Sunday, May 13, 2018

Parasite

Parasite (1982)

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In the dystopian near-future of 1992, atomic fallout has destroyed America's major cities. Orphans are forced to do labour in the Suburbs for The Merchants, a group of suit-wearing, sportscar driving elites. Outside of the suburbs, the countryside is a blasted wasteland where nothing grows, "sickos" roam, and the few remaining people use silver as the only currency. None of that has anything to do with the plot of this movie, which follows a scientist (Robert Glaudini) who accidentally infects himself with a parasite of his own making and like... tries to find a cure and stuff.

This movie inspired a raging conflict within me because the world it's set in, while extremely derivative of much better films, is really fucking cool. It's sci fi, it's horror, it might be a western, it's occasionally really funny (I think intentionally?) - like all of the characters in the town that buddy ends up in are obsessed with lemons for some reason - seriously, one guy even takes a bite out of a lemon and eats it like it's a fucking apple. There's a fucking great scene at the beginning where the Robert Glaudini "rescues" this woman from being raped by a wasteland savage only to find out it's kinky roleplay and get attacked by her.

It also has a few moments of decent storytelling. For example, early in the movie, the main guy is wrestling with the boyfriend of the aforementioned woman and rolls him towards a rattlesnake which strikes and incapacitates the guy, allowing Robert Glaudini to get the upper hand and kill buddy. He uses this same move at the end, rolling the villain (James Davidson) towards the parasite/monster/thing with similar results. I'm going to go out on a limb and call this clever foreshadowing.

The secondary antagonist (Luca Bercovici), the head of a group of wasteland orphans who escaped forced-labour in the suburbs and has the Merchant logo heavy-handedly branded on his wrist has a surprising depth of character. He goes from harassing Demi Moore and the local shopkeeper (Al Fann), and robbing and abducting the main guy, to feeling personal responsibility for the lives and deaths of his gang members, and sacrificing himself to save the shopkeeper from the primary antagonist at the end. His development felt very natural, and he ended up being the only character I gave any fucks about in the movie.

I did genuinely enjoy this movie, although to be fair I took a break in the middle to watch Jeepers Creepers 3 (which I refuse to review on principle) and then re-watch Bram Stoker's Dracula to scrub the memory of Jeepers Creepers 3 out of my mind, and then go to sleep because I drank a fuck ton of wine. I think if viewed the whole movie in one sitting it might have been intolerably boring, coz there are long stretches of absolutely nothing happening. So... take my approval with a grain of salt I guess is what I'm saying.
Look how cute it is (Source)

The monster, a giant leech-thing designed by Stan Winston, was probably the best thing in the movie and goes to prove that Stan Winston was down for anything at a certain point.

It's moderately gory and the gore effects are passable. There was even one scene where the parasite suddenly busts out of somebody's head which did me a startle so, yknow, that was effective. The villain died an almost unnecessarily horrible death, getting attacked by the monster, then caught in an explosion, then burning to death.

All of that said, Parasite is not without its downsides. First of all, it was directed and produced by Charles Band, whose movies I vowed to never watch again after suffering through The Lurking Fear and Ghost Town for Paths of Glory. However, I didn't realize that he was behind this particular movie until I was almost ten minutes deep and committed to watching the stupid thing. It bears the cheapness, inanity, and general incompetence I have come to expect from his movies.

The whole thing is basically just a bunch of shit from better movies - the monsters from Alien, Rabid, and that one episode of Star Trek, and the setting from A Boy and His Dog and Mad Max - poorly recreated and haphazardly slapped together.

For fuck sakes (source)
While the monster and gore effects are acceptable, the makeup effects are really not. The parasite sucks the life out of people, I guess, and turns them into grey, wrinkly bullshit that I'm pretty sure I could recreate in about twenty minutes in my bathroom. At a certain point it's not even worth having makeup effects, and this is that point.

It was made during one of the 3D crazes of the last century - this issue is more of a personal taste thing (unlike my other, completely objective criticisms of this movie) because I fucking hate 3D. The whole point of it is to put you "more in the movie" or whatever, but it does the exact opposite, drawing attention to itself. Like there's this part where a guy gets impaled on a pipe and his blood starts running out of the pipe (which, if I remember correctly, is ripped off of Tourist Trap, also produced by Charles Band, and actually a good movie so maybe I'm being too hard on the guy) which should have been really cool but it was all weird and out of focus because of 3D fuckery.

