Return Of The Living Dead Part II (1988)

DECEMBER 31, 2009


Nice job, BC. Close out the decade with a dull bore of a movie like Return Of The Living Dead Part 2. Now, when I was younger and obviously not going out drinking for New Year’s, I would usually rent horror movies. Some that I can recall being my New Year’s movie are Texas Chain Saw (2nd viewing), TCM III, and Alone In The Dark. Pretty good pedigree, no? But Christ, even if I had rented this back then instead of now, I probably still wouldn’t have liked it.

The biggest problem with the movie is that it’s not funny (it’s supposed to be) or gory (the MPAA said with one minor trim they would get a PG-13 and the filmmakers refused), which is kind of a problem for ANY horror comedy, but an even bigger one when the film is a sequel to one of the all time great horror comedies. Return of The Living Dead is hardly perfect, but it’s a damn fun time, features some terrific characters, and holds up well. Plus it delivered a pretty good amount of zombie action on a 4 million budget (this film’s was 6.2). Yet, I can’t even use one of those terms to describe this movie, as it fails to live up to the original on any level. Worse, it brings back James Karen and Thom Matthews as nearly identical characters, which further demonstrates how lame this movie is in comparison (besides, if they wanted to bring some actors back, it should have been the far more entertaining Clu Gulager and Don Calfa). Where their chemistry in the first film was funny, it’s painfully forced here, and that they pretty much shriek or scream every one of their lines doesn’t make it any easier.

It also botches the biggest benefit of a zombie sequel - being able to start things off quickly. Dawn of the Dead has that great panicked newsroom scene and then the apartment siege. 28 Weeks Later has that house escape. This movie has... a kid being chased by two bullies. It’s almost 25 minutes before the first zombie appears, and another 15 before there’s any actual action.

And by action I mean “running”. To give it credit, this is one of the few zombie movies in which the characters don’t hole up in a single location for a major part of the film. Instead they are constantly on the move, picking up new folks along the way as they try to escape the quarantined town. But that’s all there is - running. Karen and Matthews once again inhale the gas and slowly become zombies, and Matthews eats his girlfriend’s brain, but otherwise not a single character in the film actually dies. Zombieland got away with this by constantly killing zombies (and actually being funny), but here it’s always escape, escape, escape. The few zombie kills are usually OK enough (love the one that gets punched through the face), but they are few and far between. If not for a brief turn by Mitch Pileggi (Horace!) mowing down a bunch with a .50 cal, there wouldn’t be any real violence toward zombies OR humans until the film’s final 5 minutes.

None of this would be a major issue if the film was actually funny though. This movie’s idea of humor is for Karen’s character to say how he wants to be cremated (which is what happened to him in the first film), but all that does is confuse the fans of the first, wondering why he and Matthews are playing different people albeit with the same “Old guy showing the new kid the ropes” relationship. Later, Matthews says he’s having déjà vu, which again is just stupid, not funny. There’s also a running gag about the little kid’s older sister saying that he’s stupid when he seems to be the only one capable of making a successful plan. Haha, I guess? Hell, they even bring back Col. Glover (Jonathan Terry), and don’t give him anything funny to do either! The only laughs I got while watching this movie were when Glover appeared on screen and I mentally played back his highlights from the first film (“The usual. Crap.”).

Director Ken Wiederhorn (who previously disappointed with Shock Waves, though that film is Night of the Living Dead in comparison) and actor Thor Van Lingen provide an equally unnecessary commentary track. Thor never stops reminding us that he hasn’t gotten another acting gig since, and mostly just narrates the film when he’s not doing his “woe is me” routine. And Wiederhorn continually points out that he’s more interested in comedy than horror (then why isn’t it funny at least?) and also goes on and on about how blending the two genres simply doesn’t work and that audiences will never go for it. Oh yeah? Didn’t seem to be a problem for Dan O’Bannon, jackass. I think Edgar Wright and Ruben Fleischer might disagree as well. And that’s just for zombies; there’s certainly a long line of successful horror comedies in the slasher (Scream, Behind The Mask), werewolf (American Werewolf In London), monster (Monster Squad), vampire (Fright Night), etc. genres. So shut the fuck up.

The trailer, which wisely focuses on the horror (which out of context looks pretty exciting) instead of the comedy, is also included. Wiederhorn complains about the marketing throughout the film too, but at the end he also says that the film came out exactly how he wanted it to. Good to know, I’d hate to blame him for a studio hack job or something. This is all his mess!

What say you?

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Howling III: The Marsupials (1987)

DECEMBER 30, 2009


Without even realizing that it had been exactly two years since I watched the 1st Howling, I queued up Howling III: The Marsupials (actually The Marsupials/The Howling III on the film itself. How does one divide a Marsupial by a Howling?) on Netflix, intrigued by... well, pretty much nothing beyond my appreciation of actor Barry Otto. I wasn’t a big fan of the first two films, and the PG-13 rating meant that it would lack sufficient gore or nudity to boot.

Well for a while I thought I was wrong, as the first 40 minutes or so are pretty awesome. You get a feral girl running away from the Outback and ending up starring in a shitty low budget horror movie directed by a guy who is made to look like Alfred Hitchcock, a record TWO rape jokes in the first ten minutes (“My stepfather tried to rape me, and he’s a werewolf” is the first, and “This is high art. For example, in this scene you will be gang-raped by four monsters” is the 2nd), and a pack of werewolf women dressed as nuns. Plus a guy is thrown out of a window in a hospital room, but when they cut to an exterior, he is seen flying off the roof (and it’s like a 50 story building - big hospital!) while a song called “All Fall Down” fades into the soundtrack. So far, so good.

But then the movie detours and never recovers. The horror movie subplot is gone for good, and instead we get a borderline family drama about Otto falling in love with a werewolf woman and helping raise her child in the Outback. Meanwhile, feral girl has her own child (we see it birthed - apparently you can show a vagina in a PG-13 movie as long as its part werewolf) and learns how to be a mother. There’s some occasional action with a group of army guys and a few male werewolves, but it’s largely inconsequential, and I suspect it was just tossed in to keep people like me from giving up on the movie entirely.

It’s also way too complicated and revisionist. You don’t need silver bullets to kill werewolves here, but apparently strobe lights are a good weapon, as they all suffer from epilepsy. We’re also given the kangaroo/Tasmanian devil stuff, and then a whole bunch of hooey involving one of those painted guys you always see in Outback movies, who dance in circles and have impressive beards. Yet I don’t think the moon is ever even mentioned, but even if so, most of the movie takes place in broad daylight anyway, with people just dicking around the Outback. For a while I thought I was watching the first hour of Australia again (incidentally, Nicole Kidman was apparently up for a role in the film).

