Friday, December 31, 2010

Devil (2010) - 3.5/5

Despite my initial distaste for Mr. Shyamalan, I fell prey to some solid recommendations for the film "Devil" (here's looking at you Kimberly), and knowing that he only came up with the 'story' I decided to take a gander at this little indie horror film. On the bright side, it was surprisingly good at doing its little thing and getting some solid tense moments into the film. On the flip side, it still never feels like it is able to overcome some of its flaws or brush them over with how good the rest is, thusly giving us a film that is good but rarely reaches great.

Five strangers all entire a large office complex for various personal reasons. Each of these people are your average (and thusly not the most truthful) individual going about their business. One of them just happens to be the Devil and he wants to play a game. So he traps them in an elevator for the world to see and begins to toy with them before taking their souls. Now its up a smarmy and doubtful cop (Messina) to put it all together and try to save them before the Devil takes them all.

I really do love the concept for "Devil". It's like watching a really good "Twilight Zone" or even a lighter "Tales From The Crypt" episode. It really embraces and utilizes its PG-13 rating to its fullest, having most of the disturbing elements done in the dark and left up for the viewers imagination which works well, and it does a fine job keeping the game going. Not that I would particularly want to play musical chairs with the Devil who slaughters you when the music stops (or in this case the lights go out), but it was a solid time watching these semi-unrighteous folks go through the ordeal. I also think that "Devil" did an admirable job taking us out from the elevator (where the film could have gotten REALLY long) and out by bringing in a cop as our 'true' protagonist to root for. It was a smart move that really upped the ante on the debacle at hand.

Although I praise the film for feeling like a great anthology episode from some classic series, this is also perhaps its biggest flaw. The film simply isn't deep enough or complicated enough to carry itself for the entire time. A lot of the film's elements felt like padding for time and additional depth as it desperately tried to complicate matters and give us more to 'boo' moments (like our lead security guard's shocking demise for one). It's hit or miss acting and red herrings also tending to crack the foundation a little bit (again as it tried to add more to a rather cut and dry story). It's as if the makers were just a little afraid of giving us too much of an up front story and felt the need to try and give it more impact, which in turn only took away the impact.

"Devil" is a pretty solid horror film and one of the bigger surprises of the year (although I was still more surprised with the quality of "Altitude"). I'm not sure how much Shyamalan had to do with "Devil" but considering they attached his name to it, I would go as far to say its the best thing he's been attached to in a long time. It's a great little watch and definitely worth the purchase for those who aren't turned off by its supposed "lack of scares".

BONUS RANT: The narration somewhat irritated me throughout the film though. It starts off solid but its continued use (despite the character narrating from the future BEING RIGHT THERE AT THE TIME) seems too inconsistent and rather misplaced. It would have been a nice bookend to the film but its overused and underused at the same time. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Fleshburn - 2/5

The main reason I wanted to see this picture is for the fact that it stars Sonny Landham as the psychotic villain. Don't recognize the name? Well do you remember the bad motherfucker from "Predator" who was the tough ass native American tracker? Yes the guy who cut his chest with the machete before taking the Predator mono-e-mono. Yeah this guy is B-A-D-A-S-S. He even had the balls to have a security guard hired for him on the set of Predator not to protect Landham from people, but to protect people from Landham. Yeah, B-A-D-A-S-S. I also wanted to see it for the fact it was based on the novel by Brian Garfield, the same guy that gave us "Death Wish" and "Death Sentence." Landham playing a psychotic Vietnam vet villain in a film based on the author of "Death Wish", bring on the popcorn bitches!

The film opens with an odd written backstory of how a Native American Vietnam Vet left four people to die in the middle of the desert due to a disagreement over opinions on Native American magic. Four psychologists found him to be mentally ill so he is sentenced to life in a mental health ward. Is any prison strong enough to hold Landham. Fuck no and he easily breaks out. He soon gets a vehicle and weapons and heads around the state kidnapping the psychologists and leaving them all in the middle of the desert to die while he keeps a watchful eye on them.

The problem with this film is it doesn't live up to its potential and comes out looking more like a made-for-tv would-be thriller. It just degrades to a boring survival film with Landham wasted as the mad vet only appearing at the beginning and end, disappearing throughout most of the middle of the film. The acting is decent but the characters are blah and the ending is FAR from satisfactory. Looking for a violent mad brawl between the psychologists and Landham? Well you won't find anything exciting here.

The poster artwork was promising making this look like a variation on the Rambo theme which it is far from. This film had so much potential to be a taunt survival film with a strong casting choice for the Vet but thanks to boring filmmaking and blah script, we are left with a hollow shell of what could have been. Sonny Landham is sadly underused... yet again!

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Thursday, December 30, 2010

One Armed Executioner, The - 2/5

When it comes to Filipino films 'actionsploitation' is the name of the game and the king of this genre in the country is cult schlock maker Cirio H. Santiago. He maybe the king thanks to the sheer number of films he made but another director by the name of Bobby A. Suarez arguably made his action films with a little higher 'quality' without losing that lovable exploitation, grindhouse edge. A prime example of this director's work is "The One-Armed Executioner."

Well this 1983 actionsploitation film lives up to its name as it features a one armed man getting revenge. Can't get more basic and badass than that can you? I don't know but one-armed people out for vengeance always makes the character more badass. Look at the Shaw Brothers "One-Armed Swordsman" series for another example. One-armed guys kicking ass and taking names is just B-A-D-A-S-S.

Well here we get a Filipino INTERPOL agent who is hot on the trail of a drug lord. When he approaches the goon with false information about obtaining a diary detailing his criminal activities, the drug lord decides to have the INTERPOL agent's wife slaughtered and mangling the agent by cutting off his arm. BAD MOVE! Don't these bad guys ever learn.... always kill the dude! Leaving them alive only makes them go Charlie Bronson on your ass later. Well our agent goes into training, learning martial arts and gun handling with only one arm. When he's all trained up, he heads out for vengeance and lots of chases and explosions ensue.

The absolute cheesiest aspect of this film is the inability the crew has of hiding our leads cut-off arm. It's obviously strapped to his side or his stomach through a majority of the scenes but then again how does one truly hide an arm without the aid of modern CGI? This aspect just adds more fun to an already incredibly cheesy and fun action fest that surprisingly has well staged action sequences, especially a helicopter and boat chase towards the end of the film.

The One-Armed Executioner may not be classy art but it is low budget action entertainment goodness. The acting and overall film quality is typical grindhouse material of the time but fans of these obscure treasures will most definitely want to pick this film up. Dark Sky Films released a wonderful DVD of this lost 'classic' and paired it with another Bobby A. Suarez film entitled "Cleopatra Wong."

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Masters Of Horror: Homecoming - 3/5

Directed By Joe Dante (known for "Piranha", "The Howling", and "Gremlins")

David Murch (Tenney) is one of America's best political spokespersons. When the President is up for re-election during a war that is widely unpopular, he makes a statement on air wishing that if the soldiers could come back and voice their opinions that he would. Suddenly these soldiers are coming back from the dead to vote in the election. Now Tenney is torn on how to the handle the situation by getting his President back in office without pissing off an entire army of the undead. It's going to be a rough election year.

Political satire films and horror aren't the best of bedfellows on an everyday basis. This is in part due to their inability to focus on what to be (is it horror, comedy, or a message film?) and many films fall apart at the attempts to navigate the genres (like "Zombies Of Mass Destruction" for example). Joe Dante's "Masters Of Horror" episode, "Homecoming" does a decent job at taking on the burden and doing it well. It's a fairly well crafted story about a zombie uprising based on political means and when it wants to can be pretty damn hilarious in its over the top approach to "politics". At times it does get a bit too cheesy (David's back story flashback is one such moment) and it does intend to smash your face with some political ideologies about war. Other than that, and of course its lack of actual Horror to the film, "Homecoming" strikes a fairly solid episode for the series. It's a fun watch, but compared to the true horror episodes that the series started off with it tends to fall just a bit short.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Masters Of Horror: Chocolate - 1.5/5

Director: Mick Garris (known for "The Stand", maybe "Critters 2"?)

Jamie (Thomas) is a recently divorced man who suddenly finds himself psychically connected with some random woman. Told as a 'flashback' as Jamie is being interrogated by the police, he recounts how he finds himself experiencing things from this lady's perspective without her even knowing. This connection leads him to borderline stalking as he tries to help her when she commits a crime of passion.

