jueves, 30 de septiembre de 2010

Hitcher In The Dark

Umberto Lenzi directed this late 80’s slasher/giallo using American production values and actors. The story involves a young good-looking psycho killer named Mark (played by Joe Balogh) who has some serious abandonment issues and goes around in a mobile home picking up hitch-hiking girls and murdering them without any remorse. Going around, doing his thing, he falls for a young blonde named Daniela (Josie Bissett from Melrose Place) who just had a fight with her boyfriend, Kevin (Jason Saucier). At first they look like they might hit it off, but soon Mark shows his true colors, and Daniela is forced to use her body, and her brains, to fight off this psycho killer who has just become infatuated with her.
Lenzi is on top of his game here, being able to create a movie that doesn’t feel cheezy at all (the way that Nightmare City and Cannibal Ferox feel) and goes back to his giallo days when he made films like Orgasmo and Seven Blood-Stained Orchids. You can see he had a nice budget to work with as well. His two leads are pretty damn good as well, with Joe Balogh being able to sell me well with his rich, good-looking playboy half and also with his psychotic mommy-loving serial killer side. He’s the original Patrick Bateman! Josie Bissett is also great here, being able to have a lot of beauty and smarts, and her actions and emotions feeling very realistically. I really felt for her predicament, man! She’s beautiful too and when she shows off that movie-star body, I sure as hell take notice.
Sadly the ending sucks. After a great reveal featuring his wealthy lifestyle, a *SPOILER ALERT* main character comes back from the dead and takes care of the killer. It’s sloppy and ridiculous, and takes away from the power of the original true ending. In the movie’s extras, Lenzi discusses how this could have been his masterpiece, and I believe him, until the producers decided to tack on that obligatory happy ending. When will the money-men ever learn?

All in all, this is a really damn good exploitation thriller, with some genuine thrills and solid scares, and it’s nice share of gore and nudity to please exploitation fans.

The Devil's Wedding Night

Mark Damon (who was in a bunch of spaghetti westerns) plays an 18th century scholar who believes he's found the ring of the Nibelungen, probably named after the Wagner opera, which holds great power, conveniently located at Castle Dracula. His gambling twin brother takes off before him, and naturally finds a countess who invites him to dine. Later that night, the more scholarly of the brothers arrives. Coincidently, it's the Night of the Virgin Moon, a night that falls every fifty years and draws five virgins from the surrounding village to the castle not be heard from again. Our hero sets out to protect his brother, find the ring, and rescue any of the women, who naturally disrobe for the festivities.I don’t know what can say about this movie, since everything you would like to know about it is right there on the small synopsis. It’s your typical European gothic horror movie trying to cash in on the Hammer horror craze, which was also going down by this time. It’s a very old-fashioned scarefest that also happens to have it’s fair share of horror and sex. The performances are rather ho-hum, although I have to give a lot of love to Rosalba Neri, the most perverted and brave actress of the European horror scene during the early 70’s. In movies like this one, Lady Frankenstein and Slaughter Hotel (where we get to see her masturbate full-frontal, yay!), Neri goes completely for the gold, giving an uninhibited sexual performance that makes the hairs of any men and women stand up in admiration.
Other than the sex, I really liked the gothic atmosphere in the film. But other than these two things, there’s not much to recommend here. It comes and goes, just like taking a dump. You live it while you drop it, but after that, you just flush it down the toilet.

Doctor Mordrid

One of my best friends, Eugene, is a complete Full Moon nut. He keeps recommending me movie after movie from this infamous low-budget studio, but I have to admit I have only seen a handful, my favorites being the original Puppet Master and their version of Poe’s Pit & The Pendulum, which is one of the greatest horror movies from the 90’s. One of the movies he kept recommending me was Dr. Mordrid, which is more of a fantasy/superhero film. I’m not much into fantasy movies but I do like superheroes, so I decided to give it a shot.

