Living Death (2006)

MAY 31, 2010


I wasn’t expecting much out of Living Death, due to the pedigree (DTV Lionsgate movie starring a has-been and a bunch of Canadians) and “seen-it” premise of a woman and her lover plotting to kill her husband only for things to go wrong, but I must admit it provided 85 minutes of mindless entertainment. With some surprising gore and a few touches of black humor, the tired premise managed to feel fresh again (at least, at times), and since everyone in the movie was a bit of a (put male or female centric expletive here), I wasn’t sure how it would all end up, as there was no obvious character to root for.

I just wish writers Christopher Warre Smets and Erin Barry (the latter also directed) hadn’t telegraphed EVERY SINGLE THING about the husband’s not-death. Early on, the doomed sod instructs his lawyer to make sure that when he dies he doesn’t want an autopsy, doesn’t want his organs to be donated, wants to be buried ASAP... he might as well just say “Look, in the off chance that I get paralyzed and everyone just THINKS I’m dead, I want to be able to put everyone through the motions of a funeral and such, without anything happening to me that would tip off that I was still alive.”

And then of course the guy supplying the poison is sure to explain that this particular poison can paralyze you inside and out, giving the impression to even a trained doctor that you were dead. I mean, they pile up so much foreshadowing, I began to suspect the writers just wanted us to think he was paralyzed and pull a twist that he really WAS dead (the “non-twist” twist). But no, around the 50 minute mark he finally springs back to life, after undergoing the invasive (but not destructive!) part of an autopsy, and then the movie finally becomes the horror movie it promised to be, as he exacts revenge on all those who did him wrong, starting with the trio of well-meaning but fairly dim med students who were “practicing” on him.

As I said, it’s not the most original premise - both the “let’s plot to get rid of my husband” (I think it’s a sort of unspoken rule that whenever a movie character tells his friend that he and his wife are the only people he cares about, that the friend and the wife are in fact having an affair) and the “paralyzed but not dead” plots have been explored several times over in the past (I cannot recall another instance of them being combined, to be fair), but the movie’s got a bit of a quirky personality that kept it feeling fun. I really loved the punchline to the opening sequence, and the supporting characters (particularly the med students) seem like they wandered in from a single-camera sitcom like 30 Rock. And there’s an odd running gag with a goldfish in its depressingly un-furnished bowl (not even a few pebbles!) that amused me every time it appeared, and the “conclusion” of the subplot at the film’s end is delightfully mean-spirited and awesome, though its appeal is somewhat diminished by a pointless post-script that shouldn’t have even been shot, let alone left in the film. I urge you to shut it off when you think the movie’s over and you’re still laughing at the fish moment.

I was also happy to see Kristy Swanson again, and that she is still quite fetching. Ms. Swanson was, I believe, the first actress I had a crush on (circa 1987), thanks to Deadly Friend and brief turns in Not Quite Human and Ferris Bueller. And in perusing her resume, I learned some wonderfully odd facts about the lass, such as the fact that she dated Alan Thicke for a while (when she was 17 and he was 40), and posed for Playboy in 2002. Also, she has played two characters that had to jump out of a window in order to stop someone from running away (in Deadly Friend and in Buffy - a film I still enjoy, especially after the last 2, largely un-fun seasons of its otherwise superior show). What a life. Her range may be a bit limited, but she’s certainly an appealing presence all the same, and it’s fun seeing her play a conniving bitch instead of her usual airheads. I also enjoyed the entertainingly douchey turn by Greg Bryk as the husband, as my only other exposure to him was as the crackhead guy in Saw V. And it’s a testament to both actors that they are playing fairly terrible people but still manage to entertain me - on paper I probably would have been wishing for someone to kill the whole lot of them by the end of the first reel.

I looked at a DVD review of the film to see what I was missing out on in terms of extra features, and learned that the disc apparently had an atrocious audio mix (Bloody Disgusting’s review shared the sentiment), so I guess I lucked out by opting to watch on Netflix, as it sounded fine to me. However, the DVD does have a making of in which the director apparently bemoans how much he hates un-original films, which is odd for a movie that’s essentially combining any number of 1960s thrillers with an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Maybe he figured the goldfish stuff was enough to earn it status as an “original”. Either way, I’m happy that the review pointed out the sex of Mr. Berry, as I assumed that it was a woman. Not enough women making horror movies if you ask me. And no one has.

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Blu-Ray Review: The Wolfman (2010)

MAY 30, 2010


Even your senile grandmother could have predicted that The Wolfman would have an extended version when it came to DVD (even if they HADN'T told everyone that prior to the film's theatrical release - maybe wait until AFTER it's in theaters to let everyone know they're seeing a compromised version? No wonder it tanked). Even though the production troubles were legendary, there was still no way a film could be as botched as the opening reel was, with nonstop voiceovers and a complete lack of a proper introduction for the film's hero (Benecio Del Toro). Now it's here - but is it an improvement?

Yes, it is. Most of the new footage comes in the first act of the film, which was the most problematic section of the theatrical version (reviewed HERE). We now see Lawrence Talbot (Del Toro) performing a full scene from "Hamlet" (instead of one shot with a voiceover), and Gwen actually comes to see him there and let him know that his brother is missing (though he still refers to her sending him a letter moments later - the film is improved, but not perfect). There are also a few extended moments between the two, allowing their eventual romance to resonate in a way the theatrical version never allowed for, due to the mad rush to get to the first transformation (which now occurs nearly an hour into the movie).

The next paragraph contains SPOILERS, including part of the film's ending, so please skip it if you are spoiler-phobic.

Unfortunately this also accentuates one of the film's crucial flaws, which was that it allowed Del Toro to go full on monster during his attack scenes, killing dozens of innocent people in the process. It's hard to sympathize with him when he's killing folks left and right, but the added scenes clearly try to paint him as a more tragic figure. I'm all for a werewolf tearing off limbs and such, but it should be a character they're not trying to make into the hero during the third act, when his father is "revealed" (anyone who doesn't guess this right off the bat has obviously never seen a movie before) to be a werewolf himself; the one who killed Lawrence's brother. I almost wish they had tried to paint it as more of a mystery as to which one was tearing up London's social scene and various law enforcement types, which would make the 3rd act much easier to enjoy. It also contradicts itself - we are supposed to believe he has no control over what he does when he's a wolf, but he clearly wants revenge for his brother, and he merely wounds Hugo Weaving's heroic Scotland Yard investigator instead of taking the kill he supposedly relishes. It's just far too inconsistent for my tastes.