Considering that Mick Garris helped create this damn series he sure does throw down a stinker of an episode. Granted, the idea of the story is solid with this random connection, but rarely does the episode feel like a "horror" tale. It seemingly rides the line for a Lifetime Movie special with a supernatural twist for the majority of its play time. With the low acting quality and its rather by the numbers approach to its directing, "Chocolate" becomes a lackluster made for TV film that just happens to incorporate F-bombs, some violence towards the end, and substantial nudity. "Chocolate" is by far one of the worst for the entire series with its hammy ending and shoddy build. If there is one that you skip, its probably this one.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Escape 2000 [Turkey Shoot] - 2/5

"Escape 2000" is one of the many bizarre motion pictures from the 80's I rented from my local video store as a kid. The title and cover art made this look like a futuristic "Escape from New York" clone but in actuality this is just another variation on the "Most Dangerous Game" story with a futuristic twist and plenty of Australian kookiness and schlock thrown into the mix.

After a truncated beginning with not much back-story we are introduced to a man (Steve Railsback) who is taken into custody when he broadcasts messages against the government. We are also introduced to a beautiful store clerk (Olivia Hussey) who is also taken into custody when she fights police for beating a criminal. Railsback and Hussey are transported to one of many 'rehabilitation' camps that is lead by a sadistic warden. The warden selects a small group of challenging inmates to hunt and invites a small group of this high class, aristocratic friends along for the fun but his prey end up being much more challenging than he expected.

Instead of making a serious, futuristic film about the horrors of a dehumanized society that utilizes humans for sport, director Brian Trenchard-Smith opts to go for a schlocky approach by adding in tons of exploitation elements including nudity, extreme violence and gore. He even adds a "werewolf" character into the mix (one of our hunters found him at a circus) who is introduced to the audience by tipping his top-hat. What?! It's like Trenchard-Smith is tipping his hat to the audience saying "yes, this is a schlocky film. Love it or leave it fucker!" Well I love it for his ridiculous approach.

Even with all the schlock elements, the film is actually played seriously adding to the unintentional hilarity. My favorite of these being a sequence where our "werewolf" character tears off small toe of an inmate and eats it. I mean where the fuck did that come from? All these bizarre sequences truly makes the film unpredictable and anything can happen at any moment, no matter how ridiculous or far-fetched.

The problem with this camp-fest is the weak foundations. How did the world come to be in this dystopian affair? No back-story what-so-ever is told other than stock footage of riots breaking out shown in the opening credits. The audience is offered NO EXPLANATION for the events. The rehabilitation camps also conflict with the general story about how the government wants people to be 'model' citizens. These camps are run by sick minded individuals that due heinous acts to their prisoners that are FAR worse than the laws that the prisoners broke to get there. So much for 'rehabilitation'! One can't solely blame the director for these problems as apparently the script had to be cut down to the budget and shooting schedule being slashed. The first part of the script to go of course was the opening which was to show how society declined to a "1984" style outlook.

Speaking of 'slashing', this film was HEAVILY cut of 16 minutes of footage when released in America. The film was originally made as "Turkey Shoot" in Australia, truncated by deleting all the blood and gore (you know, the good stuff) and retitling the film "Escape 2000" (despite the film taking place in 1995). The cut American release totally ruins the entertainment value of the film because cutting out these over-the-top elements leaves the audience only with a bad "Most Dangerous Game" clone. Basically a schlock film without the schlock. Thanks to Anchor Bay Entertainment the full uncut version of the film complete with the original "Turkey Shoot" (which I think far better fits the tone of the film) title card is available on DVD. This uncut version brought a whole new entertainment level to the film that I missed when I originally saw the American cut version.

"Escape 2000" isn't art but fans of a schlock entertainment with a nice ozploitation twist will have a great time. Make sure to get the Anchor Bay DVD to get the true experience as the VHS versions won't cut it.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ghosts Of Mars - 2/5

One of John Carpenter's largest flaws was the fact that he was simply unable to let the 1980s go. Granted, for cult fans like us over here at Blood Brothers, there is a niche that films like "Ghosts Of Mars" neatly fits into for a great fun and entertaining time. Unfortunately, this particular film fails to formally accept its own ridiculousness and comes off as just another shoddy film. Fun, over-the-top, and cheesy all are things that "Ghosts Of Mars" have going for it, but if you are looking for anything deeper than poor dialogue, spastic film structure, and hit or miss logic then skip this one over. He's done much better.

Ballard (Henstridge) is a police officer riding with her team (including one of the oddest casts known to man) towards a mining town to retrieve a wanted and very dangerous criminal Desolation Williams (Ice Cube). When they get there, they find the mining colony deserted. What they discover is something far more sinister than the dangerous criminal. A mining group had accidentally opened an ancient Martian cavern and unleashed the very pissed off ghosts of the planet's original residents. These ghosts have possessed the people of the colony and turned them into beastly (and self mutilating) savages. Now cops and robbers have to team up to thwart this ancient horde as they desperately try to survive.

Even after spending almost 2 hours doing quite a bit of eye rolling, even I have to admit that "Ghosts Of Mars" carries quite a bit of charm to it. It has a fairly bad ass concept to it (maybe its just us at Blood Brothers but I'm sure others are excited to see a science fiction western horror film too) and it has a unique style to it of dark humor, action, and intense violence on Carpenter would bring to the screen.  For its charm and awesome story, "Ghosts Of Mars" gets a solid 2 stars.

Unfortunately, past these two redeeming qualities, this film generally falls apart in front of the viewer's eyes. It has one of the most hodge podge thrown together casts of all time where none of them are put to proper use (with particular nods towards a poorly built and dialogue plagued Statham) and all of whom are given paper thin characters that simply blow around like the Martian dust storm they are trapped in.

This fault is exponentially magnified by poor dialogue and a film structure that leaves even the most die hard Carpenter fans scratching their heads. Told as a 'past tense' event, "Ghosts Of Mars", within minutes, becomes a cluster fuck of flashback within a flashback within a flashback that leaps between various story lines and time sequences that would make Tarantino want to puke. Past the half way mark it finally seems to settle in on where it wants to be, but by that time the audience has already jumped ship to find more solid ground to stand on.

"Ghosts Of Mars" is a cheesy, fun romp of a film if you are willing to forgo its many, MANY flaws of execution. Just the horrid multitudes of edits is enough to irk most film fans and that's before one gets to the acting or script. It's 80s vibe is great fun and its occasional charm still gets to me, but for the most part this film just can't overcome its deep faults.

BONUS RANT: Outside of the Conan universe, there should NEVER be a character named Bashira. Despite cringing every time its said, the name also brought fits of laughter. Not something one necessarily wants.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Manitou, The - 2/5

I have seen a lot of "Exorcist" rip-offs in my day but none-quite like this. Films like "The Antichrist" and "Beyond the Door" tried desperately to outdo the film that 'inspired' them by being more shocking, vulgar and nasty minus the classy filmmaking. "The Manitou", a home-grown American rip-off lacks both the vulgar nastiness and the classy filmmaking but still manages to be highly entertaining in the high camp department. So how can a bad "Exorcist" rip-off be entertaining by lacking all these essential ingredients? Well check out the film description below to find out why...

A woman arrives at a hospital with a large bump growing on the back of their neck. The doctors and tumor experts are dumbfounded so she finds solace in her old romance Tony Curtis, who just happens to be a hack fortune teller. The 'tumor' grows at an incredible rate and the interior starts to resemble a fetus. Yes, you read right, a fetus. When doctors attempt to remove the growth, all hell breaks loose with doctors cutting themselves with scalpels and lasers going bonkers. Curtis knows something is amiss so he gets some of his psychic friends to hold a séance and finds that a four century old dead Native American medicine man has impregnated himself in the neck of his old flame. I'm shitting myself with laughter just typing this! Somehow Curtis convinces the doctors of this fact and the hospital agrees to pay a Native American medicine man $100,000 to come in and 'exorcise' the Native American demon. This exorcism is hands down the most trippy, bizarre, and unintentionally funny exorcism ever to be displayed on film.

What I don't get is how the filmmakers convinced well liked and respectable actors like Tony Curtis and Burgess Meredith to appear in such comical crap. I really don't know how Tony Curtis didn't burst out into laughter (I have a feeling if any outtakes emerge he would be) over the embarrassing nature of the film. Burgess to top it off is completely wasted in his worthless role that literally gives our characters NO advice, basically "you're shit out of luck."

Despite it's hilarious plot, the film does have a rather good look to it thanks to director William Girdler. Despite being an independent film the film looks like it has a fairly high budget with great sets and good special effects for the time (modern viewers will find them dated).

