MARCH 28, 2009
Attention: Makers of C.H.U.D. - THIS is how you make a low budget monster movie in New York that features under-loved character actor Eddie Jones in a small role. Q The Winged Serpent (recommended by HMAD reader Brian - not me) is hardly perfect, but its entertaining, unique, and puts every dollar on the screen. I am really glad that the stars (read: DVD online rental services) aligned so that I could watch these movies back to back - Q has benefited greatly from a not even 24 hours old memory of how easily this type of movie can go wrong.
Now, nothing against any of the actors in Chud - they were all great, but sadly working with a lackluster script. But none of them can really hold a candle to Michael Moriarty’s performance here. As in The Stuff, he’s seemingly on his own little planet, and the movie is the better for it. There’s a great scene early on in which he makes like Ty Webb on a seedy bar piano, and it’s probably the most entertaining part of the movie even though it has nothing to do with monsters or cult priests skinning some dudes.
Oh yeah - this movie isn’t simply a monster movie. There’s also a guy in a goofy bird costume skinning willing people alive. They (well, he - either it’s a one man cult or Larry Cohen couldn’t afford any robed followers) are (is) responsible for Quetzalcoatl’s rebirth in Manhattan. Hokey, sure, but it beats cinema’s seven millionth toxic waste and/or radiation explanation. And it gives Quetzalcoatl a break from being a summon spell, so there’s something.
Another cool thing about the movie is how high the body count is. Every 5-10 minutes, Cohen stages another attack. The effects are terrible, but that doesn’t matter. I’d rather poor effects than simply HEARING about such attacks or doing everything off-screen. And they all have their little humorous charms, like the guy who is convinced his co-workers are stealing his lunch. Again, it’s all about making up for the film’s weaknesses (i.e. bad effects) by maintaining a high level of “alternate” entertainment.
There is a subplot about Moriarty’s character that I wish was more prominent. After a botched jewelry store heist (this scene is so clumsy and random that I almost think Cohen half-assed it because it was ultimately superfluous), some crooks come after him. Having found Quetzalcoatl’s nest earlier in the movie, he leads the crooks to it, telling them that the diamonds are in there. And since he apparently has a high compatibility rating with Quetzalcoatl, it shows up almost instantly and devours the two guys. I was hoping Moriarty would find ways to take care of all of his problems like this - his landlord, maybe an ex-wife, but that’s pretty much it.
Another disappointment is that he sits out the entire finale with the monster. While David Carradine (!) and Richard Roundtree (!!!) take on the thing from various rooftops, Moriarty’s character sits in a hotel and deals with the cult guy. Would have been nice to have him around, being random and abrasive to the cops.
P.S. - remake casting choice for Moriarty’s role? Robert Downey Jr. Holy awesome.
The DVD comes with a surprisingly enjoyable commentary track. Cohen is usually a bore, but he’s joined by Bill Lustig, who asks him questions and keeps him from merely rambling about his other movies like he did on The Stuff track. He also tells a pretty awesome anecdote about Bruce Willis, so he got my vote right then and there. The awesome teaser ("Just call it Q, that's all you'll have time to say before it tears you apart!") is also included. I wish he could get Moriarty for one of these things, but c’est la vie.
What say you?