But as long as you don't think about the plot reveals and such too much, it's still an enjoyable, lavish werewolf movie, the likes of which we haven't seen in years (and NEVER with this much money on the screen). The period setting is well executed (Emily Blunt is born to wear corsets and such - never has an actress looked more in place in a period horror film), and that just makes the surprisingly ample gore scenes all the more enjoyable - it's not every day you see English bobbies and steam-powered buses covered in blood and guts. And while much has been made of Rick Baker's effects being largely replaced with CGI, the truth is that they did a really good job for the most part; the majority of the effects in the film are incredibly well done, and I even had trouble telling the difference between practical and CG elements during the transformation scenes.

Of course, you'll learn which is which in the various special features that are available on the Blu-Ray and standard definition DVDs. There are four featurettes (ranging from 8-15 minutes each), one of which is a generic fluffy making of that you can skip. The other three focus on makeup, visual effects, and stunt work, and it's pretty eye-opening stuff, as you'll learn which effects were digital and which were practical, as well as the amount of work they put into making sure the werewolf moved as naturally as possible while still appearing superhuman. Baker also reveals that Anthony Hopkins was such a believer in his work that he came in for a casting before his contract was even signed, just so Baker and his crew could get to work on his makeup. The film itself also has a bunch of interactive bonus material that will pop up or automatically play as you watch the film (albeit only on the theatrical cut for some reason). There are two different "alternate video tracks", one will occasionally stop the film so Baker or one of the other crew members can break down a scene in more specific detail than was allowed on the proper bonus features. The other track has pop up trivia and picture in picture footage from the original Wolfman, pointing out similarities or key differences. Since there is no commentary track (director Joe Johnston is all but completely absent on the disc, in fact, only popping up briefly on a couple of the featurettes), it's the closest approximation to one. You can also access all of these mini-features from the pop-up menu, which is a bit clunky (where's the "play all"?), but it beats sitting through an inferior cut of the film (twice) to access all of the information that is offered.

Also, in addition to the unrated cut (which is 17 minutes longer, for the record), we get a handful of deleted/extended scenes (mostly the latter) that are worth a look; most notably another "should have been left in" character scene between Lawrence and Gwen, and a portion of the London "massacre" that was excised, where Wolfman crashes a costume party and then later kills a puppeteer in an obvious but still amusing gag. These scenes all include "tails" so you can place where they belonged in the film, which is always appreciated. They're also in HD and seemingly finished FX wise (though the party scene features what are obviously digital people running around - really, Johnston?), but the sound is very poorly mixed - I had trouble hearing a lot of the dialogue over the music and sound effects. Two alternate endings are also presented, though neither are better than the one they went with (all three seem to set up a sequel that will never happen, so I guess it doesn't matter which one you want to consider the "true" ending).

And for a limited time, Blu-ray players that are connected to the internet (which they pretty much have to be in order to keep up with all of the disc updates) can stream the original Wolf Man from Universal's Blu-ray site. Even on my hardly impressive connection, the film looked great, and I hope that they continue to offer this for future reboots (if any), or maybe offer a different film every couple of months (Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman, for example). And as always, there's a digital copy for those of you who think that the best way to watch the 150 million dollar werewolf movie is on your 3 inch iPod screen.

The technical qualities of the Blu-ray are borderline demo-worthy. Universal has delivered a knockout transfer; even though it's a largely night-set film with intentionally muted color to give it that 19th century feel, the colors (read: blood reds) all pop when necessary, and detail is impeccable - you can count the individual fur strands on Larry's head. Of course with such clarity comes some caveats - many of the rooftop scenes after the Wolfman escapes from the asylum are pretty poorly composited, something I didn't notice in theaters. The 5.1 DTS HD mix is also outstanding - the only reason I noticed how poorly it was mixed on the deleted scenes is because the "buffer" footage sounded so perfect on the film proper. Cue up any of the transformation scenes for an aural treat as you hear each bone snap and crackle, with Danny Elfman's somewhat lackluster but still lush score giving your rear speakers a nice workout throughout.

If you skipped the film in theaters (and it seems a lot of you did), then you're lucking out with this release, as it's the superior version of a flawed film, but unlike me, you won't have to watch the stuff you didn't like the first time all over again. The extras are all quite good, and the transfer is immaculate - it's just a shame the film itself shows the scars of its lengthy battle to get there.

Film score: 3/5 (unrated) 2.5/5 (theatrical)
Bonus features score: 4/5
A/V score: 4.5/5

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Dead At The Box Office (2005)

MAY 30, 2010


Despite its somewhat admirable position of being voted the #1 worst horror movie of all time on the IMDb, I had hoped I would enjoy Dead At The Box Office, either as a misunderstood gem or as a “so bad it’s good” type romp. Sadly it’s neither - it’s not the worst horror movie ever made (I’ve seen way worse - technically AND creatively - in films with more resources and money), but it’s wildly (and ultimately cripplingly) uneven, and it takes our characters the entire movie to put two and two together and solve the problem with the most obvious solution.

See, they’re not really zombies in the traditional sense - they’re merely hypnotized into thinking they are, thanks to a film of a Nazi experiment that played before a midnight screening of, natch, Night of the Living Dead, which “turned” the viewers into whatever was on-screen. Right off the bat, I said to myself “Just show it again with a romantic comedy or something”, but they don’t get that idea until the movie is almost over, and here the movie loses all steam, going for a witless Rocky Horror parody sequence (as a RHPS-esque film is the only other one they had at the theater) before a mean-spirited coda that doesn’t gel with the light-hearted tone of the climax.

Until that point, it’s just yet another generic indie zombie movie, albeit one that sort of annoyed me more than usual as it took place in an independent movie theater at midnight, somewhere and something I obviously know a bit about (even more so as of this past week, as the New Bev just had a midnight screening of Night of the Living Dead). For starters, why are so many people working at a midnight screening? There are three concession stand clerks, two ushers, three managers, a handyman (?), and a projectionist - all being paid as well. Come on! I’ve been to regular multiplexes in the daytime that didn’t have that many people on staff. Obviously it’s just to allow for some more victims, but why not be a little more creative? Two moviegoers could have been fooling around in the bathroom, a couple guys could have come to the movie late and thus missed the hypnotic reel, and/or maybe there was a BC-esque narcoleptic who simply slept through it (I have indeed dozed off during the trailers on more than one occasion)... if you had them, and cut the number of theater employees in half (which would STILL be more than the Bev would have for a midnight screening), you’d end up with a more believable core group.

You’d also have a more NOTLD-esque setup, as you’d have folks of different backgrounds and motives coming together, instead of the staff of a theater, where they are all dressed alike and know each other. There is precious little conflict within the group (basically just the same sort of bickering they’d be carrying out under normal circumstances), an element that feels even more missing when you’re constantly being treated to footage from Night, which earned most of its suspense not from the zombies but from whether or not Harry and Ben would kill each other first.