As you can't tell from reading the review the main problem is the ridiculous plot. Nothing against Native American beliefs but when horror films start bringing in Native American mythology into the mix they usually turn out like crap. The most hilarious aspect of this plot (and believe me there are many) is that our Native American exorcist tells Curtis that every object, even man-made, has a Manitou and they attempt to defeat the demonic medicine man (in the form of a heavily make-upped midget) by channeling all of the hospital computer's Manitous to destroy him. It's enough to make your gut ache with laughter!

"The Manitou" is a high camp classic that was originally made to be a seriously taken "Exorcist" rip-off. The great cast, absurd plot and unintentional laughs will make this a must see for fans of the ludicrous side of horror films. Alcohol is highly encouraged to be consumed throughout the picture for the best effect.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Blob, The (1988) - 3.5/5

30 years after the original "Blob" devoured movie goers at the drive in, the gelatinous mass of man hungry space monster was remade for a less moral and more aggressive 1980s audience. Much to my surprise, its actually a fairly solid piece of 80s horror film that blends plenty of gore, dark humor, and great special effects whilst remaining fairly true to the classic.

Meg (Smith) and Lance (Leitch) finally got it out and decided to go on a date. He's a stud receiver on the small town football team. She's a cheerleader. Should be all Mayberry here. Unfortunately, the night of their date seems to not have that in mind and a fallen meteor brings a mysterious 'blob' into their lives that has a pretty solid hunger that Wheaties can't satiate. With the help of a local rebel Flagg (Dillion), these kids might be the only ones with the balls to stop this ever-growing outer space monster, even when a suspicious government shows up to clean up the mess.

The best part about "The Blob" is that it strikes a balance between keeping it true to the original whilst updating it to fit the times. The film takes the 'alien' creature to new aggressive and violent pastures to bring it up to 80s standards (oh how I miss those standards of super violence in movies). We get substantial gore as it devours and literally breaks down its victims with its acid touch and its top notch special effects of this mass of hungry Jell-O make for an intense watch at times. Although it can be a bit cheesy, because leaping your motorcycle over the ravine to get away from government helicopters ALWAYS works, "The Blob" creates a great fun horror atmosphere that takes the story to the next level.

The film also balances itself away from the grotesque with some well placed humor here and there. Of course, even being of the dark variety, its a nice break from the chases and eating of laborers and balances the film out better.

Occasionally the film seems a bit too out there still with how the government agents are portrayed (and of course the previously mentioned motorcycle chase) and some of its more outrageous gore moments actually spark laughter. When the guy goes to cop a feel off of his date in the car and a fucking blob leaps out of her blouse, it was hard not to laugh. Which is both intentional and not, making it a bit wishy washy in the end.

"The Blob" does a solid job giving us a whole new (and now with 75% more violence!) look on a classic horror picture. It balances itself well and utilizes its strengths nicely. It does suffer a bit from unintentional logic lapses and broad stroke characters, but in the end comes off as a great 80s cult classic. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Dead Silence - 4/5

James Wan rocketed onto the horror scene with the genre invigorating "Saw" that gave indie horror a chance again, but its his follow up horror flick "Dead Silence" that might really show just how talented he is as a director. Although this dark and modern ghost film might have its flaws that tend to hurt it (mostly in its script and plot), "Dead Silence" is an atmospheric ride that really uses Wan's talents to full extent and creates a genuinely creepy film that rises above most of its peers.

Jamie (Kwanten, you know he's popular now as Jason Stackhouse on "True Blood") has some series family issues to take care of. When a ventriloquist dummy is mysteriously delivered to his house, he finds himself one less wife, a whole lot of cops thinking he killed her, and a clue that leads him back to his home town to confront his father. What he learns is that a childhood poem about Mary Shaw and her dolls is perhaps now a curse on his family. With the help of a cop trying to bust him (Wahlberg of the Donnie type), they go to uncover a town secret and curse that just might leave them...speechless.

Where "Saw" was a purely modern horror treat, "Dead Silence" takes that modernity and dashes it with some old school spice. That spice being some seriously thick and dread filled atmosphere. Although the script doesn't have a whole lot to praise for being unique or spectacular, it tends to fall into some odd plot holes occasionally as it goes about telling a mysterious story about a ghost cursed family/town and a group of possessed dolls (if only I had a buck for every movie with one of those two plot points), there is redemption. This script seems pretty basic and is the most flawed part about "Dead Silence". Characters aren't as fleshed out as one would have hoped but it does build a solid mystery to base itself on and it works there.

The truth of the matter with "Dead Silence" is that despite its shaky script and basic acting, the directing makes up for the rest. Wan's visual talent makes this a riveting watch from minute one. It's as if he wanted every scene in this film to be a memorable one with his excellent use of lighting and angles to create depth where these was none in its foundation. A simple scene as Jamie crossing the river in a boat goes from being just a travel shot to one that only cakes on the atmosphere and style with very little visible effort. It's this care to detail that makes this film so damn creepy and scary. Wan makes this one work.

If there was ever a reason to call James Wan one of the modern greats in the horror genre look no further than "Dead Silence". It has a mediocre script at best, but its style and execution on screen is something to be admired because it carries the whole film. If this film doesn't get your skin to crawl at least once then you're not watching it close enough. Definitely one of the best modern ghost horror films out there. Purely through atmosphere.

BONUS PRAISE: I do have to admit that one other aspect of the film that makes it rock so hard is its score. One of the creepiest modern scores I've heard in a long time. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Friday, December 24, 2010

Salt - 1.5/5

Here I am again dabbling in a genre that is notoriously extreme in its quality. The action/thriller (particularly ones dealing with spies) tend to either be awesome or awful. "Salt" has the pleasure in residing in the latter category. Perhaps its my fault for renting the PG-13 theatrical edition instead of the unrated one, but this little doozy turned out to be far too unrealistic to be taken seriously and far too serious to be taken unrealistically. An omen that would have worked for a film in 1984, but fails to do it justice in 2010.

Evelyn Salt (Jolie) seems to have the right balance in life. She has a loving husband that would give anything for her, a nice apartment, a dog, and of course a stable job. Stable as in she works for the CIA in the Russian division. When a mysterious Russian shows up claiming that Salt is a sleeper Russian spy, she finds herself on the run from her own people including best friend and partner Winter (Schreiber). Now she has very little time to clear her name and find out who's behind it all...or is she just playing games with everyone?

My initial reaction to "Salt" was one of somewhat dissatisfaction. With no real protagonist or antagonist to really follow (we are meant to question her loyalties throughout) we are left just floating in a sort of grey area drifting in a sea of uncertainty on what to believe. This of course is somewhat the purpose of the film as it twists and turns and throws all kinds of "who's a sleeper Russian agent?" bullshit at its audience. What it doesn't do is effectively get the audience to follow it for any sort of time to actually make a decision on its roles before it twists again. We have all kinds of hidden threats and seemingly unmotivated actions from characters that seem completely irrelevant when one can't give a rat's pajamas about any of them. By the end of the film, I didn't care who or who wasn't working for the US or the Russians as long as somebody got shot (and ironically I was hoping Salt would be the next one - now wouldn't that be a twist!). By the end, it outsmarted itself into a corner of sheer ridiculousness that I just assumed to give up on making sense of its plot and rooting for death scenes.

Which brings about the next problem with "Salt". The action sequences. What action sequences? I don't know. I think I missed them. It had its moments, Salt's jail break in the cop car comes to mind, but overall it seemed to be littered with just a whole lot of chasing. Until the final act, for which by the grace of God it decided to focus on this instead of making sense of its plot, the action picks up but it was a very long hour and a half to get there and definitely not worth it. So what we have a few intense moments of espionage? I can get that in "Mission: Impossible III" but with a shit ton more charm and a whole lot more awesomeness.

"Salt" just tries so damn hard to be so damn smart that it forgot that contained the political/espionage plot of a straight to DVD Steven Segal flick and lacked the action to float itself on its own absurdity. This film couldn't decide if it wanted to make a statement about current states of Russian/US standings or if it wanted to entertain and ending up doing neither. Either embrace the bad or leave it out. "Salt" didn't do either.

BONUS RANT: I guess their are two very different cuts available of this film with two very different endings. I'm almost curious to see these just because this one seemed like it wanted to play it very safe with how it wrapped it all up. Then again, I would have to buy this movie and perhaps re-watch it. After weighing the possibilities I'm just going to skip out. Not worth the effort. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Vice Academy Part 3 - 1.5/5

What can you say about a sequel that even Linnea Quigley refuses to appear in? That's like Michael Dudikoff turning down an "American Ninja" sequel.... oh wait, scratch that. Instead we get introduced to her character's sister (in a sequence reminiscent to "Charlie's Angels") Candy played by Elizabeth Kaitan whom you might remember from "Friday the 13th Part VII" and "Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2." Well with screen credits like that we know she was hired for her acting talent. Ginger Lynn Allen returns so there is your one main character connection but then again does anyone get excited by the presence of Ginger Lynn Allen other than Charlie Sheen?