The writing is probably the most offensive part of the movie. Not just the dialogue, which is so bad it borders on disturbing, but also structural elements. Like when the villain is following the main guy through the desert, he hits all the same stops buddy went to but in a different order. That doesn't even make fucking sense. And when the main guy finally figures out how to kill the parasite inside him using high frequency sound waves, there's no explanation of how he came to that conclusion. He's just like "sound, that's the key!" out of nowhere.

Also, did I mention Demi Moore is in this movie? She plays the local lemon farmer in one of, if not her first, leading roles and she's really fucking bad. But not as bad as Robert Glaudini who is only there to read his lines with the emotional range of a god damn cabbage and sweat a lot. Honestly, if he had put a modicum of effort into his role this movie probably would have been at least 12% better.

Overall, though I enjoyed this movie for some reason unknown even to me, it's a discordant, derivative mess and probably not worth watching for regular, sane people.

Merits
- Dream/flashback sequence has trippy Mario Bava blue and red lighting (+1)
- Lemons. (+2)
- Adorable tarantula (+1)
- Weaponized rattlesnake (+1)
- Stan Winston was involved (+1)
- Ray guns rule (+1)
- Awesome 80's wasteland punks (+2)
- Hand-severin' action (+1)
Total: (+10)

Demerits
- Poor lab safety - seriously, the only reason the main character becomes infected in the first place is because he's got these super nasty parasites in a fucking petri dish and gets jostled by somebody in the lab and they get spilled on him. This entire movie could have been prevented by a strip of fucking parafilm (-1)
- Movie can't decide what it wants to rip off (-2)
- Charles fucking Band (-1)
- Originally in 3D (-3)
- Terrible, terrible writing (-3)
- Terrible, terrible acting (-2)
Total: (-12)
Final Score: -2 stars

Directed by: Charles Band.  Written by: Alan J. Adler, Michael Shoob, Frank Levering.  Starring: Robert Glaudini, Demi Moore, Luca Bercovici, James Davidson, Tom Villard, Vivian Blaine.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Bat

The Bat (1959)

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I'm alive! The last month or so of school last semester was pretty intense so I sacrificed all activities except for the barest minimum of bodily functions in favour of study. But now I'm done and back to talk about old movies that nobody gives a shit about!

This week in Old Movies Nobody Gives a Shit About, The Bat is about a mystery writer (Agnes Moorehead) who rents a spooky old mansion to write her next novel in, and ends up living there with her made (Lenita Lane). Meanwhile, there is a vicious murderer known only as "The Bat" on the prowl throughout the countryside. Also meanwhile, there is a rash of rabid bat attacks in the area. Also also meanwhile, somebody robs the local bank and something something the money is probably in the spooky old house. There is altogether way too much shit going on in this movie.

It works though. This movie is actually pretty fun. It's a pretty generic old school mystery but the dryly funny dialogue, mainly from Agnes Moorhead, Lenita Lane, and the butler/chauffeur (John Sutton). It does veer occasionally into old timey cliches (e.g., at one point buddy tells his doctor "everybody knows I've got a bad heart" - yes, presumably your doctor also knows this so telling him is a little extraneous), but even that I found rather delightful.

It also features perhaps the most evil throwaway character I've ever seen in a movie. This old guy who works at the bank (Harvey Stephens) steals a whole bunch of... bank shit? Like... stocks... or whatever. Anyway, he frames his coworker (Mike Steele) at whose wedding he was best man and whom he talks about with a paternal affection. Then he tries to coerce his doctor (Vincent Price) into killing an innocent bystander and mangling the body to help him fake his death and escape. And he's not even the main villain. He dies unceremoniously ten minutes after he's been introduced.

The actual main villain is The Bat, I guess? Also kind of Vincent Price. The movie wants you to think that Vincent Price is The Bat but makes it glaringly obvious within the first few scenes who the killer really is (spoiler alert: it's the police chief). The Bat dresses in what looks to be a solid black morph suit and has these badass claws on his fingers that he uses to rip his victims' throats out which is brutal as all hell. I fully support The Bat as a '50s movie villain.

The best part of the movie, though, is hands down the banter between Agnes Moorhead and Lenita Lane. Both of their characters are great, their dialogue fucks*, and they have so much chemistry together. Agnes Moorehead's character is smart, tough, and capable - to the point that one of the other female characters says that she doesn't want her to think she's a silly girl - which is unusual for the time and really cool.

That said, towards the end of the movie she does go all damsel in distress and almost dies in an airtight vault because she can't move a poster off the wall to find the control switch for the door. Throughout the movie, the characters behave really inconsistently, going from being terrified to be alone to just moseying out of their room unaccompanied for the sole purpose of moving the plot along. It's frustrating because otherwise it would have bordered on greatness.

