Saturday, 26 October 2019
18th OCT - SUMMER OF '84 is a teen mystery thriller, except there's not really much in the way of mystery and things follow a pretty linear path. I get what the makers are trying to cash in on, but this isn't a particularly good evocation of the era or its sensibilities - the serial killer, for instance, while a known quantity through the actions of real-life monsters, wasn't quite as embedded in early 1980s Americana as a cultural phenomenon as this leads you to believe.
There are dozens of text and video essays online explaining this fetishism of a terrible period in music and fashion much better than I'll ever manage in the paragraph or two on my screen grabs blog, and a good example is this one from the always-interesting Lindsey Ellis:
19th OCT - IT CAME FROM THE DESERT is based on an old arcade adventure game from the 8-bit era of home computer gaming, so as timely cash-ins go, this ain't one of those. It's actually visually impressive here and there despite its obvious low budget, but the actors let the side down, leaning hard into the silliness, and not quite managing to find a balance between that and the po-facedness you need to really make a b-movie work, especially one so obviously looking to mine the silliness of atomic panic pictures like THEM! with its silly giant ant premise.
Still, if you can tolerate the "deliberately-bad" genre of horror movie, this is borderline-watchable.
20th OCT - QUATERMASS 2 is another one from the "I'd watch this even if it wasn't Spooktober" pile of classic horror movies I have to hand, with Brian Donleavy as the world's most unconvincing rocket scientist, but still pretty charismatic and distinctive as the titular Quatermass as he struggles with the notion of malign intelligence from beyond our world, which he speaks about in terms that suggest he's explaining extra-terrestrials to someone who's never been exposed to the concept, reminding you that all of these cliches I sneer at like the post-millenial dog I am were new to audiences at some point.
I was briefly intrigued by the insistence of several characters that "we don't have any police around here", which really does show you how things have changed - no coppers enforcing capitalist hegemony and hunting down illegals? INCONCEIVABLE.
As solid as b-movie shockers get, and always watchable.
21st OCT - LEPRECHAUN I have somehow managed to not see a single entry in this surprisingly lengthy slasher series - 8 movies and counting - so this is the year I finally see why anyone would want to make a horror franchise based on a borderline-offensive caricature of whimsy from the ludicrous theme park that is my home country.
"Wait, aren't you from Tyrone, which is in the North, and thus part of the UK?" I hear astute blog-watchers ask, to which I reply "oh yes, sorry, you are correct in that I'm not located in Ireland at the moment - I forgot it isn't 2020 yet." AND YES THAT IS A BREXIT JOKE BECAUSE GOD FORBID WE SHOULD FORGET THAT'S HAPPENING.
Jennifer Aniston did apparently spend a lot of her career doing things other than starring in Adam Sandler movies, and that includes time in the b-reel mines eking out a meager living playing "The Girl" in absolute horseshit like this. I do wonder if they went back and edited in some extra footage they had left over after Aniston got famous in FRIENDS, because there's some chase sequences late in the film and one or two are just lengthy tracking shots centered entirely on her backside and they do go on for a bit, but that kind of exploitation isn't unusual in this era of film, plus I don't really care enough to look it up, so it's hard to know either way.
The - ...well, we'll call it "the plot" for the sake of argument - revolves around a man who finds a pot of gold in Ireland and the Leprechaun that owns it follows him home to America trying to get it back but is shot and left for dead in an old house for 10 years before being revived by Jenny and her dad, cue bloodshed in some not very inventive ways. It's hard to see why this was popular enough to spawn 7 sequels, to be honest, as it's not even a particularly good example of the type of exploitative trash that the slasher genre had devolved into thanks to the Reagan administration's destruction of the moral fibre of America, and I think the reason it probably did well was because of its audaciously stupid premise, as in the home rental era of movies, distributors would sell movies at trade conventions to retail and rental outlets in domestic and foreign territories, so a movie could - and often did - make back its production costs and even turn profit before it had even been released to the public, which is why you would see movie sequels churned out so quickly that they were obviously in production before the original was even available to rent or buy. This movie sounds so stupid on paper that I think distributors at the time either assumed it was tongue-in-cheek, or self-aware in some way and thus much better than it sounded - or they thought it was so dumb that it stood a good chance of catching people's eye and getting rented.