Seriously, the final 20 minutes of this movie have no werewolves or action whatsoever. Otto teaches the little were-girl how to read, and then we cut to like 15 years later where he’s teaching again, and the feral girl’s kid, now all grown up, comes to his school and they catch up on each other’s lives... and then Dame fuckin’ Edna shows up! What the fuck? Actually this leads to a finale that almost makes up for the last 40 minutes, as now big time actress feral girl turns werewolf on live TV after she wins an Oscar. Sort of like the end of the first Howling, except no one thinks its fake this time. Ha, ha.

Also, what is that buzzing, droning sound that always seems to accompany any Australian set movie? Before a single frame of film appeared on screen (credits were over black) I knew we were in Australia just from that damn sound.

I dunno, like I’ve said a million times, I’m not the biggest werewolf fan anyway, but I know a good one when I see it (American Werewolf, Wolf Man, Ginger Snaps 2), and these movies aren’t among them. I’m sure I’ll see the rest of them eventually (there are seven total, including one that is a takeoff on the "Ten Little Indians" story!), but I won’t be rushing out to find them. Christ, are they even on DVD?

What say you?

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Evil Things (2009)

DECEMBER 29, 2009


Dear Agent Perez,

I received your letter (copied below for clarification) and the evidence video titled Evil Things, concerning the missing persons who disappeared this past January in New York. I assume you thought I could help due to my ever-growing “expertise” concerning these sort of videos, consisting of footage that was found after some sort of crime or incident. And not to make light of the fate of these five young folks, but I must say, after watching the DVD you provided, I was relieved to discover that they did not seem to have been the victim of any sort of paranormal activity or local legend, and thus I was engaged by their plight far more than I had initially expected.

In fact, I often felt I was watching one of the slasher films that make up a hefty portion of the content on my website, instead of someone’s videotaped account of a non-fictional ordeal. I am no psychologist or anything, but I think it might be good to talk to the friends and family of Leo Pugliese to discover why he would seemingly have such little concern for his predicament. At around 50:00 or so into the evidence footage, the group watches a video that the perpetrator had left on their door, and while the others are noticeably (and understandably) upset, Mr. Pugliese just watches the video in silence and also keeps swiveling the camera around in order to show his friends reacting. Maybe this was just his way of dealing with the situation, but all I know about him is what is on this tape. If any other footage of him exists that might help clarify this aspect of his personality, I think it should be included the next time this evidence file is sent out for someone’s insight.

On that same note, I was a bit puzzled by the inclusion of a film score. It was chilling music indeed, but I think the families of the victims might find it a bit crass to have a “Hollywood” type element playing over the last known footage of their children. Said music also drowns out some of the subjects’ voices at times, and thus may be obscuring a vital clue such as a description of the perpetrator’s appearance.

But I must say, this sets a fine example for the notion that true life is scarier than any Hollywood movie. I literally had chills running down my spine on several occasions (particularly the last onscreen moment for Mr. Schaefer), and was fairly unnerved during many other moments. There was a bit of levity (thank you for including these moments - I know they won’t help anyone provide further information, but they did make me like these people a lot more and thus I am more driven to help solve their disappearance) where one of the young ladies mocks Mr. Pugliese’s mother, and he was shooting the camera in a way that kept some windows in the background always in the frame. I found myself watching these windows throughout the entire clip, worrying that the perpetrator would appear.

Or should I say perpetrators? I noticed something interesting after Mr. Schaefer disappears, the rest of the group runs and then a flashlight is shone in their eyes from the other direction. I don’t think it’s possible for one man to have gotten around to the other side of the house in the time depicted. Another possible clue I noticed was that they receive the perp’s footage on a VHS tape, but his footage seems to be in the 16:9 format that is characteristic of digital video. If I am correct, he would have to have had access to editing equipment nearby, which means he resides or at least has access to a facility nearby. It’s a lot of trouble for him to go through, but as he seems to get off on filming those who are filming things themselves (per the final moments in the “film” - where did this footage come from?), I can see why he wouldn’t want to just give them a DV tape as that would mean Mr. Pugliese would have to stop filming in order to play the tape back.

Incidentally, several aspects of this case remind me of what happened to five cheerleaders in Tennessee a couple years back, where they were chased for reasons unknown as they drove home in the darkness, and ended up getting lost and attacked. But this case is far more upsetting, due to the fact that the subjects in this case are far more likable and tolerable (between you and me, I was hoping the killer in that case would have killed them all after about ten minutes). I was also reminded of the case from 2000 in which a group of college students (also in an isolated cabin during the winter) were videotaped for a reality show that turned out to be a hoax. But again, these kids struck a chord with me that those others failed to, which resulted in my being far more engaged and interested in their story. The evidence file is short (74 minutes) but it was long enough to really care about the group and not want to see them fall under any harm, and it is a shame that they apparently have.

Speaking of the length of this particular evidence file, a trusted source claims that the video was about 94 minutes in length when they saw it in London this past August. I am wondering if this is correct and if so, why the change? I must say I wouldn’t have minded a few more minutes with the group at the beginning, prior to their first altercation with the person or persons in the van. I wasn’t even aware that there were five people in the car until Mr. Pugliese began swiveling the camera around (this young man has got a hell of a career as a filmmaker himself should he be found unharmed, and I had to chuckle at the sight of his seatbelt buckled behind him - I do the same when I don’t want to be restrained but also don’t want to listen to the chime of the car reminding me to put it on).

I hope your investigation has been fruitful thus far, and I think the best chance you have to solve this case is to get this evidence into as many hands as possible. The case is far more interesting than several others that have pre-occupied several of my fellow journalists’ time (like the story out of Los Angeles where the building was quarantined with some infected persons - obviously a hoax perpetrated by some individuals with no concern or respect for the victims of the legitimate case in Spain that occurred some years before. You might not have heard of it until after the Los Angeles story broke - long story). At any rate, I hope my insights have been helpful, and I look forward to reviewing the case again in the coming year.

Brian Collins

P.S. What say you?

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Psycho Ward (2007)

DECEMBER 28, 2009


I had actually picked up Psycho Ward a couple weeks ago, and then put it back because it sounded a bit too much like Prison Of The Psychotic Damned, and I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t just that film with a new title. But it wasn’t, so I picked it up today, and I was amazed to see how similar the two films were at times. I would investigate further, but both films are so lousy that it’s not really worth my effort.

