The Baby (1973)

JUNE 30, 2012


I’ve been hearing about The Baby for a while now, and I’m not sure why I opted to wait until I was exhausted (see previous review) and almost assuredly unable to watch it all in one sitting to check it out, because this is a movie that requires undivided attention – the ideal location would be a movie theater with people who had sworn on their life to be relatively quiet.

Now, I don’t mean that it’s a complicated movie and you can’t have any distractions or else you might miss a crucial plot point that is essential to unraveling the mystery – on the contrary there’s barely any plot at all. No, you need that sort of focus simply because this is without a doubt one of the weirdest goddamn movies ever given a theatrical release (via Scotia International, who also gave us Horror Express), and you need to ensure that there can be no doubt that what you just saw was real. I was a bit sleepy while watching, and my friend/hotel-roommate had asked me about something, and now I’m not sure – did I actually SEE a 20ish babysitter breastfeed the 30ish title character, or was my brain jumbling a bunch of stuff together?

I assure you, that scene did happen. And it wasn’t even the weirdest thing about the movie (the fact that the babysitter shows up at his birthday party later despite the fact that Baby’s family beats her senseless for “molesting” him might be, however), which tells an ostensibly straight story about a social worker who wants to rescue a mentally handicapped man from his abusive family. However the script by Abe Polsky (who also produced) seemingly goes out of its way to make this as insane as possible, tossing in incest, cattle prod abuse, an intense game of darts, Michael Pataki, a school full of disabled children (the movie’s ickiest moment, honestly), and a surprise ending in which we learn who the craziest person in the movie really is.

But special mention must be made of the film’s soundtrack, which has an appropriately schizo score that changes genre from scene to scene (the main theme is quite lovely and classy; later stuff sounds like a piano being thrown down the stairs). Also, Baby makes typical baby sounds, but they are not that of a grown man – there’s an actual baby dubbed in over him. I later learned that this was not originally the case; actor David Manzy had done his own baby impressions, but the soundtrack was lost and so a real baby was used instead, thus adding to the surreal nature of the film. I would argue that it kind of hurts the plot, since he’s clearly beyond help if at 30 his vocal chords haven’t even developed, but then I’d be trying to apply logic to The Baby, so it’s a moot point.

One legit criticism I can apply is that the pace is wonkier than anything else, which may be problematic for those who go in expecting a batshit crazy HORROR movie. Honestly apart from the babysitter being smacked around there’s nothing horror about the movie until the very end, which one can’t discuss without spoiling it (being that this movie is relatively obscure, I won’t do that). Thus, the awkward structure may be a bit much for some; there’s like 45 minutes of the social worker coming over and trying to help Baby only for the mom (Ruth Roman) or one of Baby’s sisters to thwart her, and then an endless party scene makes up another 20-30 minutes. So by the time the social worker takes action and things start to heat up, there’s only like 15 minutes left of the movie, which means they rush through the plot twist.

Also, the movie’s PG rating (!!!) confines most of what happens here off-screen, another bummer. I don’t know if they intended for a PG or just thought they were being classy by keeping things out of the camera’s range, but while it adds to the movie’s batshit existence, it doesn’t help the rushed feel of its climax. All of a sudden certain people are dead and things are revealed almost simultaneously – it’s a lot to process for a movie that for the past 90 minutes has been more or less hanging out with itself. Or maybe I was just sad that it was over, as I could easily watch this thing all day long.

The transfer on Netflix is most likely from Severin’s recent disc release, which includes interviews with director Ted Post and Manzy, who apparently teaches now and tells a story about his students discovering the film, which mortified me – the internet wasn’t around for most of my high school tenure! How many of my teachers appeared in insane 70s horror films? I may never know, because I’ve forgotten all of their names except for my freshman year English teacher, who was awesome and reminded me of Joey Pantaliano for some reason. I won’t risk cheapening my memory of that dude. Anyway, highly recommended flick! I will add it to my dream list of New Bev screenings!

What say you?


Squeal (2008)

JUNE 29, 2012


I can usually sleep pretty easily on an airplane, especially during an overnight flight (i.e. a time when I’d be sleeping anyway), but this early morning was an exception – I maybe dozed for about 40 total minutes for my entire 5+ hour flight to New York, thanks in part to the restless girl next to me, who insisted on using my shoulder (and the guy by the window) as a headrest (or footrest during his turn as human pillow). Any time I started dozing she’d kick me or trap my arm by moving again, so I was never able to join her in slumberland. Nor was I able to watch Squeal on the plane as originally planned, because I was worried if I got out of my seat to get my portable player she would just overtake it entirely.

But maybe she was just doing me a favor, making me save it for my hotel room where I’d at least be more comfortable as I suffered through the damn thing, and be spared of the embarrassment I’d surely suffer from had anyone on the plane looked my way and saw a grown man not only watching but TAKING NOTES for a movie about killer pig-men, instead of, well, sleeping.

The main problem with Squeal is the fact that it delivers on the promise of its title; the characters spend the first half whining and yelling at each other, and then the second half screaming at the tops of their lungs during the endless “chase” part of the movie, where our three pig-men (well, one’s a pig-woman) villains display their complete lack of an objective by kidnapping some of them, killing others, kidnapping some and then killing them… at first it seems they might want to eat them or whatever, but then the littlest pig-man just slashes two of them to death at once, which I’d think would severely diminish their appeal as dinner.

It’s possible that they HAD real plans for them but just didn’t want to deal with them anymore, because they are the most hateful group of people I’ve seen in quite some time. The biggest offender is Travis, who is a typical horror movie asshole – being a complete prick long before he had any reason to be on edge, begging for help when things go bad, and leaving the others to die when he has the opportunity to help. Naturally, it takes forever to kill him, so we have to put up with his bullshit forever. Then again, he’s barely less tolerable than the others, who range from idiotic to obnoxious (second movie this week with a Jack Black wannabe guy). Even the film’s hero drops F-bombs with every other line, and the Final Girl is a militant vegan who pushes her agenda on everyone else, so there is literally no one here worth caring about in the slightest. The only endearing quality about any of them is that the three guys are in a band and are named Mark, Tom, and Travis, which are the names of the members of Blink 182. Hopefully the band will sue this movie for some weird form of defamation.

As for the villains, well, I’ll give them 1 point for novelty I guess. They’re (poorly explained) science experiments gone wrong, sporting pig noses and squealing instead of talking, but otherwise they just do the same sort of shit I’ve seen in a dozen or so other “kids break down and run afoul of backwoods _____” movies, instead of focusing on what made them different. Who were they before the experiment? Were they already murderous, or did the serum (?) make them crazy? What DO they eat? And why can’t any of their victims escape their flimsy chicken-wire cages?