Another, more crippling comparison that the filmmakers invite is having an African American hero. As anyone who knows his NOTLD history can tell you, Ben was not written as black (or white) in the script - Duane Jones just happened to be the best actor who tried out for the role. Subsequent “analysis” of the film’s supposed racial metaphors is not necessarily wrong, but it’s certainly not an intended part of the story Romero wanted to tell. Even Harry Cooper, one of the most hateful men in horror history, doesn’t stoop to bringing Ben’s race up. Yet, the hero here is the most painfully annoying of stereotypes in horror movies, the black guy who is constantly mentioning his race and seeing every single thing as a racially motivated action against him. It would be annoying enough in ANY movie, but when the filmmakers are drawing parallels with Night, which was a milestone in using African Americans actors in heroic roles, it’s even more annoying.

Speaking of painful stereotypes, the movie did one surprising thing that I was happy about. Since this is a movie theater, there is of course a film geek who never stops talking about movies and chastises others for not knowing every detail about the ones they’ve seen (you know, because that’s what we do). And I was prepared for a full 90 minutes of this asshole making cutesy references and being treated like an “expert” of some sort as he would have seen every zombie movie under the sun, but no! He actually gets hypnotized along with all of the patrons, so he’s out of it after like 20 minutes or so.

In fact, other than the annoying stereotypes, I actually kind of liked the movie for a while. It’s sub-professional, sure, but still better than the average Decrepit Crypt offering, and they were keeping the pace fairly brisk for a while. I wasn’t expecting much in the way of gore, but there were a few nice gags here and there all the same, plus a surprising death of one of the theater managers early on that I didn’t see coming. It’s not until the 2nd half that it really all falls apart, as the surviving characters basically sit in a room yammering for what seems like a half hour, before putting together their “genius” plan, which we see them execute in the most painfully slow montage in cinematic history (and why would they need to make a theater model out of Starburst when they all work there? Can’t the plan-maker just tell them all to run down the aisle? Not like it’s a maze in there). I kind of like the idea of using giant film spools as shields, but otherwise they never really make good use of their setting - why not tie up a zombie with film strips, or use the compressed soda tanks as some sort of explosive? Or at least have more scenes in the theater(s), instead of in some generic back room. As we learn on the commentary, the filmmakers actually owned the theater, so they should have been a little more carefree with it.

The commentary also reveals other somewhat interesting tidbits, like that they edited the film on Sony Vegas (which is by far the most cumbersome and convoluted non-linear editing programs I’ve ever worked on, and that includes Media 100), and that the theater was in fact still in operation (they would cancel the final screening during weekdays and film all night). They also inform us of the untimely and tragic passing of one of the actors, who drowned while on vacation. But unfortunately, most of the track is just the group of them mocking themselves, which gets old after a while. They also spend a few minutes discussing various sexual acts such as the Hot Carl. Like the film itself, it’s a very mixed bag, but closer to pointless than worth your while. A painfully unfunny gag reel is also included, but it seems to be geared toward the people who made the movie than the ones watching it, as at least 75% of the collection is just various cast and crew goofing off with one another, as if every clip should have been ended with the on-screen text “Guess you had to be there”. What makes bloopers funny is the context of knowing what was screwed up (a blown line, for example) when compared to what was in the film you just saw - all of the background information we need is there. Two guys we don’t know poorly playing “The Dozens” and laughing at things we can barely hear - not funny. But hey, it adds “value” to the disc, so who cares?

There’s also a Lloyd Kaufman intro (though this is not a Troma release), where he colorfully trashes the Regal cinema chain and makes fun of his own films. I only wish Uncle Lloyd HAD been involved with the movie - he would have demanded more action (or a porno ending - they even point out that movies should have sex instead of violence, which I thought was foreshadowing that they’d put on some porno to “save” the zombies).

On the film’s very under-populated IMDb board, one of the filmmakers said that they were working on remaking the film “right”. I’m all for it - I think the concept should lend itself to a good film*. I just hope, if they do get their remake off the ground, that they keep the tone more consistent, eschew the stereotypes, and build the film up to an exciting finale instead of front-loading the better action and ending the movie on a stupid Rocky Horror joke. Or at least get the rights to use Rocky instead of a half-assed knockoff (“Time Warp” becomes “Black Hole” - the dance remains identical, however).

What say you?

*I say this because one of the episodes for my proposed animated show had a very similar plot, except the movie was Demons and the mastermind was not a Nazi but a crazed movie exec. Great minds think alike and all that (glad I registered it with the WGA (in 2007) though).

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Copycat (2008)

MAY 29, 2010


I don't remember the 1995 film Copycat too much, but I have to assume it was better than this, the 2008 film Copycat (formerly known as Diary of a Serial Killer), which has a similar concept of a serial killer copying kills performed by famous killers from the past (Dahmer, Ramirez, Gein, etc) and the emotionally scarred woman trying to stop him. Except instead of the rather novel two-female approach that the 1995 film had (and two great actors to boot), here her "partner" is a boring cop. Way to elevate the concept you're ripping off.

Instead, this movie goes for originality by occasionally presenting lengthy flashbacks of the early days of each of the aforementioned killers. And we're talking full blown, detailed sequences - you could come in during one of them and think you were seeing a regular movie about that specific killer. Knowing little to nothing about those three, I don't know how closely they follow the true life cases, but I will say that they SEEM to get the jist of them (as opposed to the "way off" approach of something like Curse of the Zodiac). Ramirez goes after a couple, Dahmer preys on a younger boy, and Gein has his mother's corpse in his house (one thing is definitely not factual: they go full on Leatherface with the human skin thing - to the extent where Platinum Dunes should have been asked for permission to use their version's likeness).

The idea behind this stuff is fine - factually correct or not, it's giving SOME idea of these lesser known killers (save for maybe Dahmer, who is also the most recent). The problem is it never really ties into the main plot, and they take up a combined 45-50 minutes of the movie, time that should have been spent further developing the main character, or adding some goddamn suspense to the modern day sequences, which are tension/conflict-free until the very end. The present day scenes follow one of two patterns - we either see the killer (whose identity is not hidden) murdering someone that we don't know/care about, or we see the reporter looking around a murder site and stumbling across something that provides a lengthy flashback, often with sections where the only "witness" is the one that was killed, so how it would make its way into a flashback is beyond me (they also never provide any explanation for how the killer managed to obtain Dahmer's home movies or any of the other stuff he had).

My guess is that they couldn't secure any of the present day actors for a full shooting schedule and thus had to extend the flashbacks in order to pad the film to an acceptable running time. I mean, the Dahmer flashback even includes scenes of a kid who finds a video of one of his murders and then pukes, and then after being attacked he manages to escape, only for the cops to bring him right back, thinking he's Dahmer's boyfriend. Do we really need all of this? Whose story are you telling here? We know the kid's a goner right from the start, because the flashbacks are detailing MURDERS, not attempts at them. Plus, the kid's a goddamn moron - he points out that he is not gay, yet he willingly goes with Dahmer into his home to drink beer with him (the kid comes off as some sort of beer addict). At least if it was some sort of narcotic (crack is always a fun option!) it would be sort of believable that he was fucked up already and wasn't really using his head.

