December 20th, 2010

DOGHOUSE (2010) *** ½

A group of manly men spurn their wives and girlfriends and gather together in a small town in the middle of nowhere for a Guys Only weekend.  The town is completely deserted but the guys barely seem to notice and start drinking it up and having fun.  Little do they know, the town has been taken over by female man-hating zombies that want to turn the guys into a hot lunch.

 

Doghouse is the best zombie movie since Zombieland.  Since it’s a British horror comedy about zombies, the comparisons to Shaun of the Dead are inevitable.  While it’s tempting to compare both films, Doghouse is hilarious in it’s own right and has a style all it’s own.  It’s full of sly wit, sharp observations about men and women, and has some very big laughs.

 

Director Jake (Razor Blade Smile) West stages the zombie attacks with panache and is able to make them both suspenseful and funny.  The gore is solid as we get hand stabbing, head splitting, decapitations, axe to the legs, golf balls to the eye, scissor stabbing, and a whole lot more.  West doesn’t really linger on the gore though and treats it more as a throwaway.  He’s more interested in seeing his chauvinistic characters reacting to being assaulted by feminist zombies.  It’s this Battle of the Sexes slant that really sets Doghouse apart from so many zombie comedies out there.

 

The flick has a number of inventive scenes.  I think my favorite part was when the guys created a diversion by sticking a decapitated head on the back on an RC car so the zombie bitches would chase after it.  But although Doghouse is enormously entertaining for the first hour, the flick kinda gets spotty once the zombie chicks receive an “upgrade”.  Even though the finale was kinda weak, I didn’t mind because I dug the rest of the film so much.

THE GREATEST MOVIES IN THE HISTORY OF THE HUMAN RACE: TRON (1982) ****

Depressed, despondent, and upset about the shitty treatment Tron received in the big budget crapfest Tron:  Legacy, I decided to pop on the original 1982 classic to see him in his full glory.  All I can say is that this flick still rocks 28 years later.  Not only is it one of the best movies of the 80’s, not only is it one of the best films Disney ever produced, it’s also one of The Greatest Movies in the History of the Human Race.

 

I touched upon in my Tron:  Legacy review that Tron was a big part of my childhood.  It was one of the most-rented films of my early movie-watching career (mostly because the video store only had about five movies in the Kid’s Section) and probably started my insane love of video games.  God knows how many quarters I put into the Tron arcade game, but I’m pretty sure the amount I spent playing that game could’ve single-handedly balanced the national deficit. 

 

Because of my strong boyhood connection to the film, it’s kinda impossible just to watch Tron.  Whenever something cool happens in the movie (which is pretty often) I usually have a flashback to when I was five years old watching the flick and playing with my Light Cycle toys.  I mean take the Light Cycle sequence for instance.  Every time I watch that part, I can’t really marvel at the technological wizardry it took to create this scene.  I don’t really appreciate the directorial skill that went into making it exciting and suspenseful.  No, all I think about is being a five year old kid hopped up on Gummy Bears and Coca-Cola jumping up and down like a goddamned madman and screaming “LIGHT CYCLES!  LIGHT CYCLES!” 

 

Or when the character of Yori (Cindy Morgan) shows up.  Many times I don’t even listen to what she’s saying because I’m too busy looking at her cyber camel toe and remembering how she forever shaped my heterosexuality when I was a kid.  Yeah, Cindy may have been hot in Caddyshack and all, but to me she looked even better all done up in that skintight circuitry outfit.

 

The central conceit of Tron is that a computer programmer (or “User”) puts so much of his heart and soul into writing his programs that they take on a life of their own inside the computer.  Therefore, the User is an almost godlike entity that speaks to the Program, who blindly follows his commands.  This is an especially heady concept for a five year old to embrace, but I embraced it anyway.  Looking back, it’s kinda a goofy idea, yet if you let the five year old inside of you do all the thinking for you, then Tron is a perfect movie.

 

If you let your grown-up brain think about the film too much, it’s liable to give you a headache.  Like, how can Flynn (Jeff Bridges) do all this crazy stuff like rebuild Recognizers with his mind, divert energy beams, and turn his suit from blue to red?  A grown-up would say that it’s just lazy screenwriting, but the five year old would say, “He’s a USER!  Duh!  He can do whatever he wants!”  And that kind of logic serves the movie well.

 

I think there are people that crap on this movie because the movie is called Tron and Tron (Bruce Boxleitner) isn’t really the main character.  I think that is what makes the movie unique.  I mean Flynn is the main character but Tron is definitely the hero and gets all the hero moments.  After all, Tron is the guy who kills Sark (David Warner) AND destroys the Master Control Program (although to be fair Flynn distracted him first).  Flynn on the other hand is the wisecracking Fish Out of Water who is kinda like Ash in Army of Darkness, except not as cool.

