July 16th, 2009

OUTLANDER (2009) ***

Jim “The Christ” Caviezel stars as an alien named Kainan who crash lands his spaceship in 8th century Viking country.  Also aboard his ship is a large hungry beast called a Moorwen that promptly goes about gobbling up the locals.  Since the Vikings think Kainan is the one responsible for the deaths, they capture and imprison him.  Soon after, the Vikings go out to hunt the beast with Cainan as a guide.  When Cainan saves the King (John Hurt) from a bear, he is made an honorary Viking.  It doesn’t take long though for the Moorwen to return and capture the King’s foxy daughter (Sophia Myles).  Because Cainan has a thing for her, he sets out to rescue the damsel in distress.  Conventional swords won’t penetrate the monster’s tough hide so Cainan salvages his ship and forges a sword out of space age metal that is strong enough to slay the Moorwen.

 

The premise of this movie is nuttier than a Payday but it takes itself far too seriously for it to truly be a classic.  The film’s opening scenes are hilarious though and will make you wish that director Howard McCain kept that same jovial tone throughout the picture.  When Caviezel lands on Earth, he speaks in an alien language.  Because he knows that the audience doesn’t want to read subtitles the whole movie, he opens some futuristic device that gives him super Lasik surgery that teaches him the English language in ten seconds.  Naturally the first English word he says is “FUCK!”  That’s pure comedy gold right there.  The next scene has John Hurt’s daughter refusing to marry the man he’s arranged for her and she gets so upset that she GETS INTO A SWORDFIGHT WITH HER OWN FATHER!

 

These moments of goofy charm dry up once the monster rears its ugly head though.  It’s unfortunate because if Outlander had been able to maintain that kind of zany energy, it may have been another Doomsday.  As it is, the rest of the movie feels a bit too Sci-Fi Channel-ish to be a Four Star Flick.

 

Another thing that was kinda disappointing was the Moorwen.  The scenes where the Vikings fend off the alien are fairly intense but the monster itself just resembles a four-legged version of the Roland Emmerich Godzilla.  It also has these stupid looking Day-Glo ridges on it that make it look like Tron’s pet chameleon or something. 

 

Despite the weak monster, Outlander is still the best Vikings vs. Aliens movies I’ve ever seen.  Imagine a second tier knockoff of Army of Darkness except with an alien instead of a skeleton army, and you may have some idea of what you’re getting into.  The cast certainly helps.  Caviezel makes for a stoic leading man and Myles is one sexy wench.  Hurt lends the flick a touch of class and Ron Perlman is a hoot as the loudmouth Viking asshole.

 

McCain also co-wrote the script with the awesomely named Dirk Blackman.  Supposedly these guys are going to write the new Conan movie.  If that’s the case, I’d say the old Barbarian is in good hands.

KING OF THE PECOS (1936) ***

A ruthless land snatcher named Stiles (Cy Kendall) guns down an old homesteader and his wife and steals his 100 acre property.  The homesteader’s young son witnesses the murder and grows up to become John Wayne.  Even though Wayne is an upstanding mild-mannered lawyer, that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t still has a taste for vengeance.  First, he goes through the proper legal channels to take down the greedy robber baron.  Wayne scores an upset victory in the courtroom which leaves the bad guy with no water rights in town.  That makes Stiles so mad that he goes out and shoots Wayne’s girlfriend’s father.  Wayne eventually decides to go outside the law and take care of the no good villain once and for all.

 

Like most old school John Wayne westerns from the 30’s, King of the Pecos has a scant running time (under an hour) and a lot of action.  The flick also benefits from a strong opening scene that nicely sets up Wayne’s need for revenge.  I also enjoyed seeing Wayne play a vigilante for a change.  He gives a solid performance and plays the duality of his character very well.  I liked the way that he used the law up to a certain point to nail his nemesis but then gave in and gunned the son of a bitch down in the end anyway.  It’s this textured characterization that puts King of the Pecos a notch above most programmer Wayne westerns.