The movie also suffers from one of my biggest pet peeves: half-assed newspaper clippings. Not only did the prop folks neglect to spellcheck the damn things (one about a "wittness" is shown several times), but the "relevant headline, unrelated article" goof has rarely been so apparent. Here's one example, where the headline about the killer inexplicably leads to a story about heart problems:

I mean, how hard is it to just jot down some generic killer stuff when they know it's going to be on screen close enough for folks to be able to at least read the headline? Here: "Police found the body of Mary Smith in her apartment today, and suspect she may be the latest victim of the Ham Sandwich Killer, who has eluded police for the past three years." Done. That took me 12 seconds, and now my non-existent movie has one less thing for snarky horror movie reviewers to bitch about.

I was also disappointed with the movie's lack of balls. The whole thing is about getting INSIDE a serial killer's mind, but the killer doesn't seem to be willing to go the whole nine yards. The killer is copying Dahmer, but he's not eating the victim; he copies Gein but leaves the skin alone, etc. It's as if director Andy Hurst (who I just discovered was also responsible for the Saw ripoff Are You Scared? - does the guy ONLY direct films that are blatant copies of others?) and writer Ellis Walker were afraid to really shock anyone. Guys - your movie is not going to be playing at the AMC Burbank anytime soon, OK? You're going direct to video - EMBRACE IT. You're betraying your own concept by seemingly making sure you're only doing the bare minimum to hit an R rating.

My notes have "secure?" written down. Not sure what that means. It's funny too, sometimes when I'm writing something short down, I think "Maybe I should be more specific", which is always followed by "Nah, I'll remember, how could I forget THIS?". I guess those ginkgo biloba pills I've been taking are for shit.

But I shouldn't be surprised, the movie is the poster child for "forgettable", and that's apparently not just my opinion: the movie's been out on DVD for almost two years and its IMDb page is still pretty dry - only 3 external reviews, hardly any message board postings (most of which are just from people who thought they were watching the Sigourney Weaver film, or, hilariously, another film called Diary of a Serial Killer starring Gary Busey), and only one goof (something about Ed Gein's house not looking right). I believe it was George Berkeley who said "If someone makes a boring serial killer movie, and no one bothers to rent it, does it make a sound?"

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Mega Piranha (2010)

MAY 28, 2010


Now THIS is an entertaining B-movie! After being so disappointed with yesterday’s “shoulda been awesome” Hellbound, I am happy to report that my mindless entertainment quota has been filled with Mega Piranha, a nearly nonstop account of what happens when an ever-growing school of Piranha attack Venezuela (California) en route to Florida (also California), and how they are stopped by a couple of scientists and a Navy Seal that’s so good he can talk underwater with his scuba breathing thing in his mouth.

Obviously, this movie is terrible by any conventional critical measure - the acting is horrible across the board, the FX make the average Sci-Fi Original look like WETA, and it doesn’t really make any goddamn sense whatsoever (how do flying piranhas manage to make buildings explode just by flying into them?). But none of that matters, because no one should expect any of those things from an Asylum production, which are slapped together to meet the theatrical release date of whatever movie they’re ripping off. So it’s a bit ironic that it’s actually much ahead of its big-screen cousin, Piranha 3-D, which was originally due in theaters in April but has now been delayed til August. This means that for ignorant people, this might be the first time where the real version gets labeled the ripoff.

But somehow they managed to get this one right. While most of their other movies, like Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, are crushing bores with only enough action to fill up a trailer, Mega Piranha offers almost non-stop action. We get two piranha attacks in the first 10 minutes, a car chase, many more piranha attacks, underwater sequences, a foot chase, a nuke... I don’t think more than 5 minutes goes by in the movie without someone getting killed or attacked. And even during the slow scenes, director Eric Forsberg goes all Michael Bay, swirling the camera around and playing Zimmer-esque music to keep up the excitement. Hell, even the opening credits are on overdrive - all of the usual things are listed (the cast, the producers, various crew heads, director, etc), but it only takes about 30 seconds for all of them to fly by.

Naturally, the Asylum couldn’t really AFFORD all of this stuff, so the effects are a bit worse than usual. They also recycle shots so often you might start to think the DVD is broken - an attack on some poor army guy includes the same shot of the two heroes struggling to save him no less than FOUR times (with the accompanying audio to boot!), and shots of the piranha jumping out of the water or swimming around never get less than 2 uses each. Hell, they even recycle establishing shots (with the accompanying titles!); we are “introduced” to the Orinoco River twice in the first chapter. It may be a 90 minute movie, but I think there’s only about 70 minutes of footage.

Some of the mistakes are a bit baffling too. The aforementioned scuba-talking is not exclusive to this movie, but why do BOTH cars during the big car chase keep changing models (and why do they both have CA plates when it’s supposed to be in Venezuela)? Wouldn’t it take more effort to use a different car in the same location? During the chase, the Bourne-esque hero guy (Paul Logan) tells his passengers to stay down and out of sight before they go to a checkpoint, and even though Tiffany is in the front seat of the car(s), this somehow works, the guard doesn’t see her (even when he sticks his head right up to the window). Did she put on an invisibility cloak? Why didn’t the editor simply take out the “stay out of sight” dialogue when they clearly don’t really hide?

The lapses in logic provide some of the entertainment too, such as when their helicopter is about to go down due to a leak in the fuel tank, which Tiffany fixes by attaching an oxygen tank to the fuel line. Sure, why not? And I never tired of the piranha kamikaze-ing various buildings and ships, causing them to explode on impact. Oh, and if you were a fan of Mega Shark eating that airplane, you will be very satisfied here - pretty much every mode of transportation gets eaten at one point or another.

The making of also includes some hilarity, including the revelation that the topless ladies during the opening attack were in fact actual hookers that they gave “their standard day rate” to, a move that would make Uwe Boll proud. They also reveal that the budget was a cool 5 million, which would explain the lack of people standing around doing nothing and abundance of awesome shit (Mega Shark’s budget was 250k, in contrast). Maybe it was a joke, but I’m sure it was still a lot higher than their other stuff - even bad FX cost money, and the piranha are on-screen quite a bit. Tiffany also tells us that she wrote the song that plays over the end credits, which is not a selling point - even when she was popular, her biggest hits were covers or written by others.

B (ok, C) movie lovers take note - this is the rare one that actually lives up to its box art. For that alone it demands your respect. And I hope The Asylum continues to deliver more movies like this - ones that never slow down long enough for you to realize how bad they are. Kudos to all!

