Friday, April 30, 2010

Dread - 4.5/5

Clive Barker is one of those authors that just has trouble being transferred to film correctly. It's only happened a handful of times, but this happens to be one of them. Stylistically savvy and chock full of intense atmosphere, its films like "Dread" that should be highlighted in the After Dark Horrorfest catalog and not some of the other crap that comes through (cough, "The Graves", cough).

A film student, Stephen, partners up with his new and crazy friend Quaid to throw together a fear study for his film class. With the help of his pseudo girlfriend as an editor, they use Quaid's idea that one can overcome fear and dread by studying it, as a thesis for their film. Unfortunately, Quaid becomes so obsessed with the idea that he begins to take the study to frightening and gruesome levels.

Based on a short story by the brilliant Clive Barker, "Dread" encapsulates both the great of new and old school Horror. Using more modern stylistic techniques of visual style spiced with the idea of humanistic torture horror and mixing it with a solid dose of old school character development and atmosphere, "Dread" comes off as both completely competent and fresh compared to most modern Horror films. The entire first two acts of the film is built on these characters shoulders (ably carried by a remarkably stellar cast) as the audience dreads where all this is bound to lead. The suspense is thick enough to see your breath in and the brief flashes of intense style, mostly within the nightmare sequences of Quaid like the odd and disturbing strip club scene, counteract the old school tension approach beautifully.

Sometimes the drab color scheme was a bit overwhelming for its style, but besides that "Dread" is a remarkable little film that does the short story justice in more ways than one. Considering its one claim to fame mainstream wise was Jackson Rathbone (known for his small role as one of the vampire family members in "Twilight"), I was surprised at how little mainstream calling this one got. Perhaps its for the better as its one of the few gems I've had the chance of finding this year for Horror.

"Dread" was an atmospheric fear ride through human horror (no fantasy elements here) that gives the genre another modern classic. A must see for fans of independent films and Horror films alike. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Mummy's Shroud, The - 2.5/5

Beware the beat of the cloth-wrapped feet!" screamed the trailer to this third entry into Hammer's Mummy tetralogy (preceded by The Mummy and The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb). The film has...take a wild yonder...another Mummy running amok.

Yes, again it is a different Mummy but thankfully the plot isn't as derivative as the second film. The main difference in the plot is that the entire film takes place in Egypt (the Mummy went amok in England the previous films). A group of diggers uncover a tomb of an Egyptian prince but an angry tomb watcher raises a mummy by reading a cursed inscription on a shroud.

The film also opens differently. As opposed to having a flashback in the middle of the film, this entry opts to have the flashback right at the start. Right away one can see the production values aren't quit as polished as the previous films. However the production is still nice and again the cast is full of solid British actors.

On the up side I found the film to be even more violent than the previous films. The mummy throws people from second story windows and smashes people's heads against walls. The make-up is decent but nothing that will wake the dead (Universal's Mummy movies still had the best looking mummies). By far the best effect is when the mummy awakens and his eyes open...creepy.

One aspect I didn't like as there was an elderly clairvoyant women who looked into people's future with a crystal ball. Yes I know the film is about a walking corpse so I shouldn't expect plausibility but this aspect was just a little much for me.

If you're ready to view Hammer's third Mummy movie then you know exactly what you're going to get, a Saturday matinee monster film. If you expect that then you will enjoy.

Written By: Eric Reifschneider

Curse Of The Mummy's Tomb, The - 2.5/5

It was bound to happen. Hammer already had successful sequels to both The Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula so we all knew a sequel to The Mummy was to come. A sequel did show up in 1964 but with one big's a completely different mummy.

Yes this sequel features a different mummy than the first film (eagle eyed viewers will recall that Christopher Lee as the bandaged being got blasted to a pulp) and no returning characters. Other than that fact the plot is almost exactly like the first Mummy film. So much in fact the viewer might have a case of déjà vu.

Like the original the plot follows the basic mummy protocol of entering a cursed tomb, taking the mummy back to England, and the mummy awakens for revenge. Against the diggers wishes the financier of the dig plans to take the mummy that was found on a road show in order to make a fortune. The mummy has different plans however.

The acting is solid for the most part the film definitely lacks power leads like Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in the original. The lead actress is beautiful and exotic but her character is a little weak for my taste. Like the original there's a nifty flashback scene and the production values are top notch as usual for early Hammer productions.

I also found the film to be a little more violent compared to the first film. The film opens with a man having man stabbed and his hand cut off. In another scene the Mummy crushes a man's head under foot like a grape (off screen of course). I found the added violence helped keep my attention more focused on the redundant plot.

Hammer fans will definitely like and so will fans of Mummy movies but other movie goers will find the plot just too derivative to hold interest.

On a side note this film was unavailable for years. It was never released on video and debuted on DVD in a four film collection entitled Hammer Films: Icons of Horror.

Written By: Eric Reifschneider

Mummy, The (1959) - 3.5/5

After successfully reworking Universal’s Frankenstein and Dracula pictures into The Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula, Hammer Productions decided to again turn to another Universal monster for box-office hit. I can’t blame them as if a formula works then don’t fix it. This time it was The Mummy and it reteamed stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee with director Terence Fischer

Despite the title this is not a remake/reworking of the original Universal film. The story is actually a reworking of that film’s sequels The Mummy’s Hand and The Mummy’s Tomb. Despite those films mostly being B-movie drivel, one good aspect comes from this reworking…more shambling mummy action! Universal’s original Mummy only had Boris Karloff on screen in his full bandaged mummy form for a few moments. Not here as we get Christopher Lee shambling around killing as the mummy for almost the entire film.

When a British expedition uncovers the tomb of an Egyptian princess, they awaken the mummy of her lover and high priest who in turns seeks revenge! Like in the Universal film The Mummy’s Tomb, the mummy gets transported to England to hunt down the members.

Peter Cushing is great as always and so is Christopher Lee despite the fact that his face is covered up for almost the entire film. The production values are as usual very good (some of the Egyptian sets do look a little fake though). I however wasn’t that aw struck by the make-up work for the Mummy. This image of the mummy comes nowhere near any of the original Universal films.

Like Universal’s original Mummy this film isn’t quite as good as Hammer’s first two horror hits The Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula. It’s still a grand Hammer feature and a classic of the genre. Like Hammer's Dracula and Frankenstein films The Mummy inspired it's own series of sequels, just not as many. The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb, The Mummy's Shroud and Blood from the Mummy's Tomb would follow (the last film not even featuring a "bandaged" mummy)

Written By: Eric Reifschneider

Mutant (1984) - 3/5

When I originally bought the original Vestron video of Mutant many years ago, I thought I was in for some huge mutated monster movie due to the title the cover art (a beast head hovering over a town). This proves how misleading some incarnations of the cover art and title can be. To my surprise Mutant (aka Night Shadows) was a thinly disguised "zombie" movie. The title sequence is kind of blah and I originally thought "yep, I got exactly what I expected." The film actually becomes a lot better as the movie trucks along. We start off with a killing and then delve into a story about two "city boy" brothers traveling along a remote southern highway where they run into some cliché rednecks who wreck their car. They are forced into a small town but the kicker is that toxic waste being illegally dumped near the town has turned many of the residents into mutated zombie like ghouls who start to feast on the blood of the remaining normal tenants. Eventually it dwindles down to a few survivors having to escape the zombie-like hordes.

The idea of the mutant zombie creatures is actually interesting for this kind of film. The toxic waste changes the person's blood into a green/yellowish substance and swells. It swells to degree that their palms split. Through these splits the "mutant zombies" suck blood from victims like a leach. The make-up job on these ghouls is actually quit good and they have a nice terrifying appearance in dark corridors.

Not only are the ghouls impressive, but director John Cardos (Kingdom of the Spiders) is also able to make many great scenes of suspense. There are two terrific scenes with "zombies" attacking a women and a kid in a school bathroom and another when "zombies" surround a car and start burning through the glass to get to the person inside. I've been a horror film fan for years and nothing really makes me squirm, but there were a few scenes here that actually got me on the edge of my seat. He also moves the film along at nice pace and it builds and builds until the suspense filled climax. Nice job Cardos!

The acting here also brings this film up a couple of notches. Usually genre films like this have poor acting and actors that usually cause unintentional laughter. The cast here is very good lead by seasoned veterans Wings Hauser (Vice Squad) and Bo Hopkins. The supporting cast is also good and they all play the film seriously. There is a scene towards the end of the film where a female lead starts to lose emotional control and Hauser has to comfort her while being terrified himself. I really felt they were scared out-of-their minds. Thumbs up on the acting which is rare for this type of film.