The story deals with a sorcerer, Dr. Mordrid, played by Jeffrey Combs of Re-Animator fame. He has been waiting for centuries for the return of an evil sorcerer named Kabal (played by the guy who played Shao Kahn in the Mortal Kombat sequel). With the help of a spunky policewoman, he tries to destroy the evil force, even though he seems to be getting more flack from the police than help. Kabal associates himself with cheesy Satanists and the culminating battle in the museum is something that must be seen to be believed, as dinosaur bones come to life and fight to the death.It’s hard not to like this movie, even if it is flawed. The best part of the movie are the acting and the effects. Jeffrey Combs and Brian Thompson are great, being able to make us believe there is truly an age-old rivalry between them, and their individual scenes are just excellent. I’m amazed how serious they are with their roles, considering how silly the script is. The end sequence with the dinosaurs fighting is excellent. Nothing beats old school stop-motion animation, man! Sadly, the screenplay is very clichéd and by the numbers, and there aren’t really any surprises here. I also found it weird that the movie doesn’t seem to know what tone to go for. It could have easily been made into a superhero/fantasy family film, but for some reason Charles Band decided to add a nude sequence with one of the Satanists. It’s weird, and completely out of context with the rest of the movie. Still, like I said, it’s hard not to like it. It’s like junk food, or The Lost Boys: they’re not great, but they’re fun, and you have to discover them for yourself.
A little bit of trivia for you: the movie was originally meant to be a Dr. Strange adaptation. Yep, the Marvel Dr. Strange. But Full Moon lost the rights, but they decided to go ahead anyway, with a few changes, of course.

Der Todesking

Jorg Buttgereit’s horror films are something of an arthouse mutant. Sure, they have a lot of grotesque elements, from serial killers to necrophilia, but they do have a sensitivity and style that is more akin to Ingmar Bergman than to George Romero. His two Nekromantic films are masterpieces in my book, so I was anxiously awaiting to get to see this, his sophomore effort after the original Nekromantic.
The story is that similar to an omnibus, or many stories in one film. It deals with a chain-letter about Der Todesking, or the King Of Death. Everyone who reads it and responds it, goes on and commits some sort of murder/suicide. And sadly, for the most part, this movie bored the hell out of me. A lot of the stories just drag on and on, particularly the first one about the fish lover, and the guy who rents the Nazi exploitation movie. The last one however was the worst, with the bad actor repeatedly slamming his head against the wall until he gets brain damage. For stories so short, they just didn’t move quick enough.
There are some things that I liked, however. I thought the Wednesday story, about a man who meets a woman in the park during a rainy day and explains how he murdered his wife, is pretty damn interesting, mainly because of the intense performance of the lead actor. Sadly, I wish I could have actually seen the story instead of just hearing it from the mouth of the actor. However, my favorite story by far is the one featuring the psychotic, murderous camerawoman. She sticks a camera to a steadycam strapped to her body and goes on a killing spree in a rock concert. Hell, I could watch a whole movie about this character.
Another interesting aspect of the film are the sequences with the rotting corpse that pop up in between the stories. It looks like a real corpse decomposing. I’m pretty sure they used a latex dummy full of real meat inside and just let it rot, but the effect is amazing.
So I wouldn’t say this is a great movie, nor is it one of Buttgereit’s best, but it does have it’s interesting moments nonetheless.


