Sunday, December 28, 2008

Battlefield Earth (2000, John Travolta)

So I was reading this book called Fiasco: A History of Hollywood's Iconic Flops and one of the films it discussed was Battlefield Earth. Something I had never seen before and never really wanted to. I remember when it came out and seeing John Travolta dressed up in that ridiculous Rastafari alien costume and just thinking how amazing it was that anyone would make this film, let alone a huge star like John Travolta. After reading what a suckfest it was, something intrigued me. It's like when you hear that someone puked outside and you can't help but run out and look at it, though you know it will make you nauseous.

Battlefield Earth takes place in the year 3000. The aliens from the planet Psychlos have taken over Earth, leaving mankind an endagered species. The only survivors must hide from the aliens in primitive caves. One of the humans, Jonnie "Goodboy" Tyler - aka "Ratbrain" (Barry Pepper) decides he needs to find a better life, even if it means leaving his love behind. He is soon captured by the Psychlos, led by John Travolta's annoyingly unfunny Terl (way too close to "Turd" to be a coincidence) and his sidekick Ker (Oscar winner Forest Whitaker). While imprisoned, Jonnie learns of Terl's plans to double cross his fellow Psychlos and leads the other humans in a revolt to take back their planet and destroy the aliens.

This movie is embarrassing, stupid and unintentionally funny. The first half of the film was like a test to see how bad a Hollywood movie could be. I'll proudly admit though that I couldn't help but get hypnotised by it and really engrossed in what was going to happen. This movie was really bad, though I actually found it enjoyable.

Rating: 2/5

Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (1991, Martin Kitrosser)

Whew, what a relief. Silent Night Deadly Night 4 was actually a good movie! Fortunately many of the same crew members and actors returned for part 5, though the story and characters are unrelated.

Continuing on with part 4, Silent Night Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker is a wholly original story that has nothing to do with the previous films in the series. A little boy named Derek receives a mysterious Christmas present and witnesses it come to life and kill his father. Derek becomes mute and scared of toys, so his mother takes him to their old friend, the Toy Maker named Joe Petto (Mickey Rooney) and his son Pino (get it, like Gepetto and Pinocchio) to pick out a special toy. Without any luck they leave, but we soon find out that something is going on with Joe Petto's toys when one of them comes to life and kills someone else. Is Joe or his peculiar son Pino to blame for the Holiday slaughter or could it be the mysterious Noah who seems to be following Derek and his mother?

Silent Night Deadly Night 5 is on par with part 4. A neat little story that comes together well when the story unfolds and the pieces of the puzzle start falling into place. Some more great special effects from Screaming Mad George and it's fun seeing Mickey Rooney as The Toy Maker. Still not really a Silent Night Deadly Night film other than the name but still well worth a watch around the Holiday season.

Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation (1990, Brian Yuzna)

If you've read my reviews for Silent Night Deadly Night parts 2 and 3, you're probably wondering why I am torturing myself with the remaining sequels in the Christmas horror franchise. Certainly if parts 2 and 3 are abysmal, part 4 and 5 must be even worse, right?

Silent Night Deadly Night 4: Initiation breaks away from the story of Billy and Ricky Caldwell of the first 3. This time, an aspiring newpaper reporter named Kim (Neith Hunter) is striving to find the right story to get her big break. After a flaming body mysteriously falls from the roof of a building, Kim starts investigating the strange occurrence, which leads her to Fima (Maud Adams), an eccentric bookstore owner who lives in the same building that the death occurred. Kim soon gets tangled up in Fima's mysterious cult who is trying to make Kim their new queen.

Definitely an improvement over parts 2 and 3, Initiation is actually an original and fun horror film with lots of weirdness and slimy special effects (courtesy of Screaming Mad George). There are tons of bugs and other insect-like creepy crawly things sure to make you start itching yourself. The weird story and characters are also fun. Overall, a decent film that probably shouldn't even be a part of this series (especially after the previous two pretty much destroyed the franchise).

Rating: 3/5

Monday, December 22, 2008

Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out (1989, Monte Hellman)

Part 2 was bad. Painful even. I figured the producers realized their errors and decided to make right. Hell, they got the brilliant Bill Moseley (Chop Top from Texas Chainsaw Massacre part 2) and Monte Hellman (director of Two-Lane Blacktop). Did they succeed?

Ricky (this time played by Bill Moseley) is back. This time, he has been in a coma since the shootout at the end of part 2 and he wears a plexiglass bubble on the top of his head, exposing his brain. A blind woman named Laura, who is being treated for nightmares at the same hospital as Ricky, finds that she has psychic connections to him, seeing his murders before they happen. Sure enough, Ricky comes out of his coma and goes on a killing spree, with Laura his main target.

