Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Crazies, The (1973) - 3.5/5

Out of director George Romero's classic horror era (68-85), The Crazies seems to be the most overlooked right after Romero's disappointing Season of the Witch. Even fans of Romero himself tend to overlook this classic low-budget 70's landmark. Thanks to the recent remake however it seems people are finally are starting to rediscover it and actually give it the respect that it's never gotten. Though I usually tend to find remakes completely pointless I do have to give them credit sometimes as they allow a new, younger audience to discover the original, even if the film may be too dated for some.

The Crazies could quit possibly be considered the first of the virus outbreak films that are so common now-a-days and films like 28 Days Later owe The Crazies a debt of gratitude. Out plot centers around two firemen and one of their pregnant girlfriends who is a nurse. One morning they are called out to a burning house which for some unknown reason was started by a once loving father, who burned his family alive inside. Soon military personal show up all outfitted in striking white hazmat suits and all the civilians are all gathered and some even start to get exterminated. It seems a government virus has been accidentally released on the small town and the disease causes it's victims to go stark raving made. Our firefighter duo escape and try to make it out of the quarantine zone while dodging "crazies", the military, and even the dreaded bug itself.

Typical with Romero films there are a lot of underlying meanings here. The difference than compared to Night of the Living Dead is that these themes are laid on a little more thick and not so subtle. The Crazies was made right on the coat tails of the Vietnam War and Romero wrote and filmed his opinion of the government. Yes, in this film the government are the bad guys and the line is blurred on who the worse foe is, the government soldiers or the crazies caused by the bug. Romero also shows the problems with "red tape" with the chain of command trying to get answers from the government. Nobody seems to give a straight answer and all the personal is constantly waiting for instructions.

Considering the budget Romero is still wonderfully captures the chaos and the degradation of humanity in the grip of death. He also is able to capture many iconic images, especially sequences featuring our white suited soldiers. However there tends to be more flaws here than the typical classic Romero film. The first problem is our leading actors. Romero surprisingly isn't able to get great performances from them and due to the lackluster leads I really didn't feel myself rooting for their survival. The characters in Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead are memorable and the audience truly cares for their well being. Not so much here. The military drum score also tends to grate on the nerves after a while and it is constantly going, and going like the God damn Energizer bunny.

The Crazies is a good film with smart underlying meaning but it still doesn't come off with the staying power of his earlier zombie classics. Perhaps with better characters and actors it would have become as famous as his classic Night of the Living Dead, Martin or Dawn of the Dead. As it is Romero's direction and smart script still makes this a classic horror film worth rediscovering.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Alien From L.A. - 1/5

Albert Pyun directs a lot of drivel... some entertaining and some just fucking painful. Sadly despite having a higher budget thanks to my guilty pleasure production company Cannon Films, Pyun took his resources and puked it onscreen giving us an almost unwatchable new wave, post apocalyptic vision of Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Early. I bet you would have never guessed that from the title...

The gorgeous Kathy Ireland plays our "alien". She's a geeky, squeaky voiced young woman who is the daughter of a famous geologist. When she gets notice that her father died, she quickly flies to the site where he passed on. He actually fell into a bottomless pit and predictably she falls into the same damn pit. In Alice in Wonderland fashion, our "alien" finds the lost city Atlantis... Atlantis like you never thought it would look! I always imagine Atlantis having a Roman or Greek look to hits structures but not in the mind of Pyun! Take Koopa's dinosaur city from the Super Mario Brothers movie, mix it with The Road Warrior and 80's new wave pop and you have Pyun's vision of the legend. All I have to say is... well nothing. It just left me speechless and not in a good way. She befriends a gruff miner (who we can barely understand) and finds out her father has been taken prisoner. Now a fugitive from the law, she must find a way to rescue her dad and get back topside. Of course we have some time to find a love interest!

Ireland is beautiful as ever and I could watch a neverending movie just to oogle over her beauty, but her high squeaky voiced portrayal of our heroine made my ears bleed and want to shut the damn thing off after only 10 minutes. The rest of the cast does the best they can with such a dismal script. The script is so damn bad that only the likes of Cannon would such drivel get any sort of a budget. Pyun also gives the film TOO much of a 80's new wave vibe. If there was a nuclear holocaust and only Boy George survived to repopulate the planet... Pyun's Atlantis would be the result. We also get the weird looking foreign guy from the recent Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remake as the ruler of Atlantis, complete with long pink eyebrows!

Despite the beauty of Ireland there isn't anything to recommend about this film. It just doesn't seem to have an audience as there are too many adult themes for kids and its' too God damn stupid for adults. I even enjoy many bad movies, including almost any cheesy B-movie produced by Cannon, but Alien From L.A. kept me looking at my watch for the damn thing to get over. Strangely enough Alien From L.A. would be followed by a sequel... well sort of. Apparently Albert Pyun started filming a sequel but the film got canceled so all the footage he shot got clobbered together with footage from another film and the result was the convoluted mess known as the 1989 version Journey to the Center of the Earth. That film has an interesting story all its own...

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Kill And Pray [Requiescant] (1967)

Director: Carlo Lizzani
Notable Cast: Lou Castel, Mark Damon, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Barbara Frey, Rosanna Krisman, Mirella Maravidi, Franco Citti, Carlo Palmucci, Liz Barrett, Nino Musco, Nino Davoli, Anna Carrer

A religious figure that turns to violence? Sounds like a fine spaghetti western concept for me! Actually Kill and Pray is one of the best of the "forgotten" spaghetti westerns I have come across. By "forgotten" I mean not easily obtainable in the home video market and since it is so rare to find not many people have seen the damn thing. Hell, the DVD I have from Wild East Entertainment is even out of print and I recently saw a copy sell for over $140. Yikes! That's a shocker especially since I obtained mine for only $20 three or four years ago.

Django, Kill! (If You Live, Shoot!) - 3.5/5

With the success of "Django" in 1966, a slew of unofficial sequels filled the cinemas through the next decade. With upwards of over 30 unofficial sequels all the titles tend to blend together after a while but if you're willing to dig through the films there is one that tends to stand-out above the rest, and that film is "Django, Kill!".

What also makes "Django, Kill" different than the rest of the pack is that it wasn't originally made to mimic or sequelize "Django". It actually doesn't feel like a rip-off at all! It was originally made as If You Live, Shoot! but was re-titled to ride the coat tails of "Django". Our character Django (played by Tomas Milian) also doesn't mimic Franco Nero's character from the original at all. Instead of a lone gunmen Civil War vet, Django this time is a bumbling Mexican half-breed. If you can't tell your better off ignoring the title and going into this surprisingly good Spaghetti Western with a fresh mind set.

Our film opens with a group of Mexican half-breeds who are gunned down by their employers after they strike gold. After the gunmen leave, our Mexican Django miraculously remains alive and crawls out of his sandy grave. Wanting revenge he heads back to town to reek his revenge with a pistol full of golden bullets!

What I love about this film is the surreal feel to it, a definite freshness in the spaghetti western genre. Tomas Milian almost seems to be a ghostly spectre out for revenge. I also dug the extreme violence making this perhaps the most violent Italian western I have ever seen (the Spanish film Cut Throats Nine doesn't count!).There is a bloody scalping but my favorite part is a sequence with a doctor digging bullets out of a dying victim of Django. When the doctor digs the first bullet out and reveals to the patient's gang that it's made out of gold, the gang shockingly all start digging into his open wounds for the gold bullets! It's not surprising the guy dies a painful death! There is another unintentionally funny scene when Milian straps some explosives to a horse and runs the horse into his old employer's ranch. After the horse explodes and director Giulio Questi decided to show pieces of the horse littered throughout the site. I found that extremely funny in a macabre sense.

Tomas Milan is again great as our lead. Is there a film this guy sucks in? Our head villain however has gay overtones but the filmmakers tend to lay it on a little too thick. He's constantly talking about how all his men look so cute in their little uniforms. Ok, i get it, he's gay! This also dates the film a bit as this was made back in the day when "gay was bad" so this in turn made the villain more "evil."

For my money "Django, Kill" is the best unofficial sequel to Django and is far better than that films one official sequel "Django Strikes Again". Still one must go into this not thinking it's a sequel to "Djang"o and view it as a fresh new film. It's got a great surreal atmosphere, extreme violence, and a likable lead. It's almost everything a spaghetti western fan is looking for, minus a truly despicable evil villain.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave - 1/5

Man what a fucking disappointment! Look at that title and poster artwork... can you get more cheesy, ridiculous and more in bad taste? I think not! I also love how the poster artwork is a complete rip-off of the album artwork for Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell. From this title and poster artwork I was expecting the mother of all Bruceploitation movies! The summery on the back of the box art even promised the Bruce Lee's friend has to fight the "black angel of death" in order for Bruce to rise from his grave! All this gave me hope I was going into one of the most entertaining B-films of all time... sadly the title and box art lies making this one pissed off cult movie fanatic.

