Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Movie From the Vault: Curse of the Queerwolf

This movie is as offensive as the title suggests. After being bitten by a transvestite,  Larry Smalbut learns that he has been cursed to become a queerwolf, donning women's clothing and living an alternative lifestyle whenever the moon grows full.

Rather than go into too much detail, I'd just say watch the above clip and save yourself the trouble of watching the whole movie. It really has some funny camp moments, but I'm not sure that forgives the utter tastelessness of the premise.

But it's definitely one from that vault. There's no arguing that.

Hellraiser: Revelations

This franchise just keeps going even though the rubber burned off the rims years ago. The first Hellraiser was a cut above the horror movies of the time and remains a classic. After 3 subsequent theatrical efforts to repeat the formula (the third being an effort to reinvent the franchise as a mainstream slash 'em up and the fourth taking the cenobites into space), the series finally ended.

But a few years later Dimension started crapping out direct to DVD installments of the franchise, the first couple of which weren't bad. The fifth film, Inferno, starred Craig Sheffer and had a decent standalone story. True to the original, it featured the cenobites very little, but got criticized for it. The next installment, Hellseeker, brought back original franchise heroine Kirstie, but the role was not originally written with the character in mind so it came off a little half hearted.

Then things took a turn. I like Kari Wuhrer, but whenever you bring her into a series it's like the official announcement that it's over. Her installment, Deader, offered very little but was a masterpiece compared to its successor, Hellworld, which ambitiously aimed to take down Hellraiser and Lance Henricksen at the same time (as if the Pumpkinhead franchise weren't already taking care of him). For the record, all horror movies that take place at a rave are horrible. The only next logical step for this franchise is for the cenobites to throw a rave in space. With the Leprechaun.

Revelations is a reboot that's clearly intended to return to the original formula, but it's so amateurish in its execution that it just shows there's nothing left. At this point they're just returning to the well in order to poison it.

The iconic Pinhead is no longer portrayed by Doug Bradley, and he's become a caricature of that original performance in the same way this movie is a mockery of the original story. There are numerous elements meant to pay homage to the original film and its story, but it feels like you're watching a fan film. It's that familiar sensation so common in genre films where they seem to know the words but not the music.

It's time someone said it definitively: Just like Highlander and the Crow and a lot of one hit wonder genre franchises, Hellraiser was never meant to be a series.

Paranormal Activity 3

This franchise has been off the rails since the first installment, but I liked the 3rd one a lot better than the 2nd. This one goes all the way back to when the girls were kids and they were haunted by a ghost named Tobie. It doesn't tie in very well with the other films (which works out for the best) and it spends too much time trying to explain where the demon comes from even though the only way this explanation makes sense is if you have seen the second film and it isn't really explained how the characters in this film gain that information.

There are some formula issues both with the format and the story:

First, the opening sequence where they film themselves finding the VHS tapes is tedious. It makes the concept unbelievable from the start. I like the camera setups for the most part, with the oscillating living room cam and everything, but the scenes where they film themselves watching the tape drive me crazy. Why would you do that? Especially since he's filming himself at an editing bay presumably editing the footage into something. But if he's filming himself editing the movie, then how does that footage make it into the edit? And if he's not editing the movie in these scenes, then what the hell is he doing?

And from a story perspective, here's an awkward conversation: Convincing your girlfriend to let you put a camera in her little girls' room so you can film them while they sleep.

Like I said, it's better than the second film, but it's not scary.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Johnny Drama Award: Michael Pare'

Michael Pare’started out as one of Ralph Hinkley’s (Hanley’s?) sweathogs in the “Greatest American Hero”, then went on to star in films like “Streets of Fire”, “The Philadelphia Experiment” and “Eddie and the Cruisers”. He also starred in the fun scifi thriller “Moon 44” and the short-lived “Starhunter” series.

He was the werewolf in “Bad Moon”, which is mostly memorable because the dog saves the day. Like a lot of Johnny Drama’s, he’s as fun to see as a bad guy as he is when he’s playing a good guy, but no matter what the role the movie’s usually a lot more fun when he’s in it.

The Dolph Report: Direct Action/Retrograde/Direct Contact Triple Feature

Bought this triple feature DVD set on Amazon, and I would say it was a good deal.  Here's an overview:

Direct Action

This is another Sydney J. Furie directed Dolph flick. I think these two make a pretty good team. In this one Dolph is a supercop fighting corruption in a Rampart-style strike team. It's got a lot of fun 80's kind of action and has a classic buddy cop movie style. The opening sequence is classic cool too.