The direction didn’t help matters any, with director Tony Swansey opting to just swing the camera around like in a found footage movie more often than not. It also seems like someone forgot to rent lights for a few shooting days, especially during the scenes where the “nice” characters poke around looking for the others (who have already been taken), sequences which are so dark it’s almost comical, considering what they are about. I assume the low lighting was a way to hide what is probably not the best makeup job in the world for the pig’s noses, but without a single well lit shot of any of the villains (and the film’s low grade digital photography doing it no favors) it’s hard to say. And far too many of the deaths are “creatively edited”, so you THINK you’re seeing something cool but you’re actually just watching a guy wave a knife around and then someone screaming from the presumed hits. Which is fine if the movie is Psycho and it’s amazing and no one is showing up to see the graphic violence, but with this sort of junk it would at least give the gorehounds a reason to stick around. Way to disappoint every type of fan.

One saving grace – the DVD doesn’t have any extra features besides the trailer, and the runtime is a mere 79 minutes. I was able to watch this thing and still have time to hit Dunkins, shower (it was like 95 in New York – forgot what humidity felt like), and finally get some sleep before heading out to see some friends I hadn’t seen in years, hoping none of them asked me what I've been up to. “So you moved 3000 miles away and now you watch movies about killer pig-men? This made sense to you?”

What say you?


Dr. Jekyll's Dungeon Of Death (1979)

JUNE 28, 2012


Sometimes I see a movie and then instantly wonder if I just had a really detailed fever dream. I mean, I know I’ve seen a lot of crazy movies over the years, but did I REALLY just watch a movie about a descendent of Dr Jekyll testing out a new serum on a group of folks by pitting them against each other in low-key wrestling matches, in between scenes of beating his sister and molesting his clearly held against her will “fiancé”? If so, that movie is called Dr. Jekyll’s Dungeon Of Death, and it’s either the best or the worst movie I’ve seen all year.

Right off the bat I knew this would be a very special movie, as Jekyll explains the history of his great grandfather, how his serum didn’t work, etc. Typical stuff, but what makes it puzzling is that he says this as we watch two guys beat the crap out of each other in a dimly lit basement, as if they put the VO on the wrong movie. Later we learn what’s going on, not that it makes much sense, but at least we know for sure that this is indeed the movie they were making.

And by “they” I mean James Wood and James Mathers, who are credited with the script. Mathers played Jekyll (there is no “Hyde” in this version; Jekyll is a big enough asshole as is, and thus doesn’t have to bother with a serum), and Wood did pretty much everything else – directing, producing, editing… he is also credited as the DP, but I don’t know if we can really call anything in this movie “photography”, being that 75% of the image is pure black most of the time. There’s a great bit where one of the few other characters says (in what sounds like an overdub) “Do you always keep your house so dark?” and isn’t answered, so I guess that’s just their way of covering their asses.

As Jekyll, Mathers is a hoot. Imagine a drunken Hugh Laurie in his own Asylum mockbuster of House and you’d have a good idea of what his performance was like here. He delivers the movie’s many ridiculous lines (particular favorite: “My sister has been hopelessly insane since birth!”) with total commitment, wholly making up for the fact that a. they’re the dumbest things ever heard and b. William Shatner himself would think he was hammy. And most of the other characters don’t even talk, so his voice is pretty much the only one you hear through most of the movie.

Except, of course, the grunts and moans of the people fighting during the film’s several overlong, vastly unexciting fight scenes. The poor cinematography, non-existent direction, and dull background make these fights look like something you might film in your own basement with a couple friends as you play “Wrestlemania” when you’re like 11 years old, so when mixed with the batshit insane mad scientist stuff (and a Jekyll with a thing for incest and abuse) it just adds to the WTFness of it all. I actually have the movie on again as I’m writing this review because some of it is just too divine to witness only once, like when Jekyll is explaining his plan over and over to a disinterested party and the movie merely cuts to the next scene mid-sentence, as if the editor was like "Well this is going nowhere, let’s see what else is happening..."

The DVD is an abomination; offering a full frame transfer that seems to be taken from VHS and thus does the already poor image no favors. The only extras are a bunch of drive-in ads for snacks and such, as well as a wonderfully stupid little bio for Cheesy Flix, the DVD distributor who talks about their state of the art DVD facility, which is all the more amusing when you consider the disc suffers from rookie mistakes like not providing a way to go back to the main menu from the chapter selection page. No offense guys, but I can make a better DVD than this on my laptop.

I would love to see this with a crowd; it’s the sort of total batshit strangeness that the Cinefamily would play (probably off this same DVD; I highly doubt this world is good enough to have a 35mm print laying around anywhere). And I almost wish I could keep the DVD to pull out for parties – folks would go home later and wonder what the hell they just saw, partygoers would forget about drinking all my beer because they’re too transfixed by the film… it’d be glorious.

One final note – I was reminded more than once of the terrible movie Nightmare in Blood but couldn’t figure out why, since they had no relation in plot or anything else. But later, I discovered that both films were produced in San Francisco around the same time (late 70s). What is it about this period and setting that produces movies with that certain je ne sais quoi? And did anyone manage to make a GOOD horror movie in San Francisco in the late 70s?

What say you?


Arachnoquake (2012)

JUNE 27, 2012


There are two types of Syfy movies. One kind is like Sharktopus, which focuses primarily on random victims who are introduced and then killed while the star circles the narrative looking for the beast before it’s “too late”. Those tend to suck. Far more successful are the ones like Arachnoquake, which introduce a group of characters, have them meet their nemesis early on, and then give us what is basically a 90 minute chase scene as they make their way across town or whatever, with the monster(s) killing someone we actually know every now and then.

Now, Arachnoquake is hardly the best example of this type, but at least it gives you a reason to pay attention, unlike the other type where you just need to see the trailer for all the money shots and then tune in for the last 20 minutes to see what sort of “climax” they’ve assembled this time. No, here if you leave for a while, an actual character might die and then you’d be like “Where’d that one guy go?”, something that isn’t a concern in those others. It’s a pretty forgettable movie, though the not sluggish pace and a tongue in cheek tone (the spiders can swim and shoot fire, nonsense that even the characters seem impressed by) warrants its existence as something for Syfy to put on in between commercials. And I had to appreciate the stones to call a movie Arachnoquake and yet start it after the earthquake occurred.

It even has a few likable characters, which is always nice. There’s a grumpy old dude who unfortunately goes pretty quickly, but I liked him because he was the only one who DID anything when first confronted with a spider early on. It’s one of those movies where the things keep growing, so at first they’re just a few times bigger than normal spiders and thus it doesn’t seem like a single one would pose much of a threat to a group of humans. Yet they all panic and run away from it, except for the old guy, who whacks it with his cane. Go Gramps!

