation of Terror 2:  Diabolical Birthday, then WE should be the ones sneaking over THEIR border. 

HIGH RISK (1981) ***

 

Stewart Raffill, the man who gave the world Space Herpes with the classic Ice Pirates, directed this fast paced and consistently entertaining action flick.

 

James (The Car) Brolin, Bruce (Willard) Davison and Cleavon (Blazing Saddles) Little tell their wives that they’re all going fishing for the weekend, but what they’re REALLY doing is planning to rip off a South American drug lord (James Coburn) for five million big ones.  After successfully eluding Coburn’s men, they escape to the jungle where they run afoul of an eccentric bandito (Anthony Quinn) who swindles the money from them, so they have to RE-STEAL the loot AGAIN. 

 

Although the film’s momentum slacks up when the heroes get separated mid-movie, for the most part High Risk is a breezy, action packed way to kill 90 minutes.  The performances by all the leads (especially Brolin) are all great and the colorful supporting cast, which includes Ernest Borgnine, Lindsay Wagner and Richard Young (“Fedora”, from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) are all equally fine. 

 

This movie also features a scene that I’ve been waiting forever to see.  In every action movie, there’s always the scene where the hero pistol-whips somebody and they immediately are knocked out.  It’s an unwritten movie rule that when someone is conked on the head with the butt of a revolver they HAVE to be knocked out.  But this flick is a little different and has fun with the usual action movie clichés.  While making their escape from Coburn’s place, the heroes run into a gardener.  To keep him quiet and continue their escape undetected, they decide to pistol-whip him.  But when Brolin wallops him on the head though, the gardener screams bloody murder instead; effectively getting the guards attention and ruining their escape.  It’s a neat little scene and shows how Raffill plays with the conventions of the action genre.  (I also enjoyed the part when after they successfully steal the money, they are still stuck in the jungle and when Davison takes a shit, he’s reduced to using $100 bills to wipe his ass.)

 

Quinn gets the best line of the movie when he tells Brolin, “The Devil loads a gun, but an asshole pulls the trigger!”