Both films concern a group of young folks investigating a condemned facility for the insane, both have a guy filming everything with his DV camera, both have someone rambling on and on about the history of the place early on (before we’re given any reason to give a shit about anyone in the film - not that we ever do anyway)... hell, they both even have Wizard of Oz references (though Psycho Ward gets the edge for having it by “My pretties!” instead of “We’re not in Kansas anymore...”).

They also both have horrid nu-metal songs on the soundtrack, but Psycho Ward’s score is comprised of the same shit (I can’t remember, maybe Psychotic Damned’s was too). I’m not sure why anyone would think that this sort of sound would work in a slow paced slasher film, but it most certainly does not. It might work over zombie attack scenes or something, but not people running from a slasher in a mask.

And there’s just the one slasher. They set up a few (inmates of the titular locale), but only one of them is actually still around killing folks, which is a bummer as it would have probably been a better movie had there been a few killers (shades of Alone In The Dark). Some of the kills are OK (love the sledgehammer bit), but they are few and far between, so at least if there were a couple of different killers it would spice things up a bit.

The only thing about the movie that I really liked was that the movie’s Noonan, a girl named Lisa, turns out to be the final girl (though she gets killed too - another nice touch, would be better if I actually liked any of the characters though). When the protagonists are all being introduced, they name check each one except for Lisa, who I wasn’t even aware was in the scene until a few minutes later. So I assumed she was just there to round things out (to six) and be the first to go, but nope. And she never exhibits much Final Girl behavior, so it sort of looks like she survived simply because she was too much of a wallflower for even the killer to notice. And the girls tend to get it worse than the guys, so maybe writer Chris Lee Thompson just has some issues.

I was also tickled by the character of Studds talking about his website. He claims he had 500 hits last month, which is a pitiful number when you consider HMAD (hardly a very well-known website) gets double that a day. And he’s offering sexy photos! I just review shitty movies like this.

But the movie’s biggest crime (besides being so woefully generic that I can already barely recall any plot specifics) is being set in an asylum, because all it did was remind me of how much I would rather be playing Arkham Asylum, which I got for Christmas (I always skip a few games throughout the year so that my wife has something to buy me for Christmas and my birthday). What a fucking kickass game. I always dig games that mix things up, and AA doesn’t disappoint - you get platforming sequences, stealth sequences, fighting, puzzle solving, even some light RPG elements (upgradeable weapons). And you do it all as Batman, who is, as far as I’m concerned, the most awesome dude in history. My only gripe is that they keep mentioning all of these villains but you don’t get to fight or even interact with them - no Two-Face, no Riddler, no Freeze, etc. And Harley Quinn keeps fucking around with you but you never get to actually fight her either, which is weak. Lego Batman had all of these folks and let you throw down with them! However, a sequel is already in production, so I assume we will get to take on some of them then. And you can be assured that I won’t wait around for a holiday to get my hands on it!

Anyway, Psycho Ward kind of sucks. But it did have a trailer for a pretty cool looking movie called Shattered Lives, so I guess my rental wasn't a total waste of time. And one of the Gen-terns from Repo popped up as some fodder, so that's cool.

What say you?

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The Dorm That Dripped Blood (1982)

DECEMBER 27, 2009


Apart from being one of the movies Randy mentions in Scream 2 when he rattles off all of the college based slasher films (ah, the wit!), there isn't a hell of a lot to The Dorm That Dripped Blood's (aka Pranks) legacy. It was Daphne Zuniga's first film, but that's not quite worth seeking it out for. Die hard fans of Christopher Young might be interested in checking it out as well, since it's also his debut, but it would be a few years before he really hit his stride (in Hellraiser).

It's also not very good. OK, I'll cut it some slack - it was a student thesis film, after all - but at the end of the day it played in theaters for the same cost as every other slasher from 1982 (which there aren't a lot of - pretty much Friday the 13th 3 and Visiting Hours), which only makes it fair to judge it accordingly. And the film is sunk not by its budget limitations (the actors are OK, the effects are passable) but its horrendously slow script, jarring editing/blocking (though this improves as the film progresses), and a dumb twist that prevents the film from ever getting suspenseful.

One of the all time best "We keep trying to convince you that the killer is this guy but it's really this other, "good guy" character" executions is in My Bloody Valentine. They tell you its Harry Warden, and you buy it, and then you're probably pretty surprised to discover its actually Axel. Here, they go for a similar thing - with the (occasional) murders being blamed on the strange hermit who has been seen peeking through windows and such, only to discover that it's one of our "heroes" - but the difference is, MBV had a big enough cast to keep a. the murders coming and b. not let the audience notice that Axel wasn't around. Here, we only have four (OK, five, but one is killed before the end of the first reel) protagonists, which means that pretty much nothing can happen as long as the killer is on-screen, as they are saving his reveal for the end. And they spend most of the film holed up together, so there's not even a lot of stalking scenes to boot. Likewise, any scenes with the not-killer have to end without any sort of violence whatsoever, because he has no intention of causing them harm.

So thin is the story that when the not-killer is finally taken out (because the guy can't just fucking SAY "Hey, I'm trying to help you - that guy is the killer!"), the real killer reveals himself instantly after. Seriously, maybe 12 seconds go by in between the not-killer's demise and the real killer's announcement. Other movies might have the two survivors (killer and final girl) talk to the cops, go home, maybe make love to add to the ickiness, and then have the guy slip up and be forced to reveal himself. OR, they could simply close on a shot that reveals that he was the killer (like in Valentine with the bloody nose). But nope, the guy instantly goes into "over-explaining killer" mode, which makes the twist that kept the film from ever being exciting feel even more pointless. Though I did like that the guy then forces the heroine into the "Find the dead friends" routine. Instead of her trying to escape and constantly being blocked n' shocked by the corpses of her friends, he just grabs her and shows her where he's hidden each one. It's pretty hilarious.

And again, the editing is horrendous. Especially in the early scenes with a bunch of characters, everything is cut together as awkwardly as possible, and sloppily as well. This was pre-digital, obviously, but it seems like they didn't really know how to work the reel-to-reel either. Each cut has a bit of a jump to it (not unlike the jump that occurs when the reels are switched), and lines are often deprived of their final syllable (or left hanging too long) due to the result of cutting to the next shot. And it was not the film print either; while it was hardly pristine, this was definitely the way the film was presented. I even double checked against a VHS copy of the film that I borrowed in 2001 and have yet to return (my one attempt to watch it, back IN 2001, resulted in my dozing off before the first kill). Joe Canistro - if you are still reading the site, send me your address so I can return it to you.