The only really cheese thing is the story, which I know the story sounds like direct-to-video material. No doubt today it would be, but Mutant was made back in the early 80's and that was a great era because movies like Mutant got a theatrical release and because of this, they a high-quality look them that direct-to-video fodder today sorely lacks.

For horror fans looking for a nice mostly forgotten 80's horror film that actually has quality, then give Mutant a shot. It's got a great cast, good acting, nice effects, and some truly suspenseful moments. I was totally surprised by Mutant and recommend it.

For some reason Mutant as been released in many different incarnations on DVD (6 that I know of). I originally bought the Diamond Entertainment release (It portrays the same cover art as the original Vestron video release) but its picture quality was no better than my VHS. By far the best edition available on DVD is the Elite Entertainment version which features the atmospheric original poster art on the box cover. The picture is crystal clear (you can actually see what's happening in the dark scenes!) and in anamorphic widescreen. A beautiful release of a rare film. If you want to own this film, you owe it to yourself to get the Elite Version!

Written By: Eric Reifschneider

Bride, The - 2/5

I put off watching this film for the longest time despite being a fan of the original 1935 film Bride of Frankenstein. The reason I did is because I'm not a fan of either Sting or Jennifer Beals. Since I was having a Frankenstein marathon I decided to finally sit down and give this film a try.

Like I expected I was hardly impressed. The first thing that strikes me strange about this film is that it's a remake of a sequel. The original Bride of Frankenstein for people who don't know was a sequel to 1931's Frankenstein. Though this is a remake of that popular SEQUEL, this film itself isn't a follow-up to any other Frankenstein film. Right away the viewer better be familiar with the story of Frankenstein or else they are going to be lost.

After a really blah title sequence the film opens up with Dr. Frankenstein in his castle preparing to bring 'The Bride' back to life whilst his first creation (the monster played by Clancy Brown) is waiting in the dark. This great sequence that in the original film was left for the final reel. Here it opens the film so we know it's not going to be a direct remake. After interesting first sequence the film goes downhill fast.

Dr. Frankenstein starts to take a fancy to his cute-as-button creation and his first monster gets pissed, blows up his lab and high tails it into the forest where he ends up befriending a midget (?!?!?!). No I am not making this up. This is where the story splits in two as Frankenstein takes 'The Bride' and starts to teach her manners, takes her on horse rides, etc and 'The Monster' and his midget friend go on a journey and end up joining a circus. Again I am not making this up. I forgot to mention that it seems that both 'The Bride' and 'The Monster' have a psychic connection. Yet again I am not making this up. By the time the film starts picking up towards the end the viewer has already lost interest.

The biggest problem with the film is that it is extremely short on "horror". The filmmakers forgot that the original Bride of Frankenstein was a horror film above all and tried to make it into a romance film. For some reason many filmmakers look down upon the horror genre (no doubt these filmmakers do) and they took a classic story and tried to turn it into something else...and failed miserably.

The directing is another problem as Franc Roddam gives the film a rather blah, almost TV made look. This is a shame as the film does boast impressive sets and costume design. The dialogue is also blah and sometime just awful. For example 'The Bride' screams at a cat. When Frankenstein asks why she was scared of it she responds "You never told me about cats. I thought it was a small lion." She's heard of lions but not cats? grrrr...

Clancy Brown, an actor I usually like, was also very boring as Frankenstein's monster. This is the badass that played the psychotic villain in Highlander? Not to mention his make-up has to be the worst make-up design for the Frankenstein monster in any film adaption.

Overall I found the film to be boring, overlong, and short on style. The only other thing to really praise about the film is the acting talent of David Rappaport as Rinaldo the Midget as he steals the show. Yes a secondary character is more interesting than all the main characters put together. As I write this another remake is in the works. Let's hope those filmmakers decide to stay closer to the source material. My advice is to skip it and stick with the original.

Written By: Eric Reifschneider

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Subspecies - 2.5/5

There is absolutely nothing original in this vampire "epic" yet there is something about this film that strangely keeps me interested and keeps me coming back, revisiting the film from time to time. Everything from the vampire design to the plot is a stolen from every other vampire movie ever made yet me, like many others, seem to like it and the Subspecies series has gathered a rather large cult following. The film proved to be so popular for Full Moon films that it inspired 3 sequels, a spin-off, and another sequel in the works. That's pretty impressive for such an unoriginal film.

The film opens with none other than the Tall Man himself Angus Scrimm (sporting an awful wig) sitting in front of a fire while holding holding onto a "bloodstone" (more on that later). In comes his son Radu, a monstrous looking figure that looks like an offspring of Nosferatu. I can't believe that this vampire is the offspring of Angus Scrimm; he really should do some research to see if Nosferatu ever worked as a milk man and delivered to their castle from time to time when he was away on business. Radu, like we couldn't tell from his appearance, tells his father of his evil ways so his father cuts a rope and drops a cage on him that just perfectly placed above. This cage is so fucking big that apparently only a vampire blinded by evil wouldn't notice it's presence. In a strange turn Radu then breaks off three of his long finger and they then mutate into some little demon-like minions (presumably the "subspecies") that release him. He then kills his father to claim the bloodstone. How Shakespearian...

In comes three college exchange students from the US who come to Romania to study. They meet up with a young hunk with a cool retro early 90's hairdo. This guy, come to find out, is Radu's brother even though he looks completely normal. Brothers my ass! Looks like their mother had an affair with Nosferatu after all! Heeding his warnings about a local castle, the girls one by one succumb to the wrath of Radu and it's up to retro cool good vampire to save them.

Again nothing original but I like it somehow. Perhaps it's the amazing Romanian cinematography that director Ted Nicalou captures so greatly giving the film an authentic Gothic atmosphere. The cast for the most part is also good especially Anders Hove as Radu. You can tell he loves playing the role of the drooling vampire. His raspy voice is just the sprinkles of the cup-cake for the character. It's amazing that an actor that hasn't done much else other than Critters 4 would be so good. The makeup effects are also really impressive making this vampire the coolest looking this side of Salem's Lot and Radu's father Nosferatu. I almost forgot to mention the score! The score is perhaps the best part giving the film even more atmosphere. Great stuff!

Despite for some reason liking this film, there are many things that bug me. My first problem is the "subspecies" themselves. The little minions add nothing to the movie! Okay I understand this film is produced by Charles Band and he has a hard on for little monsters. I mean he produced Ghoulies, Dolls, Puppet Master, Troll, Blood Dolls among others but that doesn't mean an "epic" vampire movie needs them! The "subspecies" aspect isn't brought up much in the film (hell I don't even recall the term subspecies being used) yet it serves as the title of the movie? What the fuck were they thinking! The visual effects of the subspecies themselves are also rather laughable. The "subspecies" idea should have been left on the bathroom floor on the piece of toilet paper is was written on. I'm also confused about the idea of the "bloodstone" itself. Despite it looking like a cracker jack toy, not much is said about it. It seems to provide a unlimited supply of blood that Radu likes to suckle on throughout the film but what else does it do? Give eternal power? I don't know and I don't see why it's so god damn important to the plot. It would have been better story if Radu just killed his father for power instead of a toy trinket.

Other than that this film might be an interesting find for fans of vampire films or decent B-films. It has a large following so there is something here that people will probably enjoy. It won me over despite it's shortcomings.

Written By: Eric Reifschneider

Bloodfist IV: Die Trying - 3/5

Excuse me will I pick myself off the floor. It seems I fell out of my chair in amazement after the film ended due to the fact this actually a decent Bloodfist sequel. I kid you not! Bloodfist IV ain't that bad of a martial arts film!

Like the previous entry this is a sequel in name alone. No doubt it was scripted as "Die Trying" but filmed as "Bloodfist IV: Die Trying". The film opens with a hooded guy with a duffel bag getting on a bus. He later breaks into a car only to have the owner come out and sucker punch him. A fight ensues and the hooded figure is revealed to be Don Wilson! He gets in the car and takes off. Wilson this time plays a car thief? No of course not as Wilson is too much of a good guy to play a role like that. We later find out he works for a repo agency and that same day he is assigned to repo another car. Sadly the other car belongs to a German terrorist agency and the car contains a box of chocolate bunnies that, get this, contain nuclear triggers! The terrorists are of course not too happy their triggers got repoed so they head down to the repo place and slaughter all of Wilson's co-workers while he is conveniently at the store picking up snacks. The rest of the film spends time with Don trying to out-run the police, out-run the FBI, clear his name, save his daughter, and of course fall in love with an innocent bystander that happens to fall into the story. This is enough plot for, well, nine Bloodfist films or maybe 10 minutes of a Lord of the Rings film.