The film opens promisingly enough with Bruce Lee's gravestone getting hit with a lightning bolt and Bruce jumping out of his 6' foot resting place, but that's the extent of "Bruce Lee" in the film. This opening has nothing to do with the rest of the film! The plot is just more forgettable revenge exposition. This time we have actor Bruce Lea (God I love these martial artists stage names!) traveling to Los Angeles only to find one of his friends has been killed. After his funeral he sets out to find his friends killers and finds a love interest along the way. This plot device has been used in what seems to be thousands of martial arts movies, and far better executed. One aspect I did find hilarious and unintentionally funny is that throughout most of the first act of the film, Bruce Lea wears a sheet around his neck hold a box of his friends remains. The kicker is the front of the box contains a picture of his friend! Lea walking around L.A. in this ridiculous get-up had me on the floor laughing! The rest of the film is typical poor filmmaking at its worst, surprisingly including poorly choreographed fights! If your making a Bruceploitation film the filmmakers at least should have the decency to include good choreographed fights!

This Bruceploitation gem is well known in the interesting subgenre but that's mostly due to its title and poster artwork. Trust me, this isn't nearly the cheesy "goodness" those two aspects promise! It may not be the worst Bruceploitation film ever made, but it is definitely bottom drawer material.

Bonus Rant: This film remains in public domain hell so there are shit tons of varying quality DVDs available. In my research I found the Echo Bridge Entertainment disc to be the "best quality" so that is the version I decided to purchase. It's also a company I tend to trust when it comes to cult films like Bruceploitation films. Sadly their DVD also royally sucks. First of all it's a direct transfer from a poor VHS copy (VHS blips show up every once in a while). That I can actually live with as I don't expect great picture quality when it comes to Bruceploitation trash. The part that bugs the shit out of me with this DVD is that the film is in the wrong aspect ratio! The film is in "full screen" but the image shows up squished making everyone look tall. Changing my picture on my TV to widescreen helps a little but it still isn't right. God I fucking hate DVD companies and their treatment for these trash martial arts films! I might as well paid less for a shittier DVD as no doubt all the different DVDs have the exact same shitty transfer with the wrong picture ratio!

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Allan Quatermain And The Lost City Of Gold - 1.5/5

In good Indiana Jones rip-off fashion this sequel to King's Solomon's Mines decides to add our characters name to the title. However just like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was a couple of steps below Raiders of the Lost Ark, this sequel also isn't as good as it's silly predecessor (which is hard to believe considering the original was bad enough in its own right).

Both Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone return to their "respectable" roles and now they are happily married. All is fine until Quatermain learns that his adventurer brother has disappeared in Africa while looking for the Lost City of Gold. So he and his wife along with a guide (James Earl Jones, counting his money on the way to the bank) decide to trek across the continent to find him.

The main problem with this sequel is that it really lacks the over-the-top nature of the first film. The original had it's tongue placed firmly in its cheek making the outrageously stupid sequences stomachable. There are still plenty of idiotic sequences to be had her just taken a little more seriously. The absolute most silly sequences include an extremely fake canoe ride into a cave with flaming water and another scene when our heroes have to battle giant worms with what look like dragon heads... no I am not making that up. The film also lacks the brisk pace to the plot making Quatermain meander a bit through his adventure, and the film especially slows down when they arrive at the city of gold.

It helps this sequel that both Chamberlain and Stone return. Without theme this film would have been dead on arrival. Recycling Jerry Goldsmith's rousing adventure score also helps. Fans of B-movie serial adventures might have some fun (I had a little) but Cannon films financial struggle was showing through and this sequel doesn't have near the production value of the original. Overall it's a bad sequel to a bad film, but it still is able to entertain some for the right audience.

Bonus Rant: I read an interview with James Earl Jones that he only took this role because it meant a free trip to Africa. Not surprisingly it shows in his dismal performance and him swinging his overblown staff got me to crack up on occasion.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

King Solomon's Mines (1985) - 2/5

After the release of Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981 a whole slew of imitators infiltrated theaters throughout the early 80's. Italy was king of the pack with director Antonio Magharatti releasing many of his own visions of the Indiana Jones adventure. Not all Indiana Jones rip-offs came from Italy however and there were many home-grown right here in the United States. The best known and perhaps most shameless of these Indiana Jones rip-offs is Cannon films adaption of King Solomon's Mines.

If you're expecting a faithful adaption of the classic story... DON'T. Cannon takes the basic premise of the story but converts it into a complete Indiana Jones rip-off molding the hero of the story Allan Quatermain into an almost direct clone. Almost everything in this film is a direct steal from the first two Indiana Jones films, including dialogue and action sequences. Hell the writers even had the gale to have Quatermain say the line "Trust Me".

Our film opens with an archeologist being tortured by a crazed Nazi (Herbert Lom) and his henchman (John Ryes Davies, shamelessly cashing in on his own role from Raiders of the Lost Ark) to find out the whereabouts of King Solomon's Mines. When his daughter (Sharon Stone) loses contact with him, she hires adventurer Allan Quatermain to lead her into the African Jungles to find him. Typical with adventure films, lots of action and high jinx ensue as our duo fight Nazis in a plane, on a train, and even get captured by a cannibal tribe. The film wraps up with a fight in a cave of a live volcano

Thankfully our stars and director know their making an Indiana Jones rip-off so their tongue is firmly pressed in their cheek. Our hero is even introduced by telling our damsel "Be careful, it's a jungle out there." Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone seem to be having a ball by not taking such harmless and silly entertainment seriously. The film is also made watchable with its great Jerry Goldsmith score and furious pace. Still even with its sense of fun there are too many God damn stupid moments to make this a great adventure film. The stupidest moments include our heroes getting tossed in a HUGE soup bowl by our cannibals and a scene where our heroes meet a tribe that live in trees upside down because "they are unhappy with the world." The giant fake spider at the end takes the cake as the most shitty thing in the film. Mix all this with some awful special effects and you have an adventure film that will only appeal to a certain percentage of the audience that doesn't mind a little cheese and silliness in their adventures.

Most would agree that this is bad film. Just because it's bad doesn't mean it isn't entertaining and in the right state of mind one could have fun with it. I had a ball, even with all the stupidity. It's got a great sense of adventure and lavish production values. Hey, not all adventure films can be as good as Indiana Jones! For people who actually did enjoy this, good news, there's a sequel entitled Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Spider-Man 2 - 4.5/5

It's not some mystery that I love Sam Raimi and his work. It's also no mystery that I love comic book movies. So when Raimi took on the "Spider-Man" franchise, it was hard not to get me really excited. Of course, it helps that the first "Spider-Man" was a damn fine flick but it was going to be tough to top. Of course, Raimi tends to do better with sequels anyway (see "Evil Dead 2" for example) and "Spider-Man 2" actually is able to top the original one and then some.

Peter Parker (Maguire) is struggling with his identity in the big Apple. His personal life is falling apart. He gets fired from his regular job, his grades in college are slipping, and the love of his life Mary Jane (Dunst) is with another man now. Balancing his personal life with that of his heroic alter ego Spider-Man is taking its toll. And all of this stress and confusion is making him lose his powers. Which is poor timing because Harry Osborn (Franco) is out to kill Spider-Man and the brilliant Dr. Octavius (Molina) has had a horrible accident that drives him insane and fuses four mechanical arms to him as he tries to perfect his experiment. Peter has some decisions to make and time is running out sooner than expected.

This is practically the perfect comic book movie. It takes it source materials, beefs them up a bit here and there, combines a few details, and creates a film experience that may not be the truest adaption to the comics out there but creates a great movie watching experience and still retains the heart and head of the comics that made them great. They even reference exact panels from the comics like in the scene where Peter leaves the costume in the garbage.