 

Bridges is great as the cocky Flynn.  In a career full of awesome performances, this is definitely one of his best.  And I liked Boxleitner a lot in this flick too.  His portrayal of Tron as a hopelessly square do-gooder fits the character perfectly since he’s a computer program.  And besides, not many people can look cool while dispatching dudes with a Frisbee, so he has that going for him.  David Warner also does some fine work as the slimy Dillinger/Sark combo.

 

More than anything, Tron is a product of it’s time.  In 1982, the kids were all about video games and Frisbees and this movie perfectly exploited both of those crazes.  To me, that’s about when civilization hit it’s peak.  And if watching Tron back in the day was the epitome of awesomeness, then watching it now in the 21st century is a reminder of a better, simpler time.  I know the movie has it’s flaws (particularly in the third act), but it still remains one of The Greatest Movies in the History of the Human Race if only because every time I watch it, it makes me feel like I’m five years old again.  And that is about the highest form of praise I can give a film.

 

Tron is on The Video Vacuum Top Ten Films of 1982 at the Number 8 spot, which puts it in the middle of Basket Case and Friday the 13th Part 3 in 3-D.

MIDNIGHT MOVIE (2008) ** ½

A demented movie director is locked away in a mental institution.  While watching his latest film, he goes nuts, kills a bunch of people and then disappears.  Five years later, at a midnight screening of his final movie, he reemerges out of the screen to terrorize some unsuspecting moviegoers.  And whenever he kills a character in the movie, someone in the theater gets killed for real.

 

Midnight Movie isn’t great by any stretch of the imagination but it makes for some breezy, if forgettable entertainment.  The flick runs a scant 79 minutes and is heavily padded with the film-within-a-film footage, so there’s always something happening.  I also liked it for the fact that all the characters accept the killer’s supernatural abilities rather quickly, so there aren’t a lot of scenes where characters whine and scream, “Why is this happening?”  The characters don’t get on your nerves either, which was refreshing too.  (They still aren’t very smart though, but that’s okay.)

 

Although a lot of the gore is minimal and kept off screen, there is a pretty great scene where a cop tries to protect a girl from getting killed.  The cop says to the killer, “If you want her, you’ll have to go through me first!” and then the killer proceeds to drill through the dude’s chest and into the chick.  We also get a drill to the eye, but I just wish some of the other kills were just as juicy.

 

Sure, the flick has it’s share of problems but the things I liked about Midnight Movie narrowly outweighed the things I didn’t.  If only the last fifteen minutes weren’t a complete wash, Midnight Movie would’ve landed into Three Star territory.  Overall, I still liked it better than the similarly themed Popcorn. 

THE ADVENTURES OF HERCULES (1985) ** ½

This sequel opens up with a Superman 2 style credits sequence that features glowing white credits that fly towards the audience while we’re treated to highlights from the first Hercules movie (Herc battling giant wind-up toys, turning into the Amazing Colossal Man, etc.).  Like Superman 2, The Adventures of Hercules was filmed back to back with the original and then split up into two parts for maximum profits.  But whereas Superman 2 was a worthy sequel, matching the power, heart, and fun of it’s predecessor, The Adventures of Hercules doesn’t quite live up to the inspired lunacy of the first film.

 

Four gods rebel against Zeus and hide his “Seven Mighty Thunderbolts”.  (By the way, “Seven Mighty Thunderbolts” would make a great name for a Kung Fu movie.)  Since Zeus is now powerless, that means the moon will crash into the Earth.  Two chicks track down Hercules (Lou Ferrigno) and get him to find the Thunderbolts and save the world.  To complicate matters, the gods have brought the evil Minos (William Berger) back to life who uses the power of science and a deadly Ice Sword to fight Hercules.  (Hey, he used a Fire Sword in the first movie and lost, so it’s only logical he’d return with an Ice Sword in this one.)

 

The first Hercules was a dumb, campy, and fun flick.  This one is mostly just dumb and campy.  I will say that Hercules does battle with some sort of monster every five or ten minutes so you don’t have to worry about it being boring or anything.  Throughout the course of the flick Hercules fights a Chewbacca rip-off monster, Slime People, Glowing People, a Medusa knockoff, a “Fire Monster” (which doesn’t look anything like fire, just a bunch of negative scratches), Amazon women, and a Spider Princess.  The funniest part comes in the end when Hercules and Minos turn into “pure energy”, which means they look like living neon signs.  If this wasn’t goofy enough for ya, Herc turns into a glowing gorilla and Minos becomes a fluorescent T. Rex and they recreate the dinosaur battle from King Kong, except they both look like animated Colorforms or some shit.