This one is a little disappointing. It's a Twelve Monkeys sort of scifi where Dolph is a soldier from the future who travels back in time to stop a plague from ravaging the Earth. Aside from co-starring Gary Daniels (who is egregiously underused here), this movie relies too much on crappy science fiction elements than it does on action. It takes place on an icebreaker in the arctic, which is kind of cool, but it's a little too much running around with dumb bad guys for my taste.

Direct Contact

This one's not bad, but it's saving grace is the fact that the bad guy is Michael Pare'. This doesn't amount to much, but it does end in a nice fight and a fairly awesome death scene.

These are all three watchable, but I think Direct Action is the real winner. Either way, it's a good deal for the price. I think I bought it for under ten bucks.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Johnny Drama Award: Robert Z'dar

Robert Z'dar is a Johnny Drama of the first order. Not only was he a reigning horror bad guy in the "Maniac Cop" franchise, but he also reprised the the role of Sam Hell (originated by Roddy Piper) in the "Frogtown 2", a worthy if weird sequel to "Hell Comes to Frogtown" in which Hell is now the captain of a squad of rocket rangers.

Z'dar has appeared in a number of awesome B movies including "Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time" (co-starring fellow Johnny Drama's Marc Singer, Wings Hauser and Kari Wuhrer) and in more mainstream action flicks like "Tango & Cash" (which turned out to be a celebration of B movie greats, including Clint Howard, Michael J. Pollard and Brion James).

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Movie From the Vault - The Dead Pit

Brett Leonard is most memorable for "The Lawnmower Man", which was considered groundbreaking for its stylish use of CG FX, but later turned out disappointments like "Virtuosity" and "Hideaway" and is now more often seen making B movie crap like "Man-Thing" and "Highlander: The Source". But before all that he got his start with a little gem called "The Dead Pit".

I remember seeing the box for this in the video store because the cover was presented in relief and with the hit of a button the  eyes of the zombie would blink. I'd actually like to get hold of one of those if I can find one.

So anyway, in the movie an evil doctor is doing Satanic experiments on his patients for no reason and to no apparent benefit until he's finally killed and trapped (not sure why that's necessary after he's dead) in the dead pit beneath the hospital where he conducts his experiments. Enter: Jane Doe, a semi-psychic amnesiac who's institutionalized with the dangerously demented because she can't remember who she is. After an earthquake that may or may not have been caused by a psychic sissy fit, suddenly the doorway to the dead pit is re-opened and all the dead people magically come back as zombies.

This movie has all the fun 80's conventions, including Jane Doe's predilection for running around in her panties and occasionally getting her T-shirt hosed off. Lots of fun payoff and silliness for admirers of this era's alternative cinema. CG may have been Leonard's claim to fame later on, but it may also be what held him back. This was a really fun guts and gore flick, and I don't think he's made anything quite like it since.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dear Mediafire...

STOP FLAGGING MY ACCOUNT FOR DELETION! I use it all the time. I was just in it. I'm in it a lot. I'm in it all the time. But you constantly threaten to delete it.

Most of the internet is built on free services, which is why I put up with your constant cut-rate popup ads without complaint. You don't hear Google bitching about how I search for things for free, but you are always on me about my free mediafire account no matter how often I sign in, which is pretty often.

I guess free users aren't worth anything to you, but if that's true don't offer free services. But stop harassing me about my account. I use it all the time, but you constantly act like I don't. If you don't want me to use the free service anymore, just say so. Otherwise leave me alone. If you flag my account for deletion one more time, I'll drop it myself.


I like this movie. Applying the Cloverfield style to a superhero story is an interesting concept, and for the most part I think they handled the POV really well. It goes overboard by the end, but it works okay. The main character is obsessed with filming himself, so that becomes part of the POV element. There's a really interesting device in that he uses his super powers to control the camera, so when you see a camera move that would make you suspicious in another POV movie it's actually kind of creepy here because you know the camera is moving because he's making it move.

It's also interesting because it doesn't have a "found footage" premise where we're supposed to believe that the government or a reporter or somebody has recovered and assembled all this footage. It's just told through the perspective of these personal devices to give the story a more claustrophobic feel and an organic sense of pacing. It becomes a statement on the YouTube generation, the way we see things now. It also reflects the characters, who mostly fail to grasp the power they've been given. At one point one of them suggests doing more with them. They're literally just using their powers to skip stones across a pond and the other one's like "what more could we do?" It feels real, just like how they begin using their powers to play pranks and later to impress girls.