Again I actually really enjoyed this entry. The acting is for the most part decent (except for Wilson, but he is still likable) especially for a low budget film. The villains are nasty and the characters are quirky and interesting. The fight scenes are also stylish, violent and well choreographed. Like I mentioned before the plot has enough twists and turns to keep this seasoned B-cinema fan glued to the screen. The directing itself is also more inspired than the previous films. This is hands down the best film in the Bloodfist series and if you have to see one of these things, make it Bloodfist IV. Like my sister put it: "It's too good to be a Bloodfist film." I couldn't have put it better myself.

Written By: Eric Reifschneider

Bloodfist III: Forced To Fight - 2/5

After reading the extremely small description on the back of the box art I knew this wasn't going to be a true sequel to the glorious Bloodfist I and II. How could two kickboxing movies turn into a prison picture? My hunch was right and Bloodfist III: Forced to Fight was not originally made to be a Bloodfist film. It was filmed simply as Forced to Fight. The original trailer even portrays this title. Shortly before release Roger Corman's distribution crew decided to retitle the film Bloodfist III: Forced to Fight due to the "success" of Don Wilson's earlier Bloodfist films. This was a sloppy retitling however as the title at the end of the film still reads Forced to Fight. Sighs of millions of fans were let out since there will never be a true third chapter into the Bloodfist legacy as every sequel from here on out is unconnected except for the simple fact they all star Don "The Dragon" (hell the ninth entry doesn't even star him).

The plot however has a little more substance than the previous films. Like the funny quote on the box cover, Bloodfist III is "A martial arts film that's actually about something." That quote cracks me up every time I read it. Don Wilson this times plays Jimmy Boland, a man sent to prison for killing in self-defense. You get it? He's innocent so that means we can trust his character. While there he befriends some misfits and makes enemies with some racists. Perhaps it's because Wilson looks like he has more ethnic backgrounds then even the likes of Vin Diesel.

What's a hero in a prison picture without his mentor? The film goes all Shawshank as Wilson finds a mentor in the form of Shaft himself Richard Roundtree. From here on out the film has the basic premises of: fight scene, talk by mentor, fight scene, talk by mentor, etc until finally morel is learned. Also what's a prison movie without a riot? Oh yes, we also get a riot at the end.

Overall I just found this sequel so cliché of other prison pictures that it didn't hold my interest. It just lacked the B-movie entertainment value of the previous pictures despite having more of a "plot", no matter how cliché it is.

Written By: Eric Reifschneider

Bloodfist II - 1/5

Due to the tremendous success of Bloodfist, thousands upon thousands of fans demanded another chapter into the saga. Too many questions and emotional ties were left without answers and fans were begging for more. Roger Corman finally gave into the demands and unleashed Episode II of the Bloodfist legacy only a year after the first film.

To be honest though, despite the fact that Don "The Dragon" Wilson returns as his character Jake Raye from the first film, this doesn't feel like a sequel. He may have the same name but his character seems completely different. We no longer have the shy, apprehensive kickboxer. This time we have an arrogant ass that doesn't want to be bothered. They could have called this film any other title and it wouldn't have mattered. Ironically though this is the only sequel of the entire franchise that has "connection" to the first film as Wilson again plays Jake Raye.

Since this is a Roger Corman production and a Bloodfist film, you got to know that the plot is going to be a knock-off of a more popular film. This time it rips-off none other than Enter the Dragon.

The film opens with Wilson in bed with a whore when he gets a call from his best friend who needs help. Wilson, after getting in a badly acted pissed off argument with his friend then heads down to the Philippines...again. I don't know but if I was a vacationer I would stay far away from that country as it only seems that people get killed or kidnapped down there. Soon after arriving he, not surprisingly, gets kidnapped. This sequence has a scene where a kid kicks a soccer ball into the face of Don Wilson. I found that very funny. Low-brow humor but funny. I even saw a freeze frame of this scene of his head getting kicked as Don Wilson's picture profile on wikipedia for a while. Sadly Wikipedia didn't find the screen shot so funny and it was removed.

After being kidnapped he, and about two dozen other fighters, are taken to a secret island and forced to take part in do-or-die matches. The film rips off Enter the Dragon so much that if you haven't seen that movie and have seen Bloodfist II, you might as well say you've seen Enter the Dragon. Every major note in that film is touched upon here. As a matter of fact if you haven't seen Enter the Dragon, please do so before viewing Bloodfist II. You'll thank me later.

As a sequel to a film called Bloodfist you get exactly what you expect...another bad kickboxing film. Were you expecting anything else? On a technical level I would say this is a better film than the first as it flows a little smoother but it's just not as entertaining in a B-grade way.

Written By: Eric Reifschneider

Bloodfist - 1/5

No not "Bloodsport." You read it wrong. It reads "Bloodfist." Bloodsport may be more popular but Bloodfist is more badass. Why? Because they made nine of these damn things as opposed to a measly little four Bloodsport films. Nine of these films? Bloodfist seems to be the "Friday the 13th" series of martial arts franchises. Still after viewing the film that started it all it's hard to believe it actually inspired eight sequels.

As you can tell by the title Bloodfist this is just another band-wagon effort by producer Roger Corman. Movies about kickboxing were extremely popular at the time thanks to the efforts of the Cannon Group with films like Bloodsport and Kickboxer. Corman also attempted to find us another kickboxer turned actor in the form of Don "The Dragon" Wilson. You know he's got to be good when he's credited with his nickname in quotations along with his birth name. Another weird thing about the credits is each "actor" is also credited with their martial arts award titles under their name. With opening credits like that one knows that the filmmakers are not trying to appeal to an Oscar crowd. The film knows what it is and it's not going to hide the fact. The opening credits might as well say "This is a kickboxing movie, like it or fuck off."

The film opens with a kickboxing match where a fighter goes against his trainers wishes to throw the fight and ends up winning the match. He is later killed in an alley and news travels back to the US where his brother (Don Wilson) decides to travel to the Philippines to find his brother's killer.

The film gave me a lot of flashbacks to "Rocky". While there he meets a grizzly old man who decides to train him. We are also graced an ultra cheezy training montage complete with "Rocky" style music. Wilson also meets up with a friend named Baby (thanks to some hilarious dialogue we find that his name is Baby because his parents couldn't decide on what to call him), a stock character who is easily made out to be the guy-who-gets-killed-and-drives-hero-to-vengeance motive. We also get introduced to his sister, who is of course our stock love interest. Her introduction has to be one of the most barf inducing intros to a love interest as we first see her exercising in slow-mo on a building roof. Her sweat stained armpits made me wince away from the screen.

Typical of Roger Corman productions the budget of this film was extremely small and it's restraints show up everywhere. Our hero even wears Carhartt jeans more suitable for construction workers. The fight choreography is poor and the acting is thigh slappingly awful along the dialogue. This film had me hit the floor laughing with unintentionally bad dialogue as much as films like 2019: After the Fall of New York and Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2. I actually had so much fun with the shear awfulness of this film that it has actually become one of my all time favorite bad movies.

You have to go into this movie expecting an awful Kickboxer film. If you are also a connoisseur of bad films you will have a great time with Bloodfist as there is plenty to make fun of. Strangely enough I actually find myself popping this film into my DVD player quite often.

Written By: Eric Reifschneider

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dracula: Price Of Darkness - 3.5/5

Technically Dracula: Prince of Darkness is the third film in Hammer's Dracula series. The second entry The Brides of Dracula actually did not feature Dracula at all and instead followed Peter Cushing's Van Helsing character as he hunted a different vampire. The best thing about this third entry however is that has the return of Christopher Lee as the despicable count.

Ignoring the second entry, Dracula: Prince of Darkness picks up ten years after the first film Horror of Dracula. It even has a slightly cheesy flashback sequence in the beginning explaining the events of the first film inside a circular shape with a smokey border. We are then introduced to two couples vacationing in the mountains of Carpathian, stomping grounds of Drac. They are warned by a gun-totting monk to stay away from a castle that isn't even featured on their map. Do you think they will obey? Fuck No! They better not or else we wouldn't have a movie.