That's my big insight into the VHS era market forces that made a successful franchise of this and many other terrible films. I think we can agree it was well worth turning up to the blog to read it.
This movie sucked.
22nd OCT - LEPRECHAUN 2: LEPRECHAUN HARDER has a glaring continuity error right off the bat, with the character stating his age as 1000 years old whereas in the previous movie he said he was 600, and almost immediately I wondered what I'm doing with my life.
This is clearly a different Leprechaun altogether, so there are quite a lot of these little bastards knocking about and so it doesn't matter what the rules are for his powers and/or the limitations to how they work, I mean... having consistent rules would infer that there was going to be some point where characters outsmarted the villain with a clever plan based on established lore, but really they just find a certain object that can stab the unkillable baddie and make him for-reals dead and then the movie ends without even the usual "I'm not dead yet" jump scare.
This time the Leprechaun is after the descendant of someone the Leprechaun killed a thousand years ago because he wants to make Leprechaun babies... sigh.
This film also sucks.
23rd OCT - LEPRECHAUN 3: LAS VEGAS LEPRECHAUN and I know this is the third of a movie series based on something that is to a certain nationality what a gollywog is to a black person, but even so, this one is kind of sort of very racist, with the half-pint horror biting off an Asian gentleman's ear and announcing "I love Indian food! It's so spicy!" The same gentleman later lapses into Arabic caricature for some reason, so I don't know what to make of that. We deal with yet another Leprechaun unrelated to the previous versions, this one having the ability to turn those victims he doesn't kill into were-leprechauns, so you get American actors doing Irish accents and there's a bit with a sex robot because it was the 1990s, I guess? I don't know why I'm still trying to make sense of these things.
Does it even matter that this one is set in Las Vegas and that he meets Elvis? It's a bit more knowingly silly than the first two, at least, but still far from good.
24th OCT - LEPRECHAUN 4: LEPRECHAUN IN SPACE welp here are. I can stop watching bad movies now because after this there's little point.
To be fair, this goes all-out to be stupid, with the Leprechaun having a shootout with space marines and regenerating himself by climbing out of a man's penis before turning Godzilla-sized for the finale, so you can't say it isn't trying - which is probably why I'm a little disappointed they dropped the gimmick of the Leprechaun always talking in rhyme. This is gloriously bad, and there are even some familiar faces among the cast like Lieutenant Gruber from 'Allo 'Allo as a mad scientist (complete with German accent), and the gunnery sergeant from Full Metal Jacket as the leader of a corps of marines -fun fact: he was slated to play the part that eventually went to R Lee Ermy.
There's some problematic elements to add to the racism from the previous movie, particularly the misogyny and "man in a dress" humor of the second half, but I actually quite enjoyed this because it finally delivers on the promise of the original that you're going to watch something ludicrously terrible rather than just plain bad.
25th OCT - LEPRECHAUN 5: LEPRECHAUN IN THE HOOD Boy oh boy, given the track record of this series with racial sensitivity I was not looking forward to this one, and sure enough, it has it all: racism, misogyny, transphobia, Ice T's acting - everything about this one is offensive, and it's hard not to see it as being by design.
Although occasionally amusing - such as when Ice T tries to shoot someone without realising his trigger finger was torn off a half hour earlier in the movie - there otherwise isn't much in the way of the inventive deaths that slasher movie fans have come to expect of the genre, with many of the deaths happening entirely offscreen, including a rape/murder sequence that is deeply troubling even without the transphobic element. In a movie that transplants an Irish stereotype to a genre known for its exploitation of African Americans, I suppose it's kind of impressive that the film manages to drag some anti-Asian racism into proceedings too, but apart from this commendable dedication to keep the film focused on something dear to the maker's hearts (hate crime), this is just dreadful.
True, it does star the Third Worst Actor From Star Trek: Enterprise, but even that can't salvage it.
Friday, 18 October 2019
Still, like Brexit, I can't stop now, so...
8th OCT - THE COLLAPSED posits itself first as a post-apocalyptic thriller, but then edges towards horror territory as it progresses, my main takeaway being "oh dang, this is where Birdbox got the idea."
