The found footage genre is very hit-or-miss when it comes to my own taste. A lot of people just can't really do it, and that's something I understand. But if it's done creatively enough, I tend to really like quite a few of them - one of them being the now unbelievable 10-year-old 'Chronicle'; the found-footage take on obtaining superpowers for lack of a better term. And, funny story, two of these actors would go on to feature in mainstream Superhero movies.
As all found-footage movies go, our basic setup is seen from the get-go where our lead, Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan), decides he's going to film "everything" from now on. A good chunk of this is due to his abusive, alcoholic father, Richard (Michael Kelly) who blames Andrew for literally everything, including Andrew's mom, Karen's (Bo Peterson) illness. Andrew also gets bullied at school, but one has to admit that to some degree, he's not really the most likable person. But no worries, as this character was actually well-formed that way for good reason.
Andrew's cousin, Matt Garetty (Alex Russell) invites him to a party one night, in order to mingle and try to get himself out there, meeting people. There, things don't go too well, but he eventually meets Class President hopeful, Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan). Steve brings Andrew and his camera to meet up with Matt in order to explore a very mysterious cave that seems to have appeared out of nowhere. Upon exploring, something unknown happens that seemingly leads the trio to obtain telekinesis.
One thing I do love about this movie is the way this power works. Things seem to come with limits, and it acts a lot like weight-lifting. The more they do it, the better they get, but if they overdo it, things result in a pretty bad nose-bleed. As they videotape all of the cool stuff they learn how to do throughout the film, things don't exactly go without incident, and soon enough we see the difference between having the power to help others and having the power to help oneself. If you gained such an ability yourself, would you abuse it if you were really good at it? Or would you only use it when and if it was asked for?
One word of warning I'll give about this, along with most found-footage films, is that there's really no explanation as to how they really got these abilities. Something happens, we don't know, and we're not meant to know. One thing I appreciate about this genre is the lack of explanation. One can use imagination to fill in the blanks, and to some degree, it almost doesn't make any sense to offer up an explanation, as we're supposed to be experiencing things through the eyes of the cameraman. I do get people being somewhat miffed about that, considering a lack of structure. But for me, found footage is almost meant to be more of a theme park ride experience than an actual solid film.
There are a few examples of found footage that I'd say are really well done, and I have to say that this is one of them. It's a fun and quick way to tell a superhero story while being original, but also offering up the two paths someone with special abilities can go down. It sort of begs the question of what one would do if they had this power. For me, I like the idea of using it for mischief. You're not being a good guy, but you're not exactly being a supervillain either. There's a whole bit here where you see them do just that, and though you feel kind of bad for the people they are messing with, it does give one a pretty good chuckle.
As for the two who went on to star in mainstream superhero movies, Michael B. Jordan is likely the obvious one, as Killmonger in 'Black Panther' AND Human Torch in 2015's 'Fantastic Four'. Dane DeHaan also went on to be a crappy version of the Green Goblin in 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2'. But what's odd is that Alex Russell doesn't seem to (unless I missed something) have credit for anything like that. The guy has potential though, so we shall see if he gets added to anything in the near future. Anyway, if you ever wanted to see where at least Michael B. Jordan came from, this is an interesting watch nowadays. If nothing else, it's a cool take on not only the found-footage genre, but the superhero genre as well.
Topping off these B movies is the truly unique 'Angry Red Planet'. While definitely landing under the category of "so bad it's good", I have to at least give the film a little bit of credit for creativity. We see it in the cinematography, as it makes everything on Mars an odd shade of red (almost like a photo negative), and in the creature design - most famously, if you Google this movie, you're bound to see a giant crab, spider, bat... thing. It's would-be nightmare fuel if it didn't look so corny.
The film also goes by the names 'Invasion of Mars' (not to be confused with 'Invaders from Mars') and 'Journey to Planet Four'. The interesting mix of (RED/ORANGE) colours in the Mars scenery, and hilariously designed creatures are largely due to a low budget time restraint of only nine days to film! Could you imagine filming a whole movie in nine days!? Even famously rushed films get about a month (give or take). Anyway, this gave way to "CineMagic", which combines hand-drawn animation with live-action (way before 'Roger Rabbit'). However, the process created clearly terrible-looking stuff (even if it feels original), and was only seemingly used once more for a 'Three Stooges' movie.
As for the film, it opens with mission control awaiting the arrival of the "Mars Rocket 1", following the first manned mission to Mars. On its way in, however, ground technicians can't seem to communicate with the astronauts. The ship is safely landed by remote control, and only two of the four crewmembers are found alive; Dr. Iris Ryan (Naura Hayden) and Col. Tom O'Bannion (Gerald Mohr). O'Bannion's arm is covered in a strange alien gunk, and this ultimately leads to a "how did we get here?" story, as Ryan explains the mission in detail during her debriefing. So most of the film is a story in memory.
As one can probably expect, this is full of all the wonderful cheese that we've come to expect from your average 50's B movie (1959, specifically). The ultimate message, in the end, had a lot to do with how advancing technology is a dangerous thing. But the final bit of the movie where this message takes place is actually too funny to spoil. It's not a big deal, but when all said and done, it's totally laughable (which probably doesn't come as much of a surprise). And for as much credit as I may give the film for originality, none of that actually makes the movie any good. I mean, a log of poop that can breathe fire and speak fluently is original too, but try handing that idea into a big-time producer.
Simply put, this is, like most B movies of the era, super fun and corny. It's an acid trip of a romp, loaded with the finest cheese, and almost has to be seen to be believed with some of the choices made. Fair warning, things start really slow. So don't fret if you're not laughing at the absurdity of everything from the get-go. Personally speaking, I found things got "good" right around the time you first see Mars' surface. But with that said, it's a part of Amazon Prime's collection if you're a subscriber. So if you have about an hour and a half with which to lose your mind, head on over and check it out
Another fine example of a product of its time (in other words, extremely dated with some things) is this little independent romp that doesn't fit into society today at all. The main problems it runs into are it's very cartoonish treatment of both women and Native Americans. As a result, this is another movie that's hilariously over-the-top and dated. The sad thing is, all of the dated stuff is trying to help the movie be funny.
Watching this is a lot like watching someone carrying ten stacked pizzas on one hand while trying to ride a unicycle and burp the alphabet. You know it's going to fail, you know the fail is gonna be hilarious, but the movie will get back up and try again, only to fail over and over with each try. This is a film that's so badly dated with its material that it's really no wonder the only version I found of it was on a YouTube channel, chock full of ads while I was watching it.
Now, Going way off-topic, remember 'Deadpool' and its gag opening credits? Well, this one actually opens with "R.I. Diculous Presents", which instantly gives you the notion that this is a comedy more than the typical B movies that lean more towards horror and sci-fi. Granted, this is another sci-fi, but it's sci-fi comedy, featuring Dollar Store versions of Abbott and Costello; Army Privates Philbrick (Robert Ball) and Penn (Frank Ray Perilli). They are responsible for the simpler tasks at the U.S. Army base where they're stationed; Fort Nicholson, and are introduced with a runaway hose gag, instantly telling us everything we need to know about these two bumbling characters.
Philbrick and Penn are soon assigned to a scouting mission, sending them into a nearby cavern, along with an expedition team. In the cave, they are separated from the rest of the team, and captured by whatever the crap those things are in the accompanying picture - described as humanoid, plant-like creatures. Said creatures bring them to an alien base, commanded by two beautiful women from the distant planet of Kalar (just examine these names for a second); Dr. Puna (Gloria Victor) and Prof. Tanga (Dolores Reed). We also soon learn that a kiss from one of these guys leaves them in a dazed state. But just you wait, because the offensiveness doesn't stop there.