"Spider-Man 2" a visual feast with visceral energy pouring out of the action sequences that keeps a family friendly tone whilst retaining a great serious and realistic humanistic tone for Peter Parker's identity squabbles. Its a striking balance that the cast and film maker's pull off damn near perfectly for its 2 hour run time. Raimi pulls a great comic feel for the film with his bright colors and over the top moments of cheese and yet still is able to get across the great moral dilemmas and demons that plague the characters that make watching their plights so much fun. I have to give it to the writers too for making Doc Ock a worth foe and not making him a pure 'villain' per say and treating him like a person with his own demons to battle. All the characters follow this and its nice to see that despite the idea of 'hero' and 'villain' that the film does leave it in the grey area for both.

It's also a plus that Raimi gets to put a little more of his over the top style into the film. Throughout the movie it has more of his quirky humor and style that I have come to love so much which is one of the reasons this one trumps the original. Just watch the surgeon beatdown by Doc Ock and tell me it isn't pure Raimi.

"Spider-Man 2" is one of the best comic book films ever made. Its heartfelt, over the top, fun, and damn near perfect for what it is. Top of the notch entertainment and still retains the seriousness and realism that made Spider-Man stand out from his comic peers. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Monday, June 28, 2010

For Your Eyes Only - 3.5/5

Welcome to the 1980s James Bond! It's also a pleasure to see you bring in the new decade with a fairly solid film too. That's the biggest surprise of all I suppose. After the shit storm and stupidity of "Moonraker" its a surprise that this film turned out so well. It still is flawed in many ways, of which I will get to in a moment, but its darker and more serious tone does wonders even for the smarmy Roger Moore. Perhaps one of the best of this Bond's era and definitely one of my favorites to watch.

PLOT: More spy intelligence technology seems to be on the verge of going missing in "For Your Eyes Only". After a spy ship sinks and a missile tracking system for the Brits has the possibility of going into enemies' hands, its up to James Bond to find it, find out who wants it, and destroy it. His new adventure takes him to all sorts of places following all sorts of vicious henchmen and chase after chase occurs.

STORYLINE 4/5: The strength of this film truly lies with its premise. Its more serious. Its more like how a spy film should work (rather than the action packed previous two) and there seems to even be more of an emphasis on characters. But this film also tends to try to cater to those Moore fans by adding in some padded sequences of action. The hockey rink fight is out of left field and really adds nothing and many sequences of this nature feel that way. It would have been perfect had the film focused more on the intrigue of having the two men whom may both be the villain and the revenge focus of our leading lady Melina. It tries to balance the two sides of Bond and sometimes falters at it getting a bit too goofy for its own good. Its almost as if the film makers thought the story might be too smart for audiences and watered it down a bit to make it slightly more consumable. Which is a shame really.

BOND 3/5: Roger Moore had trouble deciding if he wanted to return and at times it can be obvious in his portrayal of Bond. He is, at this point starting to finally show his age (the running sequences are a bit painful to watch) with his action scenes but his dark streak that occasionally breaks is nice to see from the usually charming but cheesy Moore. For example the scene where he kicks the car off the cliff is a rather shocking but needed moment in this film. Bond as a character works nicely in the plot though even if Moore doesn't always seem to give it his all.

VILLAIN 2/5: One of the problems of having a more complicated spy oriented story is that the villain is pretty much in seclusion throughout the film. Its a nice tactic (and a smart one too for its darker more serious tone) to have the audience trying to figure it out along with Bond. Its really too bad that when we do find out whom it is, that he is rather lackluster. More of a smart bad guy than a truly dangerous one, he comes off as rather harmless except for his odd amount of disposable henchmen. In fact, his two main henches (octagon glasses man, Locque and German sharp shot Kriegler) try to help round out the dangerous side of this villain but really just can't cut it right in the end.

BOND GIRL 3.5/5: Melina is a pretty bad ass Bond girl. After the debacle that was the girl in "Moonraker", her name escapes me and I care not to even try to remember her honestly, its nice to have a strong character that actually has character motivation. The issues that come about with her happen to be mostly from the story as they overlook her revenge tactics and throw her revenge motives as subplot rather than bringing it to the forefront to give her chemistry with Bond. Melina is still one of my favorite Bond girls to this day though and I wish they just had deepened her character like they should have.

"For Your Eyes Only" stands as a Bond in transition in many ways. Although it balances the serious and cheesy most of the time, it falters too much for its own good. Had the film stuck it serious and straight forward focusing on the story and giving the characters more oomph it would have been on the best Bond films out there. It still works quite well and retains its charm to this day though and remains one of the better Moore films in the series.

BONUS RANT: I get a damn kick out of how many times the character Melina is directed to stare into the camera with melodrama. Its sad since she should have had more depth to her instead of being pseudo silly. She has a great glaring look and I'm sure that's what they wanted, they just executed it poorly in the end. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Predator 2 - 3/5

With a villain/creature as insanely bad ass as Predator, its only natural that one would want to see him take on some new settings. So from the jungle, this mean monster heads to the urban jungle and all kinds of awesome and ridiculous action occurs. Although not quite the surprise and sleekness of the original, "Predator 2" carries some great moments although it falls at times to its own ridiculous moments and some hit or miss directing.

Lieutenant Harrigan has way too much to deal with. Los Angeles is in the middle of a drug war between two rival gangs and his little squad of officers is caught in the middle. What he doesn't expect is that the ultimate hunter wants to be caught in the middle of it. A Predator is out for blood in the heat wave of Los Angeles with a team of government agents on its tail trying to capture it for its technology. Now Harrigan is caught in the middle of a lot of shit storms with not a lot of room for give and take.

"Predator 2" is a mixture of great moments interspersed with ridiculously over the top concepts and a rather hit or miss story. In general, the idea of a Predator in the city is bad ass and the film uses this rather well. The Predator tears apart a subway. The Predator bounds across buildings being chased. The Predator generally reeks havok on tons of people. Its a nice touch to have these moments and it carries the film for the most part.

Although some of the other plot moments do tend to be almost too over the top. The government agency out to capture the Predator is basically like a poorly run men in black organization that uses some powers and technology that makes you scratch your head (they track it with pheromone!) and the two gangs are a bit over stereotypical. There moments bog down the pacing of the film overall and prevent it from being a smarter film.

The action is intense and once we rid ourselves of some of the lesser characters in the intense body count this film has (why did you kill Bill Paxton you bastards! He was annoying but so damn charming!) the film starts to move like it should have and did at the very start. Danny Glover (as Harrigan) may not really hold a torch to the hero that was Arnold in the first, but he does a fine job keeping us going with our villain whom has become the highlight of the film.

"Predator 2" is flawed in many ways, but take it with a grain of salt and just enjoy it for the action packed Sci Fi ride that it is and its a fun way to spend your movie watching time. Its great to see such a badass creature in this new environment and that in itself is worth seeing the film for.

BONUS PRAISE: (SPOILER ALERT) At the end of the film, when Harrigan defeats the Predator and the other Predator's appear to essentially give him praise for a fight well fought, they throw him an old gun from 1715 showing us how long the Predators have been around. Now this opens a whole new book of franchise options (I like to believe that the Predators helped America win their independence...ahaha) despite the fact that the reason they give him the gun is vague as hell. I love that vague aspect to this film and its another reason that this film kicks at least some minor ass. Not to mention the Predator score pops up here. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Stanley - 2/5

An anti-Vietnam horror film with snakes! Sounds like a hissssterical time to me! Actually considering the concept it is actually played seriously for the most part. This could be a good or bad aspect depending on what type of horror fanatic you are...

Our film revolves around a Native American Vietnam recently back living in the Everglades after his tour of duty. Sadly the war has made him go war wacky and now his only friends seem to be the rattle snakes that live in the swamps. And boy does he love his snakes! He sleeps with them, he eats dinner at the table with them, and he even gives the female ones little flower bows on top of their heads! I'm not kidding... Snakes give this nut a hard on! His prized pet snake is Stanley, hence the name of the film. He is so obsessed with snakes that he goes out of his way to punish anyone who dares harm them. A local businessman (who had our snake freaks father killed) and his goons capture snakes to make belts. Tim and his pet Stanley make sure they never get out of the swamp alive! These goons even hire another psycho Vietnam vet to take Tim out, but when that psycho kills all of Tim's snakes, he finds out how long Stanley's fangs really are! The rest of the plot is basically Tim and Stanley taking out anyone that crosses them.

The silly story really isn't strong enough to warrant a feature film. Perhaps if the filmmakers made the film with their tongue-in-their-cheek it would have been a romp but as is it's taken far too seriously. There's even a ridiculous sequence when Tim has a burial for his dead rattlers complete with small crosses. Am I supposed to take this seriously... really... am I?