Of course the couple ignore the monks warning and take a mysterious carriage to Dracula's castle where they are greeted by a creepy servant. This is a little plot hole compared to the first film as Dracula had no servant where here he mysteriously does. The servant invites them in, sacrifices one guy to resurrect Dracula (who was turned to ash previously) and then, you guessed, havoc ensues. Don't expect the action to move fast though as Dracula doesn't show until nearly half way through the film.

Overall this is a decent entry into Hammer's Dracula series. It's not near as good as the original but then again I didn't expect it to be. For a sequel though, it isn't bad. The acting is top, the costumes are great and the colors are lush. My few complaints include the fact that Dracula doesn't speak. Apparently Christopher Lee didn't want to reprise the role so one of the stipulations he demanded is that he would not be required to speak. Despite this he still has a menacing presence. Another problem is the lack of Van Helsing. Peter Cushing's Van Helsing was the perfect villain for Dracula and the film-makers no doubt tried to make the gun-totting monk his replacement. The monk talks warnings and such but he can't compare to the mighty Peter Cushing. Another problem is the poorly scripted, somewhat rushed ending which is left open for another sequel entitled Dracula Has Risen From the Grave.

Written By: Eric Reifschneider

Hot Potato - 1/5

When I think of a martial arts film the first thing I crave is a hot baked potato, with butter, sour cream and chives. Hey, don't make fun of me for that because I know I'm not the only one in the world that thinks this. How do I know? Because the makers of this martial arts monstrosity decided to call this hunk of crap "Hot Potato."

Believe it or not this is a sequel to "Black Belt Jones". Most don't know that and that is perfectly fine because obviously one can't make a connection between the two films by the title alone. I mean "Hot Potato"? Okay obviously by the title one can't take this film seriously.

My hunch was right as this film goes for the tongue-in-cheek approach. The film begins with a young women brought to a ninja camp somewhere deep in Africa where their leader calls her father and says she will be killed or unless he pulls aid. In comes 'Black Belt' Jones and two obnoxious sidekicks to rescue her.

One of the sidekicks is a slick talking guy from Chicago and the other guy named, I'm not kidding, White Rhino is a pot-bellied pig of a guy that is supposed to provide "comic" relief. Our trio rescue our kidnapped victim within the first 30 minutes and the rest of the film is spent meandering from one poorly choreographed fight to the next. The plot is actually so thin that Jim Kelly only says probably 10 lines in the whole damn film. Considering I'm not a fan of Jim Kelly I should actually consider that a blessing.

The thing that bothers me about this film is that it doesn't know if it wants to be totally goofy or just another run-of-the-mill chop socky flick. Some of the fights have Looney Tunes sound effects like winding up fists and others don't. The film is also full of fourth grade boy humor like "you just wet my shoes! You just be lucky it wasn't number 2!"

This confused film just ended up annoying the living shit out of me and I kept starring at the timer on my DVD player asking the ghost of Bruce Lee why didn't the martial arts gods take Jim Kelly instead of him. This is hands down the worst martial arts film I have ever seen (so far) and only young boys who think dick and fart jokes are funny will be amused by this crud. This shit-quel makes Black Belt Jones look like a Shaw Brothers epic.

Written By: Eric Reifschneider

Incredible 2-Headed Transplant, The - 1/5

The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant is one of those films that's title has a reputation among cult film fanatics . Along with other such outrageous titles as Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, more people know the title then have actually seen the film. That's not always a bad thing as most of the time the title is FAR better than the actual film. That is the case with The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant (or as it says on the DVD box art: The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant).

Like the title suggests the plot to this film is quit ridiculous. We have a surgeon (played by respectable actor Bruce Dern; why he is in a movie like this only his paycheck will tell) who is experimenting with grafting a second head onto animal bodies. Oh...I wonder where this is going! A maniac killer is on the loose and comes to his property, kills his caretaker, injures the caretakers huge yet mentally challenged son, and then injures himself in the process. Our doc finds him and then in normal crazy scientist fashion, decides to graft the maniacs head onto the hillbilly half-wit's body. As predicted his two-headed creation escapes guessed it...havoc ensues.

Though the title and premise makes one think they are going to be in for a great schlocky good time, it actually wasn't all that fun. This grade Z film is actually rather tedious with a grating film score. The directing is boring point and shoot method and the two-headed effects on the monster are primitive and quit silly. Being a seasoned B-movie veteran I was expecting to have a hell-of-a-good time but mostly ended up bored.

One thing I do have to give credit to is the cast as they all played the film with straight faces, a feat that must have been nearly impossible.

Written By: Eric Reifschneider

Westworld - 3.5/5

God bless Michael Crichton. The man will be sorely missed. It's amazing all the great stories he told: Jurassic Park, Sphere, Andromeda Strain, Terminal Man, among others. Though a terrific author it seems many people forget that he also dabbled in directing a few films in his day. His first theatrical directing gig being Westworld, which he also wrote.

Westwold is everything that made Michael Crichton great. Like Jurassic Park, it was ahead of its time. The story is about a vacation resort split into three sections: Roman World, Medieval World, and of course Westworld. In each world there are robots made to act like human beings from each time era. For only a $1000 a day a person can go to a world and make-believe they really live in that time span. What an amazing idea Crichton! Like Jurassic Park, all is well to begin with until shit goes down. Our robots begin to malfunction and death comes to those vacationers.

Our main characters are lawyer types who come to Westworld for some thrills. They love it at first by taking fun in bar fights, duels, and even indulging in some local bordellos. That is until the robots malfunction and a gunslinger, in the form of Yul Brynner, starts to hunt them down.

Casting Yul Brynner as the killer robot gunslinger was perfect! They even gave Brynner the same outfit he wore in The Magnificent Seven. Nice touch there Crichton! The silvery shimmer to his eyes gave Brynner a scary image. Hell, his character could even be considered a prototype to The Terminator. Our two leads are played by James Brolin and Richard Benjamin. Brolin, is well, Brolin in his part. Can't go wrong with his macho image. Benjamin however left me desiring a better actor in the role. He just didn't make me want to root for his character's survival and I ended up rooting more for the Brynner villain.

Like I mentioned before Crichton also served as Director on this picture. I don't like to speak ill of the dead but he is a MUCH better writer than director. His directing is a little flat and the pacing of the film could be tightened up. The robots don't malfunction until nearly an hour into the film and the climatic chase at the end tends to drag instead of being suspenseful.

Despite Crichton's shortcomings as a director the film still manages to be very entertaining due to its great story and the casting of Brynner as the villainous gunslinger. I don't know if I can look at his good-guy cowboy character in The Magnificent Seven the same way again!

Written By: Eric Reifschneider

Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man - 3/5

Years before Freddy vs. Jason, King Kong vs. Godzilla, Alien vs. Predator, and to a lesser extent Dollman vs. Demonic Toys (sorry, I just had to throw that one in) came the original head-to-head match of monsters...Frankenstein meets The Wolf Man.

As one can tell from the title this is the first film to pair two or more Universal monsters. It is the fifth entry in the Frankenstein series and the first sequel to The Wolf Man. It even does an adequate job for the most part keeping continuity between the two series (more so to The Wolf Man and lesser to Ghost of Frankenstein) but fans will notice things wrong in the continuity here and there.

Lon Chaney Jr. returns as Lawrence Talbot, the man with the pesky hair problem. When grave robbers open his grave, the full moon brings him back to life and he's back to prowling the night and ends up in London. Desperately wanting to die he heads back to Europe to find the gypsy Maleva (again played by Maria Ouspenskaya) for help. She leads him to find Dr. Frankenstein. Upon finding that he has died, Talbot happens upon Frankenstein's monster in the basement of his burnt building (which happened at the end of Ghost of Frankenstein). For some reason, unknown to me, he finds Frankenstein's monster in a block of ice. I'm sorry but that's a real stretch on how the monster survived the last picture. A doctor that's willing to help Talbot uses Frankenstein's work in order to help kill him (don't think too hard about it...just let it happen). The doctor ends up being corrupted and makes Frankenstein's monster stronger and fans are treated to a match of the titans by the end.