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Hellbound (1994)

MAY 27, 2010


Every now and then I let my Twitter followers vote on my movie for the day, but after today I think I’ll have to abandon the idea, because they chose Hellbound over a Stuart Gordon film. Not that Gordon is infallible, but even his worst movie has to be more interesting than Hellbound, which doesn’t even work as a generic action movie, despite the fact that it’s seemingly all it aspired to be. Every cliché is rolled out - the chewing out from the captain, the helpful expert who becomes a love interest, the wisecracking partner... but it’s all completely perfunctory, and even when you consider the fact that our villains are actually demons and cultists (and perhaps even Satan himself?), it never becomes the slightest bit entertaining.

I must admit I was never on the Chuck Norris bandwagon. His glory years were a bit before I had the option of renting/going to see movies on my own, and by the time that arrived (early 90s), I was more drawn to Van Damme, Seagal, and Lundgren (not to mention the still relevant Schwarzenegger and Stallone), and by then Norris was appearing in kiddie fare like Sidekicks, and DTV crap like this. You snooze, you lose I guess. But I shouldn’t have to be a big fan of the guy to enjoy one of his more unique movies, right? By all accounts in my (brief) research, this is the only one of his films that dealt with supernatural themes, instead of the usual drug dealers and terrorists, so maybe it was a refreshing change of pace for his die-hard fans. But it comes almost directly in between two similar, infinitely more entertaining movies - 1990’s The First Power and 1999’s End of Days, and I would recommend those over this any day of the week.

Part of the problem is the baffling lack of action. Chuck fights a guy early on, and then there’s almost zero action until the climax. And even that is brief - I was amazed to discover that there were only 15 minutes left and nothing had really been kicked into higher gear - no partner to avenge, no bad guy promising a deadline before he killed a whole bunch of folks, nothing. Worse, the bad guy doesn’t even DO anything when it comes time for the big showdown - he just stands there and lets Norris kick him over and over, until he kicks him even HARDER which causes him to get knocked out for a bit, until they figure out that they need to stab him with a magic scepter. And this sucks too, Norris’ big one-liner before killing the dude is “Eat this!” COME ON! Even Arnold’s ice-related puns in Batman & Robin were better than that! If you’re going to try so hard to force supernatural nonsense into a standard action movie, you gotta at least live up to the traditions of one. Even "GO TO HELL!” would have been wittier (incidentally, Arnold DID say that in End of Days).

There’s also a painfully dumb subplot about a little street kid who steals Chuck’s partner’s wallet (chasing him around the city market is pretty much the only action in the middle of the movie - should I complain?). I guess it’s supposed to be funny, but all it did was remind me of Chuck’s later PG years. Remember when Chuck slammed a car door on a dude’s arm and then blew him up with a rocket launcher from like 30 feet away before driving off on his motorcycle? What happened to that guy? He doesn’t do anything awesome in this entire movie, unless you count the opening fight when he punches out a pimp. The people who make Chuck Norris jokes must consider this film to be their Achilles heel.

The editor did his best to make the movie entertaining, however, by simply doing nothing. When the bad guy tosses a hooker out the window and she lands on Chuck’s hood, there’s like a 3 second pause before Chuck finally reacts, which is simply “Shit”, as if his side mirror needed to be readjusted. There are other awkward edits throughout the film, dead pauses, things being cut short, or ending a scene on someone saying “Look at this!” without ever showing what the guy was referring to. He also tosses in a horizontal wipe at one point that is actually going the opposite direction of the characters, which is about as awkward a transition as one could possibly create.

One of the bad guy’s accents provides the movie’s best part, sadly enough, when he becomes concerned with the “Spoon of Satan” (should be “Spawn”). This is during the prologue, which is Norris-less and features a little demon thing that never appears in the regular part of the movie. Scenes like this make me less surprised to discover that Cannon went bankrupt during production (filmed in 1992, it wasn’t released until 1995) and was pretty much the end of their output. So I’m guessing that they had to cut stuff and tone others down, but still - you obviously have the little monster thing, why not use it? It’s almost like no one told Chuck that he was in a supernatural movie, since all he does is kick cult henchman, and none of the Devil type stuff seems to occur in his presence until the final killing blow, but even that isn’t so much a supernatural option as it is a “maybe I should use this long pointy thing to kill the bad guy” one.

It’s a shame that Cannon went out like this, though. Globus and Golan’s films are usually top notch entertainment (good or bad), with unparalleled midnight or “bad movie night” appeal (see: Over the Top); it’s almost a certainty that anyone who grew up in the 80s counts at least one of their films among their all time guilty pleasures. I can’t see Hellbound making anyone’s list though - the story is too dull and the action wouldn’t even top what you’d find in the average episode of Walker, Texas Ranger. And those were half the length.

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Wild Country (2005)

MAY 26, 2010


Sometimes my only reason for wanting to watch a movie is that it has a short running time. Wild Country didn’t sound particularly great, but at 72 minutes I knew that even if it was terrible, it wouldn’t be time-consuming, and since I’m still not all caught up on stuff stemming from the 3 days I spent at the Weekend of Horrors and related activities, short movies are much appreciated.

Luckily, the movie wasn’t all that bad, either. If I had to guess, I’d say that writer/director Craig Strachan didn’t have a lot of money and wanted to show what he could do, but was either too ambitious or too “over” budgeted for a short film, as Wild Country is basically plotless - a werewolf chases after a group of kids, and that’s about it. No backstory (yay!), no 3rd act twists (though the final scene has one), hell, they don’t even really have any conflict amongst themselves in the group - just yesterday I asked for a group of nice folks for once, and today I get one.

Oddly enough, our main girl is the least likable, though she at least has SOME excuse - when the movie starts she is giving birth to a child that will be handed over to adopted parents, as she is obviously too young to raise it herself. She’s surly with the priest, her mom, and even some of her friends, but they’re all pretty nice to her in return, and cordial with each other (even the two alpha males of the group never seem to bicker or metaphorically compare penis sizes, as many of their peers often do). Yes, we actually have a horror movie where the monster is the only source of unpleasantness. What a concept!

Now I said werewolf, but it’s sort of a combination of one with a boar and a giant rat (I kept thinking of the ROUSs from The Princess Bride. I’m not sure if this was an intentional approach to create a hybrid monster instead of a generic werewolf, or if the creature designer was just a really goofy guy. Or maybe the synopsis just plain got it wrong, I dunno. It certainly doesn’t follow any traditional werewolf rules (it doesn’t seem to have a human form, and it keeps stalking them during the daytime), so maybe it IS a giant boar/rat/wolf/bear/thing.