Generally, the movie fails in that it falls way too deep into movie logic. Characters just do stuff, and things just happen for no reason other than "movie said so". Like when the evil, evil, evil bank guy is about to rope his doctor into his scheme, he gets distracted by the entire forest they're camping in being on fire, allowing Vincent Price to get the one-up on him. And like, that's not really ever addressed. I know that in real life, shit just happens for seemingly no reason, but like they say, if a gun goes off in a movie it had better be there?

In similar fashion, character after character gets introduced only to become Bat fodder, or disappear - the bank guy who gets framed turns up in one scene at the beginning of the movie, he gets mentioned a few times in the middle because his wife (Elaine Edwards) befriends Agnes Moorehead, and I think maybe they say something at the end about him being released, but he more or less drops off the face of the earth.

Furthermore, him getting released following the death of The Bat makes exactly zero sense. The whole reason he's in custody is because the only two people who have access to the vaults or whatever are him and the evil, evil, evil bank guy. After The Bat turns out to be the police chief, they're like "oh, I guess he took all the money and hid it in this old house" - that doesn't make any sense because a) he obviously didn't know where in the house the money was hidden and b) he would have needed one of the two bank guys to let him into the vaults and the prints on the vault door belonged to the good bank guy so, like, what the fuck? What kind of horse shit judiciary system were they running back in those days?

Overall, it's an above average '50s murder mystery, and I would give my right ovary to see a Scooby Doo style mystery show with the two female main characters roaming around solving shit.

Merits
- Swingin' jazz theme song (+1)
- Vincent Price appears in the film (+1)
- Old timey 50s dialogue (+1)
- Agnes Moorehead & Lenita Lane (+3)
- The Bat's finger claws are super cool (+1)
- Real bats! They're adorable! (+1)
- Snappy dialogue (+1)
Total: (+9)

Demerits
- Sub-plots a-go-go (-1)
- The Bat's finger claws are super impractical (-1)
- Shit just happens (-1)
- So many characters (-1)
- The Mystery is really obvious (-1)
Total: (-5)
Final Score: +4

Written and Directed by: Crane Wilbur, based on the play The Bat by Mary Roberts Rinehart & Avery Hopwood, itself based on the novel The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart.  Starring: Agnes Moorehead, Lenita Lane, Vincent Price, Elaine Edwards, Darla Hood, Gavin Gordon, John Sutton.

* Am I using that expression right?

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Brain Eaters

The Brain Eaters (1958)

Image Source
A mysterious cone is found outside of a sleepy Illinois town, prompting a UFO investigation by a senator (Jack Hill) and some type of scientist (Edwin Nelson). Meanwhile, small, fuzzy-looking parasites are attaching themselves to prominent people in the town, such as the mayor (Orville Sherman), the sheriff (Greigh Phillips), and the mayor's secretary (Joanna Lee).

I was concerned that, because this movie's run time is only 60 minutes, I wouldn't have enough to say about it for a full review, but its perplexing incompetence yields more than enough material. It was like they wanted to make a rip-off of Invasion of the Body Snatchers but they totally missed the point of that movie.

I'm pretty sure the filmmakers were trying to make, if not a good movie, at least an interesting movie because there are a couple scenes which looked like they were trying to do something different. For example, there's one scene where every single shot is a dutch angle which, while not at all aesthetically pleasing, is at least experimental? There's another scene that's shot from the point-of-view of one of the parasites, which again, isn't good per se but suggests that maybe the filmmakers thought that they were being artistic.

There's a couple of weird, shady looking dudes walking around with a big ol' Loc-Nar glowing orb through the middle of the movie that I guess that they're using to transport brain parasites to put on people. It doesn't seem like it belongs in this movie because it's actually pretty cool and creepy.  The only function they serve is to infect the sheriff and the secretary because they don't do anything else and their existence is never addressed (or even resolved) by the other characters.

The other thing that was cool was that towards the end of the movie it turns out that the parasites are not actually from space, as they appear to be, but from deep within the Earth, having lain dormant since the Carboniferous. That's different, I can dig that. Although they don't give an adequate explanation for why they're there, how they survived, what the giant metal cone that they used to access the surface is, or how the old professor guy figured out that the parasites are prehistoric.