 

I can’t really recommend this movie to ya’ll but it definitely has it’s moments of WTF insanity.  It’s not as consistently entertaining or laugh out loud hilarious as the first flick, but what were you expecting?  I mean by the time Hercules turns huge-ified and blocks the moon from colliding with the Earth, you have to sorta admit that it’s pretty tight.

 

AKA:  Hercules 2.

INTERMEDIO (2005) **

A quartet of amateur drug dealers led by Edward Furlong make a big score inside an underground tunnel on the Mexican border.  Unbeknownst to them, Steve Railsback is in control of some evil spirits who protect his massive marijuana stash.  Railsback sends his ganja ghosts to kill the intruders, which is kinda easy to do since they quickly get lost in the tunnels.

 

Intermedio has better than average production values for a movie from The Asylum.  The acting is serviceable (Amber Benson gives probably the best performance as the hot chick on crutches), the plot is sorta unique, and the special effects don’t look like complete shit.  The gore is decent too as we get a chain to the eye, finger chopping, people cut in half, axe to the back, screwdriver to the leg, a knife to the neck, and hand hacking.   

 

That doesn’t necessarily make it a good movie though.  The big stumbling block about the flick is that once the characters get lost in the tunnel, all they really do is yell and scream at each other; which is pretty annoying.  The flick also gets bogged down on several occasions as there are also way too many lulls in between the spirit attacks.  And like any Asylum movie, the flick has it’s share of unintentional laughs (like Railsback standing silently in the shadows fiddling around with Swarvoski crystals), but not nearly enough to make it worthwhile.

 

AKA:  The In Between.  AKA:  Dead and Dying.

THE VIDEO VACUUM HALL OF FAME

<I know you all are anxiously anticipating the upcoming Video Vacuum Awards for 2010, so I figured I’d throw you guys a bone by introducing The Video Vacuum Hall of Fame.  Enjoy…>

 

Welcome everybody to the first ever Video Vacuum Hall of Fame induction ceremony.  Every year from now on, I’ll be naming six people that best exemplify the pinnacle of greatness in their respective fields and place their name in the Video Vacuum Hall of Fame.  It is here that they will achieve celluloid immortality for all time.  Some people have won Oscars.  Others have their name on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Most would say that’s about the loftiest aspiration one could hope for.

 

I say… that’s kid’s stuff next to getting your name in the Video Vacuum Hall of Fame.  Once you’ve got your name in the VVHOF, you can do no wrong in my eyes.  You’re a “Made” man (or woman).  If your name is in the Video Vacuum Hall of Fame, then any movie that you’ve been in or directed is automatically worth watching just for the fact that your name is listed in the credits.  And that my friends is about the highest honor one could hope for.  So without further ado…

 

ACTION ICON:  CHARLES BRONSON

 

The first ever entrant into The Video Vacuum Hall of Fame is none other than Charles Bronson.  The first time I ever saw Bronson was in The Great Escape where he played the badass tunnel digger.  What was so intriguing about him was the fact that he could be a total badass but still be 100% human.  The part that perfectly captures this is when he’s in the tunnel and the power goes out and he freaks out.  Bronson quickly dropped these kinds of nuanced performances and turned into a more macho badass.  It’s funny because as great as the man was, he was considered box office poison in the US and had to get most of his acting gigs overseas.  While working in various potboilers in Italy, the press dubbed him as “The Great Stone Face” because he never moved a facial muscle.  When he returned to the States to make Death Wish in ‘74, the studio was worried that it would tank.  It actually became one of the biggest movies of the year and vindicated Bronson’s status as a leading man.  The 80’s saw Bronson working almost exclusively with Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus’ Cannon Films.  Most of these flicks were extremely farfetched and over the top.  And thank God for that.  In movies like Ten to Midnight, Kinjite:  Forbidden Subjects, and Death Wish 2, 3, and 4, Bronson kicked all kinds of cinematic ass and made it look easy.  I think I’ll best remember him though in his theatrical swan song; Death Wish 5:  The Face of Death.  How many 73 year olds do you know can kill mobsters with remote controlled soccer balls and cyanide laced canolli?  I mean how can you do that and NOT get elected into The Video Vacuum Hall of Fame?