The story itself is fairly predictable and turns out about as you'd expect. It ends (SPOILER ALERT) with basically an Akira-style finale that shifts POV from one device to another so often that the POV concept kind of falls apart.

But the story is believable and the characters are relatable. I think the movie's good throughout even when the POV concept falters, and it's a fun sort of take on what superheroes in a real world would be like.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The River

Everyone's been trying to be the next LOST since it went off the air. The LOST gap has brought a lot of contenders, mostly people just making shows that are weird and mysterious but ultimately make no sense.

The latest contender is "The River", a found footage series about a TV crew looking for a missing explorer. I thought the idea of doing a found footage TV series was neat, but the concept is so poorly executed here that they shouldn't have even bothered. On a boat where hardly anything is working they seem have hi-def cameras and pitch perfect audio all over the place. It never has that claustrophobic POV that makes this format work, but it does have a lot of the requisite scenes of professional cameramen running around shaking their cameras for no reason. The cinematography is mostly straightforward, punctuated occasionally with shots  borrowed from every other POV movie ever made.

It seems weird to call something amateurish for its inability to mimic amateur filmmaking, but it's so badly done that it manages not to work on multiple levels. They fuzzy up the footage with bad filters when they should have just used lower quality cameras or shot in the same style at least. It would have worked to just use a reality TV crew and shoot that way, but they insist on blocking and filming it like any other show. They incorporate the classic elements like subtitling dialogue during tense moments, but since they insist on perfect sound design it doesn't make sense because you can always hear exactly what everyone is saying.

It's usually more effective to cast unknowns in a found footage production so that the concept is more credible, but this show's populated with familiar faces. They also sidestep the POV concept when they want to show something cool (like a sweeping pull away wide shot of the entire jungle or ghost images of Bruce Greenwood as he possesses one of the other characters).

The story is fun, but it doesn't really work either. They eventually come across the original tapes, but they never seem that interested in them when you'd think that would be the first thing they'd want to see when they find the boat.

Then they release some kind of ghost/demon/animal/guy from a magic rock that is supposedly going to hunt them but mostly just stays in the bushes rattling branches creepily. Then there's a business with dolls and magic and the POV almost completely disappears. It's a shame because they're pretty good at putting together creepy shots, but they're never consistent with the POV style of the show.

The weirdness of the show is the basis of its appeal, but I see it being mildly interesting but getting dumber and dumber as the series progresses. The fundamental concept of the show already doesn't work, so it can only be an item of interest at this point. The story doesn't really matter, but that's pretty typical these days.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Underworld: Awakening

For some reason I've seen all these movies in the theater even though they've never quite delivered the way I thought they should. Kate Beckinsale is great and the action is awesome, but these movies have always managed to be watchable without being memorable. I enjoyed the first one a lot, but I think they built Scott Speedman's character up too much, because he's had no contribution to the sequels even though they insist on including him.


This installment insists on involving Speedman's character even though I don't think he's in the movie at all.  Brief glimpses of him at the beginning and end look like they were digitally created.

The story is kind of weak. It reminds me of "Ultraviolet", since it revolves around humans turning on vampires in their midst (sort of - in a lame twist this turns out to be a plot hatched by the lycans). It feels like any Milla movie, actually, with Beckinsale waking up naked in a lab and then having to ninja a bunch of bad guys to escape.

The movie is one exciting action sequence after another, but it'd make a better video game. The story doesn't really hold up under scrutiny and feels a little thrown together. The whole movie feels like an elaborate excuse to get Kate back in the suit. Even when she wakes up naked they have her outfit in a glass case for no reason.

It's not bad, but it's not particularly imaginative. I think the third installment may have been the best sequel just because it gave up on following the original story and just did a movie about vampires vs. werewolves in medieval times. I think I might rather see some more of that.

They could still make another of these, but if they do they need to find some new place for the characters to go instead of cooking up new ways to show Kate kicking people.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Real Steel

I know I said this was Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots (and it is), but the formula gets to me. It's Rocky with robots, man. Who doesn't love an underdog story? I really enjoyed this movie for all the predictable elements I knew it would have. But it's good and it's fun and there's nothing wrong with that.