As also mentioned previously, we eventually come across a Native American group, made to be a source of humour by using a lot of stereotypes. Granted, they come across as friendly, but we do still get words like "savages" thrown into the mix. Being that this was 1962, none of this movie's offenses are entirely surprising, given the general public's (ignorant) state of mind about things back then. But once again, we have something that's actually entertaining because it's so terrible in that sense. It's another example of a film that illustrates how far we've come as a society, and yet, how much further we have to go.
This one comes to us from Roger Corman; a name synonymous with B movies that we watch as guilty pleasures these days. In fact, look no further than the library of 'Mystery Science Theater 3000' mockery. The list is pretty extensive. I might also add that this isn't the only one of his movies I have on this list. Basically, this was a guy who could parallel the ever-famous Ed Wood in the same era of schlock.
An alien, calling himself "Mr. Johnson" (Paul Birch), takes up residence in Los Angeles. He talks kind of strange, and has this weird thing about wearing sunglasses (even at night, as he goes full Corey Hart), but otherwise appears basically normal. Although, behind those shades lies a stare that can kill, just by looking at it. Hailing from a planet called Davanna, his people have developed an incurable blood disease, and he was sent to collect human blood for its similarities. He manages to off a few victims here; all the while his assistant, Jeremy (Jonathan Haze) being completely unaware.
Our "Heroes" of this film are the witty nurse Nadine Storey (Beverly Garland), whom Johnson hires for housekeeping, and her cop buddy, Harry Sherbourne (Morgan Jones). If you're looking for people to route for here, you don't really get it, though. There's a lot of dryness to these characters, and a lot of the jokes are lame. The real humour of this comes from the casual dialogue, often involving blood. Some choice lines include "You shall have blood" and "If I do not receive blood within four chronoctons of time, I will have no need of emotion." The delivery is similar to Maggie saying "I need blood" at the end of 'Treehouse of Horror IX'.
This is another one of those movies you might put on a Bad Movie Night list. But with that said, I think there are better titles (even for that purpose) out there. This one feels like you might need more of a twisted sense of humour to really like the dialogue in the same way someone like myself does. I know it's weird, but casual banter about blood with the right delivery can be hilarious. Think of Patrick Stewart telling one of his fellow actors "I need your blood" just randomly. It's like there has to be some sort of class behind it for it to be funny. Anyway, a bit hard to narrow down, but if you check out this flick (available for free, a lot of places online) you'll get what I'm talking about.
Now, one unanswered question my readers may be wondering is what in Planet X's hellish orbit is that thing in the accompanying pic? While I was under the impression that this creature would have been the focus of this movie, going into it, it's merely a sort of drone that gets called upon by Johnson to dispose of anyone who finds out he's "not of the Earth". But I've gotta say, it's funny when it does show up. So, if nothing else, this all amounts to a fun movie to watch if you have the time for a little over an hour of random stupidity, and quotes about blood you may never hear elsewhere. Get the friends together and have a laugh!
Sadly, I kick off my 2022 with a ginormous surge of Covid 19 cases in my general area. But, as theaters close in the area, and with my sense of it happening any time after the holidays, I have set up a rather fun month for January altogether, starting with the exploration of some old school B movies! As we enter our third year of this crapola, let's face it, we all need to smile, and I thought old B movies were a great, unexplored category for me.
We kick it off with something mildly entertaining for all the wrong reasons (as one would expect), 'Attack of the Puppet People'. This one was originally made to capitalize on 'The Incredible Shrinking Man', which is widely considered a great sci-fi classic. However, what we get is a "horror" film that makes 'Honey I Shrunk the Kids' look like 'Hellraiser'. I think the horror is supposed to come from the idea of being shrunk down and experiencing some kind of terrible micro world. But truth be told, there's little to no real horror going on here, and I've definitely seen more disturbing material from films that predate this.
The film opens with a Brownie troop paying a visit to a doll factory, owned by Mr. Franz (John Hoyt). As part of Franz's collection, he displays a "special collection" of incredibly life-like dolls in glass containers, as well. Meanwhile, a Ms. Sally Reynolds (June Kenney) applies for a secretary position for Franz after his original secretary mysteriously disappeared. She reluctantly takes the job, but is weary of Franz's obsession with his "special dolls". Enter a travelling salesman named Bob Westley (John Agar) who falls for Sally and eventually asks for her hand in marriage after a few weeks (different times, I suppose).
After breaking the marriage news (that would ultimately have her quitting her job) to the ever-lonely Mr. Franz, Bob mysteriously goes missing. It's not long, however, until we find out that Franz has transformed him into a doll, and Sally meets the same fate, as most of the film has to do with these characters in shrunken form (so I don't see this as any sort of spoiler). So, much of the film has to do with Franz's obsessive loneliness, and these victims he's forcing to be his "playthings." I suppose there's a message here about not being a jerk about your loneliness, but it's all a big stretch.
Usually, I tend to have fun with these old B movies, as they tend to be so ridiculously over the top. However this wasn't all that entertaining, despite how highly it was recommended as a solid, yet cheesy B movie title. It's not without a few laughs, but the laughs are slight. To put it another way, I got my biggest laugh from Sally screaming at a giant phone. Random, right? Well, if you like random like I do, then this isn't terrible. But I will say that it's not one I'd highly recommend as a "so bad it's good" flick either.
Over the years, filmmaking has developed the miniature world into things like, again, 'Honey, I Shrunk the Kids', 'The Secret World of Arrietty' and most recently, the 'Ant-Man' movies. Things just get better as things progress, and to go back to this is nothing too impressive. As was mentioned before, you had other movies at this point that illustrate it better, and scarier. 'The Fly' would come out the following year and pretty much make this obsolete with the famous "Help Me" scene (which still somehow gets under my skin). There was really next to no saving grace for this one, and I say stick to other, similar movies of the era for better entertainment.
For yours truly, there really is something about the horror comedy that comes from the British commonwealth. A lot of it has to do with the fact that they always seem to have such fun with things, and you know that with these you're almost always in for a really solid B movie. Here we have an Irish creature feature that's no exception, and I honestly just want to see more horror comedy from Ireland now.
We are introduced to Garda Ciarán O'Shea (Richard Coyle), and Garda Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley). "Garda", for anyone unfamiliar can roughly be translated to "Officer". O'Shea is a resentful alcoholic lazybones who somewhat resents Nolan, his new workaholic partner who takes a job on a remote Irish island where the townsfolk have discovered mutilated whale corpses along the beach. Soon enough, it is revealed that a group of tentacled aliens, varying in size, are the source of the attack.
Where things get really fun here are when the town lush, Paddy (Lalor Roddy) remarkably survives an attack, and it's soon theorized by local marine ecologist, Dr. Smith (Russell Tovey) that alcohol is their best defense. While these creatures thrive on water and blood, alcohol seems to provide a sort of poison to them. So, indeed, a lot of the humour to this movie does come from drunken Irish dialogue. But seeing as this is from the Irish, it makes me think a lot aboot us here in Canada embracing our stereotypes so well, eh?
I don't think there's a whole lot else left to say about it, so here we have a pretty short review. I think if I were to compare it to anything as far as "mood" goes with American films, it's a lot like 'Eight-Legged Freaks' in that it's a B movie that recognizes itself as a B movie, and it's one of the finer examples of, once again, a nation embracing its stereotypes and just having a good time with things. I thought this was actually a lot of fun, and I do tend to have a sort of bias towards modern B movies like this.