In an odd move the filmmakers cast Bela Lugosi as Frankenstein's monster. Since Lon Chaney Jr. had to play the wolf man, he couldn't return to the role of Frankenstein's monster hence why Bela was cast. Bela doesn't have a hulking body like Chaney but I guess it makes sense since Bela played Ygor in the last Frankenstein film and his character's brain was transplanted into the monsters (it's confusing I know but you just have to watch the films in order). They did keep the monster blind like at the end of the last film but for some reason they decided not to make him talk again.

The plot is...well...kind of ridiculous in some ways. The way the writers brought the two franchises together was a real stretch but who cares about the plot, we've got two of the most popular monsters of all time battling out on the screen together! Overall this film is more of a sequel to The Wolf Man with Frankenstein's monster thrown in for good measure. This would have probably been a much better film if it was just written to be a sequel to The Wolf Man but damn it...two monsters together in one film sounds owe so much more exciting. Sadly the fight scene towards the end isn't all that long but it was still a treat for fans. This is easily one of Universal's most entertaining films of their B-Movie era of monster films.

On a side note there is a problem with the title. Shouldn't it be "Frankenstein's Monster meets the Wolf Man"? Dr. Frankenstein and his sons are not present so there is no meeting between them and the wolf man. That means they are calling the monster itself Frankenstein and that just annoys die-hard Frankenstein fans. 
Written By: Eric Reifschneider

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ghost Of Frankenstein, The - 2/5

It was bound to happen. Every franchise starts to falter at some time and Ghost of Frankenstein marks the first major step down the monster ladder in Universal's Frankenstein series. This however does not mean it is horrible. I actually found this fourth entry into the series enjoyable just with many flaws.

Right from the start the film suffers from sequeldom. Ygor (again played by Bela Lugosi), who obviously died in the last entry, remarkably survives and so does...gasp...Frankenstein's monster who was preserved in the sulfur pit he was pushed into (modern horror monsters like Jason Voorhees owe Frankenstein a great deal of debt when it comes to surviving for a sequel). Ygor takes the monster to Frankenstein's other son (A bad alternative title for this film could be "Another Son of Frankenstein") to have his mind fixed and for some damn reason he agrees. For intelligent men, these sons sure do succumb to helping the beast far too easily! Of course the monster causes some havoc along the way which causes another mob in this connect-the-dots sequel.

The first major difference in this film compared to the other films is that Lon Chaney Jr. replaces Boris Karloff in the monster role. Cheney has a massive figure and does adequate in the part but his portrayal lacks the emotional confusion that Karloff was so brilliantly able to portray in the last entries.

Overall I thought this sequel was just going through the motions offering the same material over again with nothing really new. It also seems that the writers weren't able to come up with enough plot as the film barely runs over an hour long, the shortest of the series (there is even an extended sequence using flashback footage of the first film as padding).

I find that Ghost of Frankenstein marks the start of Universal Pictures making B-Monster Movies as opposed to A-Movies. Again this does not make them horrible as they are still very enjoyable but they lack the magic of their original counterparts. Viewers looking for good popcorn entertainment will enjoy but for fans expecting greatness like the first three entries will be sorely disappointed.

Written By: Eric Reifschneider

Son Of Frankenstein - 4/5

When someone mentions the Frankenstein, the original 1931 Universal film and its popular sequel Bride of Frankenstein are the first films that spring to mind. Even people who haven't seen the films know of their imagery. The mob outside the burning windmill, the father carrying his dead daughter, the rising of the bride are just a few of the scenes burned in our memory. Sadly however the third entry in the series Son of Frankenstein is seemingly forgotten. Most people today (unless you're a hardcore film fanatic) don't seem to know this film exists. I for one was one knew of its existence but did not view the film for the first time until recently. I am now kicking myself for not doing so sooner.

Like title suggests this time we have the son of Dr. Frankenstein coming to town with the brilliant casting choice of Basil Rathbone (a role that helps him break the type-casting of his Sherlock Holmes character). He arrives on a train and the towns folk give him the cold shoulder as he accepts his father's inheritance. This is understandable because his father's creation did kill many of their kin folk a number of years ago. I myself would hold a grudge. While at his father's castle he meets the humpbacked Ygor (better known today by the spelling as Igor). Yes this film marks the debut of Ygor who is again brilliantly cast with Bela Legosi. Ygor leads Frankenstein Jr. to a sickly monster (Boris Karloff in his final portrayal of the famed beast). Frankenstein heals the monster but Ygor has secret plans for the beast and uses it to do his bidding.

Besides the casting other great things about this sequel is the lighting. Frankenstein's house has an interesting angular pattern to the rooms which makes the lighting show up beautifully (the stairway makes a great creaking shadow). The off-the-wall the character of the inspector is also very compelling. In a character that could have been very bland, the writers gave him an interesting tick in that he has a wooden arm that he moves into odd positions throughout the film (this character would be spoofed grandly in Mel Brooks Young Frankenstein). The film is also longer clocking in at an hour forty minutes. Most films back then were barely over an hour long (Frankenstein was an hour ten minutes, Bride was an hour fifteen minutes and the next entry Ghost of Frankenstein was only an hour seven minutes!). Films were usually shorter because theaters could get more showings in a night hence more money. I liked the long length as it allowed more character and plot development. Another good thing is filmmakers wisely decided to do away with the awkward intro that was present in the past entries (Bride of Frankenstein had an odd intro that had author Mary Shelley telling friends of her story.)

Once difference in the Frankenstein monster character as opposed to the last entry is this time the monster doesn't talk. This could be a good or bad thing for some fans. Boris Karloff was against the monster being able to talk in the last film as he thought it took away from his creepiness. This is explained in the plot as the monster was struck by lightning while on the prowl and messed up his brain. I am indifferent to this fact but many fans won't be.

One thing I didn't like so well is the tidy wrapped up quickie ending. (Spoiler Alert) After Ygor uses the Frankenstein monster to kill for him, Frankenstein kills the beast when it threatens his family. Frankenstein leaves the town gleefully with no lawful punishment despite the fact that he healed the monster knowing damn well that it was capable of evil and that he was in turn responsible for many deaths.(End Spoiler Alert)

Overall this third entry may not be as quit as good as the first two films in the series but its damn close and it deserves more attention that it gets. This is truly an A-picture and the further sequels to come had the series turn into B-pictures (still very entertaining though). If you love the first two entries then you owe it to yourself to view this very entertaining sequel.

Written by: Eric Reifschneider

Man With The Golden Gun, The - 2/5

Roger Moore returns in his second film as the illustrious James Bond and he's definitely bringing the camp right along with him. Although "The Man With The Golden Gun" smacks of a fun time, when one tries to look at it in any kind of a serious film manner, it quickly crumbles like the sand on Scaramanga's hidden island. But that's okay, since you know, its not supposed to be taken seriously.

PLOT: James Bond is dragged into a stand off with the world's greatest assassin, Scaramanga. Of course the case he is taken off of to be allowed to find and beat Scaramanga to the punch (one that includes finding a converter for solar energy) is tied into his duel with the man with the golden gun. Of course to hunt down this notorious assassin, whom kills his contracts with a patented golden gun and golden bullets, it takes Bond through the Asian world (again) and off to find and dispose of this menace once and for all.

STORYLINE 1.5/5: What is the biggest flaw of this film and its rather ridiculous plot is that at its core, it could have been one of the best James Bond films out there. The idea that Bond has finally met his match in a man that has the prowess to kill as he does. And the fact that they will go toe to toe in a final stand off is intriguing. Unfortunately, it gets massively bogged down in the ideology of what 'James Bond' films should be at this point - that being its going to be over the top with lots of locales and lots of pointless plot tangents. Thusly we get this overaching other plot about a solar converter that Scaramanga uses political intrigue and assassinating his partner Hai Fat to get so that he a fucking laser and power his hidden island. Seriously? A fucking laser? Where the hell did this come from? So the plot goes from this cool ideal stand off between cold killers to world domination again?! And to top off its utter ridiculousness of setting and over complicated/useless plot the final stand off between our two nemesis' is rather lackluster. You fucked with the only good plot line you bastards!

BOND 2/5: So Moore returns as Bond and although his take on the hero is rather campy and cheesy, he fits the overall scheme of the story and take on character. Not my favorite way to see Bond, but fitting for the most part. Although I do have to admit that our initial moment with Bond in M's office is absolutely horrid. Why does he know so much about Scaramanga? Why does he give that creepy smile when Me 'okays' that he find the assassin? Yipes. It's just an odd way to introduce him for the film.