I kind of guessed the twist a bit too early for the film to have entirely worked, but on balance I would say, middling acting and micro budget aside, this was pretty good.
AFTERMATH is a more traditional post-apocalyptic thriller, hitting beats familiar to the genre and its fans, and while not particularly inventive, it's a competant entry in the PA canon. The only reason I watched it was because it came from the Screamfest channel on That There Youtube, which is a good place to stop for horror movies between 3 and 50 minutes.
9th OCT - DOOM: ANNIHILATION is the second live-action adaptation of the game that isn't the first or best FPS (First Person Shooter), but it is almost certainly the daddy. Some scientists find ancient tablets inscribed with satanic runes and decide to jump up and down on them to see what happens. SPOILERS: nothing good.
Actually, "nothing good" is a pretty apt review summary for this. It's like one of those micro-budget Asylum movies about zombies fighting mercenaries, only the sets are nicer: some not-great actors deliver some not-great exposition, then one of them goes "sheeeeeeeeyit!" and does some shooting, the zombies rush at the characters and get shot for a bit, then someone goes "WTF is happening here?" and some more exposition happens, tensions in the group, they try to withdraw to safety but are thwarted, then have to pursue a McGuffin, there's a big fight and maybe a twist about one of the characters being secretly bad, an explosion, then a character goes ARGH at the camera and the credits roll as a rock track goes DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN. If that sounds like a movie you think you'd enjoy watching for the 16th time, this is for you. If not, you might find this a bit poo like I did.
The original Doom live-action movie at least had a visceral and gory charm to it, but this is just rote shooting and zombies going RARG, and despite the demon FX being practical, the director does that thing you see in CGI movies where nothing seems to hurt the CGI monsters, until something does because the script calls for the action sequence to be over. Here, that takes the form of millions of bullets being shot at the zombies and demons and having no effect until the monsters just suddenly keel over, which, the more I think about it, is pretty much how the damage mechanics in the original Doom game actually worked, because obviously the limited graphical capability of PCs and consoles of the era used primitive bitmaps that didn't register any visible damage no matter how much you shot at them, you just kept shooting at them until the death animation finally triggered. However, this is clearly based on the 2016 reboot of the DOOM videogame franchise in which visible damage was a prominent feature, so I guess that kills dead any notion I had of thinking of this as a deliberate homage to the original. It makes me think of that movie Spectral which I have never watched and don't intend to because I saw some clips in which soldiers were shooting at ghosts and I just thought "a whole movie of guys not realising bullets don't work but they keep shooting anyway? Fuck that."
10th OCT - CTHULHU, which can be watched in its entirety on the old internets thanks to its director putting the entire thing online:
It's a work about Lovecraft's cosmic mythos in the same way that those Lovecraft videogames are, IE not very, it just takes some names and ideas and welds them to an original story in much the same way Castle Rock did with the Stephen King mythos, only Cthulhu is nowhere near as smug, unoriginal and irritating as Castle Rock was. At nearly two hours and lacking any special effects shots to speak of, it might not strike many as much of a horror, but luckily Youtube's Hbomberguy - better known as the Donkey Kong-playing and Mermaids-funding arch-nemesis of sitcom-writing transphobic bigot Graham Linehan - has gone and produced a very good video exploring how the film, despite its low budget and lack of name actors and being set in an entirely different century to the source material, nonetheless explores the themes of Lovecraft's work, only swapping out Lovecraft's next-level IRL racism and replacing it with fictional homophobia.
11th OCT - SHERLOCK HOLMES vs DRACULA - available to listen to in its entirety here on that there Youtube, which is clearly doing a bang-up job of stopping copyright infringement.
It's a fun romp about Dr John Watson's outrage at both being sniped by an Irishman in getting a certain tale into print, and at being written out of the account entirely, prompting him to set the record straight on how the prince of vampires met his end thanks to the efforts of the world's greatest detective.