Unfortunately, however, this one is pretty damn hard to find, so one will certainly have to do some digging in order to find and enjoy it. But if you can find it (currently rentable from Apple TV), and you enjoy these kinds of movies as much as I do, AND can get past some of the language, I recommend grabbing some salty snacks, plenty of beer, and enjoying the silly sci-fi fun that is 'Grabbers'.
For the life of me, I can't remember where I first saw the trailer for this. But I can remember going out to find and purchase the film solely based on said trailer. It was off the wall horror comedy about, basically, "weresheep" in New Zealand. This struck me as a pretty brilliant concept as well, considering what I learned in school about the sheep of New Zealand outnumbering the human population (according to Google, about 5 sheep for every 1 human). So the idea is actually scary enough, albeit altogether silly. Sure enough, I ended up liking it, showing a few friends, and I currently consider it a guilty pleasure.
We meet Henry Oldfield (Nick Fenton) who lives in the calm and lovely country area of New Zealand along with his father (Matthew Chamberlain) and older brother, Angus (Eli Kent). Angus sees his father favoring his little brother and he plays the cruelest of "pranks" on him. Henry finds his pet sheep to have been slaughtered, and immediately after that, he gets word that his father has just been killed in an accident. Ultimately, as one would imagine, this leads to Henry developing a horrible and somewhat irrational fear of sheep. Fifteen years later, we find a grown up Henry (Nathan Meister) returning home to sell his share of the family farm to Angus (Peter Feeney).
We, the audience soon learn that Angus has a side project, where he is creating genetically mutated sheep, making them go full-carnivore for... reasons. What's more is that their bites can transform their victims into, well, weresheep. The film gets going when a mutant lamb is accidentally released by two environmentalists named Grant (Oliver Driver) and Experience (Danielle Mason). It's not long before the mutant lamb finds the herd, gives its first bite, and things get chaotic. Can Henry, his friend, Tucker (Tammy Davis) and the others stop the madness before New Zealand gets taken over by carnivorous mutant sheep?
There does seem to be some variety in horror/comedy as much as there's a variety in individual horror. For example, this and 'Slither' both make for funny looks at gross-out/body horror, but there are plenty out there that cover things like serial killers, hauntings, etc. This is another one for those who don't mind some good body horror, but I might also suggest that one should be just a little desensitized when it comes to some of the humor this has. I'll also say that this isn't really laugh out loud hilarious, but it does offer a lot of fun, awkward giggles. As I said, I call it a guilty pleasure. But it's a guilty pleasure I can still say is good for what it is. This isn't like watching a "so bad it's good" movie, it's just kind of messed up.
So, in the end, I might not recommend this to just anyone. But I will say that if you can appreciate New Zealand's dry comedy blended with some comedy that doesn't really have many limits to it, this might be worth checking out. On the other hand, this is something I could definitely see someone finding to be far too off-the-wall for their taste. In any case, you get a lot of "weird" with this one. But I'll be honest about something - that bit of the climax when things are just about to conclude will probably make anyone with even a slightly low-brow about their comedy a good, genuine laugh. If nothing else, the build up is worth it.
I never realized until I saw this movie how much James Gunn has actually worked on in the past. Before he really put himself on the map with 'Guardians of the Galaxy'; his name becoming synonymous with the series, he's credited as screenwriter for 2004's 'Dawn of the Dead', to a lesser extent, 2002's 'Scooby-Doo', and he even had a hand in 'Thir13en Ghosts'. 'Slither' here, however, is pretty much his breakout project, both writing and directing for a horror comedy that really likes to play the gross-out card. It does, however, admittedly do its job of being a modern B movie very well.
It all starts when a meteorite crash-lands nearby the town of Wheesly, South Carolina. From the meteorite springs an alien parasite, which heads into town, finds the wealthy Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) and pretty much takes him over. His changes in behaviour and appearance gets his wife, Starla (Elizabeth Banks) suspicious, leading to an eventual fight that bring in the police. As the cops manage to rescue her, Grant heads off to check on his super grotesque nesting situation, involving poor Brenda (Brenda James) who Grant's parasite uses for breeding. This eventually leads to those slug-like creatures, who try to take over the town like an extraterrestrial plague.
A posse is soon formed, led by Police Chief, Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion), helped by Starla, who may be the only one who can talk to Grant without consequence. Soon, they include Mayor Jack MacReady (Gregg Henry) and lone teen, Kylie Strutemyer (Tania Saulnier); the girl in the unfortunate bathtub situation on the movie poster. As they attempt to hunt Grant down in order to put a stop to things, they must evade both parasitic slugs, and the zombified people these slugs have taken control of. All the while, there's plenty of comedy to keep us going, but so much of it is gross out material that this is a horror comedy that I'm kind of "meh" about.
All things considered, I think the biggest problem is that this kind of thing has been done in the past. Alien parasite falls to Earth, alien takes over bodies, and there's some kind of breeding process going on. Another thing this one loses major points for is how the breeding works. It involves a whole lot of meat, and a lot of this meat comes from dogs, and I'm totally one of those people who absolutely hate a dog death in a movie (at least unless there's a John Wick character ready to spring into action because of it). But with my personal taste aside, there's still plenty to give this credit for.
To begin with, I have to give Gunn some slack, this being the first major film he both wrote and directed. This was the first thing he worked on that was his, and to begin with a modern B movie was definitely a solid choice for a blossoming filmmaker. The other thing he manages to do here is gross-out successfully with some of the body horror in this. It's not my favourite thing, but I can't deny that if done right and makes me go "ugh, nasty", I have to admit that it's doing its job. It's a lot like a movie that has me flinch at torture porn - the effect is there, which is what they're going for, but I'm not the biggest fan of it. SOME of it is pretty dated CG, but still, this was 2006, so pre MCU CG and generally forgivable.
I think I can recommend this as a fun B movie as long as you're a person who gets a kick out of body horror and gross out humour. Some of the names attached to this will also be enough to draw some people in, like Fillion for us fifty-million 'Firefly' fans, and Michael Rooker under Gunn's direction before he became out favourite MCU father figure. It's another film I can give plenty of credit to for what it is, but I don't know that I'll be rushing to check it out again anytime soon. It gave Gunn a nice boost, but as far as I'm concerned, nothing he makes will ever top his 'Guardians' movies.
Originally, this was supposed to be a Spanish film called 'Sexy Killer'. However, having trouble finding it, I changed things up to this Argentinian (Spanish language) flick, found easily on good old Shudder, as I still wanted to do International horror at least once this month. After all, after seeing a movie like 'Cabin in the Woods', a horror fan does get curious as to what different nationalities have to offer.
The plot here is pretty straightforward. Taking place in a funeral home (surprise), we focus on a dysfunctional family of three; undertaker, Bernardo (Luis Machín), his wife, Estela (Celeste Gerez) and her daughter, but his stepdaughter, Irina (Camila Vaccarini). The family is haunted, and this s something that's just accepted, and I sort of admire that. It's so typical for American ghost movies to need that scepticism - while one or two people know things are happening, others know there must be a logical explanation, dubbing the believers crazy and whatnot. This is simply "hey, we live in a funeral home, so it's haunted".
