Last Update 4/28/12

 

Humongous (1982)

A typical teenage horror movie in the Jason vein. A handful of young adults are shipwrecked on an island where a woman raised her deformed son, born of rape, before dying. Now he's killing everything alive on the island, including the newcomers, who die in typical fashion. As usual, it's the one nice girl who doesn't die. We don't really see much of the killer. Despite some common flaws, there are actually moments of genuine suspense in this one, and some of the acting is quite good, although I don't think any of them went on to do anything outstanding. Watchable enough and reasonably competent, but unexceptional. 4/28/12

Feast II: Sloppy Seconds (2008)

The original Feast is a spoof of horror films in which a group of people in a back country bar are under siege by toothy monsters. The sequel works that same territory with some variations. The acting is over the top but in most cases probably intentionally. The first few minutes are pretty confusing but after that it makes as much sense as it ever will. The creatures attack an entire small town this time. This is meant to be offensive and it succeeds, with midgets, a motor cycle gang, babies, and others getting chopped up, slashed, or torn apart. It's the same kind of grim humor you find in South Park, though not as wittily dished up. The alien autopsy sequence is particularly gross. It also bears considerable resemblance to a first person shooter computer game. The good parts are scattered among several boring stretches and as before we never really learn anything about the monsters, who aren't all that well done either. And I did wonder why no one used their cell phone to call for help. 4/27/12

Damnation Alley (1977)

This movie adaptation does little justice to Roger Zelazny's novel, but it's watchable. Immediately following a nuclear war, the world is in ruins but the crew of a secret military site receive a radio call from Albany that encourages them to launch an expedition in armored vehicles across the radioactive deserts. This isn't too far from the original material, but then we have giant mutant insects and other standard film fare nonsense and things rapidly go downhill. The opening sequence - the war itself - is probably the best part of the movie, alas. Bad special effects, plot elements that don't make sense, and uninspired acting throughout. Only George Peppard does a convincing job. The soundtrack is minimal and ineffective.  The conflict between the two main characters is forced and awkward. Why do the slot machines continue to work in a supposedly abandoned town? Things look awfully clean in areas that haven't had occupants in two years. And considering that they run into three pockets of survivors in short order, why are they bothering to go to Albany? And if the cities were all destroyed, how can they visit two of them en route? In the junkyard sequence, the wind is blowing toward the cast no matter which direction the camera is facing. Not awful, but not very good. 4/18/12

The Daemons (1971) 

One of my favorite Doctor Who serials, and one of the last to appear on DVD.  Jon Pertwee is the Doctor who travels to a small English village where the Master is trying to evoke a non-supernatural demon. Thereís a good witch, a windy thunderstorm at night, and other gothic trappings although everything is eventually rationalized. An archaeological dig threatens to precipitate Armageddon, thanks to the Masterís replacement of the local vicar and his mysterious ceremonies. The Doctor is frozen solid for a time while the authorities struggle to understand what is taking place. The animated gargoyle is rather silly but the story is actually one of the better written, although the deus ex machina ending is a bit of a stretch. Still one of the best of the Pertwees. 4/16/12

The Unholy (1988) 

Ned Beatty and Hal Holbrook are among the well known names in this horror film. A demon disguised as a beautiful woman seduces and murders priests, capturing their souls since they died in the act of sinning. Our hero is a young priest who pits himself against the demon, almost becoming her next victim in the process.  Rather slow paced at times and somewhat underlit, and at times there are plot developments that donít seem to make sense and awkward transitions. I also found it hard to believe that even an archbishop could keep two high profile murders and the miraculous survival of a seventeen story fall in front of witnesses out of the newspapers. The nightclub scene is ludicrous and the demon is frequently silly rather than seductive. The soundtrack is also pretty bad. Skip this one. 4/15/12

Modern Vampires (1998) 

Not your ordinary vampire movie, this one is supposed to be a satire but itís mostly disappointing. Casper Van Diem is a vampire and Rod Steiger is a modern day Van Helsing. The soundtrack consists of too much too loud too unmelodic rock music. The first several minutes are difficult to follow since three different story lines, plus the credits, consume less than five minutes. Thereís a vampire art dealer amused by the bludgeoning death of an acquaintance, a prostitute vampire who kills her johns, and a punk vampire cruising in a hot car. The overacting and the phony accents are probably intentional but it still grates on the nerves within a few minutes.  The vampires are the secret masters of the world and they largely mimic human activity, exaggerated, while Steiger attempts futilely to convince people thereís a danger. There are a few good moments, but theyíre widely scattered. Another one you can safely skip. 4/14/12

The Complete Harry Potter Film Music Collection, Silva Screen, 2012, around $20

This two CD selection - it's not complete despite the title - draws from all eight of the Harry Potter movies, with work composed by John Williams, Patrick Doyle, Nicholas Hooper, and Alexandre Desplat. Most of the selections are from the first five, with only one each from the last three.  In general I liked the Williams selections the best although there are individual pieces from other films that are as good or better. The choice is pretty good - most of the music stands by itself rather than obviously being an accompaniment to some video action. Although some of it is exciting and uptempo, a lot of it is more contemplative and relaxing. I'd heard it all before, obviously, but I won't mind hearing it again in the future. 4/13/12

Slaughter High (1986) 