Speaking of that first kill, it's about as good as it gets. Zuniga's parents come to pick her up, and after a hilariously awkward 30 second shot of them silently waiting in the car, the dad goes to find her. As he climbs the stairs, the killer gets him. Then he goes into the car and strangles mom. Zuniga comes along, finds both of her parents dead, and then the killer knocks her out. He then places her body behind the wheel of the car and runs her over. Hahahaha, YES! Wiping out an entire family in, around, and WITH their own car is pretty epic. The last kill is pretty mean-spirited too, as it involves putting a girl into a furnace and then playing out the entire last scene with two cops discussing the case as smoke (which "smells funny" according to one cop) blows behind them. But all of the kills in the film have one of two styles - offscreen, or obvious dummies taking the impact. And again with the bad editing; one guy is killed via drill to the head, and the sequence has the killer holding his head over a sink with one hand and working the drill with the other. They cut back and forth between the two hands, which is traditional, but they put the dummy head in way too early, so we are seeing a dummy head in 2-3 shots prior to the one where it actually comes into harm's way.

Luckily, there are a number of goofy moments that help make the film's interminable pace much easier to deal with (and I say again - this is why seeing a revival screening of even a bore like this film can be a good time). One shot of our heroine is framed in a manner that gives her a "halo" via a rainbow on the wall behind her, and the terrible and awkward acting (leading lady Laurie Lapinski has not a single other credit to her name) is always good for a chuckle. Also, during one of the scenes where the not-killer startles them, one of the guys says he's going to follow him, but tells the others to "stay here in case he comes back!". Wait, aren't you following him? Do you simply have no faith in your skills as a tracker? I also like the bit where the girl hides at the dead end of a dark tunnel. The killer knows she's in there, but instead of simply running in and grabbing her, he goes off to get a flashlight, allowing her to escape easily.

The guys that made this movie are also responsible for The Power (and one half of the team - Stephen Carpenter - gave us Soul Survivors), so I think it's safe to say that they are not very good filmmakers. Though I do have respect for co-writer/director/producer Jeff Obrow showing up unannounced for the screening and buying a ticket (as did Young - sadly they didn't do an intro or Q&A). Carpenter and Obrow also did The Kindred, which I saw some of back in 1988 (and always confused the title with The Changeling), and have been meaning to watch in its entirety. It was their 3rd film, so it's got the possibility of charm at least.

What say you?

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Prey (1978)

DECEMBER 26, 2009


Finally! A good movie called Prey (aka Alien Prey). It’s not for everyone though; it’s slow, strange, and largely lacking in any actual horror. But if you’re like me and can appreciate, well, a slow, weird movie in which an alien does his best to break apart a hermitic lesbian couple, then you should dig this obscure British flick.

The alien stuff is largely confined to three scenes: the opening, closing, and one in the middle that was probably tossed in just to remind us that the dude was a full blown alien, with a commander and orders and everything. One thing I loved about the movie is that it may be the first in which the fact that the main character was an alien was sort of a MacGuffin. Hell, for a stretch in the 3rd act I began to suspect if he was the villain at all, as one of the lesbian women became more threatening in her demeanor.

It’s the little moments that totally make this movie. Like when one of our heroines finds all of their chickens dead (they live on a farm) and instead of dropping to her knees and crying, or running away, she fucking KICKS the corpses of the poor chickens (all three of them!), which is the weirdest goddamn reaction to finding a dead animal that I’ve ever seen. Later, when the alien catches a fox that they have blamed for the chickens’ deaths, one of the girls decides to throw a party to celebrate. A “party”, with only three people who live together, celebrating the death of a fox who killed their chickens. She even makes a little cake with a sugar fox on it. Oh, and they make the alien wear a dress and they put lipstick on him. You know, because they’re lesbians.

Speaking of which, the movie stops cold halfway through for the two of them to engage in a soft-core love scene. Normally I would applaud such things, but as they are the only two people in the movie besides the alien, it actually just feels like padding, because it’s the only “action” that occurs until the final 10 minutes. There’s another brief scene where he kills some cops, but it’s so short and largely weightless (the cops are never mentioned again - I guess the rest of the police force doesn’t care that two of their men are dead?) that it doesn’t really count.

The kill scenes are pretty hilarious too, in that in lieu of any actual impact or penetration, they just cut to this static shot of the guy baring his vampire-esque teeth, as if to merely suggest that he’s going to bite/eat them. But again, the real joy of the film stems from its oddball little moments and the fact that the heroine seems crazier than the villain (especially when she begins brandishing a switchblade that appears to be a foot long), so it’s OK.

The most suspenseful aspect of the film is that of Wally, the parrot that the women keep in a cage on their patio. You know the alien (who looks a bit like Diabolik) is going to kill him eventually, and it’s just a matter of when. Director Norman Warren and writer Max Cuff (this is his only credit - bummer) milk this scenario for all it’s worth to admirable effect. Poor Wally.

The DVD has a bizarre 25 minute interview with Warren. It’s bizarre for two reasons: 1. only about 5 of it are about Prey (and it’s right in the middle of the piece to boot), and 2. it is shot by a guy who is holding the camera in his hand, and he apparently has Warren film HIM asking the questions! So the whole thing looks like something out of an apartment-set Blair Witch homage, and the audio is atrocious, making it even harder to understand their British accents. Of much more entertainment value is the trailer, which not only oversells the alien stuff, but also includes the tagline “For a million years man was the hunter - now he is the PREY!”. I think they are a few hundred thousand years off with their estimate. The special features menu is equally puzzling, as it features some sort of queen villain that doesn’t actually appear in the film.

Like Cathy’s Curse or whatever, this seems destined to be one of those weird movies I really like that no one’s ever heard of and will use my love of Armageddon or The Hitcher as an excuse not to take my recommendation seriously. Well fuck them. YOU should go rent/buy it at once.

What say you?

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Deadwood Park (2007)

DECEMBER 25, 2009


Merry Christmas, Hollywood! I am supporting indie fare like Deadwood Park and then heading to the New Bev for a double feature (of the Muppets!) instead of the multiplex for whatever reboots, remakes, or squeakquels you have bequeathed upon us for the holiday. You can go to hell, Tinsel Town! Though I do like the lack of traffic that always comes with the holiday (everyone leaves town). Yesterday I drove to a store 10 miles away and it only took 20 minutes to get there instead of the usual 40.