Worth a listen if you want something to distract you from the soul-crushing task assigned to you by your employers, which was how my brother came across it while processing appeals lodged with the DWP against the benefits sanctions imposed by the criminally-incompetent third party contractors imposed on the DWP by our parasitic government, and I'm glad he sought solace in audio dramas while he worked, because I thought Sherlock Holmes vs Dracula was quite the whizzer yarn. Fun story: the third party contractors at the DWP are not just negligent and criminally incompetent - their actions often result in verifiable deaths - but they're also criminally criminal, too, creating fake benefits claims so they can funnel money into their own accounts. It was reported in the local papers over here in Norn Iron recently - particularly the notoriously shit-stirring Sunday World - and rather than deny it, the people in charge of the DWP offices in Belfast launched a witch hunt for the whistleblower and gave the entire building a bollocking about talking to the press, then swept the whole thing under the rug as best they could and moved the guilty parties on quietly because the company they worked for had tendered new contracts with the government and they didn't want to risk them losing out with a minor scandal involving the theft of hundreds of thousands of pounds from sick and disabled people who would later - fun fact - go on to kill themselves and send notes to the DWP staff in Belfast blaming them for the act, further contributing to the air of depression already permeating the building.
Yes, that was leftfield, but you know, it's October and the whole point is horror, and if you can't be horrified at a bunch of dead poors or the criminality that put them in their graves, then how's about this: the Sunday World sells a half million copies every Sunday and its stories are freely available to the mainland press, which means that the BBC and the Guardian etc have deliberately buried this story. Never trust a liberal.
I particularly liked that Van Hellsing rebuffs Sherlock Holmes' aid because he thinks Holmes is an attention whore, and then Holmes and Watson flounce off with a "GOOD DAY, SIR!" lol wat a qween etc. ANyway, it's a fun yarn, give it a listen.
12th - THE HOWLING REBORN is... well, I'm stuck to describe it, as I am pretty sure "this is one of the worst films I have ever seen" has been thoroughly devalued as a critical appraisal through overuse, thanks to the ready availability of streaming services only too happy to put any old garbage up for viewing as long as it pads out the library of available content, but this really is one of the worst films I have ever seen.
I shan't be drawn upon the particulars because that would mean reliving it, but suffice it to say my main qualms stem from unlikable characters, a dumb plot, dreadful dialogue, and a general feeling of a missed opportunity. I can usually get behind even terrible films if I feel the makers tried, but this has all the telltale signs of a quick, soulless cash-in that has devalued an already-devalued brand, and even though a couple of the actors seem to be making a fist of the material, there's nothing they can do. I will say the lead character's transformation into a werewolf is identical to the transformation sequences from the Glen A Larson television series MANIMAL, though. Make of that what you will.
Speaking of getting behind terrible films, PARASITE is a 1982 dystopian sci-fi body horror creature feature featuring an 18 year-old Demi Moore and some sort of toothy turd-like leech monster thing. I am obviously going for ths soft sell here, but this was actually a pretty fun z-movie from the VHS era, featuring some welcome genre subversion like the punks terrorising a small town turning out to have sympathetic backstories, and the almost Lovecraftian offscreen horror of a post-collapse America now run by corporate gangsters - LOL moviemakers in the 1980s were way off on what the future was going to be like, amiright?
Made by Charles Band, who runs a cottage industry producing and directing good bad movies like this, Metalstorm and the Puppet Master and Dollman series, I have no problem telling you I found this enjoyable even if the snob in me still feels compelled to levy the caveat that "enjoyable" and "good" are not synonyms. Pure trash.
MANIAC COP - tagline: "ACAB - BUT SOME MORE THAN OTHERS!" - is also a good bad film, from master of exploitation b-movies Larry Cohen, who for some reason critics got it in their heads was in on the gag more than his contemporaries and so they treated his output as if it was satirical in intent rather than just blackly comic. Cohen is a writer who just takes a concept and runs with it, even if that means the protagonist of the movie takes a dive (in this case literally) around the start of the third act, and the rest of the movie is led by someone who was until now little more than a glorified cameo. I do love Bruce Campbell, but he is not a leading man for this kind of story. Obviously there is a rich vein of commentary to be dug into the premise in which a cop is killing innocent citizens and the actual police force - abetted by the judiciary and city hall - try to deny this is even happening, but really, it's just a trashy and fun movie. I watched this by mistake as I was actually looking for MANIC COP, the story of a depressed policeman with anxiety issues okay this is not true but you try ending as many reviews as this without drying up sooner or later.
