December 15th, 2010

IT CAME FROM THE THRIFT STORE: AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK (1984) ** ½

I always kinda took Escape from New York’s popularity for granted.  I knew it was popular even as a kid because every time I tried to rent it from the now long-gone Phil’s TV, that sumbitch was always out.  Because of it’s popularity on video (especially at Phil’s TV), the flick eventually spawned a vastly underrated sequel, Escape from LA fifteen years later.  Well, the flick must’ve been EXTREMELY popular in Italy because them Italians made a shit ton of Escape from New York rip-offs.  Among them were 1990:  The Bronx Warriors, it’s sequel Escape from the Bronx, and this flick; After the Fall of New York.

 

Basically there was a big nuclear war in 1999 that left New York in ruins (this movie predicts the future about as accurately as Criswell).  Consequently, most of the population has become mutants and no babies have been born since the blast.  The government sends agents (who dress like a cross between knights from the Crusades and samurais) to find non-mutant humans and bring the back for experimentation.  The “Pan-American Confederacy” hires Parsifal (Michael Sopkiw from Devil Fish) a demolition derby driver from Nevada to break into New York and rescue the only fertile woman left on the planet.  Along the way he is joined by a dwarf (Louis Ecclesia), a cyborg (Romano Puppo), a monkey man named “Big Ape” (George Eastman of The Grim Reaper fame), and a hot chick (Valentine Monnier, also from Devil Fish) who help him in his quest.

 

The burnt out models of New York City we see during the opening credits are fairly well done but then when they show the Statue of Liberty, it’s game over.  This thing looks a knickknack bought at the gift shop and placed in the middle of a mud puddle.  That is to say it made me laugh pretty hard.  We also get some funny spaceship effects that look like they were left over from a Godzilla movie (or maybe a Thunderbirds show).  And like most Italian Escape from New York rip-offs from the time, there are also little touches of Mad Max thrown in there for good measure. 

 

If you can’t already tell, After the Fall of New York features a fair amount of random silliness (Parsifal has a sidekick with a metal claw for a hand), although not quite enough to really make the flick a classic.  The gore is pretty good though.  We get eye gouging, rats chewing off people’s faces, head crushing, eyeball transplants, bullets through the brains, gut spilling, monkey man microwaving, and a three-for-the-price-of-one beheading.

 

I think the big problem is that the flick indulges the Sci-Fi trappings of the plot too much.  Whereas Escape from New York took place in a somewhat believable future, the future in ATFONY has everything from ray guns to spaceships to third-rate Planet of the Apes extras that dress like back-up singers for the Bee Gees.  It all fit together incongruously to say the least.

 

Even though the flick is pretty much a mess, I have to say I admired the Let’s-throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks aesthetic.  I’ve got to admit that by the time the flick got around to blatantly ripping off the end of Escape from New York, that I was sorta having fun.  Wait until you see this scene.  It boggles the mind.  Parsifal and his team are barreling down the Lincoln Tunnel in an armor plated car.  The tunnel is completely dark, then all of a sudden, some brightly lit fluorescent spikes pop up and Parsifal has to narrowly avoid them.  You can say what you will about the bad guys in this movie but you’ve got to hand it to them; they’re definitely courteous.  How many villains do you know would have the decency to make sure that the spikes in the pitch black tunnel were brightly lit so it’s easier for the hero to avoid in the dark?  Not many, I’ll tell you that much right now.

 

Sopkiw doesn’t do a bad job in the lead.  He keeps your attention for the most part and easily gives the best performance of the entire cast.  On the back of the video box there’s a blurb from Applause Magazine that states, “Michael Sopkiw is the best action hero since Clint Eastwood!”  I’ve never heard of Applause Magazine but something tells me that Sopkiw’s parents are probably the publishers.

 

Speaking of video boxes, this flick was released on video by Vestron.  Man, just seeing the Vestron logo again swept me with a wave of nostalgia.  It brought back memories of renting movies like An American Werewolf of London, Ghoulies, and Troll as a kid.  Vestron also knew how to market this movie.  They took that Applause Magazine hype seriously and were confident enough just to show Sopkiw on the cover holding a gun.  No fancy artwork or expensive collages here.  Just the Next Clint Eastwood and a gun.

 



Eastman gets the best line of the movie when he says, “Make me immortal!  Carry my seed!””

 

AKA:  2019:  After the Fall of New York.  AKA:  The Fall of New York.

 

The next It Came from the Thrift Store flick is yet another post apocalyptic movie.  It’s called Cybercity and it stars the late great David Carradine.  This’ll actually start off a string of Carradine films that (if I continue updating the column on a weekly basis) should take us into the New Year.