From the moment I heard the opening sequence with The Replacement’s Bastards Of Young playing, I knew that I would love this movie. Greg Mottola made one of my favorite teen comedies a few years ago with the great Superbad, so I was really pumped to see his follow up film.
The story deals with a young man named James (Jesse Eisenberg), who has just graduated college and wants to go to New York. Sadly, his parents are strapped for cash, so his dreams of visiting the big apple are cut shorts and he is forced to work at Adventureland, a theme park where he’s forced to work on the ‘games’, which is as miserable as it gets. Here, he makes new friends and goes through great experiences, including finding a new love with a pretty but troubled rocker girl (played by Kristin Stewart).
The main strength of the film is in it’s writing and it’s acting, which is not surprising since this is, in it’s heart, a romantic comedy. But to me, this was so much more. You see, I also remember my lives in shitty jobs, particularly my many years at the airport, and having to go through much of what the character experienced. Hell I even met my first girlfriend while working at the airport. So this movie definitely spoke more to me than it would to most others. Jesse Eisenberg does a great job, even if he is basically playing the same character he plays in every single movie he’s ever been (similar to Michael Cera). He’s very believable and funny, and realistic without being extremely on-the-nose. I also loved Kristen Stewart. Stewart gets a lot of flack since she got into the Twilight series (and with good reason, they’re terrible), but he does a great job here, playing a very flawed and emotional character and being able to handle it like a trooper. How can you not fall in love with a girl who listens to Husker Du? Come on! Husker Du, dudes! We also get really good supporting performances by Bill Hader as the nutty boss and Ryan Reynolds as the cool, sensitive rocker guy who likes to sleep around. And props go to Margarita Levieva as Lisa P, the perfect whorish 80’s chick.
There’s not much else I can say about this film, I just really loved it and related to it’s story in ways that I’m sure many people won’t. It’s funny and it’s romantic, and it’s one of my favorite films of the last 10 years. No kidding.

The Collector

A lot of my friends had recommended me to watch The Collector, a 2009 film by the writers of the last few Saw sequels. And to think, I first thought they were talking about a remake of the 1960’s Terence Stamp psycho-thriller (so you can tell how much of a lifeless nerd I am). The fact that it was made by the same people who made the last Saw sequels didn’t help much either, as I saw part IV and didn’t like shit about it and haven’t seen any since. But after all the discussion, I finally decided to give in like the wimp that I am and gave it a watch.
The story is simple enough. It deals with an ex-con who is desperate for money to help pay his ex-wife’s debts. Arkin (Josh Stewart), our ex-con, decides to rob the high-tech security house of his current employer, who he thinks is out on a vacation with his family. But when he gets there, Arkin discovers that the house has been targeted by another criminal, a psychotic serial killer known as The Collector (Juan Fernandez) who has set up the house full of deadly traps. Now it’s up to Arkin to try and save himself, and the captured family, from this particularly nasty serial killer.
For the first half-hour of this movie, I was nearly moved to tears. The movie was plagued by the problem of Mtv video editing, full of the quick cuts and montages that plague most modern horror films today (the Saw series in particular). I was almost desperate, even considering shutting the movie off. But then, something happened. We get to the house and we meet our serial killer, and then the movie turns a complete 180.

The character of The Collector is simply the greatest, and most interesting horror movie monster since Tony Todd scared the beejezus out of me in the original Candyman. Every time he’s on-screen, he owns the movie. His look, his body language, his androgynous physique which makes him look both like a man and a woman, and his dark, amphibious eyes. You could see his mind ticking, and he’s quite a frightening character. Few slasher killers are this interesting.
Then there’s the traps. The movie is full of them, and I’m not surprised since the film is so linked to the Saw series. However, the traps here, to me, are much more grotesque and frightening than anything Jigsaw ever constructed. A particularly nasty moment with a needle on the phone made me cringe. I don’t want to give anything away, but they are very bloody and gory. And thank you, filmmakers, for giving me a nice piece of gratuitous t&a thanks to the beautiful breasts of Madeline Zima (Californication). Gratuitous nudity is something that is sorely missed in horror movies today.
So to finish, I highly recommend this film. The first half hour is pretty boring, but once the horror starts, the movie becomes a tour-de-force slasher film with tons of suspense, gore, tits, and a serial killer that will give anyone the willies. Go check it out!

The Expendables

A group of kick-ass mercenaries stand together and pull off their fair share of suicide missions in order to take care of some pretty ugly baddies. These mercenaries are The Expendables, and they just got themselves a new mission: taking out an evil dictator in an island in the Caribbean that are being manipulated by a tyrannical American businessman (played by Eric Roberts). Only strength, bullets and testosterone can take care of this.