13th OCT - MANIAC COP 2 - tagline: "HE'S THE WRONG ARM OF THE LAW!" - because part one was good and I guess there must be a horror fan somewhere in my home town who doesn't lock his house when junkies are on the prowl for some quick cash to score them a hit of that sweet sweet spice melange, because the local CEX had the second Maniac Cop on dvd for the low low price of 50 pence and who am I to say no to a deal like that? The only salve I can place upon my guilt at rewarding crime by shopping in CEX is that theft is merely capitalism in a more pure form and thus I am encouraging... erm... critique? Probably. 50 pence! Robert Zdar returns as the butcher with a badge and makes quick work of the survivors of the first movie before going on to make friends with a serial killer, murder a police station, and break into a prison before being set on fire and head-butting a bus until it explodes. So uhhhhhh more of the same, just on a marginally larger scale with some impressive action setpieces involving a cop shop shootout and a couple of car chases, but the real highlight is surely one of the greatest proprietary theme tunes committed to posterity.
14th OCT - MANIAC COP 3: BADGE OF SILENCE mixes voodoo into proceedings, but otherwise doesn't depart from the formula I'd come to expect based on the last two movies, including an off-the-rails third act.
By the third entry in a series, diminishing returns have usually set in, but this franchise isn't exactly what you'd call high art to begin with, added to which the same writer/director team (Larry Cohen and William Lustig) have been at the helm of all three films, so even when it gets a little slower here and there or heads into more blatantly slasher territory, it's still mostly consistent with previous films apart from a gunfight in a hospital that reminds you that John Woo's influence really was a thing back in 1992.
I argued for Maniac Cop 1 that it wasn't quite as political as people might want you to believe, but now there's three of 'em and in-universe everyone knows there's an unkillable cop walking around murdering at will, so the political reading is pretty unavoidable now. All in all, I really enjoyed this trilogy, and it's a shame Robert Zdar never got to reprise his starring role for a fourth outing, though I fully expect a remake any day now.
15th OCT - NIGHT VISIONS is an early 2000s Twilight Zone knock-off that apparently had a commitment from Gary Oldman to serve as the show's host, but the producers insisted on Henry Rollins, who is shot from the thighs up so you can see his flexed muscles, and you know he's flexing for the camera on account of you can see he's balling his fists like he's ready to fight someone up, which you know that he won't do because it's a pretty open secret that Rollins is a humongous pussy in real life and often spends a lot of the running time of his spoken word beat poetry performances talking about - actually, I probably don't need to go any further than that, do I? Gosh but that reads a bit judgmental.
There's a great old Twilight Zone episode called "He's Alive!" about a racist meathead played by Dennis Hopper who starts taking tips on oration from Hitler's ghost and instead of ending with the words "in the Twilight Zone" as usual, the closing monologue was something like "remember when you hear a name called or a minority attacked that He is alive because through these things we keep him alive" and I thought boy it sure is quite the journey from that to Henry Rollins standing around in tank tops looking like an action figure saying lines like "when you spend all your time being a bastard, sooner or later you'll piss off the wrong asshole." O brave new world.
Anyway, this show kind of sucks. It's not good in the conventional sense, but it does boost some recognisable guest stars, and while a lot of the twists are pretty shoddy, it usually does a good job of creating a spooky atmosphere while getting to that point, often playing with the viewers' expectations of what comes next by second-guessing the conventions of act-based teleplays, like the episode set in a darkened radio station where you genuinely have no idea who the killer stalking the main character might be because the show has just made a point of killing everyone who had a speaking part, or the plane crash episode where you kind of know what the twist is, but the show just keeps throwing other twists at you to wrong-foot you and it gets to the point that episodes paint themselves into a corner and so they just... end really quickly. The twist isn't as important as shitting you up, and I guess that at least differentiates it from Twilight Zone.
Not a great show, but I suppose I did enjoy it while it lasted, and I would argue that dated and naff as it is, it's still better than the recent Twilight Zone reboot.