Well, unfortunately this film sucks too. I was so excited about finding an old used VHS copy of this at a thrift store for $2.00 that I could hardly wait to watch it. Part 3, 4 and 5 have never been released in the US on dvd and part 2 is out of print (it was on the flipside of the original Anchor Bay release of part 1). Anyway, the film is just another silly late 80s horror film with nothing going for it. Moseley speaks about 10 words in the whole movie and the rest of the cast are forgettable (unfortunately some of the hair styles are not!) Even Monte Hellman can't save this film from being worthless. The plot is stupid, the characters are just there and the killings are pretty unimaginative. Oh well, maybe they'll eventually get it right.


Silent Night, Deadly Night part 2 (1987, Lee Harry)

What can you say about a film which is made up of 50% flashback footage from it's predecessor? Not much.

Ricky, the Santa killer's brother, goes on a rampage after the traumatic events of the first film. He recounts to a psychiatrist these events (some of which he remembers surprisingly clearly, considering he was only a baby) and then escapes to get revenge on the head nun from part 1. In between all of this, there are forty or so minutes of flashbacks.

This movie was pointless and poorly done. A decent film could have been made about Ricky following in Billy's footsteps, but this ain't it. They tried again with part 3 too (read my upcoming review to see how that turned out). The acting is hilariously bad ("Garbage Day!"), especially by the actor who played Ricky. I won't bother mentioning his name here (don't worry you've never heard of him) because there's just no point. But I will mention that this dude has a serious case of "over acting eyebrows". Watch the film to see what I'm talking about. Or better yet, don't. Even the commentary by the film's director, one of the actors and some other guy basically just points out how bad it is, with the three frequently bursting out laughing at key scenes.


Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984, Charles E. Sellier Jr.)

It's that time of year again, as you can tell by my most recent reviews. Time for mistletoe, yule logs and fruitcake. For many, it's a joyous time to spend with friends and family, exchanging gifts and good cheer. But for some it's a time to punish those who have been "NAUGHTY".

When little Billy and his parents visit Grandpa in the looney bin, Grandpa tells Billy that Santa punishes those who have been bad. On the way home, Billy sees his parents murdered by a guy dressed up as Santa. Billy then goes to live at an orphanage, where the nuns are constantly punishing Billy for his bad behavior. When Billy is old enough to work, he is given a job at a toy store around Christmas. After being forced to be the store's Santa, Billy snaps and starts "punishing" those he thinks are NAUGHTY.

The controversial Silent Night Deadly Night pushes many boundaries of good taste and stops at nothing to shock viewers. Seeing someone dressed as Santa chopping people left and right with an axe is just plain wrong. The film takes itself very seriously, which just adds to the level of sleeze. With that being said, I love this movie. It is a classic Holiday slasher and goes beyond most viewers expectations.


Black Christmas (2006, Glen Morgan)

What happens when you try to remake one of the best horror films of all time? Shitsville? El sucko? Cacapoopoo? You'd think so, right? Well, it's not always true, especially in this case. I put off watching this in fear of the worst but was pleasantly surprised.

Like the original Black Christmas, this one centers around a sorority house right before Christmas break. They receive obscene phone calls and each start disappearing. Other than that, the film is very different. Instead of being oblivious to the killer living in the house, the girls are aware that the killer is there, they're just not sure who it is. Also, unlike the original, they are trapped in the house due to a snow storm and must fight just to survive.

Well slap my ass and call me Sally, a remake that doesn't suck. A cast made up of ex-Dawson's Creek and Party of Five stars would normally spell disaster, but they play the parts of annoying college kids perfectly. A new touch not seen in the original, which may put off or attract viewers, is gruesome violence and gore. Lots of eyeballs being pulled out and sharp objects through heads. There are plenty of scares throughout and tense scenes which make this film a surprising winner.


Black Christmas (1974, Bob Clark)

Ok, why does Halloween get all the attention when it comes to slasher films? I mean, yeah it's a classic of the genre and one of the first but when you think about it, not only did Black Christmas come out 4 years earlier, it also took place around a holiday. I don't really remember what made me rent this when I was about 16 (it was probably after seeing Silent Night Deadly Night) but when I did, I instantly fell in love with it. I remember making my friends watch it too.

Black Christmas takes place at a sorority house right before Christmas break. After receiving obscene phone calls, one of the girls goes missing. Then, the other girls all start disappearing too. After one of the girls, Jess (Olivia Hussey), calls the police about the obscene phone calls, they realize that the calls and the disappearances may be connected.