Well we begin with Ginger's character Holly undercover in prison but the prisoner she is supposed to be watching escapes, holds up a liquor store, gets sprayed by some chemicals and in "Batman" fashion emerges as a green-haired bitch bent on bringing chaos to the city. Now Holly and her new partner Candy must stop her!

Surprisingly I found "Vice Academy Part 3" to be a hair better than the first two. Either I'm getting used to these lame films or I'm actually getting dumber by watching them. Just remember the more you're around shit, even shit begins not to smell. What makes this sequel a hair better is the higher production values. Don't get me wrong as they are still extremely cheap but look like they cost a couple hundred bucks more. Writer/director Rick Sloane also seems to be getting a little better at writing as he even introduces a few poignant moments with multiple story lines going on. Well the film may still suck but it's at least a step in the right direction!

Another disappointing aspect of this film is Jayne Hamil doesn't return to her role of Miss Devonshire and instead get Johanna Grika filling in. Grika does an admirable job (as good as one can look in one of these films) but Hamil made the character one of the few likable aspects of the first two films. Oh did I mention Linnea Quigley doesn't return?

So far of the three films in this overlong series I have seen, "Part 3" is the best thanks to the filmmaking quality being heightened a hair. It still sucks thanks to more lame acting and forced comedy that fails YET AGAIN but then again fans of the series should be used to these aspects by now. Originally this was supposed to be the final film in the series but thanks to being another success, Part 4 was soon to follow. Also note how none of the women on the poster artwork are the actresses that actually appear in the film.... no doubt because Ginger Lynn Allen was such a bitch to work with on this film making ridiculous demands and acting like a pre-Madonna by showing up on the set hours late. Hey, this film by not be art but that is fucking lame!

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Vice Academy Part 2 - 1/5

Well I won't lie, "Vice Academy Part 2" was exactly like I expected it to be: A lame sequel to a lame film that is a rip-off of the slightly less lame "Police Academy" franchise. It's basically an exact carbon copy of the first film and why not as that was what fans wanted and that is exactly what writer / director /producer / editor Rick Sloane provided. Since I wasn't a fan of the original it should come as no surprise that I'm not a fan of this sequel either... to put it lightly.

Our film opens with Ginger Lynn Allan returning in her role as Holly by breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience. Just what I want, a shitty film talking to me! Well our two slutty vice cops Holly and Didi (Linnea Quigley also returning) are not full fledged cops but they get demoted their first day on the job by botching the receptionist position. In order to save their jobs they need to bring down a psychotic villains that is hell bent on infecting the city's water system with an aphrodisiac if their demands aren't met. Can our two slutty cops put their differences aside? Will they be able to keep their clothes on? Will anyone other than empty-headed males care?

One thing that makes this film a little more watchable is it contains a little more female skin which is a happy diversion to the forced comedy, lame acting, artless directing and overall cheap production values. Director Sloane tried to liven up the film by introducing... get this... BimboCop. BimboCop is a "RoboCop" in the form of a woman body builder who might be replacing our sleazy and inept vice cops from their jobs. Not surprisingly this "novel" idea falls flat.

If by some chance you loved the first "Vice Academy" then by all means dive into this sequel. One-track minded men with a liking for dumb women and juvenile comedy will dig it. Good news.... "Vice Academy Part 2" was a huge hit on video so "Vice Academy Part 3" got made less than a year later. God help us!

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Quantum Of Solace (2008)

Director: Marc Forster
Notable Cast: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Gemma Arterton, Jeffrey Wright, Judi Dench

As a huge supporter of "Casino Royale" and its return to a darker, bolder, more book like Bond I was insanely excited for "Quantum Of Solace". After watching it for only the second time (the first was opening day in theaters), I still have trouble comprehending this film. The best way for me to describe my Bond fanaticism and its reaction to "Quantum" is this: if Bond films were delicious cakes, "Quantum" would be an uncooked one. Yes, like the others, all the ingredients are there, but the process for making it seems to be skewed and unfinished. This film is only half cooked and if suffers greatly from it.

STORYLINE: Bond (Craig) is making a run for sanctuary with a mysterious Mr. White locked in his trunk. It's only a short time after the events of "Casino Royale" and Bond is continuing his mission to discover who was the organization behind the events that lead to Vesper's (and coincidentally his own personal love's) death. When Bond discovers that this organization, Quantum, leads to a quite well respected Mr. Greene (Amalric) and a odd deal of land he is trying to acquire in Bolivia, he finds himself on track to find a way into the evil organization and perhaps onto a larger plan to start collecting one of the world's most valuable resources.

PLOT 2/5: Firstly, this is the first ACTUAL Bond sequel of the series. Which sort of leaves an odd taste in my mouth initially. The storyline is solid but fails to achieve its 'own' feeling like it should have. It really feels like a tacked on extension and over-complication of "Casino Royale", never really garnering its own story. When it does try to, it never goes far enough. The idea that Quantum is after water control is kind of a cool motivation for this film, but it feels like a side plot and is treated like a bastard child detail that is irrelevant to Bond's quest. This in turns makes the entire film a character arc for Bond where the actual plot is a second thought. Where the character arc is being tacked on to what happened in "Casino Royale" and not its own new leap. This undermines the entire experience of seeing a Bond film. It still retains that darker, more serious Bond that I love so much, but fails to feel like a Bond film at all. It has all the right elements but none of the right execution. It puts all the right ingredients in the bowl to make the cake, but fails to actually bake it to finish it off. Which is a very frustrating experience. It has it moments, but they are fleeting.

BOND 3.5/5: This is easily the highlight of the film even though its flawed occasionally. Craig once again easily manifests the Bond that this reviewer loves with his quiet cold demeanor and take no shit attitude. Unfortunately, Craig is given far less to work with as a character this time around and many scenes that could have been super impactful fall flat. The death of Mathis. The final moments with Camille in the burning hotel. They just don't allow the same subtle work that made "Casino Royale" work like it did. Occasionally it can be pulled off like in the scene at the end at the Russian hotel with its final moments, but overall its a great performance for a underdeveloped focus of the film.

VILLAIN 1/5: Mr. Greene. Oh Mr. Greene. You were neither a physical or mental threat to the great Mr. Bond. Amalric did a solid job giving us a performance of a rather quirky Napoleon-like man, but once again the writing fails him massively. When he threatens it never really feels like he could pull it off like he says. Mr. White would have been a much better villain as he steals his one moment in the beginning of the film. Quantum is supposed to be the new SPECTRE but fails to live up to its predecessor in many ways, including its over-reaching web of people for which Greene is supposed to be the face of. Greene is just whiny and very light on the actual evil-ness. Not to mention he has no real henchman to help any of his faults.

BOND GIRL 2/5: Camille is ex-secret service and completely helpless to the entire film in plot and execution. The acting was solid but nothing to write home about and her character comes off as a wishy washy element that fails to intrigue or help with Bond's personal character arc (for which the film focuses). She also seems to be a second thought to the film and it just destroys any kind of relevance she was supposed to hold to an audience. I could have cared two shits if she got her revenge or even survived. Better than wishing her dead like Goodnight, I suppose.

Forster obviously was out to prove he could make an action film with "Quantum Of Solace" of which he did. What he didn't make was a Bond film. His modern style of action, too many quick cuts, undermines the sequences into a flurry of 'what the hell just happened' for the audience and makes the film feel more like a Bourne picture than Bond. He gets some of the nice visual queues right, but gets too many of the details wrong. Like the location names being done in odd fonts. What?! This, partnered with its weak writing that tries to re-write the Bond formula instead of re-inventing it like "Casino Royale" did makes for a weak Bond viewing experience. One massive disappointment. We just get the batter instead of the cake. Not the same.

BONUS RANT: This has got to be one of the worst Bond songs in history too topping the charts with its simplicity and failure to actually capture the Bond mood. Just one more thing massively disappointing with this film. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I Spit On Your Grave [Day Of The Woman] (1978) - 3/5

The 70's was the era of 'rape and revenge' exploitation horror and the film that kicked off this unpleasant subgenre was Wes Craven's notoriously brutal "The Last House on the Left." The monumental controversy behind that picture jump-started a whole slew of imitators trying to top the previous film in sheer nastiness. In Italy we had such pictures as "Night Train Murders", "House on the Edge of the Park" and "Hitch-Hike" but another home grown film right here in the United States holds a well deserved second rank of the "rape and revenge" subgenre. That medal goes to the notorious "I Spit on Your Grave."