16th OCT - BODY BAGS, a triple bill anthology featuring directorial input from Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter, the latter of whom doubles as the film's host, which I was not expecting. He does a good job as a sleazy coroner introducing various tales about the body parts which wash up in the morgue, examples of "our national pastime - violent death!". The tales are, frankly, not much cop at all, though I did like the straightforwardness of the gas station segment. Mark Hamill... oh man, Mark Hamill just could not pick a good script to save his life, and in interview he is open about his doubts about going into voicover acting, the career path which led him to create the definitive version of The Joker. Still, he has at least got to do those Star Wars sequels lately - which proves he still picks lousy scripts, but at least he's making some bank.
Also checked out the pilot of the new CREEPSHOW tv series currently airing on the Shudder channel, and it is most certainly a television series called Creepshow. Yep.
No idea what to say beyond "it kinda sucks real bad." A lot of effort clearly went into it, but it isn't good. I had high hopes when I saw the host was a crude animatronic, but then it dawned on me that tv maybe doesn't need yet another horror anthology. Or maybe I don't need to see another horror anthology right now.
I did like the practical werewolf effects in the second episode, and the willful embracing of garishness and harsh lighting, but the silent host really throws things off, as it draws attention to the fact that the makers looked at the old show and saw the giggling ebullience and glee of the host and decided that this wouldn't fit in with modern sensibilities, but rather than depart from the branding they just took out his monologues - though you can still see the script for them in the introductory panels in the fake comic book that serves as the show's framing gimmick. A show that's slightly ashamed of itself is a sad thing to see.
17th OCT - NANCY DREW is the latest attempt at bringing the teenage sleuth to live-action land, but don't get your hopes up as it's a CW show, so 2019's Nancy Drew is more or less guaranteed to be about a diverse gang of 20-something actors playing teenagers who solve a murder while having underage sex, an evaluation of which I am so certain, I am writing this introduction before viewing the actual pilot of the show.
(No, really, I wrote this and then went and watched the show)
Yep, called it.
Anyhoo, what made me take a look was the promise of there being possible supernatural goings-on in the series, and I'll just pull the band aid off this one, the writers and producers have just straight-up lifted the Grand Theft Auto 5 ghost thing and plonked it into their identikit teen show, but it's okay because this is the CW, a network run by middle aged people making television for thirsty teenagers and shame has no place here.
What it most reminds me of is Scooby Doo Mystery Inc, a really slapping kids' show from several years back, in that the general tone and atmosphere is almost identical, though obviously Mystery Inc does not have a very diverse cast unless we want to start a conversation about whether Scooby is black or not.
I often hold that Star Trek Into Darkness is one of the worst films ever made, but that it's quite hard to tell because it's so well put-together - as films costing a quarter of a billion dollars tend to be - and likewise, Nancy Drew 2019 is pretty bad, it's just that it's hard to tell because everything is put together with such studied competence that all you're left to criticise is how corny and unambitious it is, and good luck with selling that as a criticism in a world where easily over 50% of media is remakes or adaptations. I did like that they waited almost four whole minutes before Nancy has her first sex scene of the episode, which on a CW show these days practically makes her a nun. I guess it might be interesting to see how a CW show handles a prudish lead character for a change, but beyond that I don't see what makes this stand out.
HUNTRESS: RUNE OF THE DEAD is a Swedish Western but with vikings instead of cowboys and zombies instead of Native Americans. It is not very good. It takes roughly 120 minutes of a 145 minute run time to get to the zombies, there isn't any clear protagonist, no central arc or theme for characters... I am not really sure what the point was. I managed to get this far without watching anything with zombies in it and to be honest, I should have kept that rule going.
Monday, 7 October 2019
I shall be spending the month of October watching horror and supernatural-themed movies and television on top of my usual diet of utter garbage, and I will be keeping a rough diary here on the blog to keep me honest and prevent any blogging slippages for at least a bit.
1st OCT - OCTOPUS is a cheapo horror flick made in 2000, apparantly, and I say "apparantly" because it's been sitting on my PS3 hard drive since 2013 and I figure it's time I watched it, if only before my beloved corporate hardware finally dies and I'm left using machines with vastly inferior media players - not that I'm mentioning any names like the piece of trash PS4 or anything.