I also liked the main character’s dad, played by familiar character actor Ethan Phillips. He’s a sort of salt of the earth, blue collar guy, and thus not willing to put up with the other folks’ bullshit, but what made me feel for the poor bastard was the script’s insistence on putting him through more hell than everyone else – he’s attacked by the spiders like three times before he’s finally killed. By the time of his demise he’s been bitten, burned, stung… he’s like Ash from Evil Dead, but it’s not really funny. It's actually just good that he's finally been put out of his misery.

And those guys put some effort into their roles, unlike top-billed Tracey Gold and Edward Furlong, who are inexplicably supposed to be a couple with teenaged children. I have to assume that Furlong’s role was written for an older actor and someone in casting fucked up along the way, because not only is he only 35 in real life, he actually looks a bit younger and thus doesn’t really look much older than the kid playing his son; another film would cast them as brothers. He’s also supposed to be a high school coach, which makes me suspect what kind of athletic program that school has if this bloated, seemingly permanently stoned dude is entrusted with whipping some would-be sports stars into shape. It’d be like having a Kardashian as the health counselor.

Gold fares no better; she looks the right age but she often refuses to actually act in many of her early scenes, just sitting there with a blank look on her face even when there are spiders nearby. Later she suffers an asthma attack and thus has a reason to DO something, but it’s a pretty shit subplot even by the standards of these things. I also rolled my eyes when the spider kidnapped her, dragging her off to a cave with its webbing. Everyone else in the movie was instantly killed when confronted by a spider, so why did they change their MO for her? Did the spider know she had higher billing than the other victims?

The FX aren’t too bad; there are a couple of practical spiders for closeups, and the smaller ones look fine. However, the big spider for the climax is pretty bad, as is the compositing when one of the heroes is supposedly battling it. I have to wonder if they purposely put the better FX up front hoping to hook people in, assuming that they’ll ride the rest out once everything starts to look like a PS1 game, but it’s a shame that nearly every one of these things drops the ball for their finales. Especially for a movie this average – it’s a C all the way through, but a good ending could have brought it up to a B- or so, rather than sink it another notch. But in between all of those bad FX is a guy running around in a scuba suit while firing a shotgun, so there’s something.

I think we need to give New Orleans a rest for filming locations, however. I know it helps the city financially and such, but it’s getting tiresome, and they’re hardly the only state in the country that could use help. Sure, it’s better than a Vancouver or Toronto location trying to pass itself off for one of our great States, but they gotta mix it up! It’s a sad thing to realize that I’m getting tired of looking at one of the more visually interesting cities in the country. I can’t remember the last time I saw a horror movie shot in New England or in the Northwest. Do it for your country!

What say you?


Humans Vs. Zombies (2011)

JUNE 26, 2012


The weirdest thing about Humans Vs. Zombies isn’t that it was bad – I figured as much about 7 minutes into the movie. No, it’s weird that they are trying to sell it as a comedy; it’s the first genre listed on its IMDb page, the back of the box describes it as “Dark comedy and horror unite!” and it even has a blurb from National Lampoon. And given its plot about LARPers ("Humans vs Zombies" is a real game people play on college campuses), I figured it would be like Galaxy Quest or whatever, with goofy people only pretending to be heroes having to step up and do it for real, but it’s not a comedy in the slightest.

I mean, yeah, there are a few laughs here and there, and one guy seems to be in the film as a consolation prize for coming in 3rd in a Jack Black lookalike contest, but it plays out like pretty much every other zombie movie ever, including the far more successful Zombie Apocalypse – it’s just a group of folks making their way from point A to point B. The LARP element is largely forgotten after the first few minutes, replaced by a character who plays video games for a living and thus is considered the expert on zombie killing. In fact if I had anything nice to say about the movie, it’s that for once it’s a serious zombie movie where (at least some) people know how to dispatch zombies.

A shame, then, that it’s a pretty terrible movie for the most part, stocked with lousy actors playing bland or unlikable characters, poorly staged action, and mostly abysmal FX work. The dialogue is particularly cringe-worthy; beware any film where the only good exchange is lifted directly from another film (in this case the great "looks clear" bit from Pitch Black). The pacing is also atrocious; we see the zombie outbreak in the opening sequence and then nothing happens for 20 minutes as we meet our characters and learn about each of their allotted single character traits. The two guys are distinguished by the fact that one wants to bang the blond girl and the other wants to bang the brunette (the aforementioned gamer girl, played by Friday Night Lights' Madison Burge), but other than that I couldn’t really find much difference between them. Then there’s the always (not) welcome conspiracy theory character, who… wait for it… is right this time!

And, come on, really?

It’s harder to tell here, but in the wide shot of everyone in the car we can see it’s clearly a composite shot, possibly shot (correctly) with a greenscreen but maybe not, since incompetency is common here. So I figured that it was just a poor job of keying out the green, but the same glitch is seen on a ceiling light in another scene, so it’s possible that they just didn’t shoot it properly to begin with, or had a blind child do their post. What’s your theory?

Also: fake video games. It’s bad enough that Burge plays the most obnoxious gamer ever, the sort of person you’d mute on Xbox if unfortunately stuck with them on Halo (she even refers to something as “gay” at one point – real nice, movie), but she reviews games with insanely bad titles like “Mythical War Gods 2” and “Burning Death 3”, complete with quickie Photoshop covers. Of course, getting real games would probably be easier if she had anything good to say about them, but she trashes all but one, because she’s just so cool.

Two solid points. One is the score, which often sounds like Friday Night Lights’ melancholy, guitar driven cues. The other is the ending, which offers the best of both worlds – two survivors take off on a note of hope, but then if you stick around through a few credits you’ll see that they end up dead too. Sure, it’s probably stolen from the Dawn of the Dead remake (which also killed its “survivors” during the end credits), but whatever. Oh, and it’s shorter than the IMDB promises, so I guess I can call that a 3rd good point.

The disc has a prequel motion comic that has some nice art but a woefully underdeveloped soundtrack, and it seems nearly half of its runtime is given over the credits. Then there’s a trailer reel for movies of all different genres and presented as one long chapter, so you can’t skip past the nature documentary about turtles to get to the horror entries (including Humans vs. Zombies itself; has to be the first time a DVD had its own trailer at the top of the disc). Then there’s a 5 minute slideshow of stills from the movie, set to nothing. Some would take the extra 12 seconds to put a chunk of the score under such a thing, but not these folks!

And so yet again we have a bad horror movie featuring a cast member from one of the best TV shows ever. I don’t know why they have had such bad luck finding horror projects, but I hope that these talented actors collectively get new agents and find work (horror or not) worthy of their charisma.

What say you?


Killer Instinct (2001)

JUNE 25, 2012


Combining the most tired of slasher backdrops (kids partying in an abandoned locale that was the site of a tragedy) with a shockingly common plot device in horror films (real estate!), Killer Instinct is the most boring and lackluster film I’d ever recommend that you watch. Not that it’s a “so bad it’s good” type affair or features a future star in a bit role, but simply because it’s one of the more bafflingly constructed slasher films I’ve ever seen, and I'd like someone else to verify that, so I know I'm not crazy.