DISMAL (2009) ** ½

A group of college students head off into the Georgia swamp for an extra credit field trip assignment with their dorky Teacher’s Aide.  I guess it goes without saying that the swamp is populated exclusively with redneck inbred cannibal mutants that want to turn the students into a hot lunch.  It probably also goes without saying that only the nerdy chick is left standing to fight off the rednecks.

 

So basically what we’ve got here is The Georgia Swamp Massacre.  Or The Swamp Has Eyes.  Or Wrong Turn in a Swamp.  Take your pick.

 

You have to wait a long time until the flick gets going, but once people start buying the farm, Dismal is anything but.  The gore is pretty good and includes a grappling hook to the neck, hand chopping, people getting cut in half (although the CGI effect is piss poor), and impalement.  The best scene though is when a slut is running through the swamp and steps in a bear trap and loses her foot.  She soldiers on though, hopping around on one leg until she loses her foot in ANOTHER bear trap.  Then, she falls face first into yet ANOTHER bear trap.  If you can’t already tell, this scene is some good shit.

 

Too bad all of the plot stuff is so predictable.  You know right away that the teacher and park ranger are part of the cannibal clan so I don’t even need a Spoiler Warning because they were already acting hella suspicious to begin with.  Plus, only one chick shows her tits.  That’s definitely a department that needed some beefing up.  Other than the sluggish first half and shitty characters and predictable plot, Dismal is a fairly entertaining redneck inbred cannibal mutant flick.

 

AKA:  Bleed.

 

Dismal is out now on DVD from the good folks at Cinema Epoch.  For more info head on over to their website:  www.cinemaepoch.com.

THE BUTCHER (2009) ** ½

Eric Roberts stars as an ex-prizefighter turned low level Mob enforcer nicknamed “The Butcher” who gets passed over for a promotion.  The upstart boss-to-be doesn’t like The Butcher too much so when he steals millions from the Mob, he tries to pin it on him.  He confronts The Butcher and goes to shoot him but The Butcher is way too fast on the draw and guns him down.  The Butcher then gets to thinking that the money may be his only way out of a life of crime, so he takes the cash, straps on his gold-plated .45’s, and sets out to blow away anyone who gets in his way.

 

Roberts’ talent usually goes untapped in a lot of these Direct-to-DVD action flicks but he gives a really terrific performance here.  I liked the little nuances in his character; like how he bought two dudes breakfast after he mistakenly beat the crap out of them.  This is easily his best work since the criminally underrated D.O.A.  In fact, the supporting cast is filled with a lot of great character actors who get an opportunity to flex their thespian chops.  There’s Keith David as a bookie, Robert Davi as the mob boss, Geoffrey Lewis as a pawn shop owner, and Michael Ironside has a cool cameo too.

 

The Butcher is solidly entertaining for about an hour or so but it slowly begins losing it’s way as Roberts nears his inevitable revenge.  He probably has one too many cases of should-I-or-shouldn’t-I make a run for it before it begins to bog the movie down.  And while the final shootout is pretty gory (heads, hands, and arms get blown apart), the scenes that immediately precede and follow it are rather clunky.  Whenever Roberts is given free reign to inhabit his character, The Butcher really works though.

 

Naturally, Roberts gets the best line of the movie when he tells a dude, “A word to the wise.  Lay low for a few days.  A word to the wiser; disappear!”

 

AKA:  American Enemies.  AKA:  Gun for Hire.  AKA:  The Butcher:  The New Scarface.

HELLEMENTARY (2009) *

Years ago, there was a massacre at an elementary school which led to the place being shut down.  Decades later, a bunch of annoying teens break into the supposedly haunted school for some Ghost Hunters style shenanigans.  It doesn’t take long before a little ghost girl warns them to leave.  Predictably, they don’t listen to her and get picked off one by one by a demonic spirit that looks more than a little like The Undertaker from WWE.

 

Hellementary gets props for the hilarious title but that’s about it.  Although the thin plot could’ve worked, the flick suffers from a lot of the same problems that plague most low budget horror movies.  First and foremost, the characters are too annoying for words.  Seriously, if that Johnny Weir look-alike with the Emo haircut didn’t stop whining I was going to punch him in the Adam’s apple.  Then there’s the fact that most of the kills happen off screen.  When they do show something, it’s either lame (like when the floating desk impaled one kid) or too stupid for words (like the killer carpet).  You also have to deal with the muddy cinematography.  Every frame of this flick makes it look like some poor bastard with Crohn’s Disease shat directly into the camera.   

 

Bottom Line:  Despite the clever title, I still have to flunk Hellementary.

 

AKA:  Hellementary:  An Education in Death.