Bernardo and Irina have a belief that the house is haunted by an entity that will one day allow them to see and communicate with their loved ones - particularly Irina's real father, who both Bernardo and Estela claim to have been a horrible person in life. Meanwhile, Bernardo's own father comes into question, as he had a history of dabbling in the occult, and Estela believes he may be a big part of this haunting. But there's more to the spirits Bernardo communicates with as well, like perhaps a former partner he once had an affair with. Soon, a psychic named Ramona (Susana Varela) is hired to cleanse the house, but as events unfold, they get a bit more convoluted and if I'm being 100% honest, a bit confusing to the point of taking you out of things.
So forgive me for a bit of a half-assed review, but I'm not sure I totally understood everything that went on with this film. It seems the kind of thing that might gather some kind of cult following, but I think this one's a bit lost on me - at least as far as story and characters go (no one is particularly likable here). That said, this does have a few things that help it along as a supernatural horror movie. The atmosphere actually works really well, and things are sort of ever-creepy here. There aren't really any cheap jump scares to speak of, and the film does a god job at showing us just enough of these entities and how a frightened family interacts with them. One scene that stands out is a spirit in Irina's room that is filmed in such a way that suggests "I'm here, but I'm not gonna let you see me", and it's downright eerie.
So I guess as an international horror film, this holds its own pretty well, and it's decent for a creepy night in, hiding under your covers. It's not gonna make you lose sleep, but there is something unsettling enough about it that it works. For me, it only works up to a certain point though, and when it was all over, it really did turn into a "what the hell did I just watch?" situation. I think this is another case of me just not quite getting it though, so I'll give the movie points for its overall feel, but not a whole lot else. Parts of this felt pretty typical to me, but some didn't, and the bottom line is I can't formulate a very good opinion on this one. So I'll give it a pass, at least for some of the best haunting atmosphere I've seen in a while.
This was a title that passed me by, back in 2010, when it was initially released. It was very limited, and though I knew about it, it was really just another title I didn't feel like bothering with. Ironically, the main reason i decided not to watch it is actually what makes the movie pretty damn good. Essentially, they took 'Zombieland', replaced zombies with vampires (although they might as well be zombie here), and made it much more dark and serious. At the time, I dubbed it a 'Zombieland' ripoff, and just let it be.
In my search for "vicious vampire movies", however, I happened across this title which I had long since forgotten about and thought I'd give it a chance once I saw that it received some generous ratings from various sources. Watching it as a horror fan, I have to say that I enjoyed it. One thing I attribute to good horror nowadays is when the filmmakers make sure we give a damn about the characters, putting them in a bit more peril than they would be if they were Jason fodder. They do a good job of it here, and there's a 'Walking Dead' vibe in which this is so much more about the people than the threat at hand.
We meet a young man named Martin (Connor Paolo) whose family is viciously slaughtered by a vampire, and they take it to such an extreme that it made me respect the movie instantly. I won't go into the gory details, but it dares to put something rather graphic on screen to let you know that unlike 'Zombieland', this movie is NOT messing around, and no one is safe from the get-go. Upon discovering his family, Martin is rescued and taken under the wing of a rogue vampire hunter simply known as "Mister" (Nick Damici).
Like just about every zombie invasion film that has ever existed (seriously, these vampires are so close to being zombies, it's almost ridiculous), the end goal is a rumored-to-be untouched safe place, here known as "New Eden", somewhere north. Mister takes Martin along for the ride, keeping him safe and training him to be a tough, badass vampire hunter just like him. The general rule is that vampires are vicious, dangerous, horrible creatures who will feast on your flesh at the drop of a hat and the only way to survive is to get used to brutally killing them.
However, the film's simplicity wanes when certain characters are introduced along the way. One character, a nun who is only ever referred to as "Sister" (Kelly McGillis), still sees something of a human side to these creatures. Thankfully, she doesn't preach away on the subject as the annoying "holier than thou" character, but we get where she stands, and she's pretty easy to empathize with, all things considered. Another character they pick up on their journey, eventually, is the young and pregnant Belle (Danielle Harris); another soul hoping to make it to New Eden to have her child safely.
Of course, none of this would be complete without a primary villain. In this case, we have the leader of a fundamentalist militia known as The Brotherhood, Loven (Michael Cerveris) who considers all of this vampirism they are surrounded with as an act of God. So soon enough our small team of travellers find themselves trying to survive against more horrors than just a horde of zom--- vampires! I keep forgetting. I might say that's my first real complaint about the film.It really and truly does come off as more of a zombie survival film than a movie about a horde of vampires. There's no real intelligence attached to these creatures, they're just bloodthirsty monsters.
More criticisms I have on the film aren't many, but one of the fatal flaws, has become a huge pet peeve of mine, and I don't think I stand alone on it - the tone of dialogue. I have come to hate this, not enough to fully ruin a movie for me, but enough to make it lose a point or two. What I mean here is when characters just mumble through their dialogue. They speak in some toned down, dramatic voice, to where it's damn near whispering, and you just miss everything they say. The latest example of something that irked me with it recently was 'Tenet'. I get that it's supposed to add a dramatic and perhaps more realistic tone, but movies have been doing great for decades without the need for that. I wanna understand what I'm hearing. I'm not even kidding, I had to bring it back several times and throw on subtitles.
Criticisms aside, I still had a great time with this movie as a solid story. Interestingly enough, there's not a lot of new or different stuff here, but the characters are easy to empathize with, the atmosphere of it all gives you a sense of dread, and the score is so melancholy that it manages to strike this chord of hopelessness, helping you to feel for these characters. There's a good range of these characters as well, and the horror aspect is spot on. Once again, one of the first deaths you see is so brutal that it makes you wanna pay attention - like a car wreck you can't turn away from, even though you know you don't need to see such things. It's horrific, brutal, dramatic, sad, action packed, and it's got one of those great endings where the movie just kinda stops and you, the audience, have to try to fill in the blanks with your imagination. I now people hate that kind of thing, but I eat it up, so good on it... but maybe one day I need to check out 'Stake Land II'. All in all, I had a good time with this, even if it was moderately unoriginal.
I remember being one of the very few people who caught this in theaters, as it went on to be considered a Box Office bomb. I came out of it thinking the same thing I did this time around; it's a lot of fun, but I'd completely understand anyone's criticisms. I do have a few of my own, but for the most part, I had a good time with it. The concept of a first-person filmed action movie, any way you slice it, is a thrill ride. It's just that some thrill rides are a little less shaky, a little more smooth, and we prefer them.
That's not just because the whole thing is filmed in a shaky, first-person way either. The whole unravelling of the movie is shaky, and it's often hard to follow (at least for me). It begins with our first-person hero, Henry (played collectively by cinematographers, Chris W. Johnson, Pasha Kapinos, Vsevolod Kaptur, Fedor Lyass, and cameraman, Robin Roles), waking up inside a lab, where a scientist named Estelle (Haley Bennett) who claims to be his wife is working on him, replacing his missing limbs (after a bad accident) with cybernetic enhancements.
Before we know it, a band of mercenaries raid the lab (located on an air ship), led by a man named Akan (Danila Kozlovsky). He claims that Estelle's work is his property, and the big first-person chase begins. Along the way, he is aided by a strange master of disguise named Jimmy (Sharlto Copley). Soon, he finds himself having to rescue Estelle from Akan; a madman bent on destroying the world. Therein lies my first problem with the movie; the villain's motives are just too simple. The villain himself is kinda creepy and effective in his own way though, so it's not all bad.