"I Spit on Your Grave", man what a title! I remember seeing the giant Wizard Video box artwork at our local video store with a sticker on it that read "must be 18 to rent." "What kind of horror film is this?" I asked myself as I looked at the uneasy poster artwork of a woman, tattered and torn holding a knife. It wasn't the sticker or the box art that grabbed my attention the most.... it was the title. Surprisingly this now famous, attention grabbing title was not the original title the film was released under. "I Spit on Your Grave" was initially released in theaters with the less imaginative title "Day of the Woman" and in turn the film tanked. Distributors being smart in those days decided to re-title the film with the more sinister banner "I Spit on Your Grave", re-released it and wallah, instant hit! Under its re-Christianed title, "I Spit on Your Grave" garnered as much attention as its forefather "The Last House on the Left" and like it was quickly panned by critics with Roger Ebert calling it the "worst film he had ever seen." Is it that bad? Well let's pop in this cult classic and see.

Typical with rape and revenge grindhouse films we know the plot is going to be very simple, shocking and to the point. "I Spit on Your Grave" does deliver that. We are introduced to a young pretty author needing a little seclusion to concentrate on writing her new book so she rents a house in the country. While relaxing she tans in her bikini by a river and in turn attracts the attention of some young local rednecks. Her nimble body gets their hormones pumping and lacking ethics and morals they decide to rape her, again..... and again...... and again.

This is where the film becomes a pot of water that continues to grow hotter until it boils over. This film gives no chance for the audience to catch their breath! After the slow build-up the film takes off at a hundred miles an hour hitting the audience with everything it's got with its first sequence of brutality. After the rape our victim stumbles out into the forest, naked and delirious. Not long after our group of rednecks return to give her a second go around. By this time the film is becoming EXTREMELY unpleasant and the audience is just fidgeting in their seats. Being brutally raped twice she wanders home, even more delirious than before only to be greeted by our rapists yet again! "The Last House on the Left" had one brutal rape sequence but this film hits its audience with three! If your still able to view the film from this point and haven't been totally offended then this is where the film gets real interesting. Our writer doesn't go to the cops but instead decides to get cold calculating revenge by seducing each man one by one brutally killing them in extremely graphic ways (the bath tub sequence will be just one that will be forever burned in your mind). We'll just say the film lives up to its memorable tagline "This woman has just chopped, crippled and mutilated four men beyond recognition... but no jury in America would ever convict her!"

The film just pulls you in with its slow build of unpleasantness just to see how this poor woman gets vengeance. These goons are royally evil and deserve every horrible act they get! Even with its gripping sense of dread the film succumbs to many shortcomings due to novice filmmaking, even more so than the flaws present in "Last House." Director Meir Zarchi is an obvious novice and it shows with some poor camera-work. One shot of his that gets me is after our lead leaves a church the camera pans up to show the ceiling above the church door. Why did the director do this? It does not show any symbolism such as a cross so this sloppy shot is just one of many instances of clumsy filmmaking mistakes. Some sequences even come out unintentionally funny, like our rape victim chasing one of her attackers in a motorboat with an ax raised above her head. The scene just comes off looking a little silly.

Like many low budget films of this nature some of the acting is... ehhh... below average but our lead Camille Keaton is amazing in the role, perhaps a little too good as she makes the horrible rape sequences extremely realistic and unpleasant. Some of the characterizations are also a little head scratching like our mentally challenged character who, thanks to peer pressure, also rapes our victim. He shows displeasure in it and obvious remorse then later in the picture, out of nowhere, he becomes a complete lunatic and chases our lead with a knife. I mean what the fuck?! It would have been much more powerful the director kept this character remorsing his actions when our vengeful rape victim comes calling for revenge.

"I Spit on Your Grave" is an unpleasant, disturbing experience but none-the-less a powerful one. Who says powerful films have to be "happy and optimistic". Most of the time it's completely opposite, as with the case here and it's a shame that main stream critics don't get this and merely judge the film based on its unpleasant nature. "I Spit on Your Grave" is not for everyone and many will just find it depraved and unwatchable. If the film had a little tighter directing and overall better, perhaps more experienced filmmakers behind the camera would I have given this a higher rating but as is I still find this a must see for people who can handle powerful, disturbing motion pictures. The wave of influence this film had is still rippling today as a remake was recently made but that reviewing honor will be left up to my brother...

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope - 3.5/5

I will not lie to you oh faithful readers. I will not be kind to this film. That being said I also have a love for this film that goes beyond its obvious flaws and its the damn charm of this movie and sheer cheesiness that procures these kinds of feelings. So know that by the end of this review, even though I may poke fun at it, its still a fantastic watch and a fun time. "A New Hope" may not be the greatest film ever made as some claim it to be, but it works more often than not.

Luke Skywalker (Hamill) is just your average farm boy living on a desert planet with his uncle and aunt, avoiding Sand People, and planning his escape to bigger and better things. When a couple of lost droids happen to come to the farm, he discovers that there is more going on in the universe than the next harvest. He learns of a rebellion against the Empire and when he attempts to get a secret message to an old hermit named Obi Wan (Guinness), he finds himself suddenly on his way to thwart a giant planet destroying Death Star. With the help of a mercenary named Han (Ford) and a rebellious bitch of a Princess/Ambassador (Fisher), Luke is in for the adventure of a life time!

After reading my own description for the film's plot, I realized just how epically out there it is. Seriously? Who green lit that script? It's so out of the realm of mainstream moneymaking, what studio would ever touch it? I guess that's the difference between studios back then and studios now. They were willing to take a chance. Either that or Lucas is one sweet talker. Anyway. Let's move on.

One does have to respect "Star Wars" quite a bit. It took a ton of chances and they did pay off. The film likes to play it big. It's surprising that audiences accepted it as well as they did back in the late 70s. The story throws all kinds of new concepts at you like "The Force" and the entire political structure with almost no explanation to any of it. You have to just go with it and accept it for what it is. Luckily, if you watch the 'first' three prior to it (the prequels) then you have a much better understanding of it. Either way though, just go with it and have a fun time.

One thing that I think is completely overrated with "A New Hope" (notice I change what I call the film because no one really knows what to call it now anyway) is it's cast. I mean, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher can be complete 2D cut outs through most of the movie and even Ford as Han Solo is a pretty arc-less 'lead'. He's damn fun to watch and his charisma steals the film (when he talks to the guards through the intercom when breaking into the prison is priceless), but his poor character is left hanging. Luckily they got a few more films to really flesh things out.

The film is also insanely cheesy. It's dialogue, although still heads over tails better than the prequels, is not great and some of its 'epic' moments lend to almost laugh inducing hilarity. Some of it was intentional (good on them) but some of its not (good for us!). The final celebration sequence is head slappingly cheese ridden with some of its random cut-aways and awful acting. (If Luke looks at one more person/bot smiles, stifles laughter, and then looks happily into the camera I just might explode). Even some of its intense action sequences get to be really cheesy too, like the fighter pilot attack on the Death Star. Should be intense, but really isn't. Obi Wan won't shut the hell up with his voice overs (Luke better use the fucking force to shut him up!) and the half the pilots explode over nothing. One laser, they lean forward, and fire. Yeesh.

The film also seems to lack logic at times. Wow. That hasn't come up before in any of my review for "Star Wars" films. I mean, Luke spends what, like 2 days with Obi Wan and suddenly he's like a father. And why the hell does Obi Wan just disappear?! Other Jedi's don't just poof away. There was quite a bit more agony prior. And why the hell does the rebel force make Luke a fighter pilot? He's never left the fucking desert planet let alone FLOWN IN SPACE BY HIMSELF. The list could go on, but I digress.

Overall, "A New Hope" is a very flawed film that somehow is able to overcome all of it with its charm and fun. That in itself is a feat and worth its rating. When you try to pick it apart, it quickly seems to crumble before your eyes, but on the whole it works. Don't ask me how, but it does.

DARTH VADER'S BAD ASS MOMENT OF THE FILM: Originally I wanted to put the moment where Darth Vader hits Obi Wan so hard with a light saber he just disappears as the bad ass moment of the film, but decided it was just too damn illogical to actually be bad ass. So I'm going with choice number two, invisible choking. If only everyone could defend their religion with invisible choking by the Force, I'm sure the planet would be a more peaceful place. As if that guy who was smack talking didn't realize that Vader was the Emperor's right hand man and did some seriously sick shit. I mean, he sort of had it coming. Also its kind of bad ass that Vader took two steps towards him just to do it. As if he was like "Dude, I'm totally going to choke your ass" when he could have just stood there and done it. That. Is. Bad. Ass.