I’ve been waiting the longest time for this. I had become a big fan of Stallone once again after seeing the double-punch of greatness known as Rambo and Rocky Balboa, and I was ready for more. What I got was a movie that not only put him back on the top of the action world, but one where he shared the spotlight with other kick-ass action superheroes, past and modern. Jason Stratham, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Dolph Lundgren and Mickey Rourke play the good guys, with bad guys being composed of Eric Roberts, Steve Austin and Gary Daniels (yes, THAT Gary Daniels, Fist Of The North Star Gary Daniels!).
Anyway, enough of my own dorky fanboy-ness. Is the movie any good? Well, it is actually. The script is pretty tight for an action movie. It follows the typical 10-minute beat, which means it has a kick-ass action scene every 10 minutes, with the last half hour being a non-stop action sequence. And it’s in the action sequences that the movie gets damn good. We have some epic match-ups over here, dudes. Jet Li vs. Dolph Lundgren, Steve Austin vs. Silvester Stallone, Randy Couture vs. Steve Austin, really awesome shit.

Sadly, there were some flaws. For the most part, the performances were damn good. Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Stratham were excellent, but the movie clearly belongs to Eric Roberts and Mickey Rourke. Roberts plays an excellent cheesy bad guy, while Rourke is just a cool guy with a great emotional moment that will remind everyone of his best moments in The Wrestler. Sadly the rest of the cast are basically glorified cameos, even with the two female performers. And while it was nice to see Willis and Schwarzenegger, it was basically just a throwaway scene. There are also some scenes that could have easily been a part of another movie, that had nothing to do with the film itself, main one being the sequence where Jason goes after the guy who beat up his girlfriend. This scene adds nothing to the story and could have easily been a part of a Transporter sequel. There’s also a lot of CGI gore, and CGI gore always sucks.
Even with it’s flaws, this movie is exactly what it’s trying to be, a very entertaining, explosive action film, a thrill ride that everyone with a sweet taste for shit blowing up will enjoy to the hilt. Go check it out.

miércoles, 29 de septiembre de 2010

Best Worst Movie

Movies are quite odd sometimes. There are movies that are given all the care in the world, all the world in the world, have the biggest budgets and the greatest talents, both in front and behind the camera, and never get any sort of recognition that they deserve. Kick-Ass comes to mind. Then there are those weird films that are just bad on every sort of artistic and technical level, yet are still able to make an impression and reach an audience that the people involved never dreamed of reaching. Plan 9 From Outer Space, Manos the Hands of Fate, Robot Monster, The Room, all these movies fall under this category. And so does Troll 2.

Now, I have previously reviewed Troll 2, and called it for what it was: bad, but entertaining. But it turns out there is quite a love affair for Troll 2 out there, and this documentary is made to document such a phenomenon. It was directed by Michael Stephenson, who also played the lead role of the boy who wants to save his family from a town of vegetarian troll monsters. The documentary centers on actor/dentist George Hardy, and their search for what happened to everyone involved in the production.
George Hardy is quite a guy. He’s friendly as hell and funny, and seems to be enjoying the fuck out of his sudden fame. We see him having a blast in the screenings, recreating the scenes with the other actors, and freaking out at the people who go to horror conventions. It’s also fun to see Claudio Fergasso, who directed Troll 2 (and is more famous for all his remakesploitation films he made with Bruno Mattei). He believes he made a truthful piece of Americana/rural gothic, which talks about the problems American families face. It’s interesting, if a little hilarious, to see someone talk about such a bad movie in such high regard, but you got to respect such a conviction from a man like this.

The movie does have it’s downer moments, though. Mainly the scenes involving actress Margo Pray, who played the mother. She has become a total shut-in who takes care of her mother. Seeing her in her botox-covered glory really bummed me out. There’s also Robert Ormsby, who played Grampa Seth, talking about how much he wasted his life.
Still, this is quite a great documentary. It’s informative, hilarious and entertaining as hell, and gives you both an entrance into the world of misfit filmmakers, and the misfits who love their movies. I wish every bad movie had a documentary like this.