See, the slasher stuff in the asylum is pretty typical – the kids arrive, spend an inordinate amount of time playing pranks on each other, and then finally separate into pairs so that they can fornicate and die. It’s textbook stuff for a while, but there’s a great falling glass kill and a funny rolling head gag, and it takes the unusual step of killing the four guys first before focusing on the girls. Not only does this go against the modern slasher “rule” of letting a guy and a girl survive, but it also further solidifies one of the film’s few strengths – it’s not readily apparent who the Final Girl is. Sure, it’s mostly due to the fact that the kids are all interchangeable to the extent that you might even confuse some of the girls for the guys, but let’s just pretend that the screenwriters didn’t want to be so obvious with their heroine’s identity.

But then there’s the real estate stuff, which is what puts the movie in close proximity to WTF territory. Dee Wallace plays a liaison for some big food company who wants to buy Corbin Bernsen’s meat packing plant, and he doesn’t want to sell because the plant is the life blood of the town and people will lose their jobs and blah blah. It’s a story that would barely hold the audience’s interest if Bernsen was playing Arnie and this was LA Law, so why anyone thought it would be a good fit with a teen slasher flick is a far more compelling mystery than the one in the film.

Worse, it only intersects with the slasher plot in the very last scene, and it’s so clunkily depicted I’m not even sure I understood what they were up to the whole time. But even if it was the greatest plot twist of all time and delivered in a flawless manner, I’m still not sure it was worth the jarring back and forth way it was presented throughout the past 80 minutes. We never get to know any of the teens very well (even catching their names takes effort), and part of that is because the script needs to keep leaving them off-screen for long stretches so we can watch Wallace look through records or argue with Bernsen. This also results in the slasher part of the movie not having much time for any good stalk or chase scenes; even good shots of the killer are rare.

The direction is equally grating; director Ken Barbet apparently never learned about inserts and closeups, so several scenes just unfold in master shots with the camera constantly panning around, making me dizzy much quicker than any Bourne or found footage movie ever did. I also got some douche chills while watching due to the excess of nudity, including an early outdoor romp that doesn’t even lead to a death scene. I’m all for some skin, but it feels like it’s there as the result of a reshoot (“Nothing happens in this reel! Get some girl to take her top off, figure it out!”), I get a bit skeeved out.

Also the ending involves a character memorizing a taped copy of news so she can “prove” she was home all night, when she was really with the others and seemingly involved with their deaths. The plot also needs us to believe that this group of pals are all the (sole?) children of a group of folks who murdered a guy 15 years before, not unlike Nightmare On Elm Street but without the, you know, all living on the same street aspect. No, their fathers were all business partners, and now they’re all pals. Sorry, I don’t buy it; we’ve all had one or two pals that we were sort of forced to be friends with because of our parents’ association, but ALL of their friends? And all of this information is given to us at the end of the film in one long montage/exposition babble, so it seems like they just made two bland movies and then drunkenly came up with a way to tie them together for anyone that hadn’t fallen asleep yet.

Oh well. At least it has a song from the band Bonehead over the end credits. Good band. Just a shame that they’re forever associated with this bad movie.

What say you?


Flick (2008)

JUNE 24, 2012


Thankfully, Flick has nothing to do with horror movies (watching or making) – the title had made me suspect it was yet another “crew of a horror flick gets killed during production” affair. But no, it’s actually about a guy who is killed in a fight over a girl and comes back 50 years later to exact revenge and finally get the dance he was promised, which is a perfectly decent plot for a movie; sort of a mix of The Crow and My Boyfriend’s Back.

Unfortunately, the script is let down by the obnoxious way that the film is put together; a garish mix of Sin City style hyper reality, over-saturated color effects, and a lax pace that even the director admits could have been fixed. But that issue wasn’t as big of a problem as the other two, because a slow pace is a common problem in movies and doesn’t take me out of it. However, an endless parade of wipe effects DOES; I don’t know if he’s obsessed with Star Wars or what, but it seems like every single scene (and even a few shots within a particular scene) starts and ends with a wipe or fade to black.

Then there’s the odd fact that nearly the entire movie has the four corners of the image soft blackened out, as if it was perpetually about to start a closed iris shot. It’s the sort of thing you might see in a flashback scene or something, but placing it over so much of the movie is baffling to me, and it constantly distracted me. Same goes for the coloring, with shots drenched in filtered orange and reds, like someone dropped a color filter over the shot and played with the settings at random. Smoke is always turned red, the radio station has green electric fields over it, even the damn radio tuner turns from red to white when the rock and roll is shut off. I suppose it gives the film a unique look, but it’s to the film’s detriment – it makes it look cheap and desperate. If anything it would have worked better in black and white with these color bits providing highlights, rather than just being MORE colored than the already over saturated rest of the image.

But if I can look past all that, at least there’s some semblance of a good movie here. Again, the pacing can be abysmal, but I always enjoy these sort of “back from the dead for revenge” plots, and it’s interesting that he’s a zombie instead of a supernatural badass. Not only that, he’s closer to a voodoo zombie than a Romero type one, as he needs music to be playing in order to have the energy to kill. He also retains his intelligence and ability to speak, so he’s a bit sympathetic as he makes his pleas to his girl for a last kiss or whatever. I also dug his makeup, particularly on his hands which were rotted and drenched with slime and such.

Another highlight was Faye Dunaway as the cop on Johnny’s trail. It’s unfortunately one of those subplots in which the character is trying to put together what we already know (the connection between the victims, who the killer is, etc), but Dunaway’s game performance (and prosthetic hand!) keep them from being derailing the pace too much. One-time Bionic Woman Michelle Ryan also pops up as the daughter of Johnny’s intended gal, in a role that helps remind the viewer of one of the movie’s more interesting ideas – it’s decades later, so his victims are much older, unlike the usual “one year later” scenario where everyone just has a different haircut or whatever. No, these versions are played by different actors and have come a long way from their reckless youth, his primary target now has a daughter about the age they were when Johnny was killed, giving the movie a bit of a melancholy twist. I also like the “Johnny POV” shots that show us that he still sees them as their younger self – it’s one of the film’s few visual tricks that enhance instead of detract from the film.

The disc comes with a few extras, including the commentary by writer/director David Howard. It’s pretty dry, but he does admit the pacing issues and a few other things he wishes he could redo (the abrupt climax among them), and unless I missed it he doesn’t joke about watching the commentary before watching the movie, so it’s worth listening to if you dug the movie and its style. Then there’s a lengthy interview with Dunaway where she talks about why she took the role and such, mixed with on-set footage and the like. You can skip pretty much everything else; there’s a BBC news report on the film that tells us little new we didn’t already learn, and “Animatic Comparisons” seem a bit redundant on a movie with so many cheapo FX anyway (plus several sequences that play out with comic panels). There’s also something called “Rockabilly Radio” that I skipped because I didn’t particularly love (or hate) any of the music in the movie so I didn’t feel the need to hear it again.