Most of the movie is narrated, I think by the mayor's son (Alan Frost) although I also think one part is narrated by somebody else, which just screams incompetence. They clearly didn't film enough material to adequately explain who the characters were because a lot of the narration is just telling the viewer who people are, what they're doing, where they came from, and where they went. It's also apparent that the sound was bad or non-existent for a few scenes because the narration switches from providing background information to describing what is happening on screen and what the characters were saying to each other, making it feel somewhat like a children's program.

The narration is particularly heavy early in the movie, and the scenes that do have dialogue are weird and arbitrary. Like there's a shot where the senator guy tells somebody unseen to turn on a light. That was important enough to be in the movie and have dialogue. This strengthens my argument that they recorded shit audio for a lot of stuff and the scenes that did have decent audio ended up in the movie with audible dialogue for whatever reason.

Not only were the people on set useless, so were the people in charge of post-production. The editing is extremely sloppy - there's one jarring scene where the two angles of the same guy are obviously from two different rooms and haphazardly jammed together in a godless mockery of coherence. There's also the classic outdoor scene containing shots taken during the day and night, the twist in this movie is that they didn't even try to hide it whatsoever.

Basically vampire tribbles (Source)
The monsters (and I use that term very loosely in this context) are little spongey fuzzy pompoms with giant fangs on them. They're often referred to as being attached to their victims neck, controlling their central nervous system for reasons unknown, but are never shown doing so.I assume this has less to do with the artistic decision to leave them a mystery and more to do with either straight up forgetting to film close-ups, or having whatever happened to the sound happen to the footage on a few occasions.

So the movie was technically incompetent, but what about the writing and story? Was that any good? If you're in a hurry and want a short answer to that question, it's "no".

The dialogue crosses into the so-bad-it's-good territory. One of the scientist characters says "I don't know" in response to every question which I honestly feel like is the the motto of the whole movie. The science dude explains that the parasites are like snakes in that if you "cut a snake in half, the two pieces go off in different directions" which I am here to tell you is 100% not true, please do not do this.

The love interest character gets taken over by a brain slug while she is sleeping (unlike the male characters who get possessed at work so they get to be in uniform) so she fills the "zombified woman in filmy nightgown" cliche. This particular trope always amuses me because I place myself in these movies and like to imagine roaming around the countryside wearing the oversized Alpine Lager t-shirt and pair of men's boxers I wear to bed.  Anyway, the whole point of even including this cliche in a movie is so that the character can White Zombie around at night and look really creepy and cool, which doesn't happen in this movie so what the fuck was the point of it.

Towards the end of the movie, a guy just appears out of the metal cone somehow which never really gets explained. They then say that the cone is attached to a tunnel, despite explaining earlier that the interior tube was empty and a loop, and then there's a wizard down there? I'm not even joking, there is a dude in a robe with a long white beard who barely gives the characters any information and then promptly disappears never to be seen or mentioned again.

The characters routinely use 50s Movie Logic (e.g., firing a hand gun into a hole in the cone to demonstrate that there is a spiral tube on the inside), and jump to some major conclusions about what is happening in the movie to make the plot move forward. For example, the scientist guy explains that the things are parasites which can control their hosts central nervous system after being told that one of them had two appendages lodged in the mayor's neck, and one of the characters deduces that the cone is the fuel tank of a space craft that's still orbiting the planet for no reason other than it just occurred to him - which interestingly turns out to be wrong in a rare example of a hunch not being right in a shitty old sci-fi movie.

Despite the characters jumping ahead to provide crucial information that they have no right to have access to, it's difficult to tell what is happening, and why. The plot is not difficult to follow and I guess the movie goes out of its way to explain the minutiae of what is happening, but the why is the big issue. I didn't feel like there was ever a substantial reason why anything in the movie happened. Why did the brain slugs come out of the earth? Why did they make the movie?

Honestly, at a certain point I was just watching to see if the "Leonard Nemoy" listed in the credits was Leonard Nimoy. Spoiler: it was, but he's basically unrecognizable in wizard get-up. I only recognized him by voice because a) I watch Star Trek a lot and b) I was waiting for him.

Subtle (Source)
I think the most laughable thing about the movie is that when the parasites are attached to humans, they create a large, pulsating lump on their back under their clothes which ought to be really easy to detect and yet people keep getting surprised when other people turn out to be controlled by the brain slugs.

Don't get me wrong, I actually enjoyed watching this movie. It's got the same endearing quality that Ed Wood movies have. It's also, somehow, better than some other 50s sci-fi flicks I've subjected myself to (Invasion of the Saucer Men in particular comes to mind). This at least was short enough that it wasn't incredibly boring. The story progressed unevenly, but mercifully quickly.