VILLAIN 4/5: This is the only redeeming quality about "The Man With The Golden Gun" and perhaps the reason I watch this film as much as I do. Despite having one of the most gimmicky henchmen, Christopher Lee is the perfect casting as the notorious Scaramanga and the character itself is menacing and fascinating. The speech he gives to Bond at the island about artists creating masterpieces is memorable and quite awesome (especially cause he doesn't blink!) and he makes this film watchable. Even though his final conflict with Bond kind of sucks.

BOND GIRL 0/5: I fucking hate, and I say hate with every inch of my soul, Ms. Goodnight. She might in fact, be the worst Bond girl to date (when I get further into the films I might say that again) with her complete lack of brains and any depth of character. Her only goal seems to be getting Bond into bed....what?!....and her use in the film is so lackluster and pointless (I guess she did get locked in a trunk to lead Bond to the island) that she might as well have never been on screen. Good riddance to Goodnight. She needed to leave.

BONUS RANT: Why the hell would you EVER, EVER, EVER bring back J.W. Pepper from "Live And Let Die"? It's completely POINTLESS to the plot. He was annoying in the previous film and he's annoying here. Why the hell is a Louisiana Cop in Bangkok? The writers should be shamed of this. The humor he brings is wasteful of a good car chase (which is also ruined by the use of a kazoo) and his general lack of relevance to the plot makes him the worst element that was thrown into this film.

"The Man With The Golden Gun" may not be the worst Bond film out there (we're getting there folks) but its damn close. It's ridiculous plot points and annoying characters bungle a rather interesting chemistry between hero and villain and the overall lack of brains included in the film make this one hard to get through. Luckily Christopher Lee is in this or it might be a total waste of time.

Written by: Matt Reifschneider

Inglorious Bastards, The (1978) - 3.5/5

Most people today see the title "Inglorious Bastards" and instantly think of Quentin Tarantino's recent World War II epic "Inglourious Basterds". People fail to realize that Tarantino was inspired by and barrowed the title of a little seen 1978 Macaroni Combat film.

So what's a "Macaroni Combat" film your asking? Well it's an Italian made war film that either takes place during World War II or the Vietnam War. Out of this interesting subgenre the best known and perhaps archetypal film is arguably The Inglorious Bastards.

The Inglorious Bastards...what a title! I can see easily by Tarantino loved it. That title even makes the "Dirty Dozen" walk away with their tails between their legs. Speaking of the "The Dirty Dozen", the tagline of the film proudly proclaims "whatever the Dirty Dozen did, they do it dirtier." With that tagline alone I know I am in for a grand ol' time.

However don't let the tagline fool you, this is not an A grade film like the American film "The Dirty Dozen." This is an Italian B-movie rip-off. This is what erks me about people who see the new Tarantino version and seek this original version out. These people think the original sucks and fail to have fun with it for what it is, an Italian B-movie rip-off.

Like "The Dirty Dozen", we have a bunch of Allied death row prisoners who manage to escape their prisoner transport after it gets attacked by Germans. They start to head for the Swiss border only to find themselves "volunteering" for a suicidal mission deep inside Nazi occupied France.

The cast for this film is top-notch and full of exploitation legends, most notably Fred Williams on and Bo Svenson. These guys are a hoot to watch and they keep your eyes glued to the screen. Not to mention the direction. What more can I say about the direction! Enzo G. Castellari is the action king over in Italian and he loads the film with incredible action sequences and stunts. Any time I see Castellari's name in the credits I know I'm in for a great action ride and he delivers the goods. He also inserts many moments of comedy. One of my favorite bits is when one soldier's motorcycle gets a bullet in the gas tank. Without stopping he takes some gum out of his mouth, sticks it over the hole, and keeps going. Great stuff!

The score is also great! It's like an inspirational war them with spaghetti western flavor. The score just makes the film that much more fun. The DVD edition I have even comes with the score on a bonus CD and I actually find myself listening to it quit often.

My complaints with the film are typical with Italian rip-offs. First off is the dubbing. But then again some bad dubbing can just add to the fun of the film. Another is the bad model effects. The train wreck sequence at the end just looks cheap. Again though, like the dubbing, bad model effects can also work in the films favor for entertainment value. The production values are a little laxed too and fans of American World War II cinema may find this film just looking cheap.

Overall I had a great time with The Inglorious Bastards. This film is a must for fans of Euro Cult. Fans of Tarantino's film may not like the B-movie qualities here but other than the title, it's impossible to compare them as they are COMPLETELY different. If you go into this film knowing what it is, you're probably going to have a fun time. I sure did.

Written by: Eric Reifschneider

American Samurai - 1/5

Since Cannon films pretty much ran the Ninja craze into the ground (especially after the rather dismal American Ninja 5), they decided to exploit another Asian icon, the Samurai. Here we get David Bradley (American Ninja 3-5) playing, oh my gosh, an American Samurai! When he was a baby his parents plane crash-lands somewhere in Asia where he is found and raised by a Samurai and in turn is taught the Samurai fighting style. Sounds like "American Ninja" you say? You betcha! His 'adoptive' father is even the same actor that played Michael Dudikoff's 'adoptive' father in American Ninja! While growing up, his 'step-brother' gets jealous because his father gains more of a liking for Bradley and a blood feud occurs. Sounds like "The Octagon" you say? You betcha! When Bradley grows up and moves to L.A., a string of bizarre murders in Turkey garner his attention as they feature his brother's signature cut. He travels to turkey with an annoying "photographer" (who his very attractive) to hunt him down. He gets caught and is forced to join in a "fight to the death" tournament. Sounds like "Bloodsport" you say? You betcha!

As you can tell there isn't much originality in this movie but you shouldn't expect there to be. The story rips off countless other Cannon and Martial Arts pictures. Bradley gives his usual stiff performance and the love scene between him and the women photographer has to be one of the most "awkward" love scenes ever filmed with body doubles. Even though this film is "supposed" to be bad, it still falls way below other great bad "cannon" fodder like American Ninja and Revenge of the Ninja (those two also directed by B-movie veteran Sam Firstenberg). Only for the most die-hard Cannon film fans or the most forgiving martial arts fans.

Written by: Eric Reifschneider

Mummy, The (1932)

Director: Karl Freund
Notable Cast: Boris Karloff, Zita Johann, David Manners, Arthur Bryon, Edward Van Sloan

When someone says "Universal Monsters" people usually think of Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man...and the Mummy. The Mummy always seems to be the last on the list. For the most part I think many people find this film to be the least of the aforementioned films. I as a child also found The Mummy to be my least favorite of the four. Re-watching it again as an adult with an adult perspective I can still honestly say that it is still my least favorite of the major four films. This however doesn't mean I dislike the film just less than the others.

The film opens with an impressive Egyptian model for the title sequence and then the audience is thrown into Egypt in which a dig is being conducted on a mummy's tomb. When a sacred box is opened our Mummy awakens. After a very short sequence of the mummy in his bandaged form, he returns on screen as the more human looking Boris Karloff who is searching for the reincarnated soul of his long lost love.

Dracula's Daughter (1936)

Director: Lambert Hillyer
Notable Cast: Otto Kruger, Gloria Holden, Marguerite Churchill, Edward Van Sloan, Gilbert Emery, Irving Pichel

With the success of Universal's sequel Bride of Frankenstein one knew it would only be a short matter of time before they decided to make a sequel to their other successful film Dracula. But how can they make a sequel when Dracula got staked to death at the end of the first film? Answer: bring in an offspring. That's right, Dracula's Daughter marks Universal's first sequel attempt by adding an offspring into the title (Son of Frankenstein and Son of Dracula are some other examples). To no surprise really, this comes nowhere near the grand sequel impact of Bride of Frankenstein.

Black Belt Jones - 1.5/5

Remember Jim Kelly? No not the quarterback for the Buffalo Bills the martial arts actor! If not that's okay as his career is only a footnote in both the martial arts and blaxploitation genres. He got his quick 15 minutes of fame when he starred as the afro bearing martial artist in the Bruce Lee classic "Enter the Dragon". He gained a small following because of that film and that small following gave rise to Kelly making a few god-awful martial arts/blaxploitation films.

The first of these abominations that came out of the ashes of "Enter the Dragon" was a little film called "Black Belt Jones". Warner Brothers even hired "Enter the Dragon" director Robert Clouse to helm this Jim Kelly vehicle. The result proved that Robert Clouse was a one film man as every film he directed from "Black Belt Jones" on was just awful (some in a good way though).