BONUS RANT: Also doesn't the first act of this movie really seem to drag on and on and on. It's as if the droids were supposed to be the lead characters. We sit for 20 minutes watching C-3PO talk to R2 as he beeps and they wander around really doing nothing. "Beep Beep". "Oh R2." "Blip WOOOOO!". "Not that way, R2!" "Beep Blip". Seriously. Fucking get on with it. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Lurkers - 1/5

I read the film description on the back of the DVD set that I obtained this film in and thought it sounded interesting. If you've read my reviews for "Tenemant" and "Prime Evil" then you can imagine my horror when I saw the name Roberta Findlay appear in the opening credits as director. Her name is like an awful omen that you're going into an absolute piece of shit. Roberta may not be as bad as Fred Olen Ray or Uwi Boll but damn is she not a runner up as she has the uncanny ability to turn a gold bare into a log of brown trout.

We open with a young girl who is about strangled to death with a jump rope outside her apartment building and that night she starts seeing ghostly images of deformed old people known as "Lurkers." Fast forward to years later and as a grown women her fianceé decides to take her to his companies party which just happens to be in the very building she had problems with the Lurkers. Her fiancée is a real douche bag by cheating on her behind her back so obviously his other plans for his 'love of his life.'

Typical with Roberta Findlay films, the acting is just God awful and this proves yet again that she can't direct actors to save her soul. The film also still has the wonderful low budget porno production values that Findlay is so great at providing. The script by Ed Kelleher and Harriette Vidal (same guys who blessed us later with the Roberta helmed "Prime Evil") has holes big enough to rival the caves in fifty year old whores that have been road hard and put away wet.

I will give the film a little praise in that Findlay was able to create a somewhat surreal atmosphere once our lead re-enters the haunted apartment building. My favorite sequence has to be when she is waiting outside when out of nowhere a psychopath emerges chasing a girl with a sledge hammer. It generates a response of 'what the fuck was that'. Sadly these surreal sequences are detrimented by a silly, laugh inducing shit score.

The surreal sequences are enough to make this the 'best' Roberta Findlay film I have seen but that's like saying a log of shit with corn is better than a log of shit with peanuts. Even if it's better, it's still shit. The plot is overall uninteresting, the acting makes the flow tedious and the plot holes are enough to make one bash their head against the TV. Only watch if you're a masochist, as any film by Findlay is guaranteed to gratify you the pain your craving.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Vice Academy - 1/5

As you can tell from the title and even the font lettering that this is rip-off of "Police Academy"... a low grade rip-off. A REALLY low grade rip-off. Basically take the dumb comedy elements and basic plot of "Police Academy" and mix it with the piss poor production values and bare skin found in the long running "Witchcraft" series and you have this bastard creation and ended up spawning almost as many sequels as the very franchise it was ripping off.

What we get is a bunch of scantily clad bimbos going through Vice Academy training in order become Vice cops. They learn such talents as shooting a gun, kicking guys in the junk and putting on hooker make-up in less than 20 seconds (pimps don't like their bitches waiting!). Our main slutty cop is played by cult actress Linnea Quigley (don't worry, she bares her breasts... she always does) and in her quest to beat her rival Ginger Lynn Allen to make the most arrests, her and her crew made a hasty mistake while busting some porn filmmakers and in order to graduate they have to stay up all night busting hookers to make their quota.

The quality of this production is as low as it gets and it looks like it was made for $2.50. Along with this extremely low budget we get low grade acting to match with some pain inducing dialogue and uninspired directing provided writer/director/producer Rick Sloan. What should you expect from the guy who brought us the unwatchable "Gremlins" rip-off "Hobgoblins"?

"Vice Academy" was made to be a silly B-movie comedy with skin but even as a B-movie I still didn't find it to be "so bad it's good." It actually found it to be more annoying than anything and I ended up groaning in pain at the forced comical moments rather than snickering. People going into this expecting a lot of nudity are also going to be disappointed as there are a few topless scenes but most of the skin is only shown with the women parading around in skanky clothing and lingerie.

They made 6 of these damn things so there is an audience for these films but obviously I am not one of them and in turn found it quite dreadful. Most of the "Police Academy" films were lame and this is a lame rip-off of a lame series which in turn spawned its own lame franchise. I am a fan of B-movies but "Vice Academy" didn't tickle my fancy one iota. To me I just found the whole experience irritating and vexatious, along the same lines as Troma films. Sorry "Vice Academy" fans, this gets a big thumbs down from me. Perhaps some of the sequels improve upon the formula and maybe, just maybe I can force myself to sit through a few.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Police Story 2 (1988)

 Director: Jackie Chan
Notable Cast: Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, Bill Tung, Chor Yuen

As with any sort of action film franchise, each additional entry has to be bigger and more boisterous than the previous. This also goes for "Police Story". The first film had a great balance of action, drama, and comedy to make it a fascinating watch and a great Jackie Chan film. "Police Story 2" however, just doesn't quite get the balance right. Oh yes, its bigger and badder than the original, but it just doesn't strike the same chemistry as its predecessor. It makes for a pretty solid watch, but it just slightly falters to the first.

Ka Kui (Chan) has been demoted for the massive destruction he caused in his rebellion at the end of "Police Story". When his old enemy shows up once more, he decides that he needs to leave the force for the sake of his relationship (and safety) of girlfriend May (Cheung). When a very profitable group has their properties held ransom by some all too serious and organized terrorist bombers, Ka Kui is brought out of retirement to solve the case...and perhaps kick a little more ass.

In "Police Story 2"'s attempts at being bigger and more awesome on every level, it seemingly forgets that what made the first so good was its foundation in its story. Although this film really makes for a larger story (with all sorts of twists and plot switches) it sort of loses focus on the characters and seems to meander a bit much. The comedic scenes seem to be randomly placed in the film, with a seriously out of place 'fart in an elevator sequence', and rarely blend with the more dramatic pieces as well. They can work, especially when Chan and Cheung do their bickering couple routine, but it mostly misses the mark. As do some of the more dramatic scenes with only one that really works its magic with the villains reading a letter to Ka Kui as he is captured. Other than that though, the dramatic tension seemingly loses steam too.

The one part that "Police Story 2" does improve on is its action sequences. And boy oh boy does it go all out. Bigger explosions, more broken glass, more Chan leaping over ridiculously high walls, more fist to cuffs, and even more impressive set work for stunts. You name it and this film pretty much has it. One of Jackie Chan's best attributes is finding cool set pieces for him to work his stunt magic and this one has memorable scene after memorable scene. The play ground brawl is one of his best choreographed fight sequences in his career. Those poor stunt guys!

Although "Police Story 2" just slightly misses to its first entry, its still an amazingly fun ride to take and highly worth the viewing. If only for its action pieces. Chan delivers once again in entertainment even if the substance is a bit off.

BONUS RANT: The film starts off with one of the poorest recaps ever done. Although Chan improves overall as a director on this one, this poorly constructed 'flashback' sequence of events from "Police Story" tells the audience NOTHING about the story. It's more or less a best of stunts sequence from the original. Like an oddly paced trailer with no voice over really. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Creeping Terror, The - 0/5

Listen up Ed Wood fans! You think "Plan 9 from Outer Space" is the worst movie ever made? Perhaps you're one who thinks "Manos, Hands of Fate" or even "Troll 2" holds that crown. Well do I have a movie for you! For my money "The Creeping Terror" is the worst film ever made. I have seen thousands of films and boy have I seen some doozies in my time but I think I nailed the film that gets the embarrassing crown of unachievment of 'Worst Film Ever Made."

This 1964 garbage heap was the brain child of director/writer/producer/editor/star Vic Savage (why is it that movies where one guy does most of the work are usually shit?) and the plot as a giant alien space slug lands on earth and slithers around eating young teenagers. That's it!

This film is as artless and gauche as movie can get and it is obviously made by a guy who has absolutely no fucking idea on how to make a movie. Story has it that Vic Savage was an escaped con-man that went to a little town and convinced the local people that he was a big shot Hollywood producer and basically got everyone to work on the film for free. Since this guy had absolutely NO idea how to make a film he basically points the camera at one location and fills the movie with long, boring, drawn-out sequences. An example is he sets up a camera at a school dance function (that oddly seems to be happening in the middle of the day) and just shows people dancing for what seems like an eternity. No direction, no editing, just point and shoot and use all the footage you can to pad the film out to feature length.