All in all I wouldn't recommend it by any means and I probably wouldn't watch it again but I'm not upset that I watched it this time. It's an interesting tribute to human incompetence, and it's equally interesting that it has survived to be consumed by me sixty years after it was released. Ultimately though, the most interesting part of the movie is the poster.

Merits
- A surgeon sparks up a dart in a hospital waiting room (+1)
- Leonard Nimoy appears in the film (+1)
- Parasites come from the Carboniferous (+1)
- A dude gets punched in the dick (+1)
- 50s Movie Logic (+1)
Total: (+5)



Demerits 

- Dog slaughter (-1)
- Narration needed to explain the action (-3)
- Shitty editing (-2)
- Character leaves a Bunsen burner just on (-1)
- Shortcuts in storytelling make the movie seem longer than it is (-1)
- Possessed woman in white filmy negligee doesn't get to do anything (-1)
- People and things appear out of nowhere (-3)
- The movie gets resolved at the last minute for no reason (-1)
Total: ( -13)
Final Score: -8

Directed by: Bruno VeSota.  Written by: Gordon Urquhart. Starring: Edwin Nelson, Alan Frost, Jack Hill, Joanna Lee, Jody Fair, Greigh Phillips, Orville Sherman, Leonard Nimoy.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Self Defense

Self Defense (1983) (AKA Siege, AKA The Night Warriors)


Image Source
Set during the Halifax police strike of 1981, Self Defense is about a guy (Terry-David Despres) who escapes a massacre at a gay bar and has to hide in a nearby apartment from a fascist gang. The gang members lay siege to the apartment, and the residents end up having to creatively and violently defend themselves.

I had never heard of this movie until last week when my friend came up with it seemingly out of nowhere. I'm really glad that she did because this is definitely an underappreciated Canadian thriller, and still uncomfortably relevant now, thirty-five years after it was made.

It's very low budget, but the filmmakers obviously did the best they could with what was available to them. There's really only two complaints I have about the movie.

Complaint number one was the lighting quality. Sometimes the lighting was really cool, but most of the time it seemed altogether absent. Granted, I watched the movie on youtube so it's entirely possible that the transfer quality of that particular copy was really bad, but still, there were a few scenes that were incomprehensible due to not actually being able to see what was on the screen.

Complaint number two is that the two main characters (Tom Nardini and Brenda Bazinet) weren't that great. The secondary characters, including a weirdly well-armed greaser dude (Darel Haeny) and a legally blind dude with unusually good hearing (Jack Blum), were excellent and totally made the movie.

Everything else about the movie is great. It's really intense - there's an early scene where a bar full of people gets just fucking executed which, though minimalist, managed to be one of the most fucked up things I've seen in a movie recently. The pervasive sense of danger and uncertainty throughout the film broke through my usual apathy so that I was genuinely concerned about what was going to happen.

The setting was really clever, and I'm not just saying that because I have lived in Halifax for most of my life, although it was cool to see my home town in a movie, that doesn't happen very often. What's clever about it is that the police strike actually happened, it was a real thing, and the movie uses that as a backdrop to create tension and a sense of hopelessness. The reality of the setting makes the action much more immediate and believable - the characters have a legitimate reason to take things into their own hand because the police aren't going to come. This is something that legitimately could have happened.

The movie is reminiscent of a lot of siege/urban survival movies, like The Warriors, or Straw Dogs, or especially Assault on Precinct 13, having a lit, synthy, John Carpenter-esque soundtrack, it's different enough to be interesting in its own right and not feel derivative of those movies.

Furthermore, the ways that the protagonists defend themselves against the gang members are spectacularly inventive. They fashion a homemade rocket launcher at one point, which is just so fucking cool, they electrocute a guy, and set another guy on fire, there's a hunting bow involved. I'm a person who enjoys a certain amount of violence in movies and this was definitely satisfying on that front.

Normally I don't give a fuck about spoiling movies but I'm going to leave this one untold so you actually go watch this movie because the ending, holy shit, I have never been so shocked and devastated by a movie. The ending is perfectly appropriate for the movie but the fact that there weren't any objections to it, or if there were, not enough to get it cut from the film, boggles my mind.

It's fucking criminal that this movie isn't a Canadian cult classic, it has every right to be - according to my friend, it's getting a little bit of attention right now so hopefully it comes back and finally gets the recognition that it deserves.

It's up on youtube right now, although like I said, that quality isn't super. Apparently it can be bought on Amazon on VHS, which is something I will probably invest in whenever I get my VCR hooked up to something. 100% recommend for fans of home-defense thrillers, and low budget Canadian grease.