The title pretty much says it all. Itís the Carrie variant; a practical joke on the class nerd goes awry, with Caroline Munro looking much too old (she was 37) for the part of one of the pranksters menaced along with a string of expendable victims, although the story quickly jumps ten years for the future, where it doesnít matter. At their reunion, the disfigured prankee is looking for vengeance. The actor playing the nerd committed suicide when the movie came out. Silliness abounds early on; no high school would allow individual students to work with dangerous chemicals alone in the lab after school hours. No one finds it at all strange that thereís no homecoming committee and that no one except the eight of them are attending.  The murders are varied but unoriginal and uninteresting, and the acting is below par even for a 1980s horror film. The usual tropes Ė killer anticipates what theyíre going to do before they know theyíre going to do it, the prospective victims donít stay together so they can get picked off one at a time, two of them have sex even though they know a murderer is stalking them, the dead killer who isnít really dead, and so on. Not memorable. 4/13/12

Waxwork (1988) 

Although this isnít a very good movie, I have a sneaking fondness for it Ė it has Patrick MacNee and David Warner, as well as Deborah Foreman, whom I thought did a great job in Valley Girl. Alas, she didnít have much of a career despite her talent. This one is about a Waxworks which is actually a kind of portal through which all of the legendary monsters can take living form in our world. A group of young people venture to attend a private midnight show and get trapped into individually playing in classic horror film categories Ė vampires, werewolves, mummies, zombies, etc. Ė as part of the process to bring them to life. A group of unlikely heroes appears at the end to save the day in an amusing if not entirely coherent romp. Some of them realize something is wrong but some are completely absorbed in the potentially deadly substory. Enjoyable despite some silliness. There was an inferior sequel. 4/12/12

C.H.U.D. 2: Bud the Chud (1989) 

The first in this series (itís an acronym for cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers) was a fair low budget horror movie about creatures living in the sewer system where they were mutated by toxic waste. The sequel Ė which has a pretty good cast Ė played it for laughs, and only intermittently effectively.  The army Ė Robert Vaughn Ė wants to use them as supersoldiers and experiment on them. The one surviving Chud is frozen, but two high school kids inadvertently use it to replace a teaching cadaver they accidentally lost. None of this is very plausible but itís not supposed to be and it was obviously meant to be in the Return of the Living Dead series because it has nothing to do with the previous movie.  Bud gets free and starts biting, thus converting, everyone in sight including a French poodle.  Gerrit Graham steals the show as Bud. Fun. 4/11/12

Chopping Mall (1986) 

This is a surprisingly good, cheapo SF/horror film, although not without problems. Robotic security guards at a mall are deranged by a lightning strike and start killing a group of young people who have hidden out after closing hours. There are some plot holes and the usual gratuitous sex, but the killbots are nicely done, the acting is well above average for this sort of thing, and thereís a really nice soundtrack. The biggest glitch is that the robots are not armed with lethal weaponry until after the lightning strike, after which they have killer lasers, plastic explosives, a fatal electric shock, and stabbing weapons.  Also, malls donít stock full gasoline cans and automatic weapons. ďTrust me. Absolutely nothing can go wrong.Ē So says the salesman pushing the robots, predictably inaccurately. Everyone who has sex dies; everyone who doesnít have sex lives. I understand that thereís going to be a remake next year and also that the theatrical version was 15 minutes longer than the DVD.  My favorite quote: ďI guess Iím just not used to being chased around a mall in the middle of the night by killer robots.Ē 4/10/12

The Monitors (1969) 

Silly movie version of the silly Keith Laumer novel about aliens who take over the world and police every aspect of human life. They enforce all the human laws, literally, even when the end result is ridiculous. Senator Everett Dirksen has a memorable cameo. Thereís a fairly good cast in this one, but theyíre largely wasted, although there is a peculiar charm to it. The monitors all dress alike and look like human, although they are not in the book. In the movie, it appears that they are and their advent is never explained until the final scene. They have a cute jingle. The plot weaves back and forth around the original plot, which is actually a good thing, but itís hard to take anything seriously in either format. The editing is horrendous; it jumps from scene to scene with no transition and sometimes almost catching the actors in mid-word. Much of the byplay between the two lead characters has nothing to do with the plot and the humor almost always fails. I hope Laumer got paid well. The choice, as presented here, is between a corrupt democratic government and one which by its nature is incorruptible but a benevolent dictatorship. Laumer chose the latter, but the movie suggests the former. 4/9/12

976-EVIL 2 (1992)

A not to be taken seriously horror film that makes fun of the genre, although at least some of the bad acting probably wasn't intentional and the satire is often clumsy. The opening murder sequence has a Draculalike man killing a coed who is somehow swimming, alone, in a locked school swimming pool, at night. The police arrest the supernaturally powered killer, who doesn't seem to care much. He gets his powers by calling the number in the title, but it's not clear if loyalty works both ways. Anyway, he astrally projects himself out of the jail and stalks the female lead, a former Miss USA, while she is flirting with a leather jacketed biker. The projection can become material, somehow, and sets about eliminating the witness that resulted in his arrest. There are talking trophy heads, floating machine guns, flying foodstuffs, and a host of other absurd attacks on the lives of our heroes. The supernatural force is surprisingly inept much of the time. The plot doesn't bear close examination; in fact, it doesn't bear perfunctory examination. The sad thing is this was better than a lot of recent direct to video horror films I've seen. 4/8/12