Anyway, Deadwood Park is an OK movie. With better actors and maybe 10-15 minutes shaved off of the 117 minute running time, it would be a really good one. The script is good and fairly original, combining the usual sort of “Guy returns to his hometown and is haunted by ghosts literal and figurative” story with that of a vampire that has been around for 60 years. Very old-school Stephen King-y. And I liked the locales, particularly a burnt out amusement park that director Eric Stanze keeps cutting to and ultimately stages a ten minute scene at, as well as the creepy basement that we see a few times (and is the background for the really odd DVD menu).

But that locale, as well as a few others, suffers from one of the film’s main problems - roughly 5% of this film consists of lingering establishing shots. The scene in question would probably only last 5 minutes tops, but he doubles it by constantly cutting to burnt out sections of the roller coaster, overgrown grass covering up worn out signs, etc. You begin to lose focus of what the scene is about because half of it is made up of pointless establishment, as if he was trying to beat us over the head with the fact that he found this really cool location. He also cuts to it in between scenes that that take place elsewhere, using it to depict the passage of time instead of a single shot of a sunset or whatever. Hilariously, on the commentary track he admits that an “established filmmaker” (he doesn’t say who) that he has really admired for several years told him the same thing, and yet he didn’t listen to him either, so I guess if he’s reading this review it won’t change his mind any when he makes his next film.

But the real problem is the acting, which is pretty lousy across the board. I don’t expect Olivier from these things, but the two leads have some of the most awkward “chemistry” I’ve ever seen in a film, and the supporting characters pretty much all seem like they are reading their lines from memory without actually even thinking about what they mean. In a movie built more around character and plot than visuals and scare scenes, it’s crucial to get convincing actors in the important roles, but whether it’s due to a lack of resources or just a really poor casting director, I don’t buy anyone in any role.

Again, though, it’s a good script. I really dug how it combined two different types of movies in a fairly seamless and believable way, and also how the flashback scenes kept going further and further back in time, with the oldest one giving that final piece of the puzzle to the audience so they can know the full extent of what has transpired (as opposed to having the modern day bad guy deliver all of the information in a flurry of exposition). And the production value is quite good, from the aforementioned park to the period costumes/props for the WWII scenes, everything feels right (except for a scene where the heroes listen to a psychiatrist’s recording, where we can plainly see that the tape is just some band’s licensed cassette tape and not a “blank” tape that one would use to record audio on). I also really dug a sad little moment where the hero sees the “height chart” in his childhood home, and we see that his brother’s stops prematurely (having been killed by the vampire - spoiler!). It’s a nice little touch.

There’s also a hilarious bit where the hardware store owner begins talking to our hero about the town, the mystery, his house, etc. All fine, but there are at least two guys in line behind him, waiting as the clerk goes on and on. Can you imagine going to the store to buy a hammer and having to wait while the clerk and the guy in front of you discuss the history of one of their homes? I’d fucking flip! But the dude in line just patiently waits, as if their little history lesson wasn’t holding him up. Folks just have way more patience in Missouri, I guess.

The DVD has a few outtakes (zzz) and a music video along with the aforementioned commentary, which Stanze does solo (for the first time, he points out; this is his 3rd film). It’s pretty boring, he talks about all of the usual stuff (shooting locales, praise for the actors, etc) but only admits faults for minor, “who cares?” type things, like a scene where he talks about how he dislikes the color of a coffee mug. He also alludes to another commentary as well as a documentary that are not featured on the disc, so I dunno what happened there. He also doesn’t really address why the movie was shot over a period of 8 months and not released for over two years after filming was complete (NOTE - I did doze off for about 15 minutes (at 2 in the afternoon on a day that I got up at 10 am - just sayin’), so maybe all of these things were included there. Somehow I doubt my luck is that bad, but you never know).

A while back I watched an indie called With You, which was similar in tone and execution. I didn’t care much for it, but it had its heart in the right place. Same deal here - it’s not a great film by any means, but as Stanze points out, his goal wasn’t to make a horror movie that would “fit” with the others of the time (i.e. torture films) but to tell the story he wanted to tell. And whether you like that story or not, you have to admit that his goal was an admirable one. I’ll take a dozen “bad actor/good story” movies over yet another well-made/acted “A car full of college students breaks down and they run afoul of a mutated murderer” one.

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Santa's Slay (2005)

DECEMBER 24, 2009


After it was enthusiastically suggested by Augustbenassi and many others, I guess it's sort of not too much of a surprise that I didn't love Santa's Slay. I was expecting a gleefully terrible/awesome epic like Silent Night Deadly Night 2, but it was more like one of that film's fan films on Youtube in comparison. And it had a certain (and admirable) gonzo charm, and I was never bored, but like Ghost Ship, it's also a movie that never quite lives up to its first five minutes, which is never a good thing.

In that opener, we get everything one should want in a Christmas horror movie. The family is quite dysfunctional (mom Fran Drescher hits on son-in-law Chris Kattan, dad James Caan swears a lot and talks about possibly fucking the turkey) and are probably on the verge of killing each other themselves before Santa (Bill Goldberg, and yes he is playing the actual Santa, not a stand-in like Fred Claus or a guy in a costume) bursts through the fireplace and murders them all using silverware and food items. You haven't lived until you've seen James Caan get a turkey shoved down his throat.

But after that it's a fast-paced but largely forced account of Santa's attempt to fully return to his original evil ways. He is thwarted by our Christmas-hating hero, his spunky would-be girlfriend, and his grandpa (Robert Culp! Dude must have a thing for Christmas horror movies), and it all comes down to a curling match (great, this movie may have inspired Stan Helsing's equally idiotic karoake finale). Whenever he is killing folks at random (the "fight" with Saul Rubinek is a particular delight) the movie is fine, but these "plot" scenes aren't quite as amusing as they probably sounded on paper, which kept me from liking the film more.

I was also a bit puzzled why the entire movie took place during the daylight. Writer David Steinem (who also directed thanks to a favor from producer/boss Brett Ratner - Steinem was his assistant) works in a "no one would have cared" plot point that since Christmas "begins and ends" on the North Pole, Santa only has until 5 pm on Christmas Day to wreak havoc and complete his quest or else he would have to return to giving gifts. So that means the bulk of the film occurs in the hours leading up to that point, i.e. broad daylight. And they keep track of the time via a world clock that was inexplicably given to the kid as a gift. Again - why go to this trouble? Can't they just remember how many hours the North Pole is ahead of their timezone? Or reset their watches? You know when you are trying to solve a fairly simple problem and instead of starting over you just over-complicate matters? That was seemingly the approach to this script.

