Sunday, May 13, 2018


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.

- 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)

- 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 maid (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.

- 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)

- 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?