Shark Night (2011) 

I wasnít expecting another Jaws but I hoped this might be at least a passable thriller. It almost makes it there, but as usual there are logic problems. There is no cellphone reception on the island where seven vacationers are besieged by crooks and sharks, which is plausible, and thereís no ordinary line, which might also be plausible except that the house has an alarm system. How does it notify the authorities? Semaphore? Also, as usual, the characters are not very admirable, although not as bad as in most. Thereís some nice underwater photography but the bit where one character jumps into the lake and finds the servered arm heís looking for within a minute is rather a reach. For some reason never explained, the sharks are superfast and superstrong and naturally their speedboat is disabled early on. Itís watchable, but halfway through I realized I really didnít care what was going to happen from that point forward. 4/6/12

Rush Week (1989)

A pretty standard slasher film, although the acting level is below average despite the presence of Roy Thinnes. Someone is killing coeds with an axe. One not very credible suspect is the pervert who takes dirty pictures. It's pretty obvious that the dean (Thinnes) is actually the deranged killer, somehow avenging the death of his daughter in this way. A journalism student assigned to cover rush week gets caught between the killer and his victims, and almost becomes one of the latter herself. The characters talk in cliches, which fits since the plot consists of a long string of them. There's an array of obnoxious frat boys and young girls who like to shed their clothing. The print is also so deteriorated that everything is fuzzy. There's really nothing to recommend this one. 4/5/12

The Thing (2011)

The prequel to John Carpenter's version follows pretty much the same story. Scientists thaw out what they assume is a dead alien, which can then imitate humans and other living things. They end up killing each other or getting killed by the alien, prevent it from taking off in its spaceship, and while they don't kill off the chief protagonist, they leave her stranded in the middle of nowhere and one may assume she dies later. The creature effects are not nearly as good but they might have been tolerable if the movie hadn't been so consistently underlit that a lot of the time I couldn't even figure out what was going on. They also failed to bring the characters to life as they did so well in the Carpenter film, and for a while I wasn't sure who was dead and who was alive. Not an awful movie but not awfully good either. 4/4/12

13 Ghosts (1960)

Back in the 1960s there were a lot of theater gimmicks, and this was a prime example; you wore Illusion-O glasses to watch. It's also a horror comedy with a pretty good cast and soundtrack. There's an amusing introduction by William Castle, the producer, explaining that you use the special glasses only when the screen turns blue; the picture also differs depending on what part of the glasses you use. A family inherits a haunted house and the spooks are out to get them, starting with the usual - candles blown out, the doorbell ringing but no one is there, cold spots, wilting flowers, animated Ouija board, etc. It turns out the uncle that left it to them collected ghosts from all over the world and they're part of the inheritance. In addition to the ghosts, there's a human villain, whose identity is apparent early on. Corny, but surprisingly creepy given its age and simplicity, although I did wonder why there would be the ghost of a lion. You really need to have a piece of red cellophane to look through during the ghost sequences.

Wrong Turn 3 (2009) 

Third in the loose series about rural cannibals opens with nudity and gore, leaving us in no doubt that weíre in for a gross out session. A party of white water adventurers are attacked by a bow and arrow wielding nutcase who eats eyeballs, etc. Then the main story starts when the cannibals have to match wits Ė what few they have Ė with a group of escaped convicts.  Naturally this means that once again we donít give a damn who lives or dies. Donít movie makers have any idea what generates suspense, or is it gore thatís important rather than atmosphere and plot, The convicts arenít mental giants either. Nor were the screenwriters. The cannibal can throw a knife long distance and neatly kill a guard, but when he fires his bow and arrow, twice, heís wildly off the mark. The woman who survived the opening attack turns out to be a really bad actor, or maybe itís just that her lines are so bad that no one could be convincing.  Fifty year old bloodstains would not still look bright red.  Definitely not worth your time. 4/2/12

Wrong Turn (2003)

The first in a franchise that has now run to four movies, although they really aren't all that related to one another. The second one was so bad that I hadn't planned to watch the third, and then I found the third and fourth so cheap that I gave in to a moment of weakness. For the sake of completeness I decided to rewatch the first one, which starred Eliza Dushku, before moving on. There are actually some good parts in this one, and the acting is much better. Cannibals preying on tourists has been a staple since The Hills Have Eyes, rarely done with anything approaching originality or talent. It has a lot of small continuity problems, not the least of which is that they used two different cars as the same one and you can see the differences. A man rushing through an alternate route to a job interview hits another car with several people, including Dushku, aboard and both cars are out of commission. Their cell phones don't work - surprise - so some of them set out on foot to find help. Alas, the woods are inhabited by a tribe of cannibals.  And if the main road was closed for hours, why is our hero the only one who took the alternate route?  Despite these glitches, the movie is in fact suspenseful and the acting is above average for this sort of thing. Alas, that's not true of the sequels. The plot is no great shakes. The cannibals are mutants and they track down the rest of the cast with surprisingly little trouble. It has its moments - the sequence in the trees for example - and isn't awful, but it's nothing to brag about either. 4/1/12

Creature (2010)