I also didn't get why the R rating was so tame. There's not a lot of blood, and even requisite gags like the town pastor being a diddler are as toothless as can be. I mean, if you're going to make a movie in which the actual Santa Claus is depicted as a murderer, and in a film that is going DTV to boot, why hold back? But we get TWO foul-mouthed old ladies, so I guess it evens out.

The disc is pretty packed, though most of it is worthless filler. Most egregious are the "deleted scenes", which are more like deleted LINES, as few last more than 10 seconds (including a bit of filler so that they can be placed in context of the film), which means it takes longer to select the clip (there's no play all - thanks a lot, DVD designers), let it load, and then load back the menu, than it does to actually watch the scene. And since the movie is only 75 minutes long with credits, I'm baffled why this stuff (which totals maybe 3 combined minutes) wasn't just left in the film, as it's no better or worse than anything they left in. Also in this collection is a deleted ending that is also given its own placement on the features sub-menu. Again, not sure why it was cut; it merely provides some "where are they now?" captions (with a truly groan-worthy Lost joke for Emilie de Ravin's character) and a few outtakes. Then there's a piece about Steinem and how he got to see his dream of becoming a filmmaker come to life, which might have been a bit more charming had it not been so obvious that Brett Ratner used his clout to help out his buddy (even Ratner says "This guy has never shot a frame of film before!" - way to endear yourself to the thousands of hard-working filmmakers whose films never get further than their mom's living room). There's also a look at the production design and effects, nothing much to report on there. A commentary is also included, but after listening to them gush on the extras, I think I am safe in skipping it.

You may have noticed that the film was from my own collection. That is due to the fact that I had queued it to watch for Christmas, but hadn't returned a disc in time for it to be sent. But while I was at a Blockbuster that is closing down (I was hoping to score some cheap 360 games, but no dice - all that was left were Guitar Hero spinoffs and old sports games), I saw that Santa's Slay was available for the princely sum of $3.99. And I wish it was the type of movie that I would want to bring out every year as part of my holiday tradition, but other than that opening scene and a few isolated moments, there's nothing I'd want to watch again. Anyone want it? It's the gift that theoretically keeps on giving.

What say you?

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Terror Circus (1974)

DECEMBER 23, 2009


I wonder how many accidental purchases occurred due to retitling in the days before the internet. Terror Circus actually has another name on its own damn rental sleeve (Barn of the Naked Dead) and its IMDb (and thus "official") title is Nightmare Circus. There's also another movie sometimes called Terror Circus with Christopher Lee (which I own but haven't watched due to some debate over whether it's even really a horror movie). This sort of thing happened all the time in the 70s, though its pretty uncommon nowadays (the last notable example I can think of is 1998's Dancing About Architecture, which became Playing By Heart when it hit DVD), and I can't imagine how annoying it must have been for film fans. Especially when a title doesn't even make sense, which is the case for Barn of the Naked Dead, as the dead people are fully clothed.

This may have explained why Devin from CHUD told me the film was "sooooo bad" when I announced (over Twitter) my intention to watch it for my daily movie. So I must thank him for lowering my expectations, because I enjoyed the film quite a bit. It's slow, yes, but in a charming, off-kilter sort of way; a good example of "They just don't make em like this anymore!" itis.

First and foremost on my list of things that I liked about it is Andrew Prine's performance as Andre, the crazed "ringleader" of the (occasional) titular circus. From my perspective, he was sort of the Tom Jane of his day; a solid actor who could play villains as easily as heroes, and regardless of the film's content, would always find a way to play the character as a bit "off", though not in a flamboyant way like Christopher Walken or Nic Cage. They even have a similar physical appearance, and while I don't really think casting "look alikes" is the best way to go about a remake, I think the casting folks for any Prine film that gets remade should look to Jane first.

I also enjoyed the record time in which Andre has captured our standard car-full of pretty young girls. Not even 10 minutes have gone by before he has them tied up in his barn, alongside another 7 or 8 women that he had captured previously. Especially when you consider the year of the film's release (1974) - it's not like there had been a million of these things already, so I love that the filmmakers knew better than to waste too much time getting to the meat of the story. You look at a modern film like Wrong Turn 3, which has like two reels' worth of "character" and "plot" setup that no one gives a shit about, and you can even further appreciate the rapidity here. Not that they don't develop the characters; you get to know a bit about each girl, and we spend lots of time with Andre (and one girl who he thinks is his mother reincarnated). But the difference is, we learn this stuff throughout their ordeal, not as we wait for it.

Another thing that tickled me was how open the cops were to helping our heroines' "manager". The dude looks and sounds like a pimp (or maybe a sleazy bounty hunter), and yet not only do cops help him out when he asks, they even go out of their way to share information with him about the girls' (and others') disappearance, despite the fact that he never even produces a business card for them to verify his identity. It's pretty awesome. I can't imagine going up to a cop dressed like a slob and being like "Hey my three friends are missing" and having him drop everything to help me (especially in LA, where cops are so lazy they won't even pull someone over for driving without headlights at 2 in the morning). It's a nice depiction of our boys in blue.

Finally, I was REALLY surprised by the downer ending. We don't get to see much of the carnage, but the film's real killer (Andre's mutated father) wipes out pretty much every single girl (even the heroine) and then gets away while the cops tend to the lone survivor, a woman who was already pretty brain-fried by the ordeal and probably would be shipped to a psych ward for the rest of her life. Downer endings were not uncommon back then, but Christ, even Chain Saw let Sally get away. BOLD.