Black Christmas is one of the scariest, creepiest and best horror films out there. It has been called the first slasher film (unless you count Psycho) and after watching so many other slashers, you can instantly tell where so many of the cliches of such films originated from. The opening scene to When a Stranger Calls even shamelessly rips off an entire key scene from Black Christmas. Another funny thing about this film is how director Bob Clark went on to make one of the most iconic Christmas films of all time, A Christmas Story. Though A Christmas Story is filled with dark humor, it couldn't be more different than Black Christmas. I would definitely suggest this film for any fans of Christmas/Holiday-themed horror films. The last half hour will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Evil (1980, Lewis Jackson)

Continuing on with the holiday celebrations is Christmas Evil (aka You Better Watch Out aka Terror in Toyland). I remember reading about this film and searching for it for a long time as a teenager. I finally found an ex-rental vhs copy for sale at a junk shop in East Asscrack, MA when I was 17. Unfortunately at the time, I watched it once and hated it.

Harry Stadling (Brandon Maggart) gets a little crazy around the holidays. His house is covered wall to wall in Christmas decorations and toys. He checks on the kids in his neighborhood to see if they have been good or bad. This year, something triggers a memory from Harry's childhood involving Santa Claus (actually Harry's father in a Santa costume) doing naughty things to Harry's mother. Harry decides that he will become Santa and show the world that good deeds will be rewarded and naughty people will be punished.

Christmas Evil is way more than just your average Christmas slasher. Brandon Maggart is incredible as the disturbed Harry, totally immersing himself in the role. This film is more of a character study of a mentally ill man than it is a bloody horror film. It took ten years since I first watched it before I could appreciate it for its brilliance.


Don't Open till Christmas (1984, Edmund Purdom)

I love Christmas. Always have and (hopefully) always will. Not everyone feels the same way about Christmas though. I'm sure you've heard of Seasonal Depression or even the expression "Bah Humbug". Well some folks take their hatred of the holiday season to the extreme - as seen in this here film.

Don't Open till Christmas is about a sad sack who hates Christmas. He hates it so much in fact that he feels the need to kill anyone he sees dressed up as Santa Claus. On his trail is Inspector Harris (played by director Edmund Purdom), who suspects the killer to be the money-hungry boyfriend of one of the victims' daughters. Also on the Santa Killer's trail is Sergeant Powell, who suspects Inspector Harris may be linked to the murders, thanks to a tip from a suspicious reporter. In the meantime, Santas are being burnt, speared and (in a cringe worthy scene) castrated. Oh the horror.

Don't Open till Christmas is a decent slasher that has enough surprises and Santa slayings to make it worthwhile. Some of the camerawork, sound and editing are a little jumpy and its definitely not the best Christmas horror film out there, but it's worth a watch if you're in the mood for some anti-holiday cheer.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Isle of the Damned (2008, Antonello Giallo)

So out of the blue I get this email from someone named Brain Leake asking if I would review his company Dire Wit Films' new movie. Hellz Yeah! Finally someone is sending me a movie to review. It came today and I swore I felt just like a young (and slightly skinnier) Ebert must have felt when he received his first screener. I looked it up online and apparently it has played at a few theaters and will be released on dvd next year.

Isle of the Damned follows private detective Jack Steele and his adopted son Billy on a search to find the lost treasure of Marco Polo. They hire a group of pirates to bring them to the island where the treasure is supposedly hidden, which turns out to be an island of cannibals. They soon discover there are other inhabitants on the island, one of which knows where the treasure is.

Isle of the Damned is a hilarious spoof of the 70's Cannibal films (many of which I have reviewed already). The best thing about it though is that it has all the disgusting cannibalism, torture, dismemberment, castration and whatnot that made those films classics..and a whole lot more. There are lots of fake mustaches, bad dubbing, pirates, cheesy music and some very uncomfortable (and hilarious) homo-eroticism. I really hope this film gains the cult classic status that it so desperately deserves. It's very rare that you see a spoof actually improve on the genre it is making fun of. I hope I receive more screeners in the future but something tells me few will live up to Isle of the Damned.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Black Hole (1979, Robert Forster)

Here we have another late 70's/early 80's Sci-Fi film, The Black Hole, which was the first Disney film to be rated PG, the first film ever to have a digitally recorded soundtrack (courtesy of the great John Barry) and to feature the longest computer graphics sequence ever at the time. Most Sci-Fi fans would laugh at this film compared to today's CGI spoogefests, but to me, this is the shit.