When a movie opens with a woman shucking her clothing to go swimming in a swamp, you know that's a bad idea. Sure enough, she's dead within a minute or two, apparently attacked by an alligator. Enter a car full of obnoxious yuppies - why are they always obnoxious and why do directors/writers think we'll care what happens to a bunch of jerks? They stop for gas and run into a backwoods weirdo - there's always a backwoods weirdo at remote gas stations. They hear rumors of a half man, half alligator who haunts the swamp and decide to make a detour to visit a related site. At this point, I looked it up and read that this movie holds the record for the worst theater opening of all time. Doesn't surprise me. The flashback sequence setting up the legend is so bad I'm surprised the audience didn't demand its money back. "That is the stupidest thing I ever heard," says one character, and she's right. Lots of nudity including a pretty ludicrous lesbian sequence. The monster is a guy in a rubber suit, less convincing than the Creature from the Black Lagoon. At least it wasn't CGI. Badly done and occasionally impossible to follow. 3/31/12

The Face of Evil (1977)

A Tom Baker Doctor Who adventure. This is the one in which he picks up Leela, outcast from her primitive tribe, as his companion. The Doctor arrives by error and is startled to discover that his face mirrors that of the local manifestation of evil. The tribe's witch doctor is secretly communicating with someone pretending to be a god who wants them to launch a doomed attack on a rival tribe. The tribe is in fact descended from a marooned survey crew whose spaceship ruins are nearby. This was one of the weaker Baker episodes, with mediocre sets, a repetitive story, trivial effects - the monsters are invisible, and considerable over acting by some members of the cast. The tribe, with the exception of Leela, appears to be all male. So does the second tribe, which lives partly aboard the ship and still uses technology. It should have been better because it had an interesting idea, an earlier visit of the Doctor had unforeseen consequences. 3/21/12

The Sensorites (1964)

The seventh Doctor Who adventure has William Hartnell and company landing aboard an alien spaceship  with a complement of humans either dead or in suspended animation. Susan is still referring to the Doctor as her grandfather, a wrinkle soon dropped and never referred to again. The crew is revived and tells the Doctor that they are being controlled by aliens from a nearby planet, the Sensorites. They disable the Tardis and can move through space without spacesuits, although they are humanoid. Despite their ostensibly hostile actions, the aliens are careful not to actually hurt their prisoners, which suggests they have potentially benevolent intentions. It turns out that humans were there in the past and caused harm and therefore the Sensorites wish to prevent anyone else from coming to their world. The Sensorites - and one of the humans - have fallen prey to a disease which the Doctor must cure to prove their innocence, and one of the Sensorites maneuvers things to make them look bad. Not a bad story but a bit too drawn out. 3/20/12

Gamera: Revenge of Iris (1998)

A relatively recent adventure of the jet powered giant turtle, although there's not a whole lot of Gamera in this one. He has been battling giant predatory birds and killing lots of people by accident, so the army decides he's the bigger menace and the daughter of a couple killed during one of the battles also hates him. When she discovers a mutated version of the giant birds, she fuses with it somehow and it becomes a very large, physically impractical, but colorful creature immune to the usual gunfire. Iris and Gamera eventually duke it out, destroying a chunk of Kyoto in the process, and the girl sees the error of her ways. This was sometimes hard to follow because it drew heavily on the previous movie in the series, which I haven't seen, because it's translated from the Japanese into subtitles - but some of the dialogue isn't translated, and because the story basically doesn't make a lot of sense in the first place. It's also far too long and very dull. 3/17/12

The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe (2011)

I expected the Doctor Who Christmas special to be sappy and sentimental, but silly, stupid, and illogical weren't necessary to accomplish this. The Doctor is entertaining a World War II widow and her two children, creates a gateway to another planet where the intelligent trees are about to succumb to acid rain created by human harvesters. There's some tension, but not much, and the day is eventually saved. Some of the recent changes to the Doctor Who universe were bad missteps that are repeated here - like having the sonic screwdriver become a magic wand that can read minds, etc. There are new ones that are just bad writing, like having the widow discover how to pilot a massive robot vehicle from three millennia in her future in a matter of minutes, not to mention that when the husband is rescued - predictably - no mention is made of the rest of his crew, one of whom was in critical condition. They've ruined one of my favorite shows. Shame on them. 3/4/12

Jonah Hex (2010)

Another comic book based movie, this one set in the Old West. Josh Brolin is an ex-soldier whose family was murdered by a man seeking vengeance. He survives, but the experience leaves him with an affinity for the dead. Hex turns bounty hunter until he is dragooned into tracking down a man leading a plot against the US government, the same man who killed his family after faking his death. Hex, who has a horribly scarred face, has twin gatling guns on his horse and a flock of crows who warn him of danger. Hex has a girlfriend, Megan Fox, and a price on his head. The soundtrack is nothing to get excited about, either the music or in general. It is sometimes hard to hear and never really adds anything to the atmosphere. Hex can interrogate the dead, which gives him a leg up on the others pursuing the one time rebel, now terrorist, who plans to steal the components of a mysterious superweapon. Some scenes are shot in such darkness that it's hard to follow the action. Competent acting but the other production values are all lacking. 3/3/12

Warbirds (2008)