The movie is about a young CIA honkey analyst who can't shoot a gun at people but who still ends up escorting an English terrorist-for-hire via a nuclear submarine captained by a lone wolf who doesn't play by the rules but always gets the job done etc and the sub gets attacked by a giant octopus created by the toxic monster juices transported to Fidel Castro in 1962 by the Soviet Union, and there's also a cruise ship on the surface that's being hijacked by terrorists as well, so the octopus attacks that, too. It is a bit silly and not very good, the cgi octopus effects being about as impressive as you might expect for a low-budget creature feature made in 2000, but it is eventful, which I like, it's just a shame that the material wasn't in more capable hands.
OCTOPUS? More like erm... PLOPtopus! HA HA YEAH that's right, I went there. I'm like the blogosphere's own Oscar flipping Wilde over here.
2nd OCT - THEM! The b-movie classic. Not one for twists and turns, this is the definition of meat and potatoes schlock, not hanging about before throwing giant ants at you. Hard to know what to say about this that others haven't said already, but I know some people have made a fist at associating the film with atomic panic and while I would say that is a fair enough reading, it's only in the sense that all creative works are informed in some way by the sensibilities of their age. It's really just a goofy monster feature played with a straight face and if by some miracle you haven't seen it, I would reccomend you do so.
3rd OCT - TRILOGY OF TERROR is a made for tv anthology from 1975 that is fondly remembered by many of a certain generation, but it's hard to see why apart from its pretty good final shot. The stories are not very good, and I'm not saying you will guess the twist in the story about twins immediately upon watching, I am saying you can probably guess what it is just from me saying the word "twins".
Karen Black looking - if you will forgive my momentary lapse into the contemporary juvenile parlance - "Fine AF" plays the leads in all three tales, all of which are from stories written by the prolific Richard Matheson, and bar the lack of a host or any connective gimmick to tie the tales together, it feels a lot like his work on the Twilight Zone from a decade earlier: a mix of goofy and serious, with the final screwball chase sequence featuring a murderous idol coming across as very Tom and Jerry-eque.
Coincidentally, I am also partaking of THE NIGHT GALLERY, Rod Serling's copyright-bothering follow-up to Twilight Zone. A contemporary of Trilogy of Terror, it's a clone of Serling's earlier anthology series to the point it isn't funny, right down to his turn as the unnamed host. The tone is considerably more uneven than in Twilight Zone, with some painfully unfunny skits stinking the place up between the more intense stories, but it does also have Leslie Nielsen cosplaying as Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid 4, and Henry Silva in a turban, either of which are worth the price of admission, but here you actually get BOTH.
4th OCT - SHARK EXORCIST is not one of the more highbrow horrors I have seen in my time.
Recounting the plot is a bit hard, as I try to remember it and it sort of blurs and evades my attempts to pin down specifics, but I have generally avoided the cynical subgenre of horror that this kind of movie occupies and which is normally well-served by the output of shark-fixated production company The Asylum, in which the films are so bad that this becomes the attraction in and of itself, but whereas The Asylum does actually try to produce the best product it can and with a straight face - the decidedly self-awareness of the company's Sharknado series is far from indicitive of the rest of their output - Shark Exorcist is deliberately bad, and as a result is often just embarrassing to watch, and occasionally troubling, as in the scenes featuring an actress either playing a small child or someone with developmental problems, and the character is the target of prurient sapphic overtones meant to tittilate, so... yeah, there's that.
It's one of those films that you should by all means own and have in your collection so that you say to people HA HA HA LOOK AT THIS I HAVE A MOVIE CALLED JESUS CHRIST VAMPIRE HUNTER IN MY DVD COLLECTION but under no circumstances should you or anyone else actually watch the film and collapse the waveform, and instead just leave the possibility dangling in the mind about what such a film might be like.