I always thought that the idea for this was an awesome one, especially if you got to see it in 3D, putting you into the action. However, I don't even remember whether or not this was in 3D, and I almost wanna say that it wasn't and that was part of the disappointment after leaving the movie. Beyond that, it cuts pretty abruptly at times, and though it didn't effect me in such a way, and it may go without saying, this isn't good for anyone with motion sickness. If you can handle it all, however, just imagine it as though this was a first-person action game that was adapted to film. It's kinda like the creators looked at the first-person sequence in 'Doom', said "this movie should just be all this", and decided to make it happen, just a little more real-world.
There's a lot of high octane stuff going on here. If you can follow close enough, you can really just toss your brain out the window for an hour and a half and enjoy this thrill ride AS Henry. It's not without a fair share of gore for the more violent at heart either. It's another example of how a certain type of video game movie could be done, but it's not a video game. It could stand to run a little bit smoother at times, but I get that it's rough because you're experiencing Henry's position. If you have Amazon Prime (Canada) you can go check it out and judge for yourself. It's a very "in-between" movie, but I tend to lean towards the side that sees it as a simple roller-coaster ride, and nothing much more.
For this month, I did a little bit more homework on Bruce Campbell's roles. Today's review takes a peak at another horror role of his, that has developed a cult following from his devoted fans - and that's about the only audience I'd truly recommend this to. For those who wish to watch something very disturbing, while blending a together lot of different material, it's pretty great. But that's just the thing. It borrows from a hell of a lot (or so it seems).
Released in 1991 (or '92, depending on what site you're visiting for research), one can pick out the recipe that formed such a film. You get yourself a 'Total Recall' base, add various measurements of 'Mad Max', 'Temple of Doom', throw in a dash of 'The Hills Have Eyes', and don't forget to add the Bruce Campbell cherry to top everything off. He's pretty much 'Army of Darkness' Campbell, but without the comedy. It's a little more serious, but he does get to play the broad-chinned hero here, which is what Campbell fans are gonna wanna see.
In the year 2037, a nuclear war has all but destroyed the Earth entirely. Any of Earth's remaining people have retreated to a computer-controlled biosphere called Inworld, where computers control everything to do with human life, which includes a very 'Matrix'-like set-up. People are plugged in to live their lives out in a fantasy dream world, but in this case, they seem to be aware of everything, as they can unplug themselves to eat and use the bathroom. Some of the rules layed out for it are pretty open and loose.
A young woman named Judy (Marta Martin), however, decides that she really wants to know what has happened to the real world. She wants very much to experience reality for all it's worth, and she spends about the first 15 minutes of the film talking about it until finally, Inworld's System Operator grants her wish by exiling her to the "Outworld" (no, not THAT Outworld). To her dismay, the world has essentially become the setting for 'Mad Max', sprinkled with a bunch of creepy 'Hills Have Eyes' mutants.
Here, she meets Stover (Bruce Campbell), who rescues Judy, but soon enough finds himself down in the mutant underground with her. The mutants' plan, disturbingly enough, to breed with her. Can Stover save her, and can they escape with their lives intact? It's here that I'll feel fit to mention that nothing entirely graphic is seen. These mutants are creepy, and a lot of the imagery used is disturbing, but nowhere watching it did I feel like I had to brace myself for some really bad discomfort... that said, they do completely 'Saw' one young character here... Once again - for the hardcore Campbell fans.
It ends with a fairly interesting twist that I, myself, didn't quite see coming. But once it happened, I will say I felt like it should have been more obvious to me. Altogether, it stands as a fairly standard film for what it is. This is a straight up B horror movie, starring the Campbell Man himself, who seldom takes on the serious. Campbell is there to give the horror fans a good time by playing a character who will cater to them, and this is really no exception. I had no problem accepting the film, and don't find it too necessary to pick on, despite its many flaws, which help the charm of it anyway.
If I had to offer any real criticism, it's that parts of it drag in the beginning, and it borrows from so much that it looks all too familiar by 1991 (or '92 - which one is it, honestly?). Otherwise, this is one for the horror hounds who wanna see something that's gonna make 'em squirm. A lot of the practical horror effects here are based on gross-out moments, but they do look pretty freakin' good for something so low-budget. This is a good glimpse at some of Campbell's earlier work that isn't an 'Evil Dead' movie, featuring him as the action hero. It's not rated well for fairly obvious reasons, but I'm kinda glad I took the time to check it out. It's gruesome and disturbing, yes, but in all the best ways.
This review's actually gonna be a really quick one because I can't think of a whole lot to say about it. I suppose the beginning is as good a time as any to mention that it's not really a Bruce Campbell movie. He's in it, but very much second banana to Walter Koenig (best known as Chekov from the original 'Star Trek' series). Further to that, Campbell plays it more or less straight here (at least, until one scene), and he's not given much to do. So if you want full Bruce, you won't find it here, sadly.
Taking place twenty years after the Apollo 11 Mission to the Moon (present day, 1989) astronauts Colonel Jason Grant (Walter Koenig) and Ray Tanner (Bruce Campbell) encounter an abandoned spaceship while on board their shuttle, Camelot, on a routine mission. Grant heads out to investigate, and discovers an odd looking pod along with a random human corpse. As most movies like this go, both are brought back to earth for scientific study, while the audience can already see the 'Alien' ripoff about to happen.
Upon study, it's discovered that both the pod and the corpse originated on the moon, 14,000 years ago. All scientists involved leave the lab, and of course, shit happens. The pod hatches, unleashing an alien that uses the corpse along with various mechanical parts to make an honestly pretty badass cybernetic body. It goes on a bit of a rampage, but is quickly destroyed. The potential for more destructive alien creatures from the moon leads the two astronauts on a new mission; to destroy them at all costs.
There's just not much to say about this one. It could be a fun, goofy romp if you have the patience for it, but this kind of thing was already done better with 'Alien'. The biggest problem here is that it seems to leave all sorts of dangling questions. Like what's up with the ancient humanoid Moon society? Why do the aliens want to invade in the first place? Where do they come from? Just how big is Bruce Campbell's chin? And so on. They even stumble across a woman in suspended animation, a native of this Moon society, named Mera (Leigh Lombardi). But not much gets answered other than the name of the invading alien creatures. Or maybe there was, but I found myself drifting off because listening to her talk is a bit time-consuming.
Quite honestly, I was not a fan. There was nothing new or different about any of this, and it felt much longer than it was. It only runs an hour and a half, but it felt more like two, and so much of it is seemingly filler. But this was director Robert Dyke's first attempt. He would later make a sequel called 'Moontrap: Target Earth', but it seemed to get even less attention than this. Dyke's better talent seems to lie in visual effects, working on films like 'Evil Dead II' and 'Angels in the Outfield' (he has range). Anyway, it's not terrible, but there's nothing about it that sticks out as good, either. It's pretty forgettable, overall, and the only thing even remotely interesting about it is the aliens, but that's only due to their cyborg-making skills (I will give it that scene - that was pretty awesome... even if it was too long).
An action hero turned washed up, B movie actor, Colton West (Steve Guttenberg) spends his current life forced to fight off giant bugs for big screen entertainment. He hates it, and it makes him miss his glory days in the 90's as a well-known superhero (at least in this universe). However, on his way home after being let go from a project, he suddenly finds himself facing off against a swarm of horrifying, fire-breathing spiders that erupt from a volcano nearby. This ultimately triggers Colton to get himself home to his family.
