Friday, October 30, 2009

Review – The Devil’s Carnival

So Andrew Lloyd Webber killed himself with a massive overdose of PCP and they made this movie out of his suicide note, right? I can think of no other explanation for such a production, nor can I imagine what crime Aesop might have committed that would justify turning three of his stories into pseudo-expressionist community theater. A quick side note to Dayton Callie: buddy, if you’re hurting for money so bad that you’re willing to dress up like The Penguin for junk like this, maybe Deadwood fans could take up a collection for you. Wish I’d skipped it

Review – Driftwood

This is ostensibly a ghost story, and in fairness I must admit that it does feature a few brief appearances by a ghost. However, for the most part it’s a boring story about a misunderstood youth (Raviv Ullman) sent to a “tough love” institution managed by a cruel jerk (Diamond Dallas Page, whom I’m guessing was a pro wrestler sometime in the past). He gets in scuffles with the other kids. He sasses the guards. They brutalize him. Around midway through the “mystery” of the haunting is explained, and the rest of the picture is nothing but okay-is-it-going-to-end-now. Eventually of course it does conclude, predictably enough in an orgy of vengeance-intensive caterwauling. See if desperate

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Review – Doctor X

When a “moon killer” begins preying on the local populace, police attention naturally falls on the patients of Dr. Xavier, a researcher supervising a whole asylum full of mad scientists. An intrepid, obnoxious reporter tries to get to the bottom of the mystery while making passes at the good doctor’s daughter (Fay Wray). The pace is highly uneven, going from edgy – at least by 1932 standards – to goofy with no warning (disappointing for a Michael Curtiz production). Further, the picture was shot in an early version of Technicolor, giving it the appearance of a poorly-colorized black-and-white production. Still, it has a few genuinely eerie moments buried amid the strange plot twists and lame attempts at comedy. Mildly amusing

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Review - The Fearless Vampire Killers

Roman Polanski is mistaken about several things. He thinks he’s making a send-up of Hammer horror movies. He thinks he’s funny. He thinks he can act. And he thinks on top of everything else that he can still make his movies Central European art flick dull. [also he thinks it’s okay to rape children, but that’s another story] Thank goodness he was disabused of at least some of these conceits before he made Rosemary’s Baby. This production follows the exploits of an aged professor and his young assistant as they attempt to perform amusing antics and slay vampires, largely failing on both counts. I lost interest after awhile, but I noticed that every time I left the room to take care of something and then came back, more or less the same thing was going on. So if you like Polanski’s sense of humor, you’re likely to find this an endless guffaw-fest. Otherwise you might join me in thinking it should have been called The Brazen Audience Annoyers. Wish I’d skipped it

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Review – The Atomic Submarine

Effects this bad might be fun if they were created by some kids playing around with sub models and a camcorder, but in a professional production the nicest thing I can say about them is that at least they’re consistent with the quality of the rest of the production. Apparently in the future submarine journeys under the North Pole will be common, not just military boats but also undersea passenger liners. Surface craft traffic appears to have picked up a bit beyond current levels as well. So it’s humanity’s dumb luck that an evil alien presence lurks under the ice, cruising its flying/swimming saucer around and destroying ships when it finds them. Eventually the intrepid, two-fisted crew of the title vessel manages to track the thing down and ram their ship into it. This leads to a showdown between our heroes and an alien that looks like a moldy hot dog with a single eye. Fun stuff. See if desperate

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Review – Book of Blood

If the end had been cropped off, the rest of the movie condensed down into around ten minutes, and then followed with decent productions based on three or four of Clive Barker’s short stories, two effects would have been achieved. First, the structure would have more closely mirrored Barker’s Books of Blood collections, particularly the brief introductory tale that gets blown up to an hour and a half here. And second, it wouldn’t have sucked anywhere near as bad as it did. This tale of ghosts who write their tales on the skin of a hapless man is solid horror, but all the filler, cheap shocks and red herrings ruin a picture that in more competent hands might have had some potential. See if desperate

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Review – The Dunwich Horror (2009)

I liked this picture more than I should have at least in part because I expected it to be a great deal worse than it was. The biggest names in the cast are Dean Stockwell (star of the first, dreadful screen adaptation of Lovecraft’s classic tale) and Jeffrey Combs (From Beyond and The ReAnimator). So I figured this for another Stuart Gordon sack of rubber monsters and pointless boob shots. Thus I was pleasantly surprised when the film-makers made a respectable attempt at a good movie. To be sure, it deviates substantially from the source story. But at least it’s in the same ballpark. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Review – Black Moon

This movie actually contains the delivered-in-all-seriousness line, “The natives are restless.” And that’s typical of the racial sensitivity – or lack of same – displayed throughout the picture. A white woman can’t wait to return to the Caribbean island where she grew up because she misses participating in voodoo ceremonies with the aforementioned restless natives. This puts her at odds with her wealthy husband and plantation-owning uncle, especially after her return to her voodoo ways places her daughter in jeopardy. “Once you go black you never go back” sexuality lurks just below the surface of the drama, though of course in the 1930s it couldn’t be an overt plot element. Fortunately for jilted hubby, his secretary (Fay Wray) is waiting in the wings to be a good wife to him and a good mother to his daughter as soon as wife gets her eventual come-uppance. Sheesh. Wish I’d skipped it

Monday, October 12, 2009

Review – Children of the Corn (2009)