Well, whatever it is, it’s at least REAL. Apart from a goofy epilogue and maybe a shot or two here and there, the monster is definitely a real thing that they had on set, either a puppet or an animatronic or a guy in a suit, or a combination of all three. Its shape seems to differ depending on how its being used, but whatever - I’ll take slightly sloppy puppet work over ANY form of CGI any day of the week. And while a couple of kills (including a very significant one) are disappointingly off-screen, Strachan makes up for it with the others, including a kick-ass scene where the monster bites a huge chunk out of a guy’s side. It’s very messy and awesome.

It also looks good for a digital source (and Netflix followed suit with a nice HD transfer - a very rare occurrence). Night and day scenes are equally well lit and defined, with none of the usual washed out or murky looks to anything. The audio, on the other hand, leaves a bit to be desired - not only are the accents borderline impenetrable at times (we need to add subtitles to instant viewing), but it’s also a bit uneven; I would turn it up to hear dialogue and then get blown out by a music cue or whatever.

Not sure I dug the ending, however. The IDEA is fine, but the execution is a bit abrupt and somewhat botched (when exactly did the person turn?). And since, as I have mentioned, most of the werewolf rules aren’t really being followed, I have to wonder why they’d use other rules to base their ending around. If a vampire is impervious to garlic and stakes through the heart, then a cross shouldn’t work either, you know? And if it IS a new monster, then why skip over an explanation for what it is and let everyone just assume it’s a werewolf? Kind of weird.

Then again maybe I missed something due to the accents and shitty audio.

Regardless, it’s a fast paced, gory-enough romp, and the insistence on using real world elements instead of CGI deserves the highest lauds one could give. I look forward to whatever Strachan does next (if anything - the movie is five years old and he has nothing listed as in development on the IMDb), I just hope the story is as meaty as his visuals when that film comes.

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Flu Birds (2008)

MAY 25, 2010


I think it’s safe to say that I put more effort into seeing Flu Birds (aka Flu Bird Horror) than most of the people in its credits put into making it. And it wasn’t really much - basically, I got a screener of the movie that turned out to be missing score, VFX, etc, so I watched something else that day and added it to my queue so I could see it properly. Of course, I can’t remember a note of the score and the VFX still didn’t look finished, so it was all for naught. Plus the movie sucked.

But that wasn’t really a surprise. Come on, it’s a Sci-Fi original movie with a bunch of annoying teens being hunted by mutated birds (that look more like bats but whatever). Speaking of our “heroes”, can we PLEASE give a rest to the “delinquents are brought out to nature as part of their punishment” setup? Good lord - how about a group of kids who you might actually have a reason to LIKE based on their paper thin characterization? How about a science club, or a group going out to clean up the lake area out of the goodness of their heart, something along those lines? Is it too much to ask to focus on likeable people in a modern horror movie?

What DID surprise me is how many of them survive the titular birds. There are still 5 people left alive at the end, which is about half of the number we had to start. Come on, kill these annoying bastards! Like, I knew Lance Guest and Clare Carey would survive, because they used to be lovers and now they’re separated but still care about each other, and I knew Sarah Butler would be OK because she was the main girl of the group whose crime was “noble” in movie terms (though not in legal ones, since it was stolen directly from Kate’s backstory from Lost, making it the 2nd HMAD movie this year to swipe this motif, after Are You Scared?). But why do the annoying wannabe kid or the slutty blond girl survive as well? And why is the guy who has been a complete dick for the entire movie get to jump into a Harry Stamper role at the end of the movie, sacrificing himself for everyone else’s safety? You know why it worked in Armageddon? BECAUSE WE LIKE BRUCE WILLIS/HARRY STAMPER. Who the fuck cares if the guy saving everyone is the guy we’ve been WANTING to see dead for the previous 80 minutes? It should have been Lance Guest, if anyone, because not only is he one of the few tolerable characters, but he’s also the only actor in the movie who can have any sort of attachment with an audience, thanks to Halloween II and The Last Starfighter (and hell, even Jaws 4 is more reputable than anything else this cast can list on their resumés).

Actually, to be honest, the scenes with him and Carey actually aren’t THAT bad, because at least they are being proactive and largely civil, unlike the kids who just run around like morons and yell “Shut up!” at each other over and over (they also spend a suspicious amount of time debating over the four directions and how to read maps - it’s like an orienteering fetish film at times). The scenes with Guest and co. at a “lab” (office building) are somewhat intriguing, not unlike the scientist scenes in The Crazies, and played by better actors. They also offer unintentional comedy in the form of two actors who deliver all of their lines phonetically.

I will also give the movie some props for keeping a fairly brisk pace right from the start - it’s not long before our kids are being attacked by flu birds, and they’re pretty much on the run nonstop from there. Even the science labs scenes have some minor action, as they are ultimately quarantined themselves. None of the movie is particularly good, but at least it’s not a snoozer. And since it’s very similar to The Rage at times, I sort of liked that it was played straight, since I’m not sure my brain can handle TWO comedic killer mutant birds in the woods movies in its lifetime.

Of course, this means we are subjected to more hideous effects than normal. While most of these things usually sport one good kill or a few brief nice shots of its monster(s), I don’t think a single effect in the movie looks even remotely acceptable, with the birds looking worse than rear projected highways in a 1940s movie and almost zero on-screen kills (beware the horror movie that has an R rating only for language). Christ, at one point someone COUGHS UP digital blood! I can see why they’d have to go CGI for a bullet wound or something, but why the fuck couldn’t the actor just put a half cup of Karo syrup in his mouth and then spit it out when they called “action”? Such pointless half-assery.

As is usually the case with these things, there are no extras beyond trailers for movies that, for the most part, actually look worse than this one. That’s it though - no making of, deleted scenes, or commentary tracks. Apparently director Leigh Scott (veteran of several Asylum productions, including the immor(t)al Transmorphers) had better things to do with his time than discuss the cinematic and cultural influences that allowed him to created the rich tapestry of creativity that is Flu Birds. A pity!

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Life Blood (2009)

MAY 24, 2010


I really don’t know what to make of Life Blood (aka Pearblossom, aka Murder World), as it’s got a bit more going on than I’m accustomed to with DTV Lionsgate pickups: a fairly respectable cast for this sort of thing (and by that I mean I’ve heard of them), a very atypical sequence of events, and a fair share of plain ol’ personality that I was happily surprised to discover. It’s not that great of a movie by any means, but the ambition and “outside the box” approach was admirable enough for me to give it a free pass.