Another problem I have is the directing which is just flat and boring. It's point and shoot with no flair behind the camera. The limited plot and boring directing style made this a trying film to watch at some moments. Not to mention the non-existent score, other than some lame early 70's pop songs setting up the wrong mood for the film.

Overall I found Stanley to be a very forgettable drive-in horror drivel. It's got limited plot, boring directing, with no added violence or blood to make up for the other lackluster filmmaking aspects. This film really could have used some over-the-topness to attract a cult crowd! As is it will remain an unfound, forgotten film destined to remain in bargain public domain collections.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Blood Mania - 2.5/5

These are the days of our lives... with BLOOD! From the silly title I was expecting some over-the-top gore film in the vein of Herschell Gordon Lewis's blood drenched films of the sixties but instead got a bloody soap opera, literally! Blood Mania came out better and more engrossing than the title would suggest.

What we have here is a nymphomaniac who lives with her dying, verbally abusive bed ridden father. She has a huge crush on her father's doctor... a doctor with a shady past. It looks like the doctor did some illegal abortions in the past for some quick cash and his old business partner is black mailing him for 50,000 dollars. The doctor, desperate for money, decides to start having sex with his patients nymphomaniac daughter as she promises him the money. Her plan is kill off her father for his inheritance. All goes well for the scheming couple until her younger sister shows up and inherits all the money. Our lovable doctor decides to put the charm onto her instead and our nympho goes totally bonkers. A blood bath ensues.

Like I said before, this is a blood drenched soap opera with enough drama to keep any woman happy... that is if they aren't offended by kinky sex, nudity, and blood. Fans of early sleazy seventies cinema with plenty of skin will find some enjoyment as about everyone in the film has a nude scene. There's even a psychedelic drug high sex sequence with some odd camera effects. Director Robert Vincent O'Neill gives us some interesting camera work but some of his stylistic shots were questionable. He even went so far to have an entire conversation filmed from the waist down. Not sure I would used that approach but oh well. The funky seventies score can also be a little grading at times but not enough to make me want to cover my ears.

Blood Mania is definitely not for all tastes and it seems many horror fans actually dislike it. I believe this is due to the soap opera plot but strangely enough I found myself engrossed in it. If the plot is not to some peoples liking then there is enough skin, sleaze and bloody violence to appease people looking for a horror film that is a little different than the norm. Speaking of sleazy director Robert Vincent O'Neill would directing the notoriously sleazy 80's cult favorite Angel, a film that today remains very popular with the cult film crowd.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Terror (1978) - 2.5/5

Terror... what an awfully blah title. The word "Terror" is usually used in some phrase such as "Terror Express", "Terror of Mechagodzilla", etc to give the audience a hint what the film is about. Not only is it blah but the title has already been used in the horror genre by Roger Corman in 1963 with his film "The Terror" starring Jack Nicholson. A film just simply titled "Terror" sounds like a boring time to me but thankfully the film is a little better than it's unimaginative title.

"Terror" begins like a period piece with a woman being hunted down like a witch. The film then takes a turn and it is revealed to the audience that the opening is a movie, produced by a man whose family was involved in the slaughter. The film is being shown at the very house where it the horrific event occurred and when a joker hypnotizes a girl, it seems that she gets possessed by our dead witch and she goes after the producer with the "cursed sword" that was used to slay the witch. The rest of the film is basically filled with bodies piling up.

The problem with the plot is that it is inconsistent and the killings seem to have no logical purpose. The film starts off like a slasher (which we assume the women is possessed by the witch and stabbing everyone she can) but then the film in the third act starts taking a supernatural slant and people start getting killed off when the girl isn't even around. Also it seems people are just killed a random. At first I thought people involved with filming the movie were the target but then it seems that people that piss off our possessed girl are getting killed. If it's killing off people upsetting her, why does the supernatural force go for her at the end? I also didn't care for the fact that the producer character, who seems like he will be integral to the plot early on, eventually disappears later. The film hit's its ultimate low when it shows a car unconvincingly floating in the trees and then the climax goes all Suspiria on our asses. I'm talking about supernatural shenanigans, weird color lighting, and our witch has an introduction and laugh just like Jessica's dead friend in Suspiria! I'm sorry, but if I want to watch Suspiria, I'll pop that movie in instead!

Overall this is a well made British horror film with good actors and nice style inspired by Italian surreal horror, but the plot inconsistencies and poor character development made me come out of the film unfulfilled. This seems to be typical of director Norman J. Warren as his earlier film Satan's Slave also left me craving more out of the plot. He's got a good style for a British horror director but his plots just seem to meander. Sadly he would never improve and he would even go further down the crap shoot with his Alien rip-off Inseminoid.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Legend Of Bruce Lee, The - 1.5/5

Beyond the unofficial sequels and rip-offs, there's another subgenre of the notorious Bruceploitation genre... and that is the biopic. Yes, The Legend of Bruce Lee is a so-called "biopic" of real life fighter turned-actor Bruce Lee's tragic short life. Considering this is a "Bruceploitation" film we can expect this cheap cash-in to be real fucking accurate to true events. If you can't tell I am being very fucking sarcastic.

The film opens with a woman holding a child while traveling on a barge. We then hear a ridiculous whistle on the soundtrack and a man states something to the effect that the child is special because of the of comet that passed over. The film is so god damn cheap they couldn't even show a cheap optical effect of a comet, they have to resort to a shitty whistle sound? From that moment I knew I was in for another forgettable Bruce Lee cash-in.

The rest of the plot is standard cheap martial arts thrills. We jump to our "Bruce Lee" character as a young adult (played by Bruce Le, and that isn't a typo) and the plot pretty much has him and his school chums get into a fight, Bruce going to his new martial arts teacher, getting another fight, etc. I've seen martial arts films like this a hundred times before and much much better.

This is my first experience with Bruceploitation star Bruce Le as all my previous ventures into the notorious subgenre have been with actor Bruce Li. Fans of this interesting genre tend to think Le is a better martial artist. This may be true but I find that Le lacks the screen presence of Li. Again it's hard to judge this by only one film but as is I would much rather watch a Li vehicle. This film also was just uninteresting and nothing in this film is true to the life of Bruce Lee, despite being a so called "biopic." You want a biopic film that follows true events, then go watch Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.

Overall all we get is another forgettable, cheaply made martial arts film that's only claim to "fame" is that it's based on the true life of Bruce Lee. Apparently there were a number of these "biopic" Bruceploitation films, some even starring my preferred Bruceploitation star Bruce Li. Maybe it's just me but I prefer my Bruceploitation films to be a little more ridiculous, over-the-top, and in bad taste.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Journey To The Center Of The Earth (1989) - 1/5

You can't get more of a convoluted mess than Cannon's version of Journey to the Center of the Earth. One would think from the title that this would be an adaption of Jules Verne's classic science fiction novel. HA! Just remember Cannon, though I love them dearly, can fuck any film up! This "version" of the story is actually has an interesting story behind it because believe it or not it is actually two unfinished films clobbered together. Cannon was going through some financial hell in the late 80's and two films that had already started filming got nixed. The first of course was Journey to the Center of the Earth and the second was a sequel to their unfunny bomb Alien From L.A.. Cannon was notorious for making some dumbass business deals and they had already made agreements with foreign distributors for release of Journey to the Center of the Earth. Since they had to fulfill their agreement they decided to cut both of their unfinished films together. As you can tell from the interesting history behind this film the results came out completely incoherent!

The story starts out in England with a Nanny having trouble with her job. She even admits that she isn't "nanny material" though all she "ever wanted to be wanted to be was a nanny." What a sad childhood she must have had when her biggest dream was to become a nanny! She gets sent over to a client in Hawaii to take care of his dog where she, very sloppily written I might add, ends up with a trio of children going into a cave in an active volcano (don't ask how the story ended up here!). While down in the cave we have some awful dream sequences and about 38 minutes into the film, they finally come to the city of Atlantis, which very few viewers will recognize from Cannon's previous disaster Alien From L.A.. This is when the film really gets bizarre for people who don't know the history behind this mess as from this moment on it is a sequel to Alien From L.A. with many characters returning from that film. Apparently the residents of Atlantis are training soldiers to look and act like Kathy Ireland (the heroin from Alien) so they can have a declare war on the top world! And people wonder why this film is so hated!

From what I have read in sources only about 8 minutes of the film is from the footage shot for Journey to the Center of the Earth directed by Rusty Lemorande and a majority of the rest of the film is from footage shot for the sequel to Alien From L.A. directed by Albert Pyun. It's mostly a sequel to Alien From L.A. yet Cannon still had to call it the Journey title to appease distributors! What's even more ironic is Alien From L.A. is a semi-spoof of the story of Journey to the Center of the Earth and now it's sequel IS Journey to the Center of the Earth. Excuse me while my head stops spinning!