This picture and the original could be used as a case study of the disintegration of the slasher movie from the 1980s to today. The protagonists in the original were mildly annoying, but they were nothing compared to the nails-on-a-chalkboard duo who heads this show. After five minutes of listening to them bicker with one another, I couldn’t wait for the creepy cult kids to chop them up. This is also the least supernatural of any of the pictures in the series (at least the ones I’ve seen so far). Some of the extra cult back-story was fun, but otherwise this was an unnecessary reheat of leftovers that went bad in the fridge years ago. See if desperate

Review – Children of the Corn: Revelation

At this late point in the series they should rename it “Children of the Snores.” Years ago a revival tent full of Corn Children went up in flames. One kid survived, and now as an old lady she lives in a seedy apartment building constructed on the site of the massacre. Or maybe “lived” would be the proper verb tense. When her granddaughter shows up to find out what happened to her, dullness ensues. Honestly, the creepiest thing in the whole picture is the scene where two of the cult kids play a FPS video game. See if desperate

Review – Children of the Corn

This one wasn’t quite as terrible as I remembered it being. Of course I’d already watched several of the sequels before re-watching this original, and when compared to some of its “children” this thing seems like Shakespeare. Linda Hamilton and Peter Horton play a mildly annoying couple who find themselves stranded in a town taken over by adult-murdering, religious fanatic children. The Stephen King short story upon which this tale is based wasn’t exactly the author’s finest moment, nor is this the best movie ever produced from his work. Still, Isaac the cult leader and Malachi the cult enforcer are both delightfully creepy. Together they’re almost enough to make up for the uneven script and cheap, 80s effects. Mildly amusing

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Review – The Blue Lagoon

Imagine growing up on an isolated island with no adults or social norms to help you make sense of things like sex. The premise has potential. Unfortunately the folks behind the cameras seem as naïve about movie-making as the two protagonists are about lovemaking. Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins get the bulk of the screen time, as one might suspect from their marooned status. Likewise the cinematography is predictably pretty. The script, on the other hand, is laughably dumb, like some horrible Harlequin romance version of Lord of the Flies. See if desperate

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Review – The Curse of King Tut's Tomb

This must be the longest Syfy movie ever. Though it’s as long as a mini-series, it doesn’t have enough plot for a tenth of the four-hour running time. The cast of tomb-robbers is led by an Indiana Jones rip-off (Casper Van Dien), but most of the plot is pilfered from The Mummy with touches thrown in from conspiracy-centered action pictures such as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. In order to sustain the production’s brutal length, everything takes double or triple the amount of time it reasonably has to. Otherwise, however, this is the usual blend of dreadful dialogue and shoddy effects. See if desperate

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Review – Enter the Ninja

Exit the brain cells. The title is no doubt meant to evoke the memory of Bruce Lee’s most famous picture, but the first two words of the title are the closest the two movies come to resembling each other. The plot is the usual, trite nonsense about a ninja-trained American who comes to the defense of a friend being hassled by a wealthy jerk who wants his land. The real stand-out element, however, is Menachem Golan himself in the director’s chair. This thing is so badly mishandled that the fight sequences – the bread and butter of flicks like this – begin to resemble comedy routines. Even the soundtrack is dreadful, sounding like the music for bad superhero cartoons from the early 70s. Normally I’d be willing to dish out a couple of points just because movies this bad usually have a certain charm (or at least a good kata or two). But for some unexplained reason they throw in cockfighting sequences on top of everything else. Honestly, there’s more cockfighting in this than there is in movies about cockfighting. See if desperate

Review – The Conversation

This odd little movie from Francis Ford Coppola doesn’t often get the attention it deserves. To be sure, it’s not “easy viewing” like The Godfather. But in many ways it’s a better, more thought-provoking film. Gene Hackman plays an audio surveillance expert hired to record a conversation between a wealthy man’s wife and her lover. When the straightforward job starts developing strange complications, he becomes more and more convinced that his client intends to kill his unfaithful wife and her boyfriend. Hackman underplays the role almost to a fault, his deadness sometimes making the character hard to sympathize with (though still much better than the histrionics some other actors would no doubt have brought to the part). The story is slow, and it springs a leak or two in places. For example, why would a character like this ever accept a pen as a free gift from a rival bug-maker? Weaknesses aside, however, Coppola does a masterful job of lighting the “paranoid menace” burner and then ever so slowly turning up the heat. Worth seeing

Monday, October 5, 2009

Review – The Beast with Five Fingers

Peter Lorre stars in this mystery/horror picture from Hollywood’s “golden age.” A wealthy, cranky, one-handed pianist dies, and the relatives and heirs start squabbling about the estate. Then the ol’ guy’s disembodied hand wades into the fray, dispatching those who stand in the way of the proper execution of his will. Or is something else actually to blame for the crimes? Only the end of the movie will tell. The production features some good severed hand effects (as well as some that aren’t so good). Mildly amusing

Friday, October 2, 2009

Review – April Fool's Day (2008)

Video game designers should study movies like this. I mean, imagine a shooter in which you hate your own character as much as you hate the monsters that are attacking you. Then watching yourself die would be as much fun as killing the bad guys. Or maybe, if it’s anything like this movie, you’d just end up hating the whole thing. Six wealthy, obnoxious 20-somethings accidentally cause the death of one of their “friends,” and a year later the “ghost” comes back for revenge. Honestly, if you’ve seen more than a handful of pictures like this you can write a script that matches this one point for point in less time than it takes to actually watch it. Indeed, I managed to guess not only the final twist but also the corpse-to-be batting order without missing a call. The edited-for-TV version is better still. At one point one of the characters actually says “Oh fudge.” She got electrocuted a minute or two later, so at least she got spared Ralphie’s mom’s bar of soap. See if desperate