In the meantime, his family ends up on separate paths. His son, Wyatt (Noah Hunt) ends up fighting his own battle against the flame-spewing arachnids alongside his friends, Jordan (Diana Hopper), Eli (Ben Snowden) and Travis (Zac Goodspeed). Meanwhile, his wife, Olivia (Nia Peeples) soon finds herself taken in by the Army after having a cheesetasticaly bad ass face-to-face with one of the spiders in her own home. While his family survives the arach-attack as best they can, it may be up to Colton to channel his hatred of working with bugs into finding a way to hopefully never do it again. But then, sequels are a thing.
'Lavalantula' actually happens to take place in the same universe as the 'Sharknado' films, as there is some character crossover here. In fact, Colton West eventually appears after this in 'Sharknado 4: The Fourth Awakens' and this film's sequel, '2 Lava, 2 Lantula'. You've gotta appreciate word-play like that when it comes to movies like these. I further appreciate the whole elemental aspect of these films, incorporating one of the four elements with a natural disaster and a creature. It's like they roll a three-sided die. What will they think of next? (and why do I already know I'm gonna be watching it?)
Another interesting attachment is that it comes from the same guy who directed last week's Spider Feature, 'Big Ass Spider', Mike Mendez. This is a director who is slowly coming to my attention, and I'm enjoying his work, for the most part. He's about being very self-aware and having fun, realizing you're there for nothing more than a creature feature. He also directed the 'Friday the 31st' segment of 'Tales of Halloween'; a personal underground favorite for the season.
Going back to the movie at hand for a second though, I can't say it's not completely without its problems. I never thought I'd see the day, but this actually features Michael Winslow who has been brought back to do a whole bunch of noises and sound effects. It's a lot of fun when he does this stuff to mess with people in the 'Police Academy' movies, or just act like someone who's lost his mind (as seen in 'Cheech & Chong's Next Movie'). But here, I get the feeling there wasn't much of a guideline for him to follow and they just let him do his thing, which unfortunately results in things like stereotypical Kung-Fu voices that don't necessarily fly with people as much these days. Its often kinda cringe-worthy, but I woudn't say he kills the movie, either. Another cameo comes along here that made me do a double-take.
Only a select few will remember him, but Patrick Renna shows up here. He would be best known for his role as "Ham" Porter in 'The Sandlot', but ended up in a few things including 'The Big Green', and even an episode of 'X-Files' where he played an obsessive compulsive vampire named Ronnie Strickland. We haven't seen him for a while, but he actually hasn't stopped for all these years. Remembering him as comedy relief in films like 'Sandlot', he's got a similar role here as an obsessive and starstruck fan of Colton's. It's actually pretty entertaining to me how he's so in awe, but casual about it at the same time. He hasn't lost his timing.
It's kinda funny that I remember not getting a whole lot out of 'Sharknado', perhaps looking at it the wrong way at the time. I never did bother with anything in the series since then, but this made me second guess myself. One could take both of these series and parallel watch them, looking for some sort of continuity. The best part is, these movies are Syfy originals, so no one's really looking for cinematic quality. It's just some B movie fun, and I would say very similar to 'Eight Legged Freaks' in some of its execution. I had a lot of fun with it, see it for what it is, and once again recommend it lights down with a bunch of popcorn - check for spiders first.
It's not all too often that I get completely torn about a movie, but this was one of those situations. With a title as silly as 'Big Ass Spider!', one has to know that they're in for something pretty laughable. It's a modern B movie, plain and simple. And with that, I got some good laughs, some good scares (there's a face-melting scene here that hit a nerve), but for some reason, I still feel a bit let down by it.
The whole thing opens with a very tragic-looking scene; emotional music playing, slow-mo, and our hero, Alex Mathis (Greg Grunberg) approaching the scene in the accompanying photo. It then flashes back to tell us the story of how he got there. The way it does it is very abrupt, and I felt like there wasn't really any set-up. The audience already knows they're there to see a "Big Ass Spider", and all this really did was show us the obvious before it got going. It may as well have just started, and it almost just felt like a spoiler.
Anyway, Alex is an exterminator, working in LA. One day on the job, he gets bitten by a spider and sent to the hospital for treatment. Meanwhile, in the hospital's morgue, rodent-sized spider pulls an 'Alien', bursts out of a new cadaver's chest, and bites the mortician, resulting in... nothing much. The mortician brings the spider to the attention of the rest of the staff by pulling the fire alarm, which brings in some authority, led by Major Braxton Tanner (Ray Wise) and Lt. Karly Brant (Clare Kramer) who seems to know exactly what this spider is all about.
Alex offers to capture the spider if his hospital bill can be paid off in exchange for his services. He is assisted by a security guard named Jose (Lombardo Boyar), and together they discover that this spider seems to be growing in size. Come to find out that the spider is the result of a military experiment that involves mixing the DNA of a spider and an alien (giving the chest spider a whole new perspective, but don't worry, no ties to 'Alien' movies here).
That brings me to my next point - it's never explained why the military made this giant spider. The only thing my imagination can fill in the blank with is weaponization, otherwise I suppose it was just them pushing the big red button and saying "I wonder what would happen if I did this". It becomes unimportant and tossed aside because the spider is growing exponentially, and about to terrorize the city. Can the spider expert and the security guard help the military to stop the spider before it becomes too much to handle?
This is a difficult one for me because the bad and the good are almost equal extremes. On one hand, it delivers in laughs, scares (including not terribly cheap jumps), and only promises its audience exactly what the title suggests. As mentioned before, you can't go into a movie with a title like this and expect to be blown away. On the other hand, some of the issues I had are big deals to me. The opportunity for an explanation behind this creature was there, even if the explanation was stupid, we never got a "why" answer.
I'm also still a bit baffled by the beginning. I could see the filmmakers wanting to have a big reveal at the beginning if the trailers didn't give us anything, but they did. Generally, a beginning like this is meant to set up the story you're about to see, but this was just a long, drawn-out visual that honestly felt like filler. It's a weird thing to get under my skin, but it does - just get going with the movie, unless you have something to say first.
Criticisms and nitpicking aside, however, the overall product is still a fun, creepy crawly time, and it's probably just about as violent as one would want it to be as a PG-13 flick. It had a very limited theatrical run, and critics seemed to eat it up, seeing it as the fun, senseless thrill ride that it is. Meanwhile, audiences faltered in its overall fandom for various reasons. It's odd to see a movie so split where critics have a higher opinion, but it does happen the odd time.
As for myself, despite my overall criticism, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have fun, or said I wouldn't ever watch it again. I do have a soft spot for these 8-legged creature features, and I can't really explain why. Perhaps it's because I'm not particularly arachnophobic (though they make me hesitate to visit Australia any time soon), but they are just creepy enough when monsterized that I get a creepy crawly kick out of it. If spiders do freak you out, you should know that this is no walk in the park, and you might be better off with something like 'Eight Legged Freaks'. But if you're on the lookout for a decent brain-out-the-window horror comedy, it's not a bad place to look.
Continuing Arachno-Disaster Month, I had my eyes on a completely different title for this week - 'Arachnoquake'. It's so incredibly under the radar that I couldn't find it to watch, anywhere. But then I stumbled on this hidden gem, quick as a click on YouTube, that I had surprisingly never heard of before. It became one of the 50 top-grossing films of 1975, just two spots behind 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail'. It's also regarded as a solid "good-bad" movie, perhaps more suited to one of my new "No-Brainer" reviews. Hell, there's even an episode of 'MST3K' on it. So it was interesting that somehow, this skittered by me.