Like I have mentioned before this film is a MESS. It's two films very sloppily edited together. Cannon showed no mercy as they cut corners around every turn! Cannon even reused music from their other film productions, most notoriously American Ninja 2! They even use footage from The Delta Force. Yes when I think of Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth I think of DELTA FUCKING FORCE! The film ends abruptly at an hour and ten minutes and the next ten minutes is a montage of footage from the rest of the film which even contains scenes not shown earlier! Cannon even seemed embarrassed by their cut and paste film as their company logo and producer credits aren't even shown!

Being a Cannon film fanatic I only bought this film as a curiosity piece. I knew it's sad story but I had to see what a mess it really was. I can say it lived up its dire reputation. I really feel sorry for people renting or buying this thinking it is an actual Jules Verne adaption only to get a shit sequel to Alien From L.A.! I have a feeling Jules Verne's spirit kills a kitten every time someone pops this "adaption" of his classic story into their DVD player. Yes it's that fucking bad. I even toyed with the idea of giving this zero stars but decided against it as my personal rating system goes from 1 to 5 stars. I'll have to leave that one zero star award for some other film down the road...

Written by Eric Reifschneider

Star Knight - 1.5/5

I can admit I didn't expect a good film with the title "Star Knight" but the cast which includes Harvey Keitel and Klaus Kinski always intrigued me. How bad could it be starring these two acting giants? Well if the actors are only in the film for a paycheck then the film can be real, real bad! Star Knight to my surprise is actually a Spanish film that somehow, God only knows, got a theatrical release in America back in 1986. The film however didn't get a VHS release until 1992 and I remember the video box cover always popping in the previously viewed section of every video store I went to. After viewing the DVD (which now has an awful Photoshop cover artwork) I can see why all those video stores were so eager to get rid of their copies!

Our film opens with Kinski, playing an alchemist, praying to have an angel sent down from the skies. Low and behold, a space craft appears and lands in a local lake. Soon animals start being carried off into the sky and the locals believe it to be a dragon! Our bitch princess in the mean time decides to go skinny dipping in the lake and disappears! She reappears with story of a "knight" whom she has fallen in love with. She travels back to the spacecraft to meet him again but jealous knight Harvey Keitel has different plans and challenges our "Star Knight" to a duel for our ladies hand in marriage. The rest is predictable.

To my surprise the worst part of the film is actually Harvey Keitel. I thought he would be the rock holding this disaster together but he actually makes the film..shutter...worse! His acting is beyond awful and spouts his medieval dialogue with what seems like a smirk on his face. Is this because he knows how silly the concept is and only has to hold his laughs back enough to get his paycheck? Kinski on the other hand is acceptable other than his voice is annoyingly dubbed over.

Another problem is our "star knight" who just comes off unintentionally funny with his silly domed helmet. The name of our "star knight " is IX and his portrayed by Miguel Bosé who apparently was a popular singer in Spain at the time. His look reminds me of singer/actor Sting and anything that makes a connection to Sting is never good! His character also only speaks to our princess in high pitched whirl sounds reminiscent of rubbing your finger around the rim of a crystal glass. Believe me this gets really ANNOYING really FAST. Because he doesn't talk his character development between him and the princess is non-existent. Am I really supposed to believe their love for each other is strong enough for him to die for her? Believe me, Starman this isn't! For the life of me I can't figure out why he loves the princess so much as she is a real bitch to him. She's constantly bitching about his helmet and even at one moment scolds him for touching her with that awful armor. Towards the end of the film when Keitel arrives to challenge him, the princess even starts bitching to IX that he needs to prove his love for her by going out and killing Keitel. IX, you need to dump this bitch now! My how love is blind sometimes....

Star Knight tries to mix medieval romance and science fiction and but it falls right on its dome covered face. The character development is none-existent and the audience feels no love connection between our space freak and our bitchy princess. Keitel is awful in his paycheck role and director Fernando Colomo seems unconfident with the material, like he doesn't know if to play it straight or make it more tongue-in-cheek. The result is nothing more than a bore and I still can't believe this film garnered a theatrical release in the States. I have made it a goal that before I die I want to get Harvey Keitel to sign my DVD copy. I have a feeling the look on his face will be priceless!

Bonus Rant (Spoiler): The plot convenience of how Keitel learned how to remove IX's armor suit is the sloppiest writing in the film. When taking Kinski to jail, Keitel finds a crystal orb that when touched, just happens to show a visual image on how to remove IX's suit. Wha...WHAT! Why would IX give Kinski an orb that gives an image on how to remove his suit! The only point is PLOT CONVENIENCE! And when Keitel is able to make IX's suit disappear, it then sudden appears on Keitel in a split second! This makes no fucking sense!

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Predator - 4.5/5

"If it bleeds, we can kill it." --Dutch

There is something about "Predator" that makes it one of the pure highlights of any films from the 80s. Perhaps its the fact that Arnold is in it. Perhaps its the ridiculous amounts of action in it. Perhaps its the fact that this film creates one of the greatest villains in history with only bad ass special effects and a man in a suit with NO CGI. In fact, this film has so many solid things going for it that despite many things that could have (and probably should have) made it a grade B film it overcomes all of it and gives us one of the best Science Fiction and Action films of modern cinema. "Predator" is as deadly as it is entertaining.

Dutch (Arnold) and his team of mercenaries are hired to help deal with some missing people in the jungles of Central America and get them away from the guerrilla group that is holding them. What the Dutch company doesn't realize is that they aren't the only badass killers in this jungle. They have stumbled on a foreign creature's hunting ritual and this new 'predator' has seemingly found a group worthy of the hunt. Now Dutch has to save his men from the ultimate hunter whom they have every disadvantage against.

Now Arnold films in the 80s were a niche to themselves. Most were so over the top and ridiculous that despite their flaws its hard not to love them. Unfortunately, despite their charm most of them weren't good movies. That's the difference between "Predator" and the rest. This is not only an entertaining blast of action, explosions, and big fucking guns held by big fucking men but its actually well paced with lots of great characters, some nice bits of moral debate, and a smart moving Science Fiction plot. Yeah I just used 'smart' to describe an Arnold film. Sue me. It may not be upfront with how solid this film actually is, but "Predator" is surprisingly well crafted even for its genre.

I also have to write an entire section in this review dedicated to the Predator itself. In the 80s there was a slew of alien films that bombarded audiences in all sorts of forms. But rarely was there a creature of such gigantic badass-ness as the Predator. Using very little in the way of visual effects, this film crafts the ultimate hunter with his sparse but deadly technology (including the invisible camo it uses) and its brilliant design. Its just a man in a suit but its oh so much more than that. Its almost as if the filmmakers knew they had to top the over the top awesomeness that the 80s movie going audience saw Arnold as and they wanted to dwarf him and make him look weak. They did it. They created a legacy with just this creature.

"Predator" deserves a lot more credit that even it gives itself. It's a blast to watch over and over again and allows even the hit or miss genre of Science Fiction some weight in the mainstream audience and kicked off a franchise that spawns over films, comics, books, and games. Even if you are not a huge Arnold fan this is a film worth checking out.

BONUS PRAISE: This film also has one of my favorite scores ever crafted. The opening piece for the film is memorable and completely badass. Not very often one can balance those with a score.

BONUS RANT: This film also has one of the worst covers every crafted. Arnold may be the 'star' of the movie but really its still a poorly developed cover. It's nice to see that for the re-release on Blu Ray that they gave the film a new cover. It needed it. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002)

Director: Rick Bota
Notable Cast: Dean Winters, William S. Taylor, Michael Rogers, Ashley Laurence, Rachel Hayward, Doug Bradley

"Welcome to the worst nightmare of all...reality."

The Hellraiser series has seem some serious highs and lows. Comparing where it started to the low it hit with three and four to the unseen backhand that was the redemption of Inferno, this franchise has seen it all. So if the fifth film worked so well (that film being Inferno for those new to the series) why the hell not try to make it work again? Well, for Hellseeker, it's a great idea that never got the execution quite down to work as well as the concept did for Inferno. It's still a successful and atmospheric film that works in building its version of hell, but it just lacks a bit connection.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fists Of Bruce Lee - 1/5

A more appropriate title would be "Fisting Bruce Lee" as this abomination literally rapes the good reputation of the legendary fighter turned actor. I even went into this film expecting a poor Bruce Lee martial arts knock off and that's what I got but is far less enjoyable then other films in the notorious Bruceploitation genre.