There's an interview somewhere with the head honchos of The Asylum and they're pretty frank about their rationale and process, but basically it boils down to "streaming companies want to be able to say they have a movie called Attack Of The Shark Nazis so they pay us to go and make it in like two weeks and they don't care what the end product is like as long as the tone is serious and not self-effacing" and while I appreciate that means a stream of duff movies is guaranteed to flood the market, I also appreciate that this model - or at least the closest approximation of it that Roger Corman managed to practice from the 1960s onwards - is what led to the careers of people like James Cameron and Jack Nicholson. So I guess the next auteur might conceivably come from these quarters, I just wish he'd hurry up and arrive so these companies can stop doing this.
5th OCT - DREAMCATCHER , which is a title foisted upon director Lawrence Kasdan by the studio, as they felt that "Attack Of The Bum Worms From Space" was not going to fly with the famously high standards of the American filmgoer.
True story: I was once getting on quite well with a lady in the bar and she told me that she worked as an usher in the local cinema and had to see the movies over and over again and the only one she enjoyed every time was Deuce Bigelow: European Gigalo and lord knows I am not a judgmental man but this was the precise moment I knew this was not going to work out but anyway, has there ever been a more devalued and meaningless phrase in the English language than "Based On A Story By Stephen King"? Nonetheless, any film that features an eight foot alien monster clawing its way out of Damien Lewis' ass onscreen can't be all bad - not that Dreamcatcher doesn't try. Actually, that cheap and obvious gag is a little unfair, as I thought this was okay - not a classic, not even something I would watch again, to be honest, but I did enjoy it, and it had some tense moments once it got past kneecapping any attempt at a consistent tone with all the fart gags.
The flashbacks to when the cast were kids gives it a similar air to the recent IT, and while not a big Stephen King reader myself, a mate who is far more versed in such things once explained how there was a lot of overlap in King's work, both in the plot elements (psychic powers, small towns, racial tensions, etc) but also in how a lot of his work takes place in Maine/Derry and features malevolent evil beings that may or may not be aspects of the monster from IT - apparantly IT appeared in that JFK time travel thing based on a King novel, and some fans posit that Mr Grey from Dreamcatchers is also IT, though he clearly isn't in this movie. Anyway, it's over now, and so is this review.
6th OCT - GHOSTS OF MARS, which is me cheating on the horror watching because I don't need spooktober as a pretext to watch this, as it is one of my favorite John Carpenter films. It just looks so dang cheap even though you know they spent plenty on it, with dozens of actors and huge sets and oh yeah they dyed the desert red so they could pretend it was Mars. This thing was not cheap, so Johnny C done went and made it look cheaper than it was in some crazy asthetic choice and the result is something that still looks and sounds unique, featuring some bizarre performances from the cast, including a mouth-breathing turn from Jason Statham and Ice Cube being just remarkably terrible to the point you know it's deliberate. It makes me think of what a huge-budget Doctor Who might have been like before the BBC discovered CGI effects, with its anachronistic technology and setup of a mining town digging up a cursed tomb and unleashing savage body-snatchers on an unsuspecting Mars - the premise arguably continuing Carpenter's love of Nigel Kneale. The guitar rock score is pretty cheesey, and some of the visual tics are weird, but I love the way the film compounds anachronism upon anachronism to create something distinctive.
7th OCT - SILVER BULLET is another cheat, because I don't need an excuse to watch this. It's just a great little werewolf flick Based On A Story By Stephen King which transplants the beast's reign of terror upon the occupants of a small town from the traditional setting of a European village full of yokels to a small American town in the South circa 1976 full of yokels with guns who mob up not at the start of act 3 but at the end of act 1, so they're slaughtered and the smart survivors get the Hell out of Dodge in the middle of the second act.
I noticed the names Terry O'Quinn and Bill Smitrovich in the credits because they also appeared in the credits of Chris Carter's MILLENNIUM, of which I am doing a rewatch because what the heck, 'tis the season. It really wanted to be then-popular serial killer movie Se7en, but it's dated quite a bit and some of the dialogue has not matured like a fine wine. I do recall the law of diminishing returns as the seasons of the show progressed, with some disastrous misunderstanding of the common criticism that the show's universe seemed devoid of light or human compassion leading to some - admittedly good - comedy episodes rather than a more balanced tone or human characters you could warm to, but even now the pilot is impressively bleak.