Merits
- Thematically dark (+1)
- Wicked soundtrack (+1)
- Actually thrilling (+1)
- Halifax! (+1)
- Reality! (+1)
- Fucking rocket launcher (+1)
- Good deaths (+2)
- The ending is seriously amazing (+1)
Total: (+9)

Demerits
- Visually dark (-1)
- Did Halifax have a gun problem in the 1980s? (-1)
Total: (-2)
Final Score: +7

Directed by: Paul Donovan, Maura O'Connell. Written by: Paul Donovan. Starring: Tom Nardini, Brenda Bazinet, Darel Haeny, Doug Lennox, Jack Blum, Terry-David Despr├ęs, Keith Knight.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Hercules in the Centre of the Earth

Ercole al Centro Della Terra (AKA Hercules in the Haunted World AKA Hercules vs. the Vampires) (1961)


Image Source
Hercules' girlfriend/fiance (?) (Leonora Ruffo) is under a spell that effectively turns her into a zombie. In order to restore her, Hercules (Reg Park) and his sidekicks (George Ardisson, Franco Giacobini) must travel to the underworld to steal a crystal. Meanwhile, Hercules' slutty friend falls in love with Persephone (Ida Galli), and also Hercules' girlfriend's uncle (Christopher Lee) is a vampire and trying to do some vampire thing. There's a lot of shit going on in this movie and very little of it is important.

I'd never heard of this movie before but it cropped up in the same youtube list as Night of the Twisters thus I was expecting it to be pretty bad. Imagine my delight when Mario Bava and Christopher Lee turned up in the opening credits. This turned out to be not only the best Hercules movie I've seen, but also the best Hercules movie I could imagine.

It's got that old school, totally over the top '60s aesthetic, plus the hilarity of an Italian film dub, plus the lush visuals of Mario Bava. All of these aspects are perfectly suited to epic myth, which exists outside of any normal reality.

The sets are cheap and crappy looking but it's almost impossible to notice when they're bathed in Bava's psychedelic light shows. Honestly, I wrote down in my notes that the sets were beautiful, then skipped back through the movie and realized "no they're not". What's beautiful are the pools of electric green, red, and yellow, sumptuous purple and blue. I've said this before about Blood and Black Lace but I felt like Mario Bava was making sweet love to my eyeballs with Hercules.

Similarly, the costumes and wigs were pretty bad for the most part, but that added to the fun, low budget aesthetic of the movie.

I'm impressed with how well the horror and sword-and-sandal fantasy genres mixed together. I guess at a certain point with this type of fantasy anything goes. Super strong dude? Alright. Immortal gods? Sure. Rock monster? Good enough. Vampires? Why not. But seriously, this is a Hercules movie with vampires in it and if that's not just the best thing that's happened to me today, I don't know what is. I've seen some horror elements incorporated into epic fantasy before (Conan has some pretty weird shit going on), but never to this extent. I can't say too much because Mario Bava is a fucking god but I kind of wish he had done even more genre bending weirdness.

Whoever came up with this thing deserves the Coked Up Movie Award for 1961 (Image Source)
Oh yeah, speaking of rock monsters, there's a rock monster in this thing. It just fucking shows up and waves its arms around like a dick and goes on about how he's going to stretch buddy because his bed is too long and squish other buddy because his bed is too short like some kind of demented Goldilocks and is all around the weirdest and most delightful thing I've seen in a movie since Box in Logan's Run.

The movie made me wish slightly goofy mythology inspired epic fantasy movies would make a comeback. We've got Xena, and we've got Conan, but those were both over a decade ago, I want something now. To be fair, every year there's at least one big budget epic fantasy movie that comes out and I don't go see it because the trailer looks atrocious, so it's possible that they're slipping by me. The ones I've seen (Exodus: Gods and Kings and the Conan remake) were both really shitty and entirely too self important. I want a movie that knows it's ridiculous and doesn't care. It's not too much to ask.

Like there's this part towards the end where Hercules and his friend have a really catty bro-fight which is just so silly but so appropriate in the context of Greco-Roman inspired fantasy (side note, I read The Iliad recently and Achilles is the whiniest bitch so I was totally down with temperamental heroes).

To expand that side note into a complaint, I'm taking a class on Greek and Roman mythology right now so the misattribution of character names (specifically Theseus, Telemachus, Jocasta, Persephone, and Medea) really annoyed the pedantic nerd in me. Furthermore, I've always taken special umbrage to the depiction of the underworld as Greek Hell. Even as a child the Disney version of Hercules pissed me off coz it turned Hades into a bad guy when like... he's just the dude that runs the underworld, leave him alone.