This Bruce Li vehicle this time has our look-alike star as a secret agent going undercover as a security camera installer to bring down a major crime lord. While doing so he falls in love with his daughter and starts to have moral quarrels with himself while kicking the ass out of goons that pop up at every street corner.

This awful excuse for a martial arts film is a poor man's rip-off James Bond. It's so bad that's its even the white soaked excrement of "Black Eagle" which in turn is a poor man's rip-off James Bond. The first act of the film literally plays like James Bond film except on fast forward. The fast pace is not in the films favor as it is so poorly edited, written, and directed that one can't follow what the hell is going on. Who is he a secret agent for? It bounces around so much that one cannot follow. Bruce Li must have found something in the plot worthwhile because not only does he star in it, he also fucking directs it as well! A fighter turned director... no wonder the directing is so shitty. I'm talking about poor zooms, shaky pans, and sequences that are even out of focus. Come on Bruce! Was money so tight on this production that he had to pretend to be director as well? Thank God this is only one of two directorial jobs he took. The dialogue... oh the dialogue! One character even tells Bruce Li that "when we meet next time, we'll either be friends or enemies." What?! That's the most asinine statement I have ever heard! That's like saying while going into an elevator "next time we will either go up or down." NO SHIT! To top it off this film steals it's score from not one, not two, but three James Bond films. There is musical cues stolen from Live and Let Die, The Man With the Golden, and The Spy Who Loved Me. I think I burst a vein when I heard the awesome main theme to Live and Let Die during a chase scene. This film is so cheap and shitty that it even has the balls to steal scores from the very series it's ripping off!

I usually have a soft spot for these shameless Bruce Lee knock-offs as I enjoy their low-budget cheesiness but Fists of Bruce Lee is a step below the other films in the bunch mostly thanks to none-existent directing and plot flow. Go watch Exit the Dragon, Enter the Tiger or Chinese Connection 2 before degrading to this drivel.

Bonus Rant Part I: This DVD of this film has the absolute worst Pan & Scan from widescreen transfer I have ever seen! There are sequences with characters talking to one another but you can't see either of the characters because the pan & scan blows up the film between them! In order to make the titles during the title sequence fit the screen they even stretch the film so all the character's look ten feet tall!

Bonus Rant Part II: What is up with some of these Bruceploitation titles using the name "Bruce Lee" in the title? That's like calling The Beastmaster "The Biceps of Arnold Schwarzenegger" despite Arnold not being in the film. These titles are just annoying!

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dead & Buried - 3.5/5

Deep in the back of your local video store or even perhaps buried deep in the DVD section at your local DVD supplier you might find Dead & Buried. Sadly the title seems to refer to the current state of the film. It died and was buried and it only seems that the most hardcore horror fans know of the film. This is a damn shame as Dead & Buried is one of the best hidden gems a horror fan could come across.

Considering the scarcity of the film it does have a lot of famous and talented names attached to it. We have a script written by Dan O'Bannon (Alien, The Return of the Living Dead), special effects by Stan Winston (Terminator, Predator) and underrated director Gary Sherman at the helm (Raw Meat, Vice Squad). We also get a lot of recognizable faces in front of the camera including James Farentino, the beautiful Melody Anderson (Firewalker) and Lisa Blount (Prince of Darkness) as well as Freddy Kruger himself Robert Englund. We even get an appearance by Grampa Joe from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory! This colorful, well rounded cast compliment the bizarre H.P. Lovecraft inspired story well. Farantino is the sheriff of a small coastal town who has a plate full of shit occur. First he has a charred person found in a car, but the crash didn't cause the burns! He starts having bodies pile up and what's even more strange is the people that seem to die also seem to show back up, alive a couple of days later. All this strangeness seems to point to the local undertaker, Mr. Dobbs (Jack Albertson). To top it off his wife has become obsessed with witchcraft and is even teaching it to her students! The NERVE!

The film has great building paranoia (similar to Invasion of the Body Snatchers) and I really dug the entire cast. I was hesitant with Farentino in the lead role at first but ended up finding him perfectly cast. Also who would have known Grampa Joe from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory would make such a creepy mortician?! That was a great casting choice against type. The creepy plot has a nice pace but there is one aspect that did get on my nerves. In one scene we have a couple and their child have car trouble so they go into a house for help. It is OBVIOUS no one lives there as there are cobwebs covering everything, including the 1950's refrigerator, yet our couple keeps looking for people. They here a noise in the basement and they assume there's someone changing a fuse. Changing a fuse? Look at the state of the house... NO ONE LIVES THERE! This scene had some poor writing but otherwise O'Bannon does a credible job. Director Gary Sherman also seems very comfortable with the subject matter giving us some interesting shots and even showing some graphic images (against O'Bannon's wishes it seems). Sherman is completely underrated and this would make a great double bill with his earlier horror film Raw Meat.

The unnerving plot is engrossing, the acting is top and the twist ending is great. Why isn't this film better known? I blame poor distribution theatrically and on video over years as the major proprietor (I could never find the old Vestron VHS!). Whatever the reason you need to see this film! If you are a horror fan then you need to own this film! Just take your mouse, click up in the address bar and type in or to get yourself a copy. Your collection isn't complete without it!

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Blood Of Dracula's Castle - 1.5/5

Don't let the title fool you. This is NOT a serious, bloody horror film. This "Dracula" film falls far more into the campy B-movie dive-in drivel from the late 1960's that only seems to have a character named "Dracula" thrown in to sell a few more tickets and popcorn.

The film has a young couple (a photographer and his model) getting notice that they have just inherited a castle. The castle's current tenants happen to be Dracula and his wife, their caretaker (John Carradine) and their dumb Igor type character Mongo whose only job seems to be bringing his masters young women for blood. According to our vampire duo AB positive blood from a woman is the best at keeping them looking young! Our young couple decide they want to live in the castle themselves and this proves as an extreme problem for a vampire residents who decide to try to kill their new landlords.

There is a lot of bizarre stuff going on here making this fall somewhat into that dreaded "alternative cinema" category but thankfully it doesn't sink as far as other films like Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks. The strangest aspect of this film is a subplot which involves a violent psycho escaping from a hospital and after a lengthy manhunt he kills a innocent bystander in order to go stay at the vampires' castle. Why? Well he wants to be immortal, what else! This extremely odd character comes out of nowhere and his relationship with Dracula and his wife is not explained and he seems at odds with Dracula's other typical servants. It seems like his character wandered onto the wrong movie set! Another problem is Dracula and his wife who are completely uninteresting. Dracula seems like a boring Robert Goulet and they both are eclipsed by their much more interesting caretaker, played by schlock movie great John Carradine. He sure did some Z-grade material back in the day but thankfully his presence was able to make these quickie films watchable. The film did have a few pieces of dialogue, my personal favorite being a scene when our leading man says a scream in the castle must have been a woman's electric toothbrush short-circuiting. I will admit I did openly laugh at that.

Though I gave the film a low rating it doesn't mean I didn't find some schlocky enjoyment. It's got bad acting, bad sets, and an odd script making it worthwhile find for fans of bizarre campy B-horror films from the 60's. Entertaining yes... but a good film, HARDLY!

Bonus Rant: If you're a fan of this film don't expect to find any DVD release to be transferred from a pristine print. The DVD I have from Mill Creek is considered the best release of the film but the negative has a lot of damage with tons of scratches. I usually like my old cult films to have some scratches and dirt on the negative as it adds to the experience but the damage here is to a degree that it really can take you out of the film and make it hard to watch. The film may not be good but there are fans for bad drive-in cinema like this and hopefully a negative will be found later in better condition.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Monday, June 21, 2010

Book Of Eli, The - 4.5/5

Is there anything more fun than watching post apocalyptic films? I mean, usually they are either so damn depressing that you feel like garbage with guilt afterwords or so damn hokey that you feel like garbage for wasting your time with it. Then there is "The Book Of Eli", one of the few post apocalyptic that manages to balance out its moral depression with the likes of hope. Not only that, but its a damn entertaining film too.

Eli (Washington) has a long way to go still. He has to make it west on his journey. He's carrying a very important book that must reach its destination on the west coast. Along the way he happens to come into a town run by the tyrannical Carnegie (Oldman) whom, like Eli, is a literate man. He realizes the power of the book that this wanderer carries and desires to seize for his own hungry power struggle. Eli must take his new found friend and protege Solara (Kunis) and head out to make it to their destination before Carnegie ends it early.

