October 24th, 2008

TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE (1972) ***

I don’t think that anyone would ever say that Twitch of the Death Nerve is Mario Bava’s best film.  However, it’s hard to dispute one thing:  It does feature the most carnage ever seen in one of Il Maestro’s movies.  There are enough impalings, strangulations, throat slashings, and hatchets to the face than most movies can handle.  

 

The gist of the plot is that there are all these greedy ass people trying to get their hands on this bay front property for their own variously shady purposes and are willing to stab, hack, and choke anyone that gets in their way.  What is novel about the film is that not only are there multiple murderers running around but also multiple motives for the killings as well. 

 

The downside to having everyone being a cold-blooded killer out for themselves is that not a whole lot of the plot ever really makes much sense.  This movie simultaneously has too much and not enough plot.  That’s okay though, because I don’t think Bava cared either.  In this film it’s not WHO the killer is, it’s WHO the victim is and HOW they will get it that really counts.  Twitch also contains one of the looniest WTF endings in cinema history, one you have to see to disbelieve.

 

Twitch of the Death Nerve was one of the most highly influential horror films to come out of the early 70’s.  It was the first real “body count” movie of it’s time.  (I liked the way the killers stacked their victims up like cordwood.)  Heck, the Friday the 13th franchise pretty much swiped everything wholesale from this flick, particularly the scene where two lovers are humping and get impaled with a spear while doing the deed.  Bava is such a madman though that he actually let them finish fucking while they were still impaled!  You won’t see that in a Friday the 13th movie, that’s for sure. 

 

AKA:  A Bay of Blood.  AKA:  Carnage.  AKA:  Bloodbath.  AKA:  Bloodbath:  Bay of Death.  AKA:  Chain Reaction.  AKA:  Last House on the Left 2.

SAW 5 (2008) **

Well, I gotta hand it to these Saw boys:  They give us another sequel every year whether we want one or not.  Folks, these people have churned out an unprecedented five movies in five years.  Not even Freddy or Jason in their heyday ever did that shit.  The fact that all of the Saw sequels are pretty mediocre is irrelevant.  What really matters to these Saw filmmakers is PUNCTUALITY.  They don’t care if the flick is good or not, just as long as they get it out before Halloween.  You kinda have to admire that.  Saw 5 ain’t no Saw 3, but at least it’s marginally better than the last outing. 

 

This time round, its detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor from Mobsters) who is picking up where the deceased serial killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) left off; locking five interconnected people in a warehouse and forcing them to play a demented version of Survivor.  Meanwhile, a Fed (Scott Patterson) is hot on his trail and he gets caught up in a Jigsaw game of his own. 

 

Just because Jigsaw died two sequels ago doesn’t stop him from being in this one.  Like all of the Saw sequels, Part 5 heavily relies on oodles of flashbacks to keep the franchise chugging along.  In fact, I think Jigsaw gets his most amount of screen time yet as there are lots of scenes where he shows Mandylor the serial killing ropes. 

 

I can’t wholly recommend Saw 5 although by now, you should already know what you’re getting into.  After a strong start, the film quickly descends into a patchy narrative that consists of lots of flashbacks and flashbacks within flashbacks.  Yeah, it gets annoying after awhile, but at least this one makes sense, which is something that couldn’t be said for Part 4. 

 

The gore is decent as there are eviscerations, decapitations and mutilations aplenty.  We also get a gory updating on the old Pit and the Pendulum gag as well as a squirm-inducing emergency tracheotomy.  The babe factor is decent as hotties Julie (Rambo) Benz and Betsy Russell (returning from Part 4) make for excellent eye candy.  Too bad neither of them felt like letting their blouse puppies out of the doghouse.

 

And yes, the door is left wide open for Part 6.  By this point, the only thing that could really kill Jigsaw off for good is poor box office, although I highly doubt it.  You can probably count on me reviewing Numero Six-O about the same time next year.  See you then.

NOT OF THIS EARTH (1995) **

A telepathic alien with a penchant for sunglasses (Michael York) comes to Earth to suck the blood out of all of us humans.  He hires a nurse (Elizabeth Barondes) to give him regular blood transfusions and communicates with his home world via an interplanetary satellite he’s got set up in the basement.  The space vampire also picks up hobos off of the street and invites them home for “dinner”.  Eventually, the nurse and the alien’s snarky chauffeur (Richard Belzer) figure out their benefactor’s secret and set out to stop him.

 

If all of this seems familiar, it’s because it's the third damn time producer Roger Corman has told the story.  The first time it was in 1957 with Beverly Garland, then in ’88 with Traci Lords.  You’ve seen this all before, so there’s really no reason to see it again.    

 

The problem with this version is that Elizabeth Barondes is no Traci Lords.  Heck, she isn’t even Beverly Garland for that matter.  That’s okay though because York hams it up splendidly and Belzer seems to be having fun.  I also got a kick out of seeing Mason Adams (the voice of all those Smucker’s Jelly commercials) playing a dim-witted doctor.

 

I’ve never seen the original film, but the Traci Lords remake was one of my favorite Corman movies of the 80’s.  That film’s director, Jim Wynorski had a lot of style and really knew how to put a lot of topless women in his film.  Here, director Terence H. (The Nest) Winkless keeps the boobage to a bare minimum and handles the action scenes awkwardly.  I will say this for Winkless:  the man sure knows how to film Michael York receiving dialysis treatments from a space octopus.

 

York gets the best line of the movie when he says, “And what of my brood?  Do they still survive?”