 

SCREAM QUEEN:  LINNEA QUIGLEY

 

When I was ten years old, I rented Return of the Living Dead from the video store at least a dozen times.  Now if you asked me why, I would tell you that it was because I really liked zombie movies and that Return of the Living Dead was the best zombie movie ever made.  While that statement is 100% true, the real reason I rented that movie over and over again was to see Linnea Quigley dancing naked in a graveyard.  Yep, her cemetery striptease is one of the primary reasons why I’m a red-blooded heterosexual.  That right there would’ve been probably been enough reason to put her into the Hall of Fame but Linnea has given us so much more throughout the years.  How about the scene where she got impaled on the deer antlers in Silent Night, Deadly Night?  Or her seductive chainsaw dance in Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers?  And who could forget the unforgettable lipstick-in-the-nipple scene from Night of the Demons?  With an impressive resume that contains Fairy Tales, Graduation Day, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-A-Rama, and the immortal Nightmare Sisters, Linnea has set herself apart from the rest of the Scream Queen pack and earned her rightful place in The Video Vacuum Hall of Fame. 

 

HORROR LEGEND:  BELA LUGOSI

 

Bela Lugosi is Dracula.  No matter how many damn Twilight movies they make, when you think vampire; you have to think of Bela Lugosi standing on a decrepit stairway saying, “Listen to them… children of the night!  What music they make!”  If Bela had made no more movies after 1931’s Dracula, he still would be in The Video Vacuum Hall of Fame.  Luckily for us, the man was a workhorse.  After the major studios dropped him as a contract player, Bela starred in a string of cheapies that are just as memorable as some of his big budget stuff.  Who could forget the part in The Devil Bat where he splashes pheromone laced aftershave on his victims so that his gigantic trained bat would rip their throats out?  You don’t see George Clooney doing that sort of shit that’s for damn sure.  When Bela got REALLY desperate, he starred in a little sex change movie called Glen or Glenda.  He immediately went legendary with that one.  How many actors do you know can just sit in a chair and go on and on about “puppy dog tails and BIG FAT snails” and still seem like a total pimp?  Bela Lugosi muthafucker…. That’s who!  Of course, Bela’s final role was as the “star” in Glen or Glenda’s director Ed Wood’s magnum opus Plan 9 from Outer Space.  The fact that he died before filming actually began and still got top billing is a testament to the man’s star power.  Still, Lugosi would forever be known as Dracula to many of us.  Old Bela knew that, and even had himself buried in his Dracula cape.  Rest in Peace my man and welcome to The Video Vacuum Hall of Fame.

 

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD:  JASON VORHEES

 

Out of all the iconic horror figures to come out of the 80’s, Jason has been the most durable.  The Nightmare on Elm Street series may have better directors, heftier budgets, and overall more imagination, but you have to hand it to the Friday the 13th people because they give you the exact same thing (teens having sex and getting killed) over and over again and we still eat it up.  Much of the Fridays’ success comes from it’s poster child, Jason Vorhees.  Now Jason is a bit on the shy side because he almost always wears his trademark hockey mask, but I’m sure he’ll be flattered to accept this award.  I mean here’s a guy that definitely DESERVES an award for killing no less than 150 people in the course of 12 movies.  And here’s the kicker folks:  Jason doesn’t even physically kill anybody in Parts 1, 5, and 9, so that’s some impressive shit.  Through the years Jason has mainly relied on his trusty machete to do away with the teenage scum of Camp Crystal Lake, but he’s also used ice picks, knives, hammers, spears, meat cleavers, knitting needles, spear guns, hack saws, corkscrews, axes, weed whackers, and of course, the immortal sleeping bag.  And that’s not even including his more “hands on” approach when he crushes people’s heads, snaps their necks, or literally knocks their block off with his bare hands.  Jason’s gotten as good as he’s given though and survived drowning, a machete to the shoulder, an axe to the face, a machete to the face, an outboard motor to the face, and even toxic waste.  After all that; the man still keeps coming back for more.  He’s even died at the box office several times (Parts 8-10 tanked) and came back from that.  It just goes to show, you can’t keep a good slasher down.