What's wonderful about "The Book Of Eli" is all of the subtlety that is buried in the film. Now the final moments of the film reveal a massive twist that makes the film twice as good the second time around (due to this subtlety) so be prepared for multiple viewings. Luckily, the film is still fast paced enough and filled with enough action to keep even the less intelligent film audience entertained too. Although at times the stylistic action work can feel forced, it does its job well and keeps the film moving despite its heavy story arcs and desolate atmosphere to coincide with its post apocalyptic feel.

Naturally, we have a pretty damn solid cast. Denzel and Oldman are going to obviously be the highlights of the film both doing an amazing job countering the other in style and character work, even if they aren't together on screen all that much, and with a solid supporting cast with Jennifer Beals and Ray Stevenson (who is SO under used) this film is set on that front. Even the normally annoying as fuck Mila Kunis keeps her head above water for most of the film and doesn't dog it down (poor "Max Payne").

"The Book Of Eli" is definitely a film for the smart folks out there. Its theological moral reasoning may seem surface level most of the time, but its the subtle things in this film that make it truly hit home (Ever think about what the name Eli means?) and with a clever final twist to the film and some damn fine acting, this is one of the best post apocalyptic films this reviewer has seen in a long time. THREE CHEERS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD!

BONUS RANT: One sequence that still doesn't sit well with me is the opening scene in the forest with the cat. It seems fairly out of place and feels almost forced to be the stylistic opening that this movie needed to catch its audience right away. It has a different color scheme, some odd imagery, and a slow motion part that seems to not be all the relevant. Luckily the film picks up significantly from there. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ninja (2009) - 2.5/5

The key to making a ninja film resides in this concept: if you can't make it good, make it bad. Its a simple concept that works quite well for a film like "Ninja". These guys know exactly what they wanted to create with this film and they did it. The film isn't good, oh hell no, but its hard to say that it wasn't a fuck-ton of fun and solid 80s cheese even in 2009.

Casey was an American orphan raised in a dojo of ninja in Japan. (Best opening line ever for a synopsis). His dedication to his training has lead him to be one of the top students despite the hatred of his rival in the school. When his rival gets his ass booted from the dojo for being a dick, he vows to take vengeance and earn the spot as leader of the dojo. This of course comes to a head when he returns as a political and ninja for hire and comes to take the sacred armor in a box that would make him leader of the dojo. Its up to Casey and the daughter of the sensei to hide the armor in America and stop this crazy ass ninja before he kills them all.

Let's admit it now. The story for "Ninja" is the most cliche over used story in action/martial arts film history. Hell, the makers of this film must love the 80s so much that they even threw in a subplot of occult oil barons (what they worship at "The Ring" is beyond me and never explained) that gives it even more awesome 80s cheese. Pile some awful acting and ridiculous plot motions into this ninja themed car and you're ready for a road trip down 80s bad movie making lane. I hold no judgments on this film for knowing how awful it is and building on that. I found this, despite its poor craftsmanship, a great way to spend the evening.

Once the action starts though it pretty much never lets up (who needs dialogue?!) and that is the definite highlight for the film. Scott Adkins is a born and bred action star if I ever saw one with his awful attempts at acting, charming good looks, and ridiculously awesome stunts and action scenes. This film knows what one watches it for and it just happens to be how awesome one man can be at kicking ass. Which he does solidly for about two-thirds of the film. The choreography is pretty sick here (which happens to be the one misstep from the overly better and still just as bad at the same time "Ninja Assassin") and highlights some great moments.

If you are looking to have a fun time with some of your friends and need a bad movie to tide you over on a rainy afternoon, then "Ninja" is perfect for that. Its awful on most things, but its so bad that its hard not to find it a fun and charming experience. The choreography is solid and Adkins needs to be in more movies where he says little and kicks a lot. This is a modern day 80s ninja flick that's a perfect partner to "Ninja Assassin".

BONUS RANT: This film has one of the WORST title cards of all time. When you spell the 'A' in "Ninja" with a throwing star in a font that looks like it was a flunk out homage to "3 Ninjas" than you know you're in for a great time for the rest of the movie. Of course, its only natural that it also shows up at the end of the film along with one of the dumbest plot twists of all time. Damn this movie just knows how to do it all all the best ways. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Satan's Slave - 2.5/5

Oh the Satanic 70's. It seems that after the release of Rosemary's Baby in 1968 that nine out of ten horror films released throughout the next decade had major plot elements that revolved around Satan or a Satanic cult. Satan's Slave is just another film that fades into the background of this subgenre that was overtaken by high budget Hollywood films like The Exorcist and The Omen. Still how much can you expect from a film called "Satan's Slave" anyhow? Well to be completely honest the film came out being a lot better than it's silly title. Perhaps this is why distributors re-titled the film Evil Heritage for American release.

The film opens with a satanic ritual and then jumps to a young woman waking up from a nightmare. It seems that her and her parents are going to make a trip to visit her reclusive, yet wealthy uncle (genre great Michael Gough). While pulling up to the house, her father has some sort of seizure and crashes the car at a low speed. The car ends up exploding (in typical film fashion) killing her parents. Her uncle, who happens to be a retired doctor, takes her in for treatment and she decides to stay for while (despite having a worried boyfriend at home!). While there she befriends her creepy cousin and her uncle's assistant. All is well until she finds out her uncle is a Satanist and has plans to sacrifice her to resurrect some witch that was tortured and killed on the premises.

The film, for a low budget, is well made with a nice creepy British atmosphere and solid acting by the cast. The plot, despite having a slow start, also has some very irrational decisions by the characters and a "twist" ending that most viewers will see coming from mile away. First of all after the crash, our lead actress refuses to talk to police. Wouldn't she want to see what caused the explosion? She also doesn't question when her uncle decides to have a quick burial of her parents in his personal graveyard. She doesn't find this just a little bit peculiar? She also decides to stay at her uncle's for what seems to be like weeks without ever thinking that her boyfriend might want to see her after such a tragic event, god forbid he might want to go to her parents funeral! She even falls in love with her ultra creepy cousin! To top it off the twist ending just proves want an insanely gullible person she really is! I just don't get this character and her irrational decisions and actions made me scratch my head until it bled.

Perhaps if the script was better written for the character's decisions and motivations would this film come out as good as other British films in the Satan genre, like Hammer's The Devil Rides Out. As it is it is a solid British horror film with some good atmosphere and a little gore and nudity for exploitation fans but it will hardly shake the pillars of hell.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Image Of Bruce Lee, The - 2/5

It's one thing for a Bruceploitation film title to call itself a sequel to a Bruce Lee movie (Chinese Connection 2) or even rip-off or reference another Bruce Lee movie title (Exit the Dragon, Enter the Tiger) but for a title to actually put the name "Bruce Lee" in it... well that's just a whole new low even by Bruceploitation standards!

Here we have another cheesy 70's urban martial arts film in the vein of Exit the Dragon, Enter the Tiger. The film opens with a rather unintentionally funny sequence with a man about to commit suicide by jumping off a building. In comes Bruce Li, a member of "special squad" (doesn't that term have the most attractive blah ring to it?), climbing up the building to save the jumpers life (Li is even adorning a yellow jump suit, no doubt a reference to Bruce Lee's yellow jump suit he wore in the few sequences he filmed for Game of Death). Hilariously while Li is trying to save the guy while jumping, he grabs his arm which just happens to be an artificial limb and it comes off! I've never seen a suicide sequence so unintentionally funny! Apparently the guy committed suicide because he was paid with counterfeit money for diamonds. So Li and another cop are assigned to the case to track down the counterfeiter (who is briefed to Li in an god awfully boring slide show presentation!). Lots of fights and unintentional laughter ensue.

I have to admit that Li and his partner have to be the WORST cops ever. It seems every time they are tailing a character they get caught and then a short fight occurs. I kid you not this happens over a half a dozen times! Li follows guy in car, gets spotted, fight ensues. Li taking pictures of compound in a tree, gets caught, then a fight ensues. Our cops even plant a microphone in a suspects motel room, but they leave the thing in plain sight! Come on guys! However our villains aren't all that smart either. When they meet a contact at the airport, the contact says she will be wearing big sunglasses. Some clue this is, everyone in the 70's wore big sunglasses! She even has the gale to put the sunglasses on very obviously in front of her contacts. It's so goddamn obvious that the most inept pedestrian could see there was some fishy meeting going on. The villains even pull a dumbass James Bond antagonist stunt by tieing up our cops in a room to die by gas, and then leave with no one watching the room to make sure they don't escape. Why didn't' they just shoot the bastards!