 

On the downside, there are too many annoying side characters that muck things up and prevent the flick from kicking into high gear.  The obligatory love interest is shoehorned cumbersomely into the plot and the deaf old guy who tells everybody “Come again?” will get on your nerves real fast.  If you can stomach those intrusions, King of the Pecos will be a rewarding way to kill 55 minutes.

REBECCA (1940) ***

Joan Fontaine stars an unnamed woman who meets moneybags Maxim De Winter (Laurence Olivier) on vacation and falls head over heels in love with him.  After a whirlwind courtship, Maxim brings his new bride to his estate which is presided over by a stone faced maid named Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson).  Maxim’s still haunted by the sudden death of his first wife Rebecca and always chides his new gal whenever she wears Rebecca’s clothes.  Mrs. Danvers is still fiercely loyal to her deceased employer and sets out to tear the two lovebirds apart.  Things get even more complicated when Rebecca’s body is found in a shipwreck and an inquest is held to determine the cause of her mysterious death.  

 

Rebecca was the first American feature for director Alfred Hitchcock and the only Hitchcock film to ever win an Academy Award for Best Picture.  It’s more of a gothic melodrama than a thriller and lacks the punch of Hitchcock’s better films but it does manage to keep the audience enthralled throughout most of its running time.  The first act where Olivier romances Fontaine is spellbinding.  The second act involving the newlyweds moving into the mansion is less so.  Things get back on track though once the secrets of Rebecca’s sordid past slowly start to be revealed.

 

The performances anchor the flick and keep you invested in the characters.  Olivier acts like a pimp in this movie.  He insults Fontaine, yells at her, and generally treats her like dog snot; yet she completely worships him.  Mad respect Larry.  No wonder they call him The Greatest Actor of All Time.  Fontaine is also quite good too.  She may be a fucking doormat but she somehow seems plucky and likable throughout.  Fontaine also starred in Hitchcock’s Suspicion the next year.

NIGHTMARE SISTERS (1987) ****

Three homely sorority girls (Linnea Quigley, Michelle Bauer, and Brinke Stevens) invite some dorky fraternity boys over to play Twister and hold a séance.  When the severed head of a fortune teller (Haunted Garage frontman Dukey Flyswatter) appears in their crystal ball, he urges them to “break the circle” and touch the ball.  Predictably it turns them into H-O-T and H-O-R-N-Y succubuses (or is that succubi?) that want to bite off the boys gonads and swallow their…souls.

 

Nightmare Sisters is one of the films that shaped my sexuality.  When I was about 11 or so, I caught this flick late at night on Skinamax.  I took one look at Linnea Quigley, Michelle Bauer, and Brinke Stevens taking a bubble bath together and something inside me said, “Yes sir, welcome to the world of heterosexuality.”

 

Not only do the three greatest Scream Queens of all time take a bubble bath together in this flick, but they also smear cream pies all over their breasts.  In addition, they each get different fantasy sequences.  Michele wears a loincloth and fucks in a jungle themed room, Linnea dons some ripped clothes and sings “Santa Monica Boulevard Boys” (and she isn’t a half bad singer either), and  Brinke dresses up as an innocent schoolgirl complete with pigtails and an oversized lollipop.  (She also gets to briefly wear a sexy leather S & M get-up.)  Why this movie hasn’t been put on the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress is beyond me.

 

The flick may take a while to heat up (the ten minute pre-credit sequence seems like an eternity) but stick with it.  Once the girls lose their tops it’s damn good times.  It’s also fucking hilarious to boot.  Out of all the funny one-liners, my favorite came when the perplexed nerd first encountered the supernatural succubuses and said, “Advanced Trigonometry did not prepare me for this!”

 

Director David DeCoteau got Quigley, Bauer, and Stevens (and Dukey too) back together again for the equally enjoyable Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama the next year.

 

AKA:  Sorority Sisters.  AKA:  Sorority Succubus Sisters.