Another cheap CGI monster fest set during World War II. It appears that one Pacific island has something even worse than entrenched Japanese soldiers. They didn't even pay for stock footage of the aircraft; they're CGI as well. A female aircrew is assigned to transport a male officer and his secret cargo. The acting is, of course, unrelievedly awful, but the script is so silly that you almost don't notice. The plane they are flying is coated with flames one second, then merely trailing some mild smoke in the next shot. Then it's in flames again a few seconds later. After crashing, the male officer asks if they can make repairs! They run into some survivors of the Japanese unit which was already nearly wiped out and reluctantly join forces. The dinosaurs shrug off bullets, of course, fly faster than fighter plane, and the special effects are laughable. And for some reason, all of the crew members are capable of flying Zeros, even the gunners. Another one you can safely avoid. 3/2/12

The Shadow Walkers (2006)

I knew this was going to be bad before the credits were done. Someone in a mask kills the security staff at a genetics institute and seals the doors, after which a group of scientists find themselves sealed inside, stalked by the results of experimentation with human genetics. The murder sequences during the credits are cheaply done with bad special effects and corny acting - what there is of it - and the soundtrack is muddled. I got very tired of the alarm klaxon very early on. The science is crap. Mutations do not cause people to sprout long claws within seconds, among other things. It's also poorly lit and badly focused. The survivors, who don't remember how they came to be there, seem to choose courses of action almost at random. Given that the prospective victims were guilty of horrible crimes against their patients, it was impossible to muster any sympathy for them, even if they'd been capable of acting believably. The action sequences, such as they are, are without exception terrible. Most of the movie consists of people running through dark corridors. Can't think of one good thing to say about it. 2/28/12

The Lost Tribe (2009)

A team of archaeologists dies when they uncover something on a remote island that has deadly consequences - a priest sends a hit team to wipe them out. Some time later another group is stranded there, and they are prey to a different but related threat. The church is covering up the fact that there are living missing links and they don't want evolution confirmed. If so, why didn't they just wipe out the tribe?  And why did no one come looking for the missing scientists? And how does the scientist know in advance that the Vatican would have her murdered if her discovery was revealed. This is all patently nonsense, but given that premise we have a routine if not entirely awful variation of the cast running around being killed one by one by the humanoid creatures. I might have cared more if the characters had been more personable; when they find a seriously ill castaway at sea, they refuse to tell the Coast Guard where they are because it might interfere with their plans. And how can there be a large tropical island with a lost civilization within range of the US Coast Guard? One with several abandoned buildings? Some of the photography is nice and the creature effects, though brief, aren't awful, and some are stolen directly from Predator.  There's even the escape by sliding down the muddy hillside and a mud cover providing invisibility from that film. Competent but insignificant. 2/26/12

Mongolian Death Worm (2010)

Who could resist a title like that?  This actually wasn't awful, but it's another CGI monster movie in which giant worms menace a village and a shale plant in Mongolia. Sometimes the effects are competently done, sometimes not so. There's a villainous businessman who is smuggling artifacts found in the tomb of Genghis Khan, a doctor played quite well by Victoria Pratt who gets caught up in the mess, a treasure hunter of dubious moral persuasion, an honest copy, and a cast of extras. Some of the acting is quite good, some of it pretty bad.  The story is predictable and there are a few odd spots where people don't act the way one would expect them to, but on the whole it's watchable, though quite forgettable. 2/14/12

Doctor Who Series 6 soundtrack, composed by Murray Gold, Silva Screen, 2012, around $20

I was rather disappointed  by this season of the venerable Doctor Who series, but it wasn't because of the music, which was up to its usual standards. With the usual caveats that some tracks fix a particular scene and don't stand well on their own, this two disc set is actually very listenable. The selections are grouped by episode although there is some repetition of themes, obviously. There's considerable variation in tone, though not in instrumentation. Not a lot of standouts in this one, although I liked "Apollo 11", "Deadly Siren", "The Curse of the Black Spot", and "Tell Me the Truth" on the first disc. The second disc seemed a bit repetitious to me but that was probably because of the recurring themes. I liked most of the "Night Terrors" sequence and a few of the selections from "Let's Kill Hitler" the best of these. 2/12/12

Metal Shifters (2011)

This made for cable television movie is a variation of the usual CGI monster, in this case a bacterium from outer space that can animate metal and takes over a tall sculpture made from scrap metal as it wanders around town draining the iron from the blood of various characters. The science is awful - a biology teachers glances at the growth and analyzes its cell structure - but the acting is at least competent, though why they cast a 21 year old to play a 15 year old girl is beyond me. The plot suffers from the usual bad logic. Machines don't work in the creature's vicinity, except when it is more convenient to the plot if they do. No one bothers to call anyone outside the small town where it all takes place, or to get in their car and drive away rather than hide in a building. Then there are goofs, like the sheriff knowing where a dead body is even though no one has told him, the coroner who doesn't alert anyone even when he thinks there is a plague in town, and a budget so low that the town is essentially deserted all the time. And a one ton statue, even animated, is not heavy enough to make buildings shake noticeably when it slowly walks nearby.  Watchable, but silly. 2/11/12

Beowulf (2007) 

Although this retelling of the classic myth using a screenplay co-authored by Neil Gaiman has a good story, I was put off as soon as I realized it was animated, i.e. computerized images superimposed on the actual actors.  Why?  Anyway, Beowulf comes across as a conceited braggart and morally weak, but ultimately honorable. Grendel is an asymmetric troll, completely animated. His mother Ė who wears high heels for some absurd reason Ė looks reasonably human. The closing sequence involving the dragon is the highlight of the movie, which takes considerable liberties with the traditional story. 2/10/12