Another complaint is that there ought to have been, yknow, more monsters. If I'm being honest that's probably the thing that disappointed me the most. When I watch a movie like this, I expect there to be a fuck ton of monster, not just, like, one rock monster and a vampire and some zombies for some reason.

My only other issue with the movie is that the last third or quarter or so was either really confusing or not interesting enough to hold my attention, I'm honestly not sure which it was. I kinda zoned out for a bit because there was just so much stuff going on that didn't seem to have any real bearing on the plot of the movie, as irrelevant as the plot actually was.

That being said, though, this movie is absolutely fucking great, 100% would watch again. You can watch it too, and I highly recommend that you do, because the whole thing is on youtube for your immense viewing pleasure. If you like vampire movies, or sword-and-sandal movies, or weirdly dubbed Italian movies, or joy, you will not regret watching this movie.

Merits
- Mario Bava (+1)
- 1960s Star Trek music (+1)
- Shitty English dub (+1)
- Christopher Lee (+1)
- Vampires (+1)
- Whoever did the lights for this movie (+1)
- Hercules' leather cold-shoulder minidress is to die for (+1)
- Fucking rock monster (+1)
- All the girls have giant hair (+1)
- Horror + epic fantasy = perfection (+2)
- Ida Galli (+1)
Total: (+12)

Demerits
- Blatant disregard for actual mythology (-6)
- I can't tell any of the female characters apart (-1)
- Not enough monsters (-1)
Total: (-8)
Final Score: +4 points

Directed by: Mario Bava.  Written by: Mario Bava, Sandro Continenza, Franco Prosperi, Duccio Tessari.  Starring: Reg Park, George Ardisson, Christopher Lee, Leonara Ruffo, Ida Galli, Franco Giacobini.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Best and Worst of 2017

Since I installed an arbitrary ranking system for movies, I can actually do a best-through-worst of movies I reviewed in 2017, based on the rating I gave them at the time. Bear in mind that the ratings mean literally nothing and I don't care if you disagree with me.

House of the Devil
Ranking: +5.666
Consensus: A stylish homage to 1970s horror and tribute to the importance of pizza
Full review

Maniac Cop 2
Ranking: +5
Consensus: Better than Maniac Cop
Full review

The Old Dark House
Ranking: +5
Consensus: It is a god damn crime that I did not see this movie until last year
Full review

Curucu, Beast of the Amazon
Ranking: +4.667
Consensus: The casual racism made me really fucking uncomfortable, but that wildlife footage, tho
Full review

The Babadook
Ranking: +3
Consensus: This movie deserves more than a +3
Full review

The Innkeepers
Ranking: +2
Consensus: Fun movie, stupid ending
Full review

Feast
Ranking: +1
Consensus: I want to retroactively lower the ranking of this movie because of its sequels
Full review

Maniac Cop
Ranking: -2
Consensus: Had great potential for social commentary, squandered it
Full review

Split Second
Ranking: -4
Consensus: I have forgotten everything about this movie
Full review

Feast II: Sloppy Seconds
Ranking: -7
Consensus: Among the reasons I hate this movie is that now, when I watch Return of the Living Dead and see Clu Gulager, I will be reminded of this terrible, terrible series
Full review

The Visitor
Ranking: -8
Consensus: I didn't like The Omen and I liked this movie even less
Full review

Lost in Space
Ranking: -9.75
Consensus: This movie gave me diarrhea
Full review

Feast III: The Happy Finish
Ranking: -10
Consensus: This might not be the worst movie I've ever seen, but it's certainly among the worst movies I've ever seen
Full review

Night of the Twisters

Night of the Twisters (1996)

Image Source
This movie came up in a youtube playlist of cult science fiction movies, so naturally I assumed it was about sentient tornadoes or, possibly, a person making tornadoes and sending them after people. Imagine my disappointment when it turned out it was a Family Channel original loosely based on a young adult novel, which is a fictionalized account of real events, wherein a family lives in a town that tornadoes happen to. Okay, so the tornadoes behave unusually, and there's like, two or three tornadoes in a row but that's nothing in disaster movie world.

The movie was really obviously made for television, and replete with inoffensive cinematography, garbage music, terrible sound recording and editing (I get that it's supposed to be windy because tornadoes, but when the wind noise is louder than the dialogue during a normal scene, get a fucking wind sock), and tepid melodrama. It's even infused with morals and I felt like I learned valuable lessons both about the importance of responsibility, and the importance of family.

