April 21st, 2011

STRANGE BEHAVIOR (1981) **

A bunch of kids in a small town sign up to be experimented on for extra cash at the weird institute up on the hill.  (Because every small town has a weird institute, right?)  Of course, the experiments have all been designed to turn the kids into homicidal psychos.  It’s up to the laid back sheriff (Michael Murphy, from Batman Returns) to save his son (Dan Shor) from becoming the next mind-controlled maniac.

 

Strange Behavior opens with a lame scene where a dumbass gets killed while making shadow puppets.  The killer slowly stalks behind him, casting a giant shadow on the wall before putting a knife into the dude’s head.  My question is how come the guy couldn’t see the killer’s shadow on the wall?  It was mere inches away from his damn shadow puppet!  Then again, if a grown ass adult is busy making shadow puppets, he probably deserves to get a knife to the noggin.

 

This scene gets the movie off on the wrong foot.  The rest of Strange Behavior is certainly strange alright, but the tone is also wildly inconsistent.  It reminded me a bit of Dead and Buried, another horror movie that has some really good ideas yet is never able to quite make all its elements gel.  Strange Behavior was released during the height of the slasher movie craze and it tries in vain to fuse the elements of the slasher film into the mad scientist genre.  The results aren’t altogether uninteresting, just a bit misguided and goofy.

 

Still, the flick has a couple of memorable scenes.  There’s this one part where a guy in a Tor Johnson mask stabs people to death that is a good slice (no pun intended) of 80’s slasher coolness.  We also get a cool bit where some kid gets hacked up in a bathtub and a rather squirmy hypodermic to the eyeball scene.  Mostly though, there’s a whole lot of filler and not enough killer.

 

The cast do what they can, but it’s still not enough to salvage the film.  Murphy and Shor don’t exactly make a convincing father and son pair; especially considering the uncomfortable scene where Shor is a walking around naked in front of his daddy-o.  If I was that kid’s father I would’ve told him to put some goddamn clothes on!  And while Louise Fletcher isn’t bad, you wish her role was more substantial than just being able to recite some much needed exposition at a crucial point of the movie.  Probably the best performance comes from the crusty old Scott Brady as a bitter detective on the case.

 

Director Michael Laughlin’s ambitions kinda exceeded his talent on this one.  Although Strange Behavior has some good ideas (it was co-written by Bill Condon of Candyman 2 fame) and a moody Tangerine Dream score, it just never amounts to a whole heck of a lot.  Then again, if you ever wanted to watch Ram from Tron piss blood, knock your socks off.

 

AKA:  Dead Kids.  AKA:  Human Experiments.  AKA:  Shadowlands.  AKA:  Small Town Massacre.

VAMPIRE GIRL VS. FRANKENSTEIN GIRL (2009) ***

Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl opens with an AWESOME bit of carnage as Vampire Girl fights some zombie bitches.  She cuts their heads off and they go spinning through the air and their skulls land on top of one another, making them look like a demented totem pole.  This one scene probably has as much blood as Evil Dead 2 did in its entire running time.  The rest of the flick never quite manages to top this wonderful scene, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t try.

 

Basically, Vampire Girl turns this one dork into a Vampire Guy because she wants him to be her boyfriend.  This pisses off another chick who wants to make time with him.  When Vampire Girl kills off her competition, her mad scientist father brings her back to life.  Now, Frankenstein Girl fights Vampire Girl for the affections of their mutual crush.

 

This movie isn’t always on target but when it hits, it’s usually a bullseye.  I think my favorite non-gore soaked parts of the film revolved around the school’s hilarious extracurricular clubs.  There’s a “Wrist-Cutting After School Club” where the Emo girls sit around slitting their wrists with boxcutters.  There’s also a “Super Dark Girl Club” where the Asian girls dye their skin so they look black.  This scene is so politically incorrect that it achieves brilliance.  It’s a funny commentary on the lengths some non-black high school kids will go to in order to look, sound, and act black.

 

If the movie had been nothing but a series of run-ins between the bizarre after school clubs, it could’ve been pretty spectacular.  It’s a lot funnier than the stuff involving Vampire Girl fighting Frankenstein Girl, that’s for sure.  Not only does it take forever for them to battle; it’s also something of a bust when they finally do get around to slugging it out.

 

There is still enough cool stuff here for me to recommend Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl to you good folks.  Although the flick was based on a comic book, it feels closer in tone to a live action anime and the over the top comedy segments (especially the scenes that take place at the school) are great.  The gore is juicy too as lots of body parts go flying (at one point, Frankenstein Girl gets equipped with a detachable boomerang arm).  I also dug the scene where the boyfriend becomes a vampire and when he looks at his classmates, all he can see is their pulsating veins.  There’s also a cool part where Vampire Girl’s head opens up like a Pez dispenser to devour her prey.

 

Naturally, there is a gratuitous set-up for a sequel at the conclusion of the film.  I actually wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel.  Now that all the characters have been introduced, they can cut through all the rigmarole and get right to the good stuff.

HUMAN LANTERNS (1982) **

Lung is pissed that Tan always wins top prize in his town’s lantern making contest.  This year, after Tan publicly insults him, Lung goes out of his way to make sure he wins.  Lung hires a hermit, who happens to be the world’s leading lantern maker to create the end-all-be-all lantern for him.  This dude happens to hold a grudge against Lung so he goes around skinning his family members alive and using their skin to make his famous lanterns.  In the end, Lung and Tan put their differences aside to put a stop to his murderous ways.

 

The first half of this movie is non-stop bitching between Lung and Tan about who makes the best lanterns.  If you can stomach that mess, you’ll be treated to some OK fight sequences and a handful of pretty decent skin ripping scenes.  There’s also a dude that goes around killing chicks while wearing a mask that looks like a skull sporting a Leon Russell hairdo and beard that's pretty cool.

 

Overall, Human Lanterns is a muddled mix of martial arts and mysticism.  It’s not really a horror movie, but more of a period drama with some horror elements added in for seasoning.  While the flick has an occasional cool scene, it’s not quite enough to make the whole thing worthwhile.  Don’t leave a light on for this one.

 

AKA:  Human Skin Lanterns.

PERVERSION STORY (1973) **

I can’t believe it’s almost been two whole years since I last reviewed a Lucio Fulci movie.  Since I’ve seen about damn near all of his horror films, I decided to get this skin flick of his off Netflix.  Long story short; old Lucio is a lot better at filming zombies eating guts than he is people knocking the boots.

 

Perversion Story follows the exploits of this smug doctor that’s cheating on his asthmatic wife.  While he’s away in Vegas with his mistress, his wife winds up kicking the proverbial bucket.  In her will, she leaves him two million, so he grieves by going to strip clubs.  This kind of behavior leads detective John Ireland to think he might’ve actually killed his wife and has him arrested.  Predictably, the two-timing jackass has to try and clear his name.

 

This flick isn’t bad but it gets bogged down whenever our hero isn’t out cruising for poontang.  Although Perversion Story starts off just fine, once the cops start snooping around, all the fun fizzles out of the film.  By the time it limps along to its weak conclusion, it’s hard to really care.

 

What’s most disappointing about Perversion Story is that there’s nothing really perverse about it.  He cheats on his wife, cheats on his mistress, and gets framed for murder.  Big deal.  You can see that on Lifetime for free.  Minus the titties that is.

 

Fulci does an alright job on the naughty stuff I suppose.  I could’ve done without the arty scenes that take place from the bed sheet’s POV though.  Dirty Harry once said that a man’s got to know his limitations.  Hopefully after this film, Fulci learned his.

 

AKA:  One on Top of the Other.