Bikini Girls on Ice (2005) 

This got sent to me by accident when I bought another movie on Ebay and the seller told me to keep it. I should have insisted he take it back. It looked like a standard slasher movie but itís below average even for that genre. A bunch of bikini clad girls en route to a car wash are temporarily stranded at a garage we know to be frequented  by a long haired, spaced out killer. The plot, such as it is, actually goes downhill from the premise, with the car wash relocated. The absolutely wooden acting doesnít help and the college students look like they should be on the faculty. Thereís very little gore Ė the killer freezes his victims to death in the cooler Ė and we never figure out who he is or why he does it that way. Thereís a creepy old guy who warns them off, a couple of mild comic relief characters, and a jealous boyfriend.  The very brief nudity and lesbian kissing seem almost pro forma. When people start disappearing, no one is particularly alarmed, and even after nightfall the female characters refrain from getting dressed.  And naturally their cell phones donít work and when one of them reaches a phone knowing that thereís a killer, he doesnít call 911 but his girlfriend, who doesnít believe him.  And why would a long abandoned gas station still have power? A waste of pixels. 2/9/12

V for Vendetta (2005)

I finally got around to watching this, which didn't seem like something I would enjoy but turned out to be pretty good. England has succumbed to an authoritarian religious dictatorship, the US has collapsed, and the rest of the world isn't mentioned at all. A survivor of a secret government project to develop chemical weapons has been horribly scarred so he wears a Guy Fawkes mask as he initiates a campaign of terrorism and propaganda to undermine the existing government. Along the way a young woman reveals to V that he is acting out of arrogance and the desire for revenge rather than for noble motives, even if the ends are desirable. There are some good action sequences sprinkled throughout. I did somewhat question the invariable competence of V, his ability to command widespread and very expensive resources, and his intelligence gathering operation even though he has no allies. And one would think that after seeing his image on television as a terrorist, the people who manufactured 700,000 copies of his costume might have alerted the authorities.  Still good though. 2/8/12

Frontiers (2007)

Four thuggish young adults pull of a robbery and escape across France, taking shelter in an inn whose owner has a secret. It seems that there are many tunnels beneath the inn, and those tunnels are home to a mob of cannibals. Oh, and the innkeeper is a Nazi planning to breed a new master race. The rest of the plot summary is probably superfluous here, but I should also point out that the film is in French and is subtitled. The opening sequences, in which Paris is troubled by riots, may have been intended to set the tone, but it really does nothing to advance the story. There's more violence than even most low budget horror films involve, but there's very little opportunity to feel any empathy for any of the characters. The acting, when there's a chance for any of the cast to do so, appears to be reasonably good. The photography on the other hand is jerky, erratic, and the light and filter levels are distracting. This one has most of the attributes, and failings, of any number of similar direct to video failures. 1/21/12

Prowl (2010)

This low budget horror movie tries too hard in the early going, with jumps back and forth in time, slow motion sequences, night shots of a woman running through a dark forest, and some late teen angst. The result is that within five minutes I disliked all the characters, was annoyed by the pretentious bits, and confused by too many parallel story lines. Amber, the protagonist, wants to move to the big city and convinces her friends to drive her there. Car trouble ensues and they get a ride in the back of a commercial trailer truck, only to discover that they are sharing the cargo space with containers of fresh blood. The transition is not very credible; there's no reason why all of them would have taken the ride in the back of the truck since they broke down within walking distance of where they started. Things improve a bit for a while. They are backed up and released into a locked warehouse with dim lighting. And they're not alone. The good part ends quickly with attacks by cannibals which feature real quick shots that usually can't be followed and don't make sense when they're intelligible. All the males are dead within a minute or two and the three surviving females are barricaded in the truck and one of them is dead a minute later.  Turns out the creatures are vampires - all males except for the leader for some reason. No big surprise there. Our heroine turns out to have superpowers of her own - odd that she's never noticed before. There's some story but the photography was so awful it was hard to tell.  Not worth the time. 1/20/12

A Game of Shadows (2011)

The second Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downey in the title role moves at a hectic pace from beginning to end. Professor Moriarty is planning to precipitate a world war and he and Holmes are engaged in an open duel of wits which will lead to their final confrontation at Reichenbach Falls. As with the first movie, the casting and performances are excellent throughout. Some of the action sequences make use of stop action effects, which I find distracting and even annoying, but they aren't bad enough to spoil this one. Despite reviews suggesting this is better than the original, I didn't think it was as good, but it's still one of the best movies I've seen recently. The death of one of the characters took me completely by surprise, and I thought the sequence in the armaments factory was particularly good.  1/17/12

Husk (2011)

A swarm of crows smashes into a windshield and leaves a group of young people stranded in the middle of a cornfield miles from anywhere. One of them disappears and the others split into two parties, one going for a tow truck, the others staying with the car.  Eventually they take refuge in an apparently abandoned house, but we all know what that means. The acting isn't bad but it's kind of flat, and there's no musical accompaniment to establish mood. Nor is it clear why the twosome looking for a tow enter the cornfield rather than follow the road. It started to lose me when the girl finds a scarecrow with a human body inside it, but doesn't tell anyone. Then she runs off, apparently at random, looking for her boyfriend. She gets dragged off by some unknown party and the three male survivors try to figure out what's going on. So does the audience. Things get explained, but only partly and not very convincingly.  There's little suspense, no standout scenes, and not a whole lot to hold your interest. And the characters so consistently act stupidly that I began cheering on the monsters. 1/16/12