I cannot condone the box art, however, which made it sound like Scout Taylor-Compton was joining Sophie Monk as a lesbian vampire, instead of Anya Lahiri. Scout only appears in about 90 seconds of the movie as a very insignificant character, so her name above the title billing on the cover is a cheap move IMO. Sure, she’s a bigger name than Lahiri, but it’s still misleading, and even somewhat insulting to Lahiri, whose name doesn’t appear anywhere on the DVD box (even the credit box) despite more or less being the co-lead along with Monk. And selling it as a lesbian vampire movie at ALL is a bit misleading, because the two ladies have zero chemistry together as a couple, and their lesbianism consists of maybe 20 seconds’ worth of quick shots of the two of them awkwardly pecking each other on the lips (no tongue). Not that I was looking for softcore porn, but it’s the equivalent of selling Titanic as a movie about poker players.

Anyway, the movie is about two “vampire lesbians” that are awoken after 40 years (2nd “vampire wakes up” movie in a row!) and almost instantly decide to hole up inside a gas station (which is called Murder World, like the former title - what the hell kind of gas station is named Murder World? You got a problem with “Sunoco”?)... and that’s about it. I mean, obviously there are complications - cops show up, the vampires begin fighting each other over what to do, plus there’s the ever looming threat of the sun, so it becomes sort of a Desperate Hours With Vampires type thing, but it never really feels like it was intended to be a siege type movie - they don’t even arrive at the gas station until about the 40 minute mark, and they leave with 15 minutes to go; it’s only the “main location” in the film by default. I can’t help but wonder if the script was originally more complex and varied, and budgetary limitations whittled it down into a shell of itself - still interesting and not what I was expecting, but sort of pointless too.

It also feels very disjointed at times, with characters constantly being introduced and written out or killed moments later. We are meeting new people right up to the final moments in the film, and only Patrick Renna (as the gas station employee) seems to have more than 5 minutes of screentime. As a result, I never really felt a connection to anyone in the film, because no one was ever primed to become a major character. Even Scout is obviously not going to be around much, because her big scene takes place in 1969 and she is not a vampire, so the only way to use her in the present day would be to put her in old age makeup or something (and they do, on a TV show, briefly enough to prove that it was a bad idea). And that wouldn’t as much of a problem if the battle between Monk and Lahiri felt epic, with these other folks inadvertently caught in the crossfire, but their beef with each other is essentially a lover’s quarrel, one no one else seems to give a shit about anyway as they are equally scared of both of them. It could have been a cool female vampire version of Warlock, with the bad one racing against the good one to find some artifact or whatever, dragging others along for the ride to up the ante, but there is no ante to up, so to speak. And neither character has much of an arc - Lahiri starts the movie off not wanting to hurt any humans, and ends the movie that way, with Monk consistently in the “bad girl” role.

On the other hand, it’s loaded with oddball moments, such as the sheriff watching a hilariously stupid TV show called Chicks Chasing Chickens, in which hot girls in skimpy clothing chase chickens around and say things like “I grabbed the cock” or whatever. And his main officer is a little person (Seinfeld’s Danny Woodburn) who loves singing in the car, and they stumble across a trucker who sounds like a woman.... the characters may not be three dimensional, but they’re entertaining all the same. Also, at times it seems like the more absurdist moments of Natural Born Killers may have been an influence (the soundtrack certainly seems to be), because writer/director Ron Carlson treats the two like tragic figures in a romantic film at a few key moments, even with blood and corpses around them. There’s also a hilarious bit early on where the New Year is rung in, and the strings of "Auld Lang Syne" play out over shots of folks blowing party favors and such, cut back and forth with Monk stabbing the shit out of a guy in the next room.

Also, God is in the movie. As another lesbian. No idea.

It also features a brief appearance by entertainment reporter Tava Smiley (playing herself), whom I had never heard of and thought she given the name of Tavis Smiley, who has an entertainment talk show. How is it that there can be two folks with such odd and similar names doing almost the same job? I am pretty certain that they’re not closely related. Weird.

Some of the writing is a bit... shall we say, terrible? Maybe it’s supposed to be funny that the two women argue about running over a possum, and comparing it to the guy they just killed, but it’s not - it just sounds ridiculous. And Sophie Monk isn’t the best actress in the world as it is, but Meryl Streep herself couldn’t pull off a howler like “I wish I could take the top down and let the warm desert air cleanse my body”.

The DVD has some bonus features, which is also pretty rare for an LG indie pickup. Carlson and Monk provide a pretty candid commentary track, where he admits some of his directing mistakes and hints at certain tensions that arose on set. He also praises the lighting about 50 more times than is necessary, and Monk never offers even the slightest bit of interesting insight (though she refers to Scout as a “he” for some reason), so it’s sort of a mixed bag. But if nothing else, it certainly explains some of the film’s shortcomings, such as the incredibly weak “fight” between the two at the end of the film (no time to shoot the planned fight scene). There are also a handful of deleted and alternate scenes, such as a more graphically sexual opening credits sequence (why cut that?), which I wish had commentary to explain why they were changed/cut, and about half of them are just not-very-alternate takes of existing scenes, but alas, better than nothing. And a lot of them include the crew wandering around and setting things up before action is called, so it sort of doubles as behind the scenes footage too.

Life Blood is not a good horror movie. I don’t want to give that impression, and if I did I apologize. But I see at least one of these pickups a week from the Gate, and its very rare that I can remember a damn thing about them by the time I write the review, because they’re usually so generic and bad. Life Blood, on the other hand, actually seems to have some ambition and original ideas, and I’d always rather see an inspired failure than a by the numbers bore. And I’m sort of oddly charmed by the fact that I rented a movie primarily on the promise of lesbian vampires and found it to be the least enticing thing about it. Hurrah, I’m not 12 anymore!

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Desert Of Blood (2006)

MAY 23, 2010


You know, there’s probably a reason why I’ve never heard of the majority of the horror films I’ve been recording from cable for HMAD purposes - such as the fact that they’re all dull and forgettable. These movies are so generic that they don't even pop up on Blockbuster shelves or instant viewing on Netflix, as if they exist solely to air on cable at 2 AM. Desert Of Blood is a typical example, offering 90 minutes of poorly defined characters, next to zero action, and a plot so thin it would barely sustain a Tales From The Crypt episode. But it’s competently made and features some nice Mexican locales, so at least it’s not a total waste.

You know you’re in for a rough ride when the editor and director cut away from a vampire scene to show three girls sunbathing, as one of them goes into detail about how she achieves orgasm (it involves a photo of James Franco - I wonder if he’s aware of this). Who are these people? What do they have to do with the vampires? It’s at least another 20 minutes until we find out, so until that point we have to deal with them being cut to for no discernible reason (other than the fact that they’re cute), until we discover that one of them is sort of the heroine of the movie.