If you can get past the visual style and assorted nonsense (did I mention the sing-along?), you’ll probably really dig the flick, especially if you’re tired of the usual NOTLD or 28 Days Later wannabe zombie movies. Otherwise, the sluggish pace makes it a bit of a tough sell. If Howard can be convinced to recut this down to 80 minutes or so (it’s currently 95) and be a little less generous with his After FX showcasing, I bet it would be a bigger cult fave.

What say you?


Mega Shark Vs Crocosaurus (2010)

JUNE 23, 2012


In my opinion, Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus was one of the more disappointing Asylum films, failing to provide any real entertainment beyond what we saw in the trailer and offering up a piss-poor showdown between the two beasts. And I wasn't the only one who felt this way, so I was hopeful that Mega Shark Vs. Crocosaurus would improve on its predecessor and deliver something closer to Mega Piranha (which is their best monster movie, I think). But alas, they apparently learned nothing, as this suffers from the exact same problems and even a few new ones.

The one thing they did improve is the promised fight; it's not exactly a Godzilla vs Mothra level affair, but they meet a bit earlier in the narrative than in the first film, and their fight actually has some variety to it (plus Crocosaurus lays some eggs that hatch, so Mega Shark can fight some baby Crocosauruses for even more variety). And while their "deaths" in the first film were lame, this one offers a hilariously awesome shot of the two of them sinking into the ocean, each with their jaws clamped down on the other one's tail/fin. It's a thing of beauty... shitty, low budget beauty.

Otherwise it's pretty much the same boring/bad movie. Again we have a globe trotting adventure where everything suspiciously looks like Southern California, but this time (at least, I don't remember them doing it this much in the original) the characters have developed warp powers, as they go from Miami to Santa Monica in what seems like a few moments (and by helicopter to boot!). I don't know why they continually go way beyond their means with their plots to these things - it's not like Godzilla really ever made it far beyond Japan.

At least this time around the monsters aren't together and then separate; Crocosaurus is in the jungle (in a cave where diamond miners are seen digging roughly twelve feet from the entrance) and Mega Shark is in the ocean. However, Crocosaurus doesn't stay there long; she's in the water just as much as Mega Shark, it seems. And while this is probably what allowed for them to interact a bit more, it severely cuts down on the amount of giant monster action - obviously Crocosaurus would have more options for victims if she was rampaging around the land for most of her screentime, whereas Mega Shark is limited to Navy ships and such. There's a fun bit where Crocosaurus destroys part of "Miami", but it's incredibly brief, and doesn't make up for the depressing lack of variety to Mega Shark's attacks, all of which involve jumping over a ship while swatting it with its fin.

Plus, an entire third of the movie consists of nothing but the three leads (including Urkel and Asylum regular Sarah Lieving, who is a much welcome upgrade from Debbie Gibson in my opinion) sitting in a helicopter commenting on the action, dishing exposition, or offering up attack plans. All of these movies are shot in 10 day periods, but I swear they must have spent one of those days in its entirety just pointing a camera at these three as they sat around spouting nonsense. The shot is always close enough to not see any of the exterior, nor do they ever switch the angle, so there is absolutely no variety to these scenes whatsoever, and since their plans are just gibberish ("Sonic spheres!" "Nuclear arc lights!") you can probably swap them around in the narrative without it making any difference at all.

It also lacks any interesting human characters, which you'd think would be a pointless thing to mention in an Asylum movie, but they usually have SOMEONE worth giving a shit about. But everyone's bland here, even Lieving is less interesting than usual. Urkel's fiance dies in the opening attack sequence, but he doesn't seem to be really grieving much, since he barely mentions her again and spends most of the movie just offering ideas on how to stop them (spoiler: he doesn't, until the movie's almost over). Even the great Robert Picardo is kind of boring, as a commander who wants to succeed at this mission so he can smoke a rare cigar as a reward. That's about it for his character development. Combine all of that with the hilariously bad supporting cast (I particularly liked the guy who wasn't even really hitting anything when he fake-typed at his computer, just sort of twirling his fingers around in the general vicinity of the keys), and you have a movie that almost seems to be going out of its way to bore the audience to tears. My only theory is that they knew their monster action was underwhelming and thus decided to make the rest of it even MORE insipid so that the scenes with Mega Shark and/or Crocosaurus would look good in comparison. If so: nope!

What say you?


Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

JUNE 22, 2012


As often as I can, I try to judge a movie on how well it delivers on what it sets out to do. Dismissing a film for having a goofy plot is ridiculous to me; I’d much rather see a movie with an outlandish idea than see one try to “top” another film that did the same thing, storywise. So if I hated Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, it wouldn’t be because of its SNL-skit type plot, but if I could sense that the filmmakers found it just as stupid as some audience members right. Luckily, that was not the case.

In fact the biggest surprise about the film is how remarkably straight they play it. No one-liners (“Emancipate this!” is not refrained from the Vs Zombies version of this story), no winky jokes like “They’ll make a statue of you someday, Abe!” or whatever – strip his historical significance away and it’s a typical vampire flick, complete with the mentor that harbors a secret, a montage style training sequence for the hunter, and lots and lots of vamps being dusted. The only times I laughed were when director Timur Bekmambetov delivered one of his trademark insane shots, like when villain Rufus Sewell threw a chair (in slo-mo) that landed perfectly under his partner so she could sit and simultaneously pin down Abe. And that’s just me laughing at such an outlandish stunt being pulled off well – it’s not played for laughs any more than anything else; in fact I don’t think there’s a single actual joke in the entire movie.

Also working in its favor is something that threw me off in the trailers and such – the fact that Abe is a younger man here, instead of the one we think of (stovepipe and beard). If this WAS a goofy movie, this would be a bad call, but since it’s a serious approach, it makes total sense in context. Without such an iconic appearance, it’s a lot easier to get on board with the movie’s story and approach, so that by the time he DOES appear like that (in the movie’s 3rd act), the audience is with the movie and thus it’s not as ridiculous to see him brandishing an act as it might have been had we not been tracking this character from childhood for the past hour or so.

See, that’s the other thing – it’s structured like a typical biopic. We see him as a boy, he gets a life lesson that’ll be important later, he goes out into the world to find his way, meets his future wife… if the vampires were all just random jerks this could be a movie about any historical man of action. And it admirably sticks to real world facts and events, but works the vampires into it. For example, the movie tells us that the real reason the Civil War began is because freeing the slaves would mean that the vampires no longer had access to free food, which was keeping them from spreading out of the southeastern part of the United States. And the death of Lincoln’s son Willie is attributed to a vampire bite, which is acceptable since in real life the cause wasn’t definitively determined (the “most likely cause” was typhoid fever). I was a bit disappointed that it doesn’t have a clever explanation for his assassination like Vs Zombies did, but that also might have been asking a bit too much from us.