The Android Invasion (1975)

A Tom Baker Doctor Who, with Sarah Jane Smith. Our heroes return to Earth to find it infested by spacesuited creatures with guns in their fingers.  Everyone in the nearby village is acting very strangely and there are what look liked large seedpods sprinkled across the countryside. Some of the cast chews the scenery in this one, I'm afraid. There's a malevolent alien behind the plot, which is to menace a nearby defense installation. Sarah gets captured and replaced by an android duplicate. (They're actually robots, not androids.) And then it turns out they aren't on Earth after all but just a test site for an invasion yet toc come. A slightly above average Baker adventure, and one of the shorter ones. 1/14/12

Invasion of the Dinosaurs (1974)

One of the early Jon Pertwee Doctor Who adventures, and the last to be in black and white; it switches to color with part 2 and there's a colorized version of part 1 on the disc.  The Doctor and Sarah Jane return to a strangely deserted present day London. UNIT is dealing with a plague of dinosaurs which have sprung up inexplicably in the London area. The Doctor gets arrested as a looter, complicating matters. The dinosaurs - which are impervious to bullets naturally - are pretty badly done, essentially rough puppets. Eventually they discover that people from the past are also being transplanted through time. One of the regulars, a member of UNIT, is actually in cahoots with the renegade scientists involved, through some misguided plan to wake up humanity about damaging the environment. Sarah Jane is actually ahead of the Doctor on this one, which results in her being captured by the bad guys.  This is actually one of the better adventures, if you can ignore the really bad special effects. The science is also pretty hokey. There is no habitable planet close enough to Earth that one can still see the continents on Earth while orbiting the other. It's a hoax, but even so the thousand or so intelligent people duped by the process would have known better. 1/13/12

Dark Town (2004) 

One of the nuttier and most pointless vampire movies Iíve ever seen. One plot involves a family planning a birthday party for the head of the family, who happens to be a slumlord. That evening, while inspecting one of his properties, he is bitten by a vampire and becomes one himself Ė although the vampires in this one are kind of zombies as well. Itís really not very clear. He acts very strangely even before the blood starts flowing, but then again, so does everyone else. The second plot involves a bunch of punks, one of whom is named Mos Eisley, who are involved with drugs and a shooting and decide that the slumlord is to blame, so they decide to visit his home just as the biting and screaming is beginning. Meanwhile it appears that the whole town is under attack. Despite some over the top gore and some almost funny nudity, this one is pretty bland and uninteresting. 1/11/12

Final Destination V (2011) 

Iíve always had a bit of a problem with the premise for this series. One potential victim has a vision of a disaster and warns the others. But Death will not be cheated and elaborate accidents occur afterward in the same order as the deaths would have occurred.  Okay, except that if the person had the vision and warned people, that was fate, not the other way around, so Death shouldnít give it a second thought. But sometimes the elaborate deaths are clever and the production values are usually good. Thatís the case with this one, which opens with a bridge collapse as the disaster. But the writing starts to go downhill quickly, with the stereotyped insensitive boss and the police who suspect the protagonist because of his foreknowledge, even though it clearly was not sabotage. Itís as though the writer just couldnít think of an alternative subplot, or more likely didnít even try. The police also suspect his breakup with his girlfriend as the motive, but that didnít happen until minutes before the collapse. Similarly the writer has no idea how a business is run. The union rep has no business questioning an off site assignment for a manager, his physical confrontation with his boss would almost certainly have resulted in disciplinary action, and I canít imagine a company sanctioning drinking in the office during work hours. The sequence in the acupuncture parlor is laughable and I very much doubt you can walk in off the street and immediately sit down for laser eye surgery. Nor do I believe that a patient under a laser would be left unattended, or that the equipment could overheat without setting off an alarm, if it could overheat in the first place. And the rules don't seem consistent either. Fair. 1/10/12

Bruiser (2000) 

After hearing a man commit suicide on the radio, our hero wakes up one morning with his face white as a sheet and decides to take revenge on the people who have screwed up his life Ė boss, unfaithful wife, insolent maid, crooked investment counsellor, etc. This was written and directed by George Romero, but if you were expecting zombies and gore, you will be disappointed.  The casting is excellent Ė Jason Flemyng as the nerd who turns and Peter Stormare as the really awful boss.  Nerd kills maid and wife in short order. Continuity goof. Sometime after one acquaintance says he heard of the wifeís death, we hear a broadcast that says her identity is being withheld. More carnage follows, but with restraint.  This is actually a very good movie. 1/9/12

Backwoods Butchers 

Fished through the 99 cent bin and found some compilations. At 25 cents each, some of these might be worth the price.  