I say sort of because nothing actually happens in the movie that would require heroics. And that’s a shame, because the plot is actually sort of cool - a vampire named Diego who was buried alive finally gets free and seeks revenge on those who put him under, 30 years later. But there are very few people involved, and he takes care of all but one of them fairly early on, and the other is practically an invalid (and the aunt of Maricela, the heroine), so you know she’s fine. Diego has two lackeys, but they don’t do a hell of a lot, and their death scenes are pitifully weak. There are no stakes (heh, just realized my pun) to anything - they don’t even really bother developing a romance between the main girl and Diego or anything; they only have like one scene together before she finds out he’s a vampire, and the revelation doesn’t seem to affect her one way or the other. Lady, you’re our main character - if you don’t care why the fuck should we?

They also have her take her two friends along for the not-big showdown, which I thought was just a plot contrivance to get us two kills. But no! Nor does her would-be love interest sacrifice himself to save her or anything cool. In fact, pretty much every non vampire survives this movie, including one of the guys Diego was getting revenge on, who pops up in the final shot of the film, now a vampire himself.

For the most part the movie just plays like a soap opera: heavy with melodrama and characters icily confronting each other without actually doing anything. Diego can’t decide whether or not he’s a sardonic anti-hero or a lovesick fool, one minute he’s staring longingly at the girl through a keyhole (and burning himself in the process), the next he’s licking salt off his hand before biting into a victim (and then he bites a lime - vampire margarita) and making a bad joke. I spent most of the movie wondering if I was supposed to be rooting for him or not, before realizing I simply didn’t care.

At least the setting is unique. Not sure why everyone speaks English, but the villas and bars and such are a welcome change of pace from the usual Chatsworth and Santa Clarita landscapes I’ve seen a million times. I also liked the soundtrack, which was a mix of Spanish and English (some of which are performed by none other than actor Chris Mulkey) rock and pop. And the cast is good as well (Justin Quinn as Diego in particular is very charismatic, as is Brenda Romero as Maricela), but it’s all for a lackluster, borderline aimless script. I’ve never seen a film with so few complications in its narrative. Maybe more action was scripted before and they had to cut it for budgetary purposes, but it’s not the lack of action that kills the movie - it’s the complete, utter lack of anything exciting or interesting that does. It’s just THERE. Even a lot of the obviously planted reviews on the IMDb (all of which have some variation on “it’s not Anne Rice but it will do”) can’t even muster up a lot of enthusiasm; one guy with no other reviews to his name is just like “eh, it’s pretty good!” - you felt compelled to make an IMDb user account for a movie you just thought was all right? Try harder, fake movie reviewers. Or just go the fuck away.

OR just make a better movie, because if your movie was good it wouldn’t need fake reviews in the first place.

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Frankenhooker (1990)

MAY 22, 2010


I know a lot of Frank Henenlotter fans, all of whom are constantly trying to get me to watch his films (as do HMAD readers such as Pyro, who recommended this one a while back), but Frankenhooker is the first time I’ve actually watched one all the way through. An attempt at watching Brain Damage in high school resulted in falling asleep and never going back, and I recently “watched” Basket Case 2 (or 3?) at a party but as we were all talking the whole time I couldn’t tell you a goddamn thing about it. And even Frankenhooker was sort of forced on me by my friends who “let” me borrow many of his films so I can finally catch up.

Well, it’s certainly an enjoyable film, but I can’t see myself wanting to watch it again (at least, not at home - maybe a revival screening would entice me), as it’s a bit too slight for my tastes. It takes a bit for Frankenhooker to actually be created, and she instantly gets loose and the rest of the movie is simply our hero (the Andrew McCarthy-esque James Lorinz) trying to find her. There aren’t any major complications, no other characters to identify with, etc. On the DVD, we learn that the movie was literally made up on the spot during a pitch meeting, so I guess it’s no surprise that it’s a one joke premise with little meat on its bones.

But it’s still amusing in its own cheesy, ridiculous way, not unlike a Troma film (though nowhere near as graphic). There are a number of great sight gags, such as when the obviously demented Dr. Franken (and the titular character’s surname is Shelley) “fixes” a framed photo on the wall by making it crooked, or when he offers a disembodied head some wine and it pools around the neckline. Plus, we have an extended scene of hookers blowing up due to smoking some explosive crack. Dead hookers are always funny.

I want to talk a bit more about Lorinz, who manages to make Franken likable despite the fact that he’s a selfish jerk and also batshit insane. I mean really, the entire movie boils down to a guy making a “perfect” body for his overweight girlfriend, using hookers that he killed without any remorse. But Lorinz brings an affable charm to the role that made him hard to dislike (for the record he’s not really portrayed as a villain - but if you think about it, he IS one). Though I still took pleasure in the ironic ending, which finds him essentially turned into a woman (oddest form of “just desserts” ever?).

I also enjoyed seeing all of the late 80s New York scenery (love the Burton Batman logo in Times Square!!). It seems a lot of independent horror films in the late 80s and early 90s were NY based, and their guerilla style productions allow them to film wherever or whatever the hell they want without getting caught (i.e. filming actual hookers). It must have been a great time and place to be an upcoming filmmaker, PA and other crew jobs must have been a dime a dozen during the period. And who’d choose working on some bland Hollywood production over working on something called Frankenhooker?

The DVD is jampacked with stuff, though sadly most of it can be skipped. The commentary with Henenlotter and makeup FX artist Gabe Bartalos is definitely worth the listen - they speak candidly about crew issues (apparently the DP was a nightmare to work with), the film’s origin, a castmate’s suicide... the whole nine yards. There’s also a great Bill Murray story that simply must be heard to be believed. And the 10 minute interview with Frankenhooker herself, Patty Mullen (who is smoking hot these days - how is it possible that this was her 3rd and final movie?) is very fast and fun. The same cannot be said for the other extras, which consist of Bartalos talking about his FX, though he does it in front of a strip club and other odd locations, and it goes on forever. My advice would be to shut it off after he talks about the Frankenhooker makeup design. And you can completely skip the recollections of Jennifer Delora, who played one of the hookers, as she speaks for a total of 35 minutes about her 90 seconds of screentime. Some of her anecdotes are a bit amusing, but she’s so annoying and takes so long to tell them, it’s not worth the effort to hear them (unless you are a fan of hers from her other stuff - if so then you will probably love the interview!). Trivia - these pieces are directed by Scooter McCrae, director of the equally overlong and pointless Shatter Dead. Good to know his DVD bonus features are produced with the same mentality as his films.

I’ve heard that this is Henenlotter’s best movie, which sucks as I like to see a filmmaker’s “average” film first. Like with Carpenter - you don’t want to start with Halloween or The Thing, because then it’s all downhill (my advice, for the record: start with something like They Live, and then go in reverse from that point. Then watch everything that came after at your convenience; no rush). Since I didn’t love the movie, I’m going to find it hard to muster up the enthusiasm to watch ones that aren’t as good. Bad Biology sounds like a wonderfully perverse delight though, maybe I’ll watch that one next.

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Movie & TV Show Preview Widget