Perhaps even worse than the filmmaking 'quality' is the God damn space monster. This is the most embarrassing 'special effect' I have ever seen in a motion picture. It literally is a shag rug carpet and you can even see the sneakers of the high school students moving it around beneath!

One of the stranger aspects of the film is the narration that is oddly overlaid throughout most of the film. I have heard two stories for this. The first is that director Vic Savage lost the dialogue tracks and was forced to hire a bland narrator to tell the audience what was going on. The second is that Vic thought it was too expensive to have the 'actors' come in and dub their lines so he did the cheaper alternative by hiring a narrator. Whoever decided this approach and whatever the reason is beyond me. The narration is just bizarre and the narration reminds you of those boring 8mm education films teachers forced students to watch in school.

This is a truly awful piece of drek that I actually recommend everyone to attempt to see only once just to take witness on how NOT to make a film. The odd story behind the making of the film is FAR more interesting than the actual final product, which is actually rather hard to sit through. If you can grin and bare it than you are a true cinema fan! Either that or you have nothing better to do with your time.

UPDATE: Filmmaker Todd Wallinger is working with Emmy-winning director Pete Schuermann currently on a documentary entitled "Creep!" which chronicles the interesting behind-the-scenes story of this dreadful film. Mr. Wallinger commented on this review below and provided some really interesting facts on the making of the picture. View the teaser trailer for the documentary by clicking here. Please support these wonderful filmmakers and their hard work by either renting or buying this documentary when it becomes available!

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Light Blast - 2/5

After directing a number of post-apocalyptic and dystopian future films, Italian action director extraordinaire Enzo G. Castellari decided to return back to the Poliziotteschi crime genre, the genre he helped to create in the early 70s with such classics as "High Crime", "Street Law" and "The Big Racket." Even returning to a genre the he was a master in, "Light Blast" still succumbs to many flaws that plagued Italian films of the 80s, most notably a feeble story and limp characters.

The plot to "Light Blast" injects a little science fiction as a mad physicist is running around terrorizing San Francisco, melting structures and people with a cheesy looking contraption. He demands $10 million or he will kill and destroy more people and structures. Homicide cop (Erik Estrada) is on the case and uses any means necessary to bring the psychopath down.

Our star choice is a little perplexing. I mean of all people they had to pick Erik Estrada? I understand Italians like to use popular American actors in order to sell the movies to foreign distributors but he just seems miscast in an Italian action film. I have never been a fan of Estrada and this despisement of him was injected into me at an early age from my father and it surrounds my namesake. We have a lot of Norwegian ancestry in my family lineage so I was originally going to be named Erik after the Viking Erik the Red. My father had the spelling of my name changed to Eric with a "c" so it would not resemble the first name of our hero Erik Estrada. Yes that's how much he was hated in our family! Despite being miscast he actually wasn't horrible in the film but some of his dialogue was cringe worthy. It did send a shiver down my spine when his character was introduced by being only clad in a black Speedo to meet some terrorists demands. AHHHH!

Enzo continues his pseudo documentary style of filmmaking that became more prominent in his 80s offerings which has a nice gritty feel with some lively camera angles. As expected there are some amazing action sequences with some dangerous stunts complete with lots of slow motion head shots. The action is plentiful but the numerous chase sequences seem only divert the lackluster story when the plot begins to drag. The plot also has far too many "convenient" set-ups that will have the viewer going "what are the chances!". An example of this is Estrada notices a scrape on the back of one of the terrorists vans and later sees a scrap on a generator through a window in a garage. What are the chances!

I will be honest I did have fun with "Light Blast" as an empty-headed action film. I mean how can a film with a laser that melts people, a climatic chase in a race car and a score by a duo named Oliver Onions not be fun? Fans of Italian cult films will definitely want to pick this up but this is still a far cry from Enzo's superior 60s and 70s cinema outings.

Note: The DVD release from Code RED (one of my favorite companies) strangely put the banner "Post-Apocalyptic Collection" at the top of the DVD cover, a collection of DVDs which also contains "2019: After the Fall of New York", "1990: The Bronx Warriors", "The New Barbarians" and "Exterminators of the Year 3000." Don not be fooled as there is NOTHING post-apocalyptic about this film.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hearse, The - 2/5

"Never laugh as the hearse goes by as you may be the next to die"

That lyric of a child song always gave me chills. It's so damn creepy! There is something unnerving about hearses as they are a symbol tied to death and sadness. This unnerving nature about the vehicle makes them an obvious symbol of 'horror' but is the perceived nature of this vehicle enough to be the basis of a good horror movie? That would be asking too much wouldn't it?!

Trish Van Devere plays a women on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Her mother died and her husband left her so she decides to get some fresh air by moving into her dead aunts house that was willed to her from her mother. Everyone in town treats here like shit due to the fact that the house she has inherited has the reputation for being a haunted. In reality her aunt and lover were devil worshipers and her aunts lover has come back from the grave and aided by a ghostly hearse plans to take a new bride. Is Devere really being haunted by the dead or is she just going slightly mad?

"The Hearse" bombed at the box office in 1980 and many claim it to be for the fact the film goes for ghostly chills and atmosphere as opposed to flowing blood like the slashers that were flooding cinema's with gore at the time. Sure this could have hurt the film but the most important ingredient that aided in "The Hearse" failure at the box office is that this simply isn't a good movie. When it comes right down to it when your film just plain and simple isn't GOOD, it will more than likely not do well and "The Hearse" fits this equation perfectly.

Trish Van Devere is strong as our likable lead but the rest of the cast is terrible. Any chills built up with the creepy atmosphere deflates instantly when anyone other characters open their mouths. The film also suffers from numerous plot holes and an ending that absolutely pisses you off. Talk about loose ends that are never tied up!

If you want a horror film with no gore and tons of creepy atmosphere done right then go see "The Changeling" as "The Hearse" will fail to chill you to the bone. Director George Bowers is able to craft some creepy moments but the bad acting, poor flow and uninvolving plot just fail to drag the viewer in. Mix all this with a dud of an ending and your destined to have another lackluster horror film to gather dust on your DVD shelf.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Monday, December 13, 2010

Black Christmas (2006) - 3/5

Did I miss the memo? When the hell was the remake of "Black Christmas" supposed to actually be fun (in a horror sort of way)? Why didn't anyone tell me that this 2006 remake of a slasher classic was actually going to be a blast to watch? Seriously. All you critics and fans should be ashamed for not cluing me into this massively over the top rendition. Although the movie isn't good, especially compared to its source material, it had balls enough to know it and run with it. Making for a flawed, but darkly humorous trip into ridiculousness. Let's open this gory present up!

A group of sorority girls in a remote house (what the hell would a sorority move their houses into the fucking boonies for?!) find themselves stuck in the house when a massive blizzard prevents a few of the last ones from actually trekking home. Unfortunately, a little ghost story about a boy who lived in the house prior (whose inbred tale of family abuse and oddities make for a "fun" movie on its own) seemingly comes true when Billy escapes a mental institution and decides to come home for Christmas. You thought the scariest thing in a sorority house was the bitchy girls? Well Billy might just change your mind. Who will survive? How will they stop this killer? Who cares really? Let's for for a slay ride!

I'll be the first to admit. This really isn't a good horror movie. You don't give two shits about any of the characters. What little character work they do with them is irrelevant in the end and anything resembling clever plot points comes off as eye rolling idiotic. The charming part about "Black Christmas" is that it seemingly knows how bad it is. It then embraces it. And fucking runs with it full speed down the B-movie cave straight into hell. This is what works about the film and, honestly, its a blast to watch for this one reason.

When your killer in the film has yellow skin because of some sort of kidney defect, its hard to take it seriously. But if that doesn't tell you how ridiculous they made this film, then you should probably just quit reading now. If you can't take the bad then just go home. Make some cookies (not from your dead mother mind you) and enjoy your snow and lights. Leave this alone. This film truly embraces its over the top story. We have all kinds of odd eyeball shots (camera shots and with heavy sharp utensils shots), ridiculous coloring of reds, greens, and yellows courtesy of Christmas lights that are over bright, and an acting cast of complete nitwits whom only ham up the experience further. It's so out there that it had to be intentional. If it wasn't, then it would lose 2 stars from my rating.

Despite its gory over the top slasher qualities that are done in exponential form, the film does pretty much suck. It tends to fall apart towards the end as it tries to be more clever than it is and takes an almost serious tone about 'family'. It also seemingly never ends as it drags itself from the house to a hospital for its final act. It's these more serious moments, thrown in to counterbalance the outrageousness, that make it even less of a film than it could have been.