Warner Bros also didn't spend much time with the script as it is a complete rip off of the Bruce Lee classic Fist of Fury (aka The Chinese Connection). Jim Kelly's martial arts school comes under attack from the local mafia. The mafia wants to buy the building and Kelly's teacher refuses. Not surprising Kelly's teacher gets himself killed and it's up to the students, led by Kelly, to take down the mafia.

I forgot about the love interest. How could I as it is the most boring, cliché love interests ever to grace a martial arts film. The daughter of the teacher shows up after his death and, not surprisingly, falls in love with our hero.

The film ends in a "climatic" martial arts showdown at a carwash. Yes, a carwash with soup suds waist deep. Having the climatic martial arts fight at a carwash I will admit is "unique", but it seemed as a desperate measure by the filmmakers to try something different and it just comes off silly.

In the realm of martial arts and blaxploitation films, Black Belt Jones comes out extremely weak. The story is unoriginal and uninteresting and so is Jim Kelly as our hero. I never really felt myself rooting for him has he just came off as a sinewgate arrogant ass. The film does entertaining enough in a B-movie vein but martial arts fans are better off searching someplace else for good martial arts thrills.

I also forgot to mention this film inspired a sequel titled Hot Potato. Yes, Hot Potato. As you can tell by that ridiculous title it's even worse than Black Belt Jones.

Written by: Eric Reifschneider

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Crash And Burn - 2/5

I love post-apocalyptic films. I even enjoy bad post apocalyptic films and director Charles Band is no stranger to the bad post apocalyptic genre. He first directed the 3-D b-movie monster classic Parasite in 1982 and returned to the subgenre 8 years later with Crash and Burn...and look at the cover art! A hot sand-blasted landscape...and what's that, a huge fucking robot in the back ground! That's right we have a huge fucking robot! This is going to be the most bad-ass post-apoc film ever! No, of course not and typical with Charles Band films the poster art is much better than the actual film.

As post-apoc films go we have all the basics: a hot, sunny landscape, a depleted ozone layer, an anti-hero, cyborgs, and a evil corporate company. Did I mention we have a huge fucking robot?

Apparently in the economy has collapsed and in the collapse a huge multi-national company known as Unicom has taken over the government. A group of anti-Unicom rebels known as the Liberty Union run a TV station out in the middle of the desert and air programs that, surprisingly, piss off the company. In comes our anti-hero, a Unicom man who's motorcycle breaks down so he takes refuge at the TV station. As expected the rebels don't take too kindly with him at first. While there members start being killed off in Agatha Christie "Ten Little Indians" style because someone there is a cyborg..errr...a Synthoid that is programmed to kill.

I know what you are all thinking...where's the giant robot? Well it's in the movie, don't worry. But it doesn't come into play until the last few minutes of the film. Most of the movie it's laying on its side in junk pile until it's turned on to save the day. People looking for a lot of giant robot action are better off looking somewhere else, like the movie Robot Jox. Strangely enough this film was retitled Robot Jox 2: Crash and Burn in Germany despite the fact this barely has any giant robot action.

Overall this is passable post-apoc fair. Most of the film is spent on talking and less on action making it far less enjoyable than the Italian fodder that filled the video shelves in the 80's. The film is just kinda blah for the usually fun post-apoc subgenre. Still one could do much worse to kill an hour-and-a-half.

Written by: Eric Reifschneider

Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker - 2/5

The fourth entry was a major departure in the series. First it didn't have a killer Santa. Second it wasn't a slasher. Third it really didn't have anything to do with Christmas. This fifth entry gets a little more on track...well at least for the fact it takes place on Christmas. It's kind of like "Halloween III" in that that aspect that it still took place on Halloween. It still has no plot carry over from the original killer Santa run. Instead, as one can tell from the subtitle, it's about a "toy maker" instead.

The video cover art also portrayed this "toy maker" aspect with a young child surrounded by stuffed animals with evil eyes. I remember this cover art from my child hood and it always captured my attention. Sadly, as predicted, the movie isn't as good as its video cover art.

The film opens with a child's stepfather getting killed by a toy that was left on their doorstep. The boy becomes traumatized by beautifully wrapped presents which starts worrying his mother. A drifter rolls into town and discovers a plot by a local Toy Shop owner (Mickey Rooney of all people!) who makes killer toys to ruin Christmas for all little boys and girls. There is an interesting, over-the-top plot twist at the end that I don't want to give away but with the toy shop owner and his son having the names Joe Petto and Pino it shouldn't be too hard to figure out.

For a low budget direct-to-video sequel this is watchable. Extremely silly and dumb but watchable. There's enough action and typical horror killings to keep attention. Also like predicted there are plenty of unintentional laughter moments especially when a drunk Mickey Rooney starts to abuse his son (I know that sounds wrong but you'll understand once you watch the film). Speaking of Mickey Rooney, he vocally voiced his disproval of the original "Silent Night, Deadly Night" and said that the makers of that film should be run out of town (this is viewable as a special feature on the SNDN DVD release) yet he appears in Part 5? What a hypocrite!

To be completely honest this is overall a better film than the first three entries. What, did I really say that? To be completely honest the two unrelated sequels in the franchise (this one and Part 4) are better than the first three killer Santa entries. Franchises aren't supposed to work like that! A later entry is not supposes to be a better film than the first. Is it more entertaining you ask? I wouldn't go that far as the first couple of films are very entertaining as B-slashers but better as an overall film? You bet, but then again it doesn't take much.

Written by: Eric Reifschneider

Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 - 2.5/5

When someone mentions the title "Silent Night, Deadly Night", the image every horror fan thinks of is an axe bearing killer in a Santa suit. This is why "Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4" is a real anomaly in the series. As you guessed there is no killer in a Santa costume! The film also really has nothing to do with Christmas. This can be blamed on the marketing execs trying to sell an unrelated film as a sequel when it really isn't. This is why I will be referring to "Silent Night, Deadly Night 4" as "Initiation" for the rest of the review.

Eagle-eyed horror fans will recognize the name in the directing credits. It's none other than Brian Yuzna. With producing credits on "Re-Animator" and "From Beyond" and directing credits on such films as "Society", "Bride of Re-Animator" and "Return of the Living Dead III" one can expect a really bizarre film. And bizarre is what we get. Actually if you look up bizarre in the dictionary it will have a picture of Brian Yuzna and a "see also" section saying "Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4."

After an impressive title sequence and a likeable score by Richard Band, we get introduced to a news paper columnist who wants to break out into writing big stories. After a bizarre spontaneous combustion occurs at an apartment building, she investigates only to find out that she will become the next victim to witch coven that prays to bugs, worms and other gooey nasty stuff.

"Initiation" is full of bizarre imagery that we can only expect from Brian Yuzna, who in my humble opinion is a more tongue-in-cheek version of David Cronenberg as his films tend to focus on the human body and uncomfortable topics but splashed with over-the-top gore.

The directing, effects and acting is top notch (even having bizarre homeless character played by Clint Howard) but the story is a little unfocused. The witch coven isn't explained all that well and leaves much to be desired. Despite the plot's short-comings there is enough crazy imagery, violence, and action to keep one glued to the screen. I actually find "Initiation" to be a nice companion piece to Brian Yuzna's underappreciated directorial debut "Society."

People looking for a slasher film are going to be pissed and they have every right to be with a title like "Silent Night, Deadly Night 4." The marketing people no doubt thought the film would do better if it was marketed as a sequel in an already established franchise. I feel it actually hurt the film as people now tend to overlook it due to its title. This bizarre film deserves to get discovered and open-minded horror fans that can get past the title will find a interesting little unpolished gem.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out! - 1.5/5

It's hard to believe that after the disastrous stock-footage filled "Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2" that a third film would be made. However filmmakers forged on bringing us yet another killer Santa picture...well sort of. One good thing however is that there is hardly any flashback footage resulting in a new movie with 98% new footage. At least the filmmakers learned from that grave mistake.

The film opens with a really cool dream sequence with a young girl and a killer Santa in an all white room and hallway. She awakens and we find out that she is blind and a doctor is trying to use her ESP ability to get into the mind of a Ricky, the killer Santa of part 2, who is in a coma. I find this plot a real stretch. I mean they actually kept that psychopath alive just to study? Talk about our tax dollars wasted! That however is not the most ridiculous aspect. The killer's brain has been reconstructed under a plastic bubble on his head. Yes you read that right. What! Am I supposed to take a killer with a plastic bubble as the top portion of his skull with his brain visible seriously! What's even more amazing is that the filmmakers are taking this subject matter seriously unlike the tongue-in-cheek second entry. If anything the filmmakers should have taken the tongue-in-cheek approach with silly material like this.