The DVD from Code Red is quite good, starting with an immaculate transfer that looks like a Blu-Ray most of the time. There's some print damage here and there (dirt, specks, and oddly placed "cigarette burns") but the color and image quality are beautiful; it's rare I have seen such a good transfer for a low budget B-movie of the era. And they have provided some nice extras, including a commentary track with the guys who did the makeup effects for the mutant guy. Since the mutant is only on-screen for about 4 minutes and one of the guys barely speaks in the making of, I skipped it (it's Christmas, dammit! I want to spend time with my family: Nick, Ellis, Rochelle, and Coach). The aforementioned making of is quite good, however, with lots of info and anecdotes packed into a half hour that only feels like half that time. It's also got the weirdest lineup for one of these things ever - the costume designer, one of the minor female characters, the makeup guys, and one of the producers who we only hear in voice-over for whatever reason (doesn't SOUND like he's on a phone, so I dunno why we can't see him). Prine has gone on record saying it's the only film he regretted doing, so I can see why he wouldn't be interested, but director Alan Rudolph and most of the female cast are still alive (as far as I can tell via IMDb anyway), so their absence is a bit noticeable. There's also an "alternate title sequence" which is just a single shot with the "Barn" title, but hey, I love that they went out of their way to put it on there, for Terror Circus completists. There's also a trailer but it's missing the audio, and instead of at least putting in the available source audio from the film itself (for dialogue and such) they just put the same damn annoying end credits song (which also accompanies the main menu) over it haphazardly. But again, this is not exactly a top tier title, so that it has any extras at all is pretty awesome, and the transfer alone shows more effort than most companies put into their high profile titles (Barn Of The Naked Dead has a pristine anamorphic transfer; Armageddon - one of the highest grossing films of all time - does not).

What say you?

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The New Daughter (2009)

DECEMBER 22, 2009


Like Bruce Willis and Chevy Chase, one actor that gets my undying support is Kevin Costner. While I let a few of them pass me by (such as Rumor Has It), I do my best to see all of his films in theaters, which is why I am one of the maybe 17 people in the world who went to see 3000 Miles To Graceland. So when I heard about The New Daughter, I was pretty excited - Costner in a straight up horror movie? Mr. Brooks was a straight up thriller until its final 10 minutes, but this sounded like a full blown killer kid movie. Hell yes!

So it’s a shame that the film was completely dumped onto a handful of screens (sans advertisements or even an official announcement of its release) and that I had to drive down to the not-very-great Regency Fairfax in LA to see it (it pained me to drive by the New Bev without stopping in!). Granted, it was better than having to drive to Norwalk (as I did for Blood Creek), but still - Costner deserves better. Hell, Swing Vote aside, his last few movies have actually done pretty good compared to the wasteland of his late 90s/early 00s output, so maybe the public was finally ready to accept him again. We will never know.

Sadder still, it’s actually a pretty good movie. It’s sort of like a cross between Signs and The Descent, and the killer kid type moments are actually misleading - this is actually a monster movie (this is actually sort of a spoiler as the monsters don’t show up until the final 20 minutes, but whatever - who is going to see this damn thing until DVD, where the monsters will probably be on the cover anyway?). Costner and his two kids move into this new house (he’s - sigh - a writer hoping the quiet will help him pen his next novel. Luckily this plot point is mentioned once and never again) and they find this odd mound in the backyard. The son is afraid of it, and the daughter is seemingly drawn to it. Soon she’s acting weird, and the son is becoming more and more spooked out, and Costner... well, Costner just does his thing. He’s in everyman mode here (always a better fit for him than his more showy characters - i.e. Robin Hood), so that’s good, but even though he is in pretty much every frame of the movie, his character isn’t really given much to do beyond constantly fiddle with his glasses. It’s more a showcase for Ivana Baquero (Pan’s Labyrinth), who has the unenviable job of playing an unlikable character who the audience needs to think is the villain (without her doing anything blatantly evil).

But it’s a monster movie with Kevin Costner! He fucking shotguns one in the face! It’s like when Stallone made that slasher movie (Eye See You, aka D-Tox) - he’s just not the type of guy you expect to see in one of these things. And that it’s a monster movie in disguise made me happy; I was actually weary of seeing another killer kid movie (in fact, the vagueness of it made me momentarily suspect we were in for a Hide and Seek retread, and that she was being weird because she knew her dad was a murderer). You go in expecting a little kid knocking her grandmother down the stairs or maybe slashing her father’s Achilles tendon, and instead you get a scene where an Oscar winning former Sexiest Man Alive is chased by a cave monster. Not a bad deal at all.

It’s also got its fair share of decent suspense and off kilter moments. Early on, the kid finds a shotgun hidden in the house, and (innocently) begins pointing it at people as Costner tries to convince him to put it down. And even though it’s not supposed to be funny, a scene where Costner uses the internet to try to figure out what’s going in with his daughter is wonderfully goofy, thanks to both the ridiculous fake search engine (“Root Around”) as well as some of his inane search terms (“Daughter, hormones” “Bad father”). Costner also seems to have a phone in every room in the house, and thus never uses the same one twice.

Also, without spoiling anything, this movie has the ballsiest ending I’ve seen in quite a while. Even Orphan wasn’t this grim. Maybe that is why the film got the fate that it did, but director Luis Berdejo (who co-wrote [Rec]) and writer John Travis (working from a short story by John Connolly) get my full respect for ending the film as they do, despite what I’m sure was pressure by one of the numerous studios slated to release this film to change it (that list, for the record, is New Line, Universal, and Tri-Star; the actual distribution is courtesy of Anchor Bay). Nice work.

Including me, there were a total of 6 people in the theater for this nighttime screening of a movie that has been out for 4 days at the only theater in the city playing it (I'm also aware of the irony that pretty much everyone in the world was buying tickets for a ripoff of Costner's Dances With Wolves). Thus, I’m guessing it won’t be a surprise success (not that we’d be able to tell - Anchor Bay neglected to report its grosses). But that means that the film will hit DVD soon, and Costner’s name should generate some interest (“Hey, I don’t remember saying that I would wait for DVD to see this one, now I’m even more intrigued!”). And as it is a small film that focuses on atmosphere for most of its running time (even the climax is far from an all-out monster/gore fest), it will likely play better at home anyway. Still, it deserves better. Someone give Costner a meaty supporting role in a big Oscar bait-y type movie and help get his career back on track!

What say you?

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Silent Night Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (1991)

DECEMBER 21, 2009


I caught some of Silent Night Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker as a kid, and remember thinking "Where is the killer Santa?" and "Why doesn't anyone notice the Pinocchio allusions?" (well, whatever an 11 year old thinks of for the word "allusion"). Well I still don't have an answer for the latter (seriously, they even READ the damn story at one point and still never think about the fact that they know a guy named "Joe Petto" and his son "Pino"), but for the former, I think I get it now - the SNDN series final installments actually succeeded in what the Halloween franchise never got to accomplish, which is to present a series of films that are based around the holiday but are otherwise unrelated.

Driving this point (sort of) home is the fact that both Neith Hunter and Clint Howard return from the previous film and even have the same names, but are obviously completely different characters (not to mention that Clint's "Ricky" is alive, though I guess we could consider this a prequel). Kim has a son and doesn't seem to work for the paper (she also has a nice house instead of an apartment), and Ricky is well-adjusted (well, as well-adjusted as a Clint Howard character can be). They seem like they are there to provide little nods to the previous entry (one of the killer toys is a segmented leech type thing - another reference), but won't distract anyone who hadn't seen it. Again though, this might just be complete laziness on the filmmakers' part.