The Black Hole follows the crew of the USS Palomino, a spacecraft in search of life in outer space. Lead by Captain Dan Holland (Robert Forster), the crew also includes Holland's right hand man, a couple of scientists (one of which can communicate with robots via ESP?!?), Ernest Borgnine (not sure what his role is) and a welfare version of R2D2 (whose voice is obviously modeled after C3PO, courtesy of Roddy McDowall) named V.I.N.C.E.N.T. (which to my knowledge doesn't actually stand for anything). Anyway, the crew stumbles upon a gigantic spacecraft, the Cygnus, which the Palomino makes an emergency landing on for repairs. The Cygnus' commander, Dr. Reinhardt (Maximillian Schell) welcomes the crew aboard and explains that he has figured out a way to travel through the Black Hole, a huge gaping mass of whatever that can suck up ships like nobody's business, hoping to unlock the mysteries of the universe. Reinhardt's crazy idea is laughed at by most of the crew, with the exception of Anthony Perkin's Dr. Durant (figures that the guy who played Norman Bates is the one crew member to go along with this wacky plan). The crew soon realize that Reinhardt is more than just a curious Dr. and they must figure out how to save themselves before they are sucked into the Black Hole too.

I discovered this film after seeing Battle Beyond the Stars (review to come soon) and the search to find similar films. The special effects are pretty neat, though very dated, as are the robots seen throughout the film. I really enjoyed the cast (Robert Forster is incredibly likable) and the story as well. The best thing about the film is the anticipation of seeing what's really in the Black Hole, which I won't say too much about. This film is definitely not for those who crave the newest special effects that today's films offer but if you enjoy watching walking, talking trashcans and robots that have battery operated eyes, this is for you.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Moonraker (1979, Roger Moore)

Bond. James....Wait a second, can a James Bond movie be a B movie? They make up one of the most famous film series of all time. They always have huge budgets, use state of the art special effects, are filmed in exotic locations with extensive set designs and feature famous actors. Not to mention they usually rule the box office. Maybe B movies isn't the right term, but on occasion at the very heart of these blockbusters is a B movie in disguise. Moonraker is the perfect example of this.

You all know James Bond, secret agent 007 for Her Majesty's Secret Service. Licensed to kill. In this entry, the 11th official entry in the James Bond series, Bond (Roger Moore) goes to Drax Industries, owned by Hugo Drax, to investigate a stolen space craft. There he meets Dr. Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles), who turns out to be an undercover CIA agent and uncovers a plot to destroy the human race. Why? Well, I don't want to give everything away. Bond travels around the globe (and outer space) while hang gliding, fighting a giant water python, being pushed out of a plane without a parachute, destroying an entire glass museum and much more.

Trying to profit off of the recent success of Star Wars, the James Bond series took a trip to Outer Space. This proved successful, being the highest grossing Bond film for the next 16 years. Moonraker is one of the best examples of the Bond series being a big budget B movie. The plot is silly, the characters are straight out of a comic book and everything about it is over the top. Most people call Moonraker one of the lowest points in the series. I love it. What I wouldn't give to have been able to see this on the big screen in 1979 (I was negative 1 year old at the time) with the millions of other people flocking to see Bond travel to outer space.


Monday, December 1, 2008

The Great Silence (1968, Sergio Corbucci)

Spaghetti westerns. I'll be honest, I couldn't care less about Spaghetti westerns or westerns in general until recently. It was Django (who's director Sergio Corbucci is also the director of this film). The only real reason I took a chance on Django was because it was considered somewhat of a classic and because I was rabid to see more films with Franco Nero. I really enjoyed it and started seeking out other SWs that I may like. Django Kill...If You Live Shoot, Run Man Run, Companeros and Four of the Apocalypse, to name just a few. Oh yeah, and........

Il Grande Silenzio, or The Great Silence, is not like your average western. You can tell right away when the opening credits show a cowboy riding a horse through a snow covered landscape. Wait, it snows in the west? We soon find out that the story takes place in Snowhill, Utah (fitting name). A group of bounty killers roam the town, hunting bandits in exchange for money. The head bounty killer is Loco (Klaus Kinski) who shows no mercy towards these bandits, dragging them on his horse with a bullwhip or shooting at the blink of an eye. A mute outlaw named Silence also comes to town. Silence hires himself out as protection to the outlaws to kill the bounty killers (does that make him a bounty killer killer?). Anyway, it is up to the viewer to determine if the cold blooded and ruthless bounty hunters being paid by the sheriff are the heroes and the vengeful Silence, who is out for justice and being paid by the outlaws is the villain or vice versa.

The Great Silence is a true gem. It is a strange movie, but very rewarding. There are so many surprises in this movie. Why Silence became silent. The love scene between Silence and the African-American widow of one of the dead bandits killed by Loco. And last but not least, one of the most shocking and unexpected endings in movie history. Klaus Kinski is great, as usual. Jean-Louis Trintignant shows so much emotion for a man who doesn't talk, proving his talent. The direction and stark cinematography is also great, it almost gives the film a black and white feel. Go see this friggin' movie.