Here's the deal though. Take "Black Christmas" with a grain of salt because if you do, then you will have a riot watching it in all of its ironic glory. Don't expect it to be at all like the original (cause it basically just steals the foundation that's all) and just have a good time. It wasn't intended to change your life for the better in any way. It's campy. It's fun. Enjoy it for what it is. Have yourself a new Christmas tradition.

BONUS RANT: The DVD copy that I have is titled "Black X-Mas" on the box. They should have used this for the film too as it aptly and more appropriately conveys its less than serious manner and takes it a bit further away from its source material. It would have been a smarter choice to describe its intent, I believe.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Babysitter, The (1969) - 3/5

Today the story of an older married man being seduced by a young barely legal beauty may be old hat but back in 1969 this was quite new, and even shocking as "The Babysitter" adds doses of exploitation goodness when it comes to nudity and even violence to make this a well worth watch for fans of exploitative drive-in entertainment.

The plot has an aging prosecutor (George E. Carey) whose marriage has become soured thanks to a surprise pregnancy with his wife resulting in her becoming a complete bitch and no longer wanting to have sex. His boring, bridge playing days are about to come to an end when he starts having a wild sexual fling with their gorgeous blond bomb babysitter (cult actress Patricia Wymer). All is going wonderful until he becomes blackmailed by one of his lesbian daughters friends who takes pictures in order for him to drop the case against her boyfriend who brutally murdered a women. Will our prosecutor throw the case to save his failing marriage and job or will he tough it out?

For an exploitation indie drama this actually wasn't half bad. Sure the acting can be touch and go but surprisingly Wymer and Carey actually pull off the romance believably. Patricia Wymer is very titular as our babysitter Candy and I can see why she had a cult following though she only appeared in 3 films (most notably in the horror film "The Witchmaker"). She bares her breasts and luscious bum periodically and director William O. Brown handles this occasional nudity and violence well without making it come out too raunchy or gratuitous.

I do have to complain about the ending so I am going to warn people that I am about to talk about a spoiler. (SPOILER START). After deciding not to throw the case, our prosecutor is prepared for the worst so he types up his letter of resignation and goes to see his boss the district attorney who wants to talk to him about receiving the incriminating pictures. Surprisingly his boss is okay with it and even wants to keep a picture for himself! Okay I can buy that but when his wife receives the pictures all she responds with is "perhaps we are playing too much bridge" and the film ends on a rather uplifting note. This whole ending makes it seem it's okay to cheat on one's spouse without any negative consequences and I just don't buy that. (END SPOILER).

Overall I found this to be an interestingly little exploitation drama with a luscious star and enough skin and occasional violence to keep things interesting through the dull moments. The film proved to be popular enough that a sequel titled "Weekend with the Babysitter" got released a year later but sadly Wymer didn't return as the title character. "The Babysitter" never got a VHS release but if finally made it's DVD debut in various cult film DVD collections for people that are interested.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Golgo 13 (1977) - 4/5

While watching "Golgo 13" I kept asking myself why I never hunted down more Sonny Chiba films before. Sure I heard about his "Street Fighter" series and even saw Chiba in films prior to this but he was always in a small bit part. Now finally getting my hands on a Chiba box set that actually has films where his is the main star I can see why this guy has such a huge following. This guy is B.A.D.A.S.S. He defines the word "badassary" and he might even become one of my top 3 action stars if more of his films are as badass as "Golgo 13".

So what is Golgo 13 stand for? Well it is the code name for Sonny Chiba who is the world's best hit man and the Golgo portion stands for Golgotha, the mountain Christ was crucified on, and the 13 is the number of the disciple that put the crown of thorns upon his head. Any assassin who has a code name with that deep of meaning is a guy you don't want to mess with! Golgo is so good at his job that he only meets with his hirer once, unless of course something goes wrong with the mission. He also is a supreme marksman and as the interesting quirk of never shaking hands.

Golgo gets hired to kill a drug lord in Hong Kong and while on his mission the Hong Kong police force are on his trail. A hard ass cop tails Golgo to Tokyo to try to capture him before he carries out his next mission.

Sonny Chiba is perfectly cast as our cold, ruthless and calculating assassin and this guy may be an even more menacing assassin than Charles Bronson in "The Mechanic" and coming from a Charles Bronson fan that comes as a grand praise. Chiba just has such an intense face with his menacing eyebrows make it look like this guy could break your neck or tear your throat out at any moment. Not only is he menacing to look at he also brings a perfect physicality to the character in the films great action sequences, my favorite being him descending on a crane, throwing a spear in mid drop to impale a guy shooting at him. This guy is truly great at his job!

The plot can be a little hard to follow at times, especially in its original Japanese language format but the dubbing in the English language version isn't great, hindering the films hard edged power. The dubbed version also includes a rather poor narration at the end to make it clear to the audience how Golgo outsmarted the cops and managed to complete his mission.

Golgo 13 was based on the popular Japanese Manga comic book series and this is actually the second film adaption of the character (the first version was made in 1973). Though I have not seen that film or any of the animated films made later, it's hard to imagine they are any better than this. The ending is left open for a sequel but sadly one never got made bringing a tear to my eye that it never materialized into a franchise.

"Golgo 13" (released in America as Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment) is a violent badass assassin film that is a must for action film fans craving good action films that are out-side American Hollywood mold. Chiba is extremely badass and has a charm to him making Golgo 13 perhaps the best hitman to ever grace the screen. It's arguable of course but Golgo 13 is tops on my list for best film assassin. I can only imagine what future action director John Woo would have been able to craft with Sonny Chiba while this intense actor was in his prime.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

Saturday, December 11, 2010

American Kickboxer 2 - 2/5

It took two years after the first film for this sequel to emerge and that seems like a rather long time considering the title of the first film is "American Kickboxer 1". If there is a "1" in the title I would assume part "2" would already be in the bag and ready to release the same year. What's strange is that this sequel has NOTHING to do with the original film with a completely different production company, plot, cast and crew. What's even stranger is Cannon Films, distributors of the first film, released their own sequel the same year as this 'sequel' called "To the Death" with original star John Barrett returning. Okay, wait a minute, what the fuck happened here? Cannon released a sequel to their film "American Kickboxer 1" but didn't include the words "American Kickboxer" in the title and a completely different production company released an unrelated sequel with the title "American Kickboxer 2." It's enough to crash one's mind! Since Cannon didn't title their sequel with the "American Kickboxer" phrase, this other production company must have taken it upon themselves to title their unrelated film as a 'sequel' as they thought the fabric of space and time would implode if a film titled "American Kickboxer 1" didn't have a sequel with a proper "2" in the title. Remember balance is everything and a "1" without a "2" would just be fucking wrong.

Unlike the first film which was a tournament style kickboxing movie, here we get a full fledged action film complete with gun fights, kidnappings and a love triangle. No doubt your asking is there any kickboxing. Well, not in the tournament sense, but the film does star kickboxing champion Dale "Apollo" Cook as one of our leads so yes he does use some of his trademark kickboxing moves to kick the shit of some baddies. What we get is a wealthy family whose daughter gets humorously kidnapped by a guy repelling into a swimming pool from a helicopter. Being threatened that the girl will be killed if the police are involved, the mother turns to her hot-head cop ex-husband and long-haired playboy karate instructor lover (whom she cheated with while married to her ex). The kicker is she doesn't know which one is the father of her daughter so both agree to rescue her just in case she belongs to either one of them. The result is quite hilarious as they bicker and fight the entire time while trying to put their differences aside to rescue their daughter. Yes it's "My Two Dads" action movie style!

The acting is bad, real bad but it actually enhances the enjoyment of the film. Dale Cook constantly has his jaw clenched on a tooth pick as he spouts out awful dialogue like "the only peace your are worried about is the one dangling between your legs. " Evan Lurie is equally bad but both bad actors seem to cancel each other out making the film quite enjoyable in the "so bad it's good" vibe. The action sequences are good especially for a low budget action flick shot in the Philippines and our two leads know their kickboxing and martial arts as they beat the living shit out of about everyone.

The actors and director/writer Jenö Hodi know their making a B-grade direct-to-video sequel to a hunk of shit so they run with it, having their tongues planted in their cheeks as they spout hilariously bad dialogue. To be honest I had a blast with "American Kickboxer 2" and it has become one of my all time favorite unintentional comedies. I mean how can a film with a line like "your ass is grass and we're the lawnmowers" not be somewhat entertaining? I say skip the hunk of shit known as "American Kickboxer 1" and go directly to this 'sequel'. Sure it's bad.... but in a good way.

Written By Eric Reifschneider