The central plot, as you can probably imagine, focuses on an invasion of spiders who ride a meteorite down to Earth's surface, landing in rural Wisconsin. The entire film uses real spiders, namely tarantulas, and they don't get really big until about half-way or more through the film. Funny story, the big, giant spider you might get to see the odd screenshot of is a Volkswagen, covered in artificial black fur. The legs were operated by seven crew members from inside by seven members of the crew.
Throughout the invasion is a series of horribly-told subplots, focusing on a handful of characters. Dan Kester (Robert Easton) has a hatred for his wife, Ev (Leslie Parrish) and has an affair with a young, local barmaid named Helga. Ev has an underage sister named Terry (Diane Lee Hart), who a kid named Dave Perkins (Kevin Brodie) keeps trying to make out with through the film and it doesn't really go anywhere.
Meanwhile, there's a weird preacher guy (Tain Bodkin) in this who leads revival meetings, and he's only really there to spill jargon about how if you sin you're gonna go to Hell. The takeaway is that he's meant to add an extra level of fear to the whole thing, as though the movie might as well be saying "If you sin, you're gonna get eaten up by giant spiders from another planet". I'd say this makes the film come off as preachy, if it didn't add to the overall ironic humour of the film. It's like this crazy extreme that the film goes to for no particular reason. It doesn't serve any purpose to the story - but then again "story" doesn't really compute here.
I should probably also bring up the leads; Doctors Vance (Steve Brodie) and Langer (Barbara Hale), who play the appropriate romance in the story, as opposed to an adulterer, and someone trying to get into a young lady's pants. They end up being the ones to figure it all out, etc. There's nothing much to be said about it. Just about every character in this feels like either a throwaway or a stereotypical character, and none of them are very engaging. Of course, this isn't exactly a movie you wanna watch to enjoy the characters, either.
This fits right into that long list of movie that are "so bad, they're good", and apparently this one has gained a significant cult following over the years, especially after 'MST3K' got hold of it and gave it their treatment. Either version is pretty easily accessible nowadays. As mentioned before, I stumbled on this on YouTube, not quite knowing what I was getting into. But within the first few minutes, I understood perfectly well that I was about to enjoy something for all the wrong reasons. I urge any fans of horrible movies to check this out when you get some time. It's pretty damn hilarious.
Imagine, if you will, the early 2000's era of film. Superhero movies were just finding their footing with equal successes and flops. They wouldn't really get huge until about 2008, when 'Dark Knight' and 'Iron Man' became paralleling benchmarks. Up until then, the big Box Office hits at the turn of the century were a mishmash of 'Star Wars', 'Lord of the Rings', whatever superheroes were doing at the time (again, finding footing) and lingering disaster movies that people were finally getting sick of (they were a big deal in the late 90s).
Enter 'Eight Legged Freaks' in 2002, which pulled the same sort of thing 'Scream' did for slasher movies in the mid 90s. It said "hell, we know this type of thing is ridiculous, so let's just have some fun with it." It dug its creepy-crawly legs into the past, dug up all the ironic fun of a 60's B movie, put a modern twist on it. Titles like 'Mars Attacks' tried prior to this, but there was too much of a divide. People weren't quite ready for that goofiness yet, as disaster movies were a part of the same era. It was seen often as "trying too hard" at the time. But by 2002, this one was a breath of fresh air - something really different, but familiar enough to play on some kind of nostalgia. By the way, 'Mars Attacks' did eventually find is audience over time, but that's a whole other review waiting to happen. For now, let's take a peek into that trap door and allow the spiders to pull us in.
A guy by the name of Chris McCormick (David Arquette) makes a return to his sleepy little fictional hometown of Prosperity, Arizona to reopen the gold mines that his late father left behind. Due to a toxic chemical spill, however, we get some of that old school monster movie action when the local spider population is affected, causing them to grow several times their original size. With the help of the town's Sheriff (also Chris' ex), Sam Parker (Kari Wuhrer), and her kids, Mike (Scott Tera) and Ashley (Scarlett Johansson), can they figure out how to stop these "eight legged freaks" from turning the town into an all-you-can-suck-the-guts-out-of buffet?
As the film unfolds, it proves to be a pretty well-paced ride, and it does a fantastic job of really leaning on that PG-13 rating with its visuals. I don't consider myself arachnophobic at all, but I'm not ashamed to admit that it wasn't without its scenes that made me squirm. Of course, all that means is that it really did its job. It delivered a lot of good laughs, but balanced it with some pretty horrific imagery. By the way, I feel absolutely obligated to inform you that pets are not safe at all in this. If that's the kind of thing that gets to you, it might not be the best go-to. That said, their deaths are pretty well always off-screen and somewhat comical. That's coming from a guy who loves his cats dearly, so I do feel like it can all be taken with a grain of salt.
Aside from the fun of it all, it's not without its place in a certain actresses history. It's actually pretty interesting to see Scarlett Johansson is in this while she hadn't quite found her big break yet. It's the last film of hers that predates 'Lost in Translation' (which arguably was her big break) by about a year. Thus, this is pretty much the last smaller role for her before she went on to bigger and better things (though one could count 'Ghost World' from 2001, but she certainly became more famous because of 'Lost in Translation'). She is still finding her acting muscles here though, so don't be shocked if she's not quite the mother from 'Jojo Rabbit' yet.
As for the other roles in this, there are no real surprises from anyone. The big lead is David Arquette, playing another version of Dewey from 'Scream'; Kari Wuhrer is pretty much in her element, known for roles at the time in movies like 'Anaconda' or 'Thinner'; and Scott Terra, the other lead, probably has his most notable role here as a fairly typical nerdy kid. Otherwise he may be best recognized as young Matt Murdock in 2003's 'Daredevil'. But there's one addition to the cast I consider a guilty pleasure of a character.
Doug E. Doug plays a radio announcer named Harlan Griffith, and you will either love this guy because you loved Sanka Coffee in 'Cool Runnings', or hate him because he's the irritating comedy relief. I tend to lean towards the former, as this guy has always had this effect on me. Even when he's being recognizably irritating, I can't help but laugh at what he does. He's this off the wall character here, so convinced about an alien invasion that he constantly has to be reminded that the spiders aren't aliens. On top of that, his biggest fear is getting probed. It all adds to the absurdity of it being a modern B movie, as in the 60's, those films were so often about either giant monsters or alien invasion.
So, if you can make it past a few things, this one does end up on my list of recommendations to some degree. If you're severely arachnophobic, or have a very soft spot for your pets, it might be one to avoid. That said, being 2002, a lot of the CG here is still a little obvious, and in all honesty, it could be passed off as a cartoon in the way its executed - and I mean that in a good way. It makes for a great watch around Halloween when you want something creepy but fun, but remember to accept it for what it is. It doesn't take itself seriously in the slightest, and neither should anyone else. Just enjoy the ride!
Digging far down inside the barrel of forgotten Disney films, here we have a title that may sound familiar, but has seemingly fallen by the wayside. You may very well have heard of other titles brought to us from director Norman Tokar, though. He was responsible for a good run of 'The Magical World of Disney' between '62 and '82 (this would become a part of that lineup in 1982), several episodes of 'Leave it to Beaver', and he brought us film titles like 'The Apple Dumpling Gang'.
'The Cat from Outer Space' fits in with the light charm of something like 'The Apple Dumpling Gang', and is very "family Disney" in that respect. But for the life of me, I cannot fathom why it gets such positive reviews for what it is. Upon watching it, I had a great time with it, but for the same reasons I would have a great time with 'Manos' or 'Troll 2'. The only difference, really, is that one can forgive this a little more for being an innocent family movie. There's nothing too extreme here. The "so bad its good" quality mostly comes from a lot of the visuals. It's actually, otherwise, a pretty charming (but maybe a little boring) story, but it does shock me to see that it's rated quite fairly.