Plus it’s just plain enjoyable. The action scenes are varied and exciting; I particularly liked the horse stampede (featuring a vampire THROWING A HORSE at Abe!), and while it doesn’t live up to the insane mastery of Wanted, Bekmambetov stages another epic train sequence here that’s one of the more exciting action scenes of the summer so far (certainly better than anything in Snow White or MIB3). At times I felt like they were aiming for a PG-13 that they didn’t get (the human deaths tend to be off-screen or quick; I think there’s only one F bomb) and just opted not to contest it with the MPAA, but there are plenty of vamp decapitations and some 3D blood splatters to enjoy.

It does feel a bit choppy at times, as if there was a 120 minute cut that they shaved down a bit in order to squeeze an extra runtime in per day. Abe is just the President all of a sudden, Mary Todd’s relationship with Stephen Douglas just disappears (as the movie depicts it, Abe basically stole her from him), and some sequences jump around awkwardly. For example, at one point Abe’s friend Speed (Jimmi Simpson) races into a location on a wagon to rescue Abe, and then they drive off, but then there’s a cut and the wagon is gone and they seem to be in a completely different location but still in the same escape sequence. The scene where Sewell discovers Lincoln’s existence also seems to take place much later in the narrative than it should, which suggests some of it was re-ordered as well. It’s never incoherent or anything, just not as smooth as it could be, which makes me wonder if we’ll be getting an extended version on Blu-ray later this year. Hell they don’t even mention his death; we see them take off for the theater (noooo!) and then we flash forward to the present day, where Dominic Cooper (the mentor guy) is still recruiting young dudes to help him rid the world of vampires. It’s a testament to how reasonably well they pull off the biopic feel to the other parts of the movie that something like this would even be an issue in a movie about our 16th president battling monsters.

As for the 3D conversion, it’s one of the better that I’ve seen (which is admittedly few; I often avoid the conversions but I was told this WAS native prior to seeing it). They don’t go overboard trying to compensate for the fact that it’s NOT native 3D, which is what sinks so many attempts, and keep “comin at ya” shots to a minimum (I wonder how many people who hate on 3D realize that it’s these distracting shots that ruin the actual point of the effect for the rest of the movie – you’re not SUPPOSED to notice it any more than you’re supposed to “notice” that a film is in color). Of course, the flipside means that the effect – faked or not – is minimal compared to most of the others, so even though it’s free of the bizarre glitching that many suffer from, it’s also such a slight effect that it’s not really worth a surcharge. Your call I guess.

Some folks are never going to get past the goofy concept, but that’s their loss. While not a home run (in addition to the editing issues, Rufus Sewell’s villain is depressingly generic) it’s much better than I was expecting, and I laud them for not making a comedy. Ben Walker is a great leading man, too, and I like that Mary Elizabeth Winstead makes up for not appearing in any of the trailers (what the hell, FOX?) by getting the most poignant kill in the movie - just another one of the movie’s surprises.

What say you?


Tales That Witness Madness (1973)

JUNE 21, 2012


Tales That Witness Madness!
A weak anthology as I recall!
Tales that witness madness!
There’s not much to enjoy at all!

If I liked the movie more I would have done the entire review as a parody of “Can I Play With Madness” (my favorite Iron Maiden song, for the record), but if they didn’t put a lot of effort into writing their movie why should I do that for my review, forty years after it was released? Come on. We all have episodes of Breaking Bad to watch*.

To be fair, the anthology offers up two good stories, but the other two are dull as dirt, and the wraparound is so underdeveloped that it’s barely worth noting. The only saving grace in these scenes is Donald Pleasence, playing a seemingly normal psychiatrist (for once!) who is testing out a theory on how people perceive truth. So the movie is about four of his patients and the crazy things that they say happened to them. Are they telling the truth, or do they just THINK they are?

Well, I don’t really care as long as the stories are good, so we’re off to a good start as the first is about a kid who has an imaginary pet tiger. He keeps sneaking giant slabs of meat into his room, which doesn’t help his parents’ fractured marriage as it gives them something else to yell about. Of course, things go badly, but what I thought was actually a killer kid tale turned out to be much more exciting – an actual tiger! The parents go in to yell at him for something and then they are mauled, blood flying all over the place as the kid plays his little toy piano. It’s delightfully random, and kudos to the kid for keeping a straight face as body parts come flying at him.

The third story is also a charming bit of WTF-ery, involving a man who finds a peculiar tree and decides to put it up in his living room, much to the chagrin of his wife (a smoking hot – and hopefully not related – Joan Collins). As time goes on he becomes fixated on the tree, at one point opting to brush it instead of joining Collins in bed despite her advances. Eventually the tree kills her and takes her spot in bed, and he has no hesitation in getting into the sack now. I feel that we don’t see nearly enough dendrophilia in movies, so kudos to the movie’s creators for delivering that much.

Now, what makes these two stories work so well is that they’re short and to the point, and a bit different than what we’ve seen in other anthology movies. And that’s what makes the failure of the other two so apparent, particularly the 2nd entry, which is a haunted portrait tale (zzzz) that inexplicably involves time travel as well. Needlessly confusing and overlong, it feels like something that should have been in Dan Curtis’ Dead Of Night or something. And it doesn’t even NEED to be that long; the time travel element doesn’t feel necessary since the story would have worked fine if it just took place in the present day (with the portrait causing “accidents” and needing to be destroyed). Also, I think 45 close-ups of the portrait would have been sufficient, but apparently Freddie Francis thought it needed at least four times as many, so it seems like a full five minutes of the segment are just shots of the damn thing. Riveting!

The fourth is slightly better, because it has a very attractive female lead (Mary Tamm) and a plot that involves cannibalistic ritual, but it too is drawn out (it takes up a third of the film’s runtime) and not particularly exciting until the final few minutes. It also has Kim Novak (aged 40) in a role written for Rita Hayworth (aged 65), so she seems like an older sister to Tamm’s character than a mother, which is distracting. The editing here is also confusing, with scenes featuring the villain talking to his mother dropped seemingly at random throughout the narrative. Perhaps it was written as a feature and pared down? Whatever the reason, it’s a chore, and kills the goodwill the movie had earned from the tiger and tree stories.

And then the wraparound concludes unsatisfyingly, with Pleasence apparently seeing things that the other doctor cannot and thus deemed insane himself. But then the other doctor is mauled by the tiger, so everything WAS true? If so, why couldn’t he see the “truth” as Pleasence did? It’s a potentially fun idea, but if the point was to make us debate whether or not everything in the movie really happened or if each story was merely a delusion, then they didn’t make it interesting enough to justify the effort. You know why people argue about the spinning top at the end of Inception or whether or not Deckard was a replicant in Blade Runner? Because those movies are interesting throughout! The only reason I’d want to know for sure what happened at the end of this is to save myself some time on the review. This paragraph could have been half as long!