Overall the filmmakers seem to know exactly what they're making here. It's a Bruce Lee rip-off and they make no attempt to hide it. One character even tells our star Bruce Li that he should be a movie star because he looks exactly like Bruce Lee. Ironically I believe that's exactly how Bruce Li's career began with those very same words spoken to him. Fans of ultra cheesy kung fu cinema will find plenty to like but I wouldn't rank this better than Exit the Dragon, Enter the Tiger. That film has a little more flair in the directing and it was just overall more shameless entertainment.

Bonus Rant: One thing I did find strange about this film is that the American edit I have on DVD has no star or crew credits. There's an opening title card also showing the distributor and film rating, but no cast or crew credited. The end credits just simply say "The End". Hey guys, this may not be art but give the people credit where credit is due! They worked hard on this drivel!

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Wolfman, The (2010) - 2/5

"The Wolf Man" was a seriously underrated Universal Monster from their original stint of black and white films. Never quite utilized in the right way, the werewolf story tends to be severely hit or miss since those days spawning some pretty horrific franchises along the way. When it was announced that they would be remaking the 1941 classic, it was both exciting and disheartening. Just as the werewolf films since, "The Wolfman" is hit or miss through and through mostly and unfortunately dwelling in the 'miss' category.

Lawrence Talbot is finally returning home. With some difficulties at home as a child he was sent off to America away from his father and brother in England. Now his brother is missing, presumed dead, and Larry needs to find out why. He returns home to find a crypt of numerous dark secrets including one that bites him on the ass...and turns him into a werewolf.

The problem that plagues "The Wolfman" is that it is so fucking awkward through most of the movie. Joe Johnston definitely seems more able with the family film touch than as a Gothic Horror director and his odd attempts at humorous scenes stick out like a sore thumb and his attempts at creating a memorable visual experience come off as over the top and forced. Partner a lackluster directing job with some of the most awkward acting scenes from some normally very talented folks and this film just leaves the audience scratching their heads and asking 'what the hell?" far too much. Chemistry between actors shouldn't feel this forced and from the lot they have its an unwelcome guest.

The story is also filled with faux depth and added layers that over complicate the general tale. The writers and director of "The Wolfman" should have taken a note from the original and realized 'less is more' when it came to fleshing out this film. There are those moments that should have worked (the underused subplot of Larry's father's servant from India and his role in the picture for example) but the film bogs itself down with a self righteous feeling that it just comes off as frustrating.

There are things that "The Wolfman" does right. The action sequences work nicely and the increased violence and ferocity of the Wolfman himself brings the film into the modern age. Although the CGI tends to overrun Rick Baker's stellar make up effects, these moments are definitely the highlight of the film. I also have to give some props to Danny Elfman's old school sounding score for the film that makes it feel as though it has some sort of homage to the 40s classic.

"The Wolfman" just comes off as far too torn between being a true remake and a new film altogether. It just comes off as an awkward experience that had so much potential to be badass. Poor acting and poor directing are mostly to blame but a lackluster script does its damage too. Worth the rental but if you are a fan of the original don't expect a second full moon.

BONUS RANT: (Spoiler) So the werewolf throw-down at the end of the film could have been amazing, but it came off as really cheesy and poorly edited. When you have two werewolves going at it, it should be fucking epic. But its over far too quickly and seemingly feels out of place because of such. This movie couldn't even do a werewolf beatdown right! 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Friday, June 18, 2010

30 Days Of Night - 4.5/5

"30 Days Of Night" could have gone horribly wrong. With the amount of Horror talent contained within its confines, one almost has to doubt it. Don't. The source material. The director. The producers. The vision. "30 Days Of Night" pulls off all the stops and creates a vampire film to be proud of...a vampire movie that will scare you. It's about time.

Barrow is your normal little American town. Under 600 people. A sheriff who honestly cares about his townsfolk. Everyone knows everyone else and supports them. It also happens to be the northern most town in the US and every year for 30 days they don't see the sun. Most of the population leaves except for the few that need to stay, a little over a hundred or so, which makes it the perfect place for a slaughter. When a group of vampires show up to wreck a little havoc and feast for 30 days without a sun to scare them off, our sheriff and a small group of survivors are going to have to survive hell. Hell has frozen over in Barrow.

For someone who has read the source material, the best aspect of "30 Days Of Night" is the visual side of it. Horror up-and-comer director David Slade perfectly captures that fuzzy and dark gloom of the graphic novel and fills in the negative space with plenty of his own film flair to create a blend of bleak visual weight and kinetic Horror energy. Stunning shots balanced with suspense and ultra violence make this film an intriguing and engrossing experience. Its an almost odd combination of old school vampire Gothic atmosphere and modern day quick cuts that balance each other beautifully (and brutally).

The acting portion of the film also surprised me. Hartnett isn't your normal Horror film fodder, he's good but not necessarily cult good, but his work as the main character Eben (the sheriff) is surprisingly solid. Counter that with Melissa George, of Horror and cult fame already with some well done roles in various films including the epic "Mulholland Dr.", and the duo sparks some nice tense chemistry as a couple on the rocks. Of course though, the film might be stolen by a bit role as the Renfield-esque stranger that the vampires utilize, from our own cult like character actor Ben Foster. The look, the sound, and the general creepiness of his character steals every scene. One more stolen film for Ben Foster!

If you have been looking for a vampire film that doesn't suck (haha...damn I'm funny) then definitely look into "30 Days Of Night". Its violent. Its smart. Its well crafted and it deserves the attention it received from the Horror community.

BONUS FACT: Sam Raimi (producer) and David Slade (director) are rumored to be again collaborating on a reboot of "The Shadow" franchise, which Raimi tried to get the rights to way back when and resulted in "Darkman". If "30 Days Of Night" wets your whistle than this news should excite you. It sure does me! 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Prime Evil - 1/5

I must be a masochist. There's no other explanation for it. I went into Prime Evil well knowing it was from the same director of Tenement but did that stop me? Hell no! I forged on see what other abominations that horrendous director could unleash upon this world. Hell she could only get better right? Tenement was only a learning experience right? Oh hell no and Roberta Findlay outdoes herself here making a film even more retched than the shitstorm that was Tenement.

After a cheesy opening title sequence with a bad puppet of a Satan looking figure in the background, we are then introduced to a monk who informs his other monk brotherin that he has now become a Satanist and in turn starts decapitating them. I will admit at first I thought I might be going into a B horror picture that might have some great unintentional enjoyment. Then I remembered that this was a Roberta Findlay film and of course she knows how to make any cheesy plot absolutely joyless. Flash-forward to "present day" (though it looks like 1988 to me) and we are introduced to a young woman and her professor boyfriend. The young woman is going to meet up with her grandfather whom has plans to sacrifice her to the devil in order to gain 13 more years of agelessness. It seems her grandfather is in a satanic cult run by the monk from the beginning and the boyfriend catches on. Soon murders begin to occur, the police get involved and blah blah blah... you can guess the rest. There is also a sidestory of a nun going undercover into the Satanic coven except that sidestory goes absolutely nowhere!

To be completely honest the film could have been watchable with good acting and a visualistic director who could give the film some atmosphere. As it is Roberta Findlay makes this film a chore to sit through. She can't direct actors to save her soul! The acting is atrocious with some of the most god awful dialogue ever to be put to celluloid. Take this for example: a cop confronts our Satanic priest and retorts "cut the crap fart breath." Cut the crap fart breath? Am I supposed to take this seriously? Director Roberta Findlay sure thinks so and plays this film off as serious crap. God her directing is just horrid! She sure knows how to bring her Porno directing talent to the legitimate film side of Hollywood by making this the most flat, uninteresting looking film this side of, well, Tenement.

Unless you're a masochist then I recommend just flushing this shit down the toilet. There is nothing, absolutely nothing to recommend about this film. Everything is bottom of the barrel material. Even fans who don't need plot and looking for nudity and gore are going to be bored to tears. Skip it and let this film burn in hell where it belongs!

Bonus Rant: What was up with the awful narration at the beginning of the film? It completely feels like it was added in as an afterthought and it even overlaps with "important" dialogue. Was this an attempt by the filmakers to make the film's background story more understandable for the audience? My guess is yes as the script and directing sure don't!

Written By Eric Reifschneider