Of course, the story here is probably something along the lines of what you'd expect with a title like 'The Cat from Outer Space'. It's about a cat named Zunar-J-5/9 Doric-4-7 (Ronnie Schell), or "Jake" who needs to make an emergency landing on Earth. Due to circumstances beyond his control, a rescue party isn't able to be sent for him right away, so he takes fixing his ship into his own hands. He soon befriends a scientist named Frank (Ken Berry) who seems to understand how his ship's power source works, and together they set to work on repairs, taking place, in secret, within a US government facility, only accessible due to Frank's work for the government.
In the meantime, an industrial spy named Stallwood (Roddy McDowall), working for a criminal mastermind known as Olympus (William Prince) soon learns of their activities, as well as a collar that can provide telekinetic powers. Soon, Frank and Jake find themselves thrust into an adventure, when their love interests become involved - Liz (Sandy Duncan) and her cat, Lucibelle. It all culminates in one of the greatest action sequences in Disney history, featuring a beat up plane, flown by Jake and Frank (mostly Jake) chasing a helicopter very slowly, and the whole sequence is dragged out but hilarious. You might find yourself hitting rewind a lot here.
This isn't necessarily something I'd sit and pick away at, dubbing it one of the worst films of all time. But I will say that there's plenty here that needs to be seen to be believed. It may very well have worked okay for 1978. Not necessarily good, but passable. But to watch that older footage with today's technology in mind, it becomes pretty laughable. I honestly recommend checking it out just for a solid blend of laughs and WTF moments.
I think I remember talking about this with my peers way back in elementary school, never having seen it. I think it was even said to have been good. So, I could see this having the same sort of nostalgic tie that I have with something like the 'Boogedy' films I reviewed earlier this month. But as a first-time watch now, it's worth the view for cheesey purposes only. It's fun on the level where you're laughing at how silly it is. There's not too much to the story or characters. If you want a really good family film about he same sort of subject matter, look no further than 'E.T.' If you wanna gather the family around for a good, ironic laugh, though, this is available on Disney Plus.
Let's take a trip back to the late 90's for a bit. 'X-Files' was all the rage, along with the idea of UFOs, aliens, and my worst fear at the time, abduction. My fear of this was so bad that I actually avoided 'X-Files' altogether, considering it just too scary for me. Fast-forward to today, however, and I personally consider these ideas kinda silly. Possible, just not really plausible. Much like hauntings, they've become something more fun to think about and hear stories about than something I truly believe in.
However, back in '98, 'Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County' was aired on prime time TV, and let's just say I didn't make it all the way through due to it being far too real for me to wrap my head around. Take a second to remember the impact 'The Blair Witch Project' had on audiences in its day, often dubbed the first found footage movie (first to hit theaters, anyway). This was one year before, and aired on TV, which made it a little more real.
This actually completely takes its idea from something extremely similar released in 1989 known as 'The McPherson Tape' (so yeah, IT actually came first). The only differences really being that this is much closer to the found footage acting and scenarios found today, and takes place at Thanksgiving. The McPherson Tape takes place on a little girl's birthday in 1983. They are both basically the same idea - a small group go out to a fuse box to check on a power outage, witness some aliens, and then try to make it through the night with their wits about them. It's all pretty laughable by today's standards, but back before found footage was a subgenre, this was about as real as it ever got for me.
Nowadays, to recommend watching either version seems silly. The only reason to, is to say that you saw some found footage that predates 'The Blair Witch Project'. Otherwise, 'The McPherson Tape' is really just a lot of babbling, talking and noise (which, to be fair, adds an element of reality to things) and 'Incident in Lake County' just has all the tropes your average movie of this type does. The cameraman is pretty much bound to be told off for filming, there has to be an angry guy going against everything, and of course, a lot of shaky cam during intense moments. At this point, this is the baseline for any found footage film, and it's very easy to throw away.
I am, however, glad that I took the time to sit through both versions of this. It's one of those fine examples of seeing how much impact a movie can have on someone for its time. Again, predating 'Blair Witch', you really didn't see this kind of thing, unless you managed to get your prying eyes on a little number called 'Cannibal Holocaust', originally released in 1980 and banned almost everywhere. It's funny what the idea of aliens did to our fear factors, especially when you watch these, which portray them a bit more as curious, seemingly harmless beings. It just goes to show that the fear of the unknown is a very powerful thing, at least until that unknown thing is revealed to be a bunch of actors in masks and black clothing.
Yet another title from '98 (this is three in a row, now), 'Disturbing Behavior rode largely on the success of 'Dawson's Creek' star, Katie Holmes, who was a real up-and-comer at the time, pre-Cruise. At the time, she was pretty much a sex symbol for the average teenager, and it's probably safe to say, a lot of the reason anyone went to see this movie.
The Clark family decides to move to Cradle Bay Island, Washington, after the death of their son, Allen (Ethan Embry). The parents, Nathan and Cynthia (Terry David Mulligan and Susan Hogan, respectively) and daughter, Lindsay (Katherine Isabelle) are adapting to new life in their own way. Meanwhile, the son, Steve (James Marsden), runs into a particularly interesting group of new friends at school.
Enter Gavin (Nick Stahl), his right hand man, UV (Chad Donella), and the one we all came to see, Rachel (Katie Holmes). The group is all different levels of strange, and often times, even a bit irritating as they try so hard to be cool (except Holmes, she's kinda just a Goth kid). Gavin holds an absurd theory that there's some kind of sinister force that has transformed a group of seemingly perfect students named the "Blue Ribbons" into supreme goody-goodies. He also claims to have proof of it, and we clearly see him witness a crazy event in the opening scene, so the audience is well-aware that he's right, right from the get-go.
As one might guess, the rest of the world doesn't exactly believe in Gavin, passing him off as some kind of spaz. But when something extra disturbing happens, the group decides that it's finally time to investigate things, and get down to the route of what's making people act so strangely perfect.
At the end of the day, this is really just a kind of 'Body Snatchers' idea, re-imagined, and it could be said that this was 'The Faculty's "parallel" movie. You see, "parallel movies" were all the rage in the late 90s, usually having to do with some sort of disaster. 'Armageddon' parallelled 'Deep Impact', 'Volcano' parallelled 'Dante's Peak', the list goes on. This one also took place largely at a high school, and took some 'Body Snatchers' concepts, blending them with bits of 'Scream' (just about any horror at the time drew from 'Scream', really).
I kinda just took this one for what it was. It was interesting enough, but not exactly good, and not exactly original. Although they tried coining a phrase or two that just didn't stick ("sounds razor" - never heard anyone say that). However, somehow I got more from this than 'Urban Legend'. That may be because I prefer the idea of not knowing who to trust rather than just some random slasher character.
I didn't hate this movie, but it's still recognizably pretty bad, and as I said, it's mostly Katie Holmes at the time who managed to put butts in seats. Marsden wasn't known yet as Cyclops, and Stahl wasn't... almost known as John Connor (once) yet. I mean, let's face it, the only real John Connor was Edward Furlong. But I digress. This film boils down to a low rating. It's one that I didn't terribly mind sitting through, but one that I don't feel I need to check out again to try to get more out of it. The director moved on to bigger and better, including nine episode of 'Game of Thrones' among other things, so by now, this is just about a throw-away.