What say you?

*I’m like halfway through Season 3! Trying so hard to finish it and 4 before S5 premieres, so I can stop living in fear of spoilers.


The Coffin (2008)

JUNE 20, 2012


As I’ve said before, part of the problem with understanding a few of the Asian horror films I’ve seen is that their customs and beliefs are much different than ours, but their films don’t usually hand-hold to provide that context for foreign audiences. Nor should they; it would be annoying to native viewers just as it would if every American movie featuring a shot of the Statue Of Liberty had to explain its significance. But The Coffin actually does give a brief explanation for a Thailand custom involving laying in a coffin in order to bring good luck, so I thank them for that as otherwise it would have been pretty weird to start a movie off with people willingly entering “dead boxes” for some reason.

Sadly, even though it’s far more coherent than most others I’ve seen (at least, once it became clear that the two storylines were only connected in a very thin way), it’s not particularly exciting or scary. I know most Asian horror films are slower than their US counterparts, but even by their usual standards I found this one a bit lethargic, even when considering that it’s much shorter (82 minutes) than average. Basically, the movie is two quick ghost/“careful what you wish for” stories combined (sort of) and padded out to feature length. Our heroine goes into the coffin hoping to rid herself of cancer, and she does – but her boyfriend is almost instantly killed in a car accident. That’s pretty much it; she spends the rest of the movie figuring out why, which will be a chore to anyone who’s ever seen a Final Destination movie.

The guy’s story is slightly more exciting, because he visits graveyards and morgues and such, also trying to solve the mystery. His goal was to have his wife come out of her coma, which happens, but he dies for a few minutes in the process, and thus seemingly brings some scary ghosts along with him (this stuff gave me a Flatliners vibe at times). It’s also the source of some confusion, because I kept assuming one of the ghosts that were haunting him and his lady pal were involved with the other story, but actually we discover that his stuff occurred five years before hers, and only then (in her timeline) do we find out what was going on in his.

To be fair, the tie together is interesting, but it never justifies the disjointed, back and forth way that it unfolds. Once it concluded, I couldn’t help but think that maybe the movie should have just told each story separately, anthology style (perhaps adding a third and paring the existing ones down a bit to help with the pacing issues), so we could get fully invested with the characters’ respective plights. Other than the “a-ha!” moment when you discover how they connect (which is fairly tenuous), there’s no real reason for its structure. And by showing him alive in the future before we’ve even gotten to the end of his story, the movie is also robbed of some suspense – another baffling decision.

In its favor is some creative camerawork and strange but striking imagery not unlike that of an early 1990s music video (I was reminded of “November Rain” and “Come Undone”, for whatever reason). One of the few good scare bits involves a hallway of mirrored doors opening and closing; another eye-catching visual that elevates the fact that the scene is rather pointless. And I liked the camera trick style scares, where a character would see a ghost and then we’d pan over to another character, and he/she would walk over and the ghost would be gone (sort of like Annie walking back and forth in Halloween as Michael appears/disappears behind her).

Oh, and it’s in English for the most part. A few scenes are in Thai, but for 95% of the runtime the characters are speaking English (for real, not dubbed). Not sure why after 5 years that this seems to be the first Asian production that I’ve found that was shot this way; if you know of any others please let me know. One of my biggest issues for foreign language films is that I spend so much time looking at the bottom third of the screen that I often miss the actual action that is occurring, but of course a dub has its own problems. The other solution is to stop making your movies so talky, other countries! I didn’t have any problem with The Raid!

What say you?


Saturday Morning Massacre (2011)

JUNE 19, 2012


I don't know if the programmers aren't getting any other submissions or if they just don't like the genre, but it's depressing to see how the LA Film Fest has cut back on horror offerings over the years. In years' past they've had like 4 horror films, but this year they offered exactly two, one of which (Juan of the Dead) has been on the festival run for nearly a year now. The other is Saturday Morning Massacre, which is a comic-horror blend that will keep hardcore fans at bay. So what's the deal here? Does the festival figure that the horror-centric festivals in the fall have genre fans covered and thus they should focus on their immigrant documentaries and hipster indie comedies?

Perhaps I should have pondered that as I watched Massacre, because it would have been a better way to spend 90 minutes. Unlikeable characters, a lethargic, awkward pace, and lifeless direction kill the promise of the concept before the halfway point, making most of it a chore to sit through even when the killers start offing these jerks. I mean, is THIS the best the festival can offer nowadays? Previous years have given us Let The Right One In, Embodiment Of Evil, The Innkeepers... hell I didn't even like that last one that much but I can certainly vouch for its validity as a well-made, festival-worthy horror film. This is the sort of thing that would play in the middle of the day at Shriekfest, where I'd watch for a bit and then realize I should just go get a taco.

And that's a shame, because the concept is pretty great, and it even starts off promisingly enough. Our heroes are amateur ghost hunters that are not unlike the gang from Scooby Doo (complete with a dog). The "Velma" type character is our obvious Final Girl, and the film kicks off with them midway through an investigation where the villain turns out to be not a ghost but a child pornographer dungeon. It's the sort of "Neophytes get in way over their heads" plot that made Mystery Team one of the best comedies in years, and applied to a horror flick should have produced gold.

But alas, it's not to be. Things deteriorate quickly from there, as we get to learn more about our group and realize that they're all kind of dickish; even the Final Girl character is annoying more often than not. Whether that's supposed to be the point or not, I don't know, but when you have such a draggy pace and a not particularly interesting villain, it's a major problem. The only saving grace in the character department is a local cop who shows them around the place; his nonchalant explanation of the terrible things that happened there is easily the film's comedic highlight. But he takes off again for most of the runtime; had he stuck around it might have made the movie more tolerable. Indeed, when he comes back near the end it's the only time in the entire second half (besides one or two decent kills) that I wasn't completely regretting my decision to attend the flick instead of watching something at home.

Oh, that and the random inclusion of "Far Behind" from Candlebox. Good tune.

It's also the sort of movie that often feels like you're watching the deleted/alternate scenes collection instead of the actual film. The endless "setting up the equipment" sequence is particularly grating when you realize that they don't really do much investigating; most of the time there is spent tripping on acid or yelling at each other, until the killers finally make their presence known and it becomes a routine, thoroughly uninteresting "chase through the house" movie. Even their fights feel like they're missing something; at one point the Fred type guy calls his girlfriend a whore, and she demands an apology when she comes back. Next time we see them, she's affectionate - did the apology get cut or did one of the film's whopping SIX writers forget to remind the next guy to follow up on it?