 

LEGENDARY FILMMAKER:  ROGER CORMAN

 

Producer/director Roger Corman won an Honorary Oscar last year.  Now that he’s got this Legendary Filmmaker Award from The Video Vacuum; he can die a happy man.  Perhaps no other filmmaker (except for maybe Ed Wood) is more famous for his thriftiness than his actual artistic skill.  I mean you’ve got to love Corman’s why-should-we-make-one-decently-budgeted-movie-when-we-can-make-three-low-budget-ones-for-the-same-price attitude.  It’s thinking like that that gets you into The Video Vacuum Hall of Fame.  Now Corman’s penny-pinching ways has resulted in some pretty horrible films (She Gods of Shark Reef, anyone?) but more often than not, the man strikes cinematic gold.  Not content to stick with one particular genre, Corman has done westerns (Gunslinger), sci-fi (The Day the World Ended), period pictures (Machine-Gun Kelly), comedies (The Little Shop of Horrors), and drama (The Intruder) and put his unique stamp on all of them.  As a producer he ushered in many of the drive-in crazes we take for granted like the Nurse movie, the Women in Prison picture, and the Mutant Rape flick.  More than anything though, Corman should be revered for giving so many future famous people their start.  Imagine what kind of a world it would be if Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Nicholson, and Martin Scorsese never got into the movie business.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in a world without Roger Corman.

 

VISIONARY GURU:  JOE BOB BRIGGS

 

I was too young to remember the late night local horror movie host fad, but I was just the right age to catch Joe Bob Briggs’ Drive-In Theater on The Movie Channel.  Later, he moved over to TNT and hosted MonsterVision for several years.  I watched both programs religiously and continuously kick myself for not taping all of them.  If anyone made an impact on my movie-watching tastes, it was Joe Bob Briggs.  Not only did he introduce me to legitimate classics like The Killer, but he also gave me a glimpse of cult classics like Frankenhooker and not-so classics like Superbeast.  Of course Joe Bob got his start at The Dallas Slimes-Herald as the resident drive-in movie critic and his work there went on to be collected in Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In and Joe Bob Goes Back to the Drive-In.  These two books are a must-have for any serious horror film aficionado.  I can’t stress enough that Joe Bob’s work made me want to write about cult movies for a living.  (Well… if you count periodically getting free movies in the mail “a living”.)  Joe Bob’s unmistakable wit, one-of-a-kind knack for satire, and freewheeling spirit is infectious.  He is without a doubt the closest this century will come to Mark Twain. I can’t think of a better inductee to The Video Vacuum Hall of Fame as a Visionary Guru; someone who blazed the trail for me to do what I do.

 

Well, that’s it folks.  I hope you all enjoyed the ceremony.  For those of you who didn’t get inducted, there’s always next year.  And besides, there’s a good chance you’ll be featured in The Video Vacuum’s newest upcoming feature:  Legends of the Silver Screen.


ASSASSINATION (1987) ** ½

Since I just inducted Charles Bronson into The Video Vacuum Hall of Fame, I thought it was a good idea to review a film of his that I hadn’t reviewed yet.  Problem was I didn’t know which one to review.  Luckily, serendipity intervened as his 1987 effort; Assassination was on Showtime not long after the induction ceremony.

 

Bronson stars as a Secret Service agent who is assigned to protect the bitchy feminist First Lady (Jill Ireland).  Someone is hellbent on killing her and it’s up to Big Chuck to stop them.  To elude the assassins, Chuck takes her cross-country and the two eventually form a mutual respect for one another.

 

Assassination is a relatively minor, yet mostly watchable Charles Bronson film.  It’s notable for reuniting the star with Death Hunt director Peter Hunt and pairing him with his wife Jill Ireland for the sixteenth and final time.  It was a Golan-Globus production, but unlike most of their collaborations with Bronson, this one is painfully low on random craziness, excessive violence, and unintended hilarity. 

 

There is this one scene though where Bronson drives around on a motorcycle that has machine gun turrets attached to it and shoots bazookas at his potential perp.  In my opinion, he isn’t a very “Secret” Secret Serviceman.  That scene, nutty as it is, sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the rather sedate surroundings.

 

Hunt is a capable and competent director.  He gives the flick a glossy and classy look, something that a lot of Bronson’s 80’s flicks lacked.  This is after all, the guy who directed On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, so we know he can balance action and romance pretty well.  Well, Assassination is sure as shit no On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but it does show us a softer side of the Bronson persona than we’re used to seeing.  Now do we necessarily NEED a “softer” Charles Bronson?  No way Jose Canseco.    

 

Because of the softer edge and PG-13 rating, Assasination isn’t as much fun as a lot of Bronson’s 80’s classics.  I also think the flick should lose points too because Bronson’s character is named “Killion” and doesn’t get to “Kill” very many people.  It is still nevertheless a not-bad action flick that should appease easy to please Bronson fans.

 

Chuck naturally gets the best line of the movie after he bangs a hot Asian chick:  “I don’t want to die from a terminal orgasm!”

 

AKA:  The President’s Assassin.