The writing is mediocre at best, with different characters using the same expressions - this is probably something that most people wouldn't notice unless they were really looking for it. I'm really looking for it because it really bothers me.

The whole plot of the movie is just people driving around trying to find other people who manage to leave where they're at right before their loved ones get there, which is pretty boring after an hour or so.

The only people the movie cares about at all are the small band of central characters which include the main kid (Devon Sawa), his parents (John Schneider and Lori Hallier), his aunt (Jhene Irwin), his best friend (Amos Crawley), and his best friend's sister (Laura Bertram). Twisters rip through trailer parks with no fucks given, a twister destroys the main kid's entire neighbourhood and the only people we even see emerging from the wreckage are the main characters. There's a thing where the best friend's parents went "to the lake" for the weekend, which sounds like a horrible fucking place to be when there's a bunch of twisters happening, but we never get any mention of whether they turned out to be okay or how the siblings were dealing with the trauma of experiencing back to back tornadoes without their parents because the only parents the movie cares about are the main kid's parents.

The unfortunate thing is that the best friend character is actually the more interesting of the two kids. He's really into tornadoes and weather patterns, he's from California so he doesn't know what the fuck to do during a tornado, and he's suddenly saddled with the responsibility of looking out for his sisters (which he does a fine job of, by the way). The actual main character is a whiny disappointment who's struggling with the fact that his dad is a jock and he's... not a jock (I may have missed it but I don't think the movie ever told us exactly what he is into), and coping very well with having a new baby brother. So the boring character is the focus and the actually good character is used primarily to remind us that chubby kids like to eat. I'm not even going to get into that beyond saying, fuck that movie trope.

The other character I liked was the super anxious meteorologist (David Ferry) who is tracking the storm and provides useful information to me, the viewer, about why this particular tornado event was so devastating. He became an important-ish part of the plot later but still, could've used more screen time, probably should've been the main character.

The third interesting character was the dad, who was kind of a fucking dick to his kid, but obviously cared about him, and then boom it turns out he's not the kid's dad, he's his step dad and maybe he's got this insecurity thing about the kid's relationship to his dead dad. What an interesting family dynamic that actually managed to make the movie more engaging.

The truly interesting thing about this movie is that it was released a full three months before Twister, and about a year before Dante's Peak, which is weird because it feels like a mashed up rip off of both of those movies. When I was watching it I assumed that it had been made to capitalize on the popularity of Twister, but nope, it came out first.

The other thing worth noting about Night of the Twisters is that, even though for the most part it's lame and dull, the parts where the tornadoes are happening are fucking intense.

When the first tornado hits, the mom is at work, the dad has gone to get grandma, and the kid and his friend are alone in the house. Twister starts twisting and the main kid goes upstairs to get the baby and like, the tornado rips the fucking wall off the nursery and you can see the funnel cloud through the hole and it's getting closer and closer and I'm sitting in the library at school getting goosebumps coz it was fucking great.

It took a long time for there to be another tornado and this one did not disappoint. The family has to outrun it in their car and there's this other car behind them and that person apparently isn't driving fast enough because you just see their headlights get sucked up into the funnel and if that wasn't the coolest fucking thing I've seen in a movie this year I don't know what is.

So, yeah, ultimately I have mixed feelings about this movie. It was mostly stupid and boring but also has some of the best storm scenes I've ever seen so I guess I'll call it a draw? The whole movie is available to watch on youtube here (the part with the car getting sucked into the twister is around 1:22:00).

Merits
- The tornadologist character (+1)
- Fucking great tornado action (+4), yes I am giving that many points the tornado stuff was that good
Total: (+5)

Demerits
- Made for TV feel (-2)
- Denim everywhere (-1)
- Movie says "fuck you" to everybody who isn't the main character (-3)
- Lessons (-2)
- "Ha ha, fat people like to eat" (-1)
- Guy is pinned underneath pickup truck, probably for hours, and still cogent enough to hold a conversation (-1)
- The movie had an epilogue to tell me what happened to all the characters I don't give a fuck about a year later (-1)
- Too much chat not enough splat (-1)
- Set in Nebraska, shot in Ontario (-1)
Total: (-13)
Final Score: -8

Directed by: Timothy Bond.  Written by: Sam Graham and Chris Hubbell, based on the novel by Ivy Ruckman.  Starring: Devon Sawa, John Schneider, Lori Hallier, Amos Crawley, Laura Bertram, David Ferry, Jhene Irwin, Helen Hughes.