Oh (spoiler), they kill the dog, too. Off-screen, thankfully, but really? Do you just WANT the audience to hate you/this movie? It's not even played for laughs (if this was a straight up Scooby-Doo parody, with everyone in costume, it'd be kind of funny if Scooby got offed instantly), it's more just reinforcing that the comedy part of the movie is over and now we're in "real" horror (with some humor still sprinkled in). But since the comedy wasn't that funny to begin with and the horror is generic, it's just another red mark on the film that serves no real purpose.

The post Q&A explained a lot. I give them points for shooting the movie in 10 days, but the film's origin was a groaner - two of the producers secured a property and decided to make a movie using a script that did not yet exist. So it was quickly written, specifically for that location (has this ever produced a good movie?), and shot something like 6 weeks after the decision was first made to make a movie in the first place. Kudos for speediness, I guess. Oh, and one of the Q&A participants was either drunk or stoned, rambling endlessly and making what seemed like in-jokes to my ears. In other words, it was a perfectly fitting capper to the film.

I will say this much - despite all of that, it was still better than the short film that preceded it ("Once It Started It Could Not End Otherwise"), which was little more than hard to read text (white text over black and white halftone closeups) in between modified shots of a high school with assorted yearbook photos placed into them, aided by headache-inducing strobe effects and droning noise on the soundtrack. Total art school nonsense to my eyes and ears; I'm sure there's an audience for it but why it was attached to a goofy horror movie is beyond me.

The promise of the concept and obvious homage to Texas Chainsaw Massacre (this was a Texas production, and the structure is very similar if you ignore the Scooby-Doo stuff) were much appreciated, but ultimately the film could not overcome the handicaps of its origin or clunky script. Like the short, there is probably an audience for it, but it just didn't work for me. Thanks for the Candlebox memories though. "Didn't mean to treat you oh so bad, but I did it anyway!"

What say you?


Blue Eyes Of The Broken Doll (1974)

JUNE 18, 2012


I don’t see too many Spanish gialli, but with a title like Blue Eyes Of The Broken Doll (Spanish: Los Ojos Azules De La Muñeca Rota; aka House Of Psychotic Women) I figured it had to live up to its Italian brethren – that’s just one of those titles where you don’t need to know anything else to realize it’s going to feature a black gloved killer and a convoluted, nonsensical motive for doing what he does throughout the runtime. The only question was: would it have a repeated, familiar song as part of the killer’s MO? You bet it does – hope you like “Frére Jacques” (or “Fray Felipe”, I guess), because you’ll hear it 590 times before the movie is through.

Anyway, it’s a pretty standard but enjoyable entry in the sub-genre. Apart from Paul Naschy in the lead role, nothing really distinguishes it from the Italian offerings of the time; it doesn’t even play up the change in geography. The kill scenes are often shorter than you’d expect, and the 1.33:1 ratio certainly keeps it from being much of a visual treat (though the wacky red-tinted flashbacks help), but it hits all its marks and offers a lot of skin, so you’ll be entertained with its tale of a drifter (Naschy) who ends up in a house with three sisters, two of which he bangs before the week is through.

The title refers to the killer’s MO of killing (blonde) women with blue eyes, a hilarious handicap that requires blond/blue-eyed women to keep introducing themselves into the narrative so we don’t run out of kill scenes. Luckily, the killer abandons this as the movie heads toward its conclusion, however not so soon that the pattern was rather pointless to even bring up (take a note, Scream 2). I also like how when he takes the eyes he takes some of the skin around them along with it, so they look like mini fried eggs when he puts them into a water dish for later use.

I was also tickled by the fact that (spoiler) Naschy is the main character but ultimately serves no function in the film. We’re supposed to think he’s the killer, and whether you believe that or not you can at least agree that if he’s NOT then he’ll be the one to figure it out and save the day, right? Nope, he is accused of the crimes and panics because he’s on probation, and takes off into the snowy hills to try to escape before being shot to death with 15 minutes left to go. Then the cops go off and figure out who the real killer is, with Naschy barely being mentioned again. It’s a nice shock that he dies a while before the end credits, but it’s quite puzzling that he’d write himself a script (along with director Carlos Aured) where he didn’t really have to be in it. Once the killer is revealed and his motives are (relatively) explained, you realize Naschy could have just left the house after one night and the movie would pretty much unfold in the same way.

Well, the murder stuff would be the same. The movie would have a lot less sex in it, because every female character throws herself at him; one merely tells him that she has insomnia and then joins him in bed, seemingly a day after they met. Later on he tries to kill a woman who he thinks is trying to expose him, only for her to tell him “I’ve found true happiness by your side.” I should note this character has a prosthetic hand that he kisses the first time they make love, so maybe this is a “take the good with the bad” situation since her previous lovers probably didn’t go to that much effort. She’s also still into him after he knocks her out and leaves her unconscious in a snowbank during his escape attempt, crying at his demise. Oh, speaking of this bit, it’s hilariously staged, because she seemingly wakes up 30 seconds later – she stands up and walks a few feet and sees him only about another 100 feet away, trying to climb an icy hill. It reminded me of that bit on The Simpsons where Burns tried to “Cask of Amontillado” Homer, but when Homer woke up from his poison Burns had only gotten like 6 bricks laid in place, allowing him to easily climb out of his “tomb”.

Goofy moments like this make up for the rather unnecessary and mean-spirited killing of a pig, which has to be real. Look, I know how we get bacon and pork chops and ham (“A wonderful, magical animal!” OK I’ll stop with the Simpsons references), but we don’t need to see the poor bastard getting its throat slit and listen to him squeal as he slowly dies. We watch these violent, misogynist movies to laugh, not be disturbed!

The disc has a commentary by Naschy and someone else, I didn’t catch the name and since it was in Spanish anyway, I just turned on the subtitles for it (nice touch, Victory) and left the original audio on so I could maybe figure out a little bit more of the story (I didn’t quite get what the lady in the wheelchair was up to, but it’s fine since nearly every Giallo has a wheelchair-bound character). It’s a pretty chatty track; Naschy talks a lot about metaphor and character theme, and seemingly puts more thought into these things than is readily apparent. He also laughs at some of the movie’s sillier aspects (like the six shooter pistol that he fires 20 rounds from during the climax) and frequently compliments the “hot” actresses, so if you can understand Spanish it’s probably a hoot to listen to instead of reading. A Naschy intro, the Spanish version of the credit sequence, and the spoiler-filled trailer round things out. The movie is also available to listen to in Spanish or English, which is another perk (the dub is quite good, in fact).

I realized after about a half hour or so that this was the first true Naschy film I had seen that wasn’t part of his Waldemar Daninsky series, unless you count Count Dracula’s Great Love which was basically one of those but with him as Dracula instead. I’ll have to look into seeing some others, if you know of any more in this vein (i.e. no supernatural elements) let me know! I find him to be a very entertaining presence, and I’d always rather watch a Giallo than a werewolf/vampire type movie anyway.

What say you?


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