It's also a bit of a forebearer of the Saw series, as our villain is a guy who clearly knows his way around a workshop and is looking to get back at the world for the death of his wife and unborn son. Except instead of building traps, he builds killer toys. And a robot son. Mickey Rooney plays the demented toy maker, and while he is obviously long past his prime, he still adds a bit of class to the proceedings, not to mention irony (he was one of the more vocal protesters of the original film).

He apparently has also made a prop Christopher Walken head, just in case the need arises:

The weirdest thing about the movie is that producer Brian Yuzna is shamelessly ripping himself off during the kill scenes, as they all-too-closely resemble those seen in Stuart Gordon's Dolls (which Yuzna also produced). Granted, there's only so much one can do with killer toys, and they do branch things out a bit (such as rocket roller blades that careen its user into traffic), but still, the movie lacks any really good kills, unless you count the aforementioned leech toy that causes the guy to run his car off the road and careen down a hill, at which point the car explodes (cue WOOOO!!!! and applause).

I was also somewhat disappointed that they didn't have the balls to kill off the kid on the roller blades. In the first film, fucking SANTA CLAUS CHOPS OFF A KID'S HEAD. You'd think they could at least let a kid die in what would look like an accident to anyone else.

At least they load the film up with sex. At one point, our heroine and her ex reunite in a parking garage and immediately get it on in the back of his truck. Meanwhile, her son is at home listening to his babysitter and her boyfriend get it on (in his bed no less! He's sleeping in the mother's room for some reason). Plus, the robot kid (who is hilariously androgynous) freaks out during the climax and begins dry humping the heroine, while shouting "I want you mommy, I'll be a good boy!" and things like that. Thankfully, we are spared a Mickey Rooney nude scene.

All in all, it's a pretty fun and weird (if a bit lackluster) movie, and unlike the previous film, is fully ensconced in the Christmas holiday. I appreciate that they kept trying new things, and I bet if it were ten years later, there would be more sequels as the DTV franchise market is much richer now than it was in the early 90s. A remake of the original is continuously threatened, but if you ask me, I think they should just drop the numbers and reboot the series with new Christmas themed films that are really mean spirited and weird, but not necessarily about a guy named Ricky.

What say you?

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War Wolves (2009)

DECEMBER 20, 2009


Amidst the stack of screeners I have for “rainy days” (i.e. I’m between Netflix rentals and have exhausted my real DVD collection) was War Wolves, which is too good of a title (and one I can't believe hadn't been used earlier) to waste on a Sci-Fi original movie. Or so I thought. While certainly no classic, it was a lot better than I expected, and made up for a dozen or so other generic Sci-Fi movies I’ve endured over the past couple years.

For starters, it’s not really action-heavy, and that is to its credit. The few action scenes are largely boring Matrix-inspired fights with little gore, so the less of them we have to sit through, the better. Instead, we get a surprising amount of time spent with the actual characters, particularly the two human heroes played by John Saxon and Tim Thomerson. These guys have certainly been around for a while, so there’s a slight bit of meta-charm in seeing them playing two “dinosaurs” who are trying to take out all of the werewolf-cursed young folks (they were bitten during a botched operation in Iraq or something - I missed the actual locale - under Saxon/Thomerson’s command). Thomerson in particular is a delight, as a movie-star obsessed right hand man to Saxon’s colonel (or general, or whatever - look I suck at details). Thomerson wants Saxon to quit the army life and reconnect with his estranged family, Saxon feels responsible for what happened and wants to make amends... it’s nothing Pulitzer-worthy, but it’s far more interesting than the usual shit the Sci-Fi channel offers us for character development.

Speaking of the channel, there’s a bit late in the film where Art LaFleur’s character accuses Saxon of being a “Man in Black” hunting down a government experiment gone wrong, and that the army is always trying to create super soldiers. I loved this bit - whether it was intentional or not, he was essentially making fun of the other movies that were probably airing on the Sci-Fi Channel that day. Actually, him and the other folks that make up the AA group (a subplot for the noble, non-human killing hero werewolf) are a welcome distraction, and I wish they were in the film more.

In fact, anything that would take screen time away from Michael Worth’s character would be OK. He’s the de facto star of the movie, but his character is dreadfully dull, and that he hardly ever speaks (an entire action scene goes by with him just sort of glaring at the other people) makes it worse. And since Worth was also directing (also poorly - way too much shaki-cam and a few confusing scene transitions), I got the impression he was spreading himself too thin, and that the film as a whole could be better if he had just focused on one job and handed the other over to someone more capable. Oddly, I remember his character being the weak link in Sasquatch Mountain too, and he wrote that film, so maybe he just likes to let his co-stars steal the movie away from him.

I also kind of dug the faux Tarantino tone that the movie takes on at times. As I said, Thomerson is obsessed with movie stars, so he goes on and on about Steve McQueen and John Wayne, and also finds a way to reference Lance Henriksen (is this the first movie to ever reference the man?). Martin Kove also shows up briefly as a would-be assassin or something, and tells this long story about an ex-girlfriend that seems like something out of True Romance (he is then killed mid-sentence, another Tarantino esque surprise kill scene). Again, the movie’s surprising wealth of character/story scenes compared to the action worked in its favor, and it’s always nice to see 80s guys like Kove and Thomerson having a little fun.

Now, don’t get me wrong - this is not a great movie by any means. It’s way too long for starters (105 minutes!) and has a few too many supporting characters and subplots. And since the action is so minimal, it’s kind of a bummer that it’s not really exciting when it does occur - the final fight between Worth and the main bad werewolf is just the two of them kicking each other midair in the middle of a house. And they try to present Worth’s werewolf-ism as a sort of metaphor for post-traumatic stress disorder, which never quite works (largely due to Worth’s lack of screen presence). It’s not the worst idea (shades of Deathdream) but with all the other stuff going on, it seems a bit half-baked and probably should have been saved for its own movie.

Plus the title would suggest werewolves fighting in an actual war, which would have been way more awesome than ex-soldiers becoming wolves once they have left the military. I demand a prequel!

But hey, if you are expecting a traditional Sci-Fi movie, you get something that I think is much better and more interesting. AND it doesn’t appear to have been shot in Bulgaria, so there’s another plus.

What say you?

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