Bread Crumbs (2011) 

A bunch of young adults plan to make a porn film in a remote cabin.  Why? Anyway, they encounter a couple of creepy children on the way Ė except the actors playing the kids are as old or older than the others. The kids are a kind of metaphor of Hansel and Gretel, except theyíre homicidal. Since none of the characters are remotely likeable, we naturally donít care what happens to them. The acting is visibly forced. The plot even moreso. Immediately following the first attack, the seven adults know the two ďkidsĒ are responsible, but cower in the cabin rather than subdue the kids who are in plain view and unarmed. The ways in which the various characters are fooled into believing the most unlikely stories makes raises implausibility to new levels.  Even when the girl kills one of them in plain view, one of the survivors insists she didnít do it. Bad. Very bad. And it goes on and on and on.  Value 25 cents. 

Motherís Day Massacre (2007)

A Bothered Conscience (2006) 

The first of these was so unbelievably bad that I couldnít watch more than a few minutes. Value zero.  Ditto for the second title, which barely held me through the opening credits. 

Butchered (2010) 

A bunch of college bound teens have a last three day party on a remote island that happens to be the refuge of an escaped serial killer called the Butcher.  Outside cellphone range. Yup, itís one of those. And as expected, none of the teens look like teens. Thereís some tension among the prospective victims, adequate but unoriginal, some below average scenery and slightly above average musical accompaniment.  The actors are occasionally convincing, but not often. Ditto for the story line. Itís also set in one of those alternate universes where a man walking normally can easily overtake another man running full tilt. Boring killings and nothing to recommend it. Value 15 cents.  So I didnít get my moneyís worth. 1/8/12

The Green Hornet (2011) 

A very silly rendition of the Green Hornet that sometimes works but sometimes doesnít. Spoiled industrialist Britt Reid moonlights as a vigilante battling the Los Angeles mob. Reid remains a conceited idiot out for glory and Kato actually comes across as the driving force and more interesting person. The tension between them is interesting at first but eventually wearing. The closing sequence Ė which involves a full scale battle, multiple car wrecks, and so forth, is pretty well done.  Not my favorite superhero movie, but a nice break from the usual. 1/7/12

Conan the Barbarian (2011) 

The role made popular by Arnold Schwarzennegger passes to a relative unknown in this high budget but still less satisfying remake. The opening sequences are actually the best part of the movie, with Conan still a child learning to temper his lust for violence with the wisdom of hesitation.  The kid playing the part does quite well. Some of the scenes are shot with a succession of very short camera cuts which becomes quite distracting. The chief villain has just gathered the last of a set of magical bones which will give him magical powers. Conan wants revenge for the death of his father and his village, which was destroyed in the process of acquiring the last. Itís a lot more violent and special effects are better, but story is basic. Jason Momoa has less fire in the title role. Most of the cast overacts, including Rose McGowan as the villainís twisted daughter. Not as bad as Iíd been led to believe, not as good as it should have been. 1/6/12

The Task (2011) 

This could have been a tolerable minor horror flic about a reality show whose participants have to spend a night in a deserted, haunted prison.  Except that they are kidnapped by force off city streets even though theyíve never signed a release Ė and I doubt that any such release could absolve the producers of the criminal charges involved.  The six contestants Ė whose characters are exaggerated beyond belief - have to perform certain tasks during the course of the evening, and the staff has arranged some surprises for them. But obviously the prison is going to turn out to be really haunted and itís not just the contestants who are going to be surprised. Implausibilities abound. There is no reality show imaginable which would include reading the Lordís Prayer in reverse, for example. The producers suppressed the real story of the prisonís history because the town threatened to sue for another. The producers also leave one contestant half immersed in refuse because they think the network has included their uncertainty as part of the program.  Itís a shame so little attention was paid to details because the acting is good, the sets are good, some of the sequences are genuinely creepy, and even the soundtrack isnít bad. But itís the little things that count. 1/5/12

Area 51 (2011)

The government allows two reporters into Area 51 on a tour carefully designed to avoid the four imprisoned aliens, three hostile, and one a shapechanger. So naturally that's the day they decide to escape. Given the abysmal security precautions, it's a surprise they weren't free long ago. Some of the guards have almost no training and almost every one of them freezes when confronting an alien and fails to shoot even though heavily armed. A single person monitors the entire area and none of the guards have radios. The aliens somehow understand our computer system, can guess passwords, are superstrong, impervious to bullets, and type in English. Bruce Boxleitner, the base commander, looks properly embarrassed. The body count rises and those we know will die do so on schedule. Not awful, but relentlessly minor. 1/2/12

Born of Earth (2008) 

I thought this might be an okay low budget horror film because it had a few familiar names in the cast. I lost hope pretty quickly. The premise is that a race of demons lives beneath a small community and has now begun to come to the surface to kill adults and kidnap children. Daniel Baldwin is supposedly the only one ever to have seen them and live, but we soon run into an incidental character who apparently has as well, not to mention the college professor/author who has figured out their existence despite a lack of evidence. The acting is abysmal and the sound recording flat and sometimes nearly unintelligible. For reasons never explained, he discovers that five years to the day after the abduction, the creatures will return and ravage the town, so he goes back to warn his niece. Completely implausibly, the local mayor orders that Baldwin be arrested because he doesn't want rumors of missing children to foul up a development deal. The teenaged boyfriend is played by an actor who appears to be in his forties, and he can't act either. The demons, who dissolve is shot, predictably attack in large numbers, but prove to be rather fragile. Except that sometimes they're immune to gunshots. The height of absurdity is when they don't flee town in the relatively impregnable cars but choose instead to crawl through the sewers, which are of course infested.  1/1/12

 

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