Predictably the killer awakens and follows our blind "heroine", her brother and his girlfriend to their grandmothers house on Christmas where carnage occurs.

On the surface "Silent Night, Deadly Night III" is a better film than it's processors. It's overall just better made on a technical level. However it makes one fatal's boring. The previous 2 even in all their awfulness still kept your attention. SNDN3 however makes one's mind wander a tad while watching and the killings (which films of this nature are watched for) and unoriginal and too few.

Another problem is our main character. The blind girl is unlikeable and well...just a bitch. I can't find myself rooting for her. The killer is also blah and he is even portrayed by genre great Bill Moseley. Horror fans may remember his great performance as chop-top in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" and as Otis in "House of 1000 Corpses" and "The Devil's Rejects." The filmmakers however don't use his acting ability here and he is just a ridiculous looking, "Frankenstein" shambling slasher that doesn't even wear a Santa suit.

Overall SNDN3 is forgettable and spends too much time with people talking in a cars instead of showing stalking and slashing, and when it does it is un-inspired and tedious. This film marks the end of the continuous slasher Santa storyline as the next two sequels would be unrelated.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 - 1/5

When it comes to bad horror sequels people tend to fit them into two separate categories. Fist you have the bad sequels that are just god awful. Examples of this are "Poltergeist III", "Mangler 2", and "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation." Then you have the category of "so bad, it's good." Examples of this are "Troll 2", "Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf" and of course "Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2."

The first "Silent Night, Deadly Night" film wasn't a good film by any means and this sequel is even worse. This "worseness" (is that even a word?) is what makes SNDN2 so damn enjoyable. The film however has a bad rap as it is nearly halfway made up of flashback footage from the first film. I mean what a cheap cop-out! I can easily see why this would piss people off as it did me at first. However if one can get past the usage of stock footage they will find half a movie with thigh slapping hilarity!

This film follows the story of Ricky, the younger brother of the Santa Clause killer of the first film. The story starts off with Ricky in jail talking to a doctor and thus flashbacks occur (but as a baby in the first film he would have been too young to remember many of the scenes - just adding to the hilarity). Ricky then escapes (oh, how shocking) and goes after the evil abusive mother superior from the original film.

The thing that makes this sequel so damn funny is actor Eric Freeman as Ricky. He is just so damn awful that the lines he spout out makes one hit the floor with laughter. He also as the uncanny ability to overuse his eyebrows when talking. The film hits its peak when Ricky goes on a rampage on a suburban street. He first kills his girlfriend's ex-boyfriend with a battery, then kills his girlfriend, and then kills a dopey cop with his own gun. The best part comes when Ricky is marching down the street and an innocent bystander comes out of his house with a trash can. Ricky then screams the line "Garbage Day" and then shoots the guy. This line has become one of the all time best bad one liners in a movie! This sequence is even spoofed all over youtube!

The film was pissed on when it came out and it had every right to be with all that damn stock footage. However I think bad movie enthusiasts are finally grasping the hilarity of the rest of the movie and the film is starting to gain an ever growing cult following one day it might become just as popular as Troll 2. One just needs to fast-forward through all the stock footage to get to the "good stuff."

There you have it, "Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2". One of the best bad movie sequels ever made. Well, best 1/2 bad movie sequel ever made. ;-)

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Silent Night, Deadly Night - 1.5/5

Imagine this. Two guys in a bar talking about how popular slasher films are. One mentions that slashers around holidays seem to be in. The other says Halloween has been done but what about Christmas? The other guy sees $ signs and quickly scribbles a script outline on a on his tab receipt. This is how I imagine Silent Night, Deadly Night was born.

I will say right off that bat this is not a good movie, yet it's just as popular among horror fans today as when it was released back in 1984. There is a special aura around this mean-spirited picture that transcends time when other much better slasher films of the era such as "The Prowler" and "Sweet Sixteen" seem to be forgotten. This I believe is from all the extreme controversy the film caused with critics and parents. I mean can you blame them. Children were seeing the TV ads and asking their parents why Santa was carrying a bloody axe. This bad publicity just brought more attention to the film. Remember the golden rule: there is no such thing as bad publicity. I will admit it worked on me. I had to see what all the commotion was about and what I got was another poorly made slasher.

The film begins with a young boy who is warned by his catatonic grandfather that Santa punishes and wouldn't you know it, later that night a criminal dressed as Santa kills the boy's father and rapes and kills the boy's mother. Off to an abusive orphanage he goes (which will not be popular for the Catholic crowd) where the boy is whipped. He grows into a young man and when he is assigned to wear a Santa costume at the toy store he works at, he flips out and goes on a slasher rampage.

Now I mentioned before that this was a poor film but it can be entertaining being that it can cause many unintentional laughter moments. It transcends on some degree to the "so bad it's good" category. People looking for an over-the-top slasher will have a fun time as the film is full of un-intentionally funny one-liners ("Punish!"), graphic violence, and nudity. Others will just be offended. Perhaps the funniest scene is when "Santa" gives a little girl a bloody exacto knife as a present. People actually looking for a "decent", psychological killer Santa film are recommended to see the 1980 film "Christmas Evil" which predated the much more popular Silent Night, Deadly Night by four years! That film however isn't has fun as the notorious Silent Night, Deadly Night or it's four sequels.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Horror Of Dracula - 4.5/5

When someone mentions "Dracula" the image that comes to most people's minds is the classic 1931 Universal film with Bela Logosi and his Hungarian accent. This image of Dracula has worked its way into pop culture. Everything from the Count Chocula cereal to "The Count" on Sesame Street take its image of Dracula from Legosi. Of course his image of Dracula has not been the only one as there have been umpteen adaptations of Bram Stokers classic novel Dracula over the decades. We had the creepy 1922 silent classic Nosferatu, the 1979 version with Frank Legella, and most recently Francis Ford Copella's overblown 1992 version among countless others. However my money goes to the Hammer's 1958 adaption Horror of Dracula (or simply known as Dracula everywhere else in the world).

This is a bold statement. How could I pick a Dracula film other than the Legosi classic to be my favorite? The first answer is Dracula himself portrayed by Christopher Lee. Christopher Lee has the ability to make Dracula cultured, seductive to women, and menacing all in the same film. Vampire films tend to make vampires either complete monsters or like more recent films only "pretty and seductive" (Twilight I'm looking at you!). Lee can do both. The best part is when Lee becomes a menacing monster as his eyes become bloodshot. Once you see this image of him you won't doubt he can kill anything or anyone.

The character of Van Helsing is also great here. Portrayed by Peter Cushing, Van Helsing for once seems to be at Dracula's level as an enemy. To me it seems the Van Helsing character in Dracula films tends to be weakly portrayed or developed and usually takes back stage to the Dracula character. Not here as they are equals. I really feel that the Van Helsing character here is smart enough and driven enough to be able to take down Dracula.

The atmosphere and pacing is also superb. Terence Fischer, director of Hammer's first horror film The Curse of Frankenstein, again delivers a film thick with gothic atmosphere. Tell me what character is more gothic than Dracula? Fischer's opening shot of blood dripping onto Dracula's name stenciled onto a coffin is the perfect set-up for the gothic atmosphere. Fisher is also able to deliver the film at a good pace with the perfect amount of exposition and action. Young people that are fans of today's quick cut editing are no doubt going to find this film boring but for a gothic hammer film, the pace is great and the final chase and fight scene is riveting.

Overall I was extremely pleased with the film and had a wonderful time. I even enjoyed the film more than Hammer's previous horror film The Curse of Frankenstein and this film makes me want to revisit the gothic world of Hammer over and over again.

Horror of Dracula proved extremely popular for hammer and this film produced eight, count 'em eight sequels! Dracula even gave Jason Voorhees a run for his money! Seven of the sequels feature the character Dracula and Six of them feature Lee in the title role. Hold your breath as here comes the list: The Brides of Dracula, Dracula: Prince of Darkness, Dracula has Risen from the Grave, Taste the Blood of Dracula, Scars of Dracula, Dracula A.D. 1972, The Satanic Rites of Dracula, and The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. More Dracula reviews to come...

Written By: Eric Reifschneider