Friday, May 20, 2011
I’m not a zombie guy, but back in 2009 I loved the zombie-comedy Hide and Creep, produced here in my own state. I thought the low budget film was a cut above the unending crowd of movies produced about the walking dead, and it made me eager to see the production team’s follow up, the sci-fi/horror/comedy Interplanetary. If I paid attention, I would have noticed it came out a while back. Better late than never, though, I ordered a copy (you can get it through Amazon) and watched it with my usual critical eye.
In the not too distant future, a small group of people man (and woman) a small base on Mars. Rather than the usual military and scientist types you see in this sort of thing, these characters are more the Office Space type. They are working for a faceless corporation at jobs that seem to bore them, more interested in office affairs or placating their boss than grand exploration. Their mundane lives are interrupted when first a fossil of ancient Martian life is discovered (the reaction is not joy at discovery, but “I’m gonna be rich!”) and immediately thereafter, intruders show up to kill them. There is also a secret lab, with strange monsters created therein.
I thought it probably wasn’t quite as funny as Hide and Creep, but I did enjoy it a lot, but anyone watching this needs to understand a couple of things up front. First off, this is truly a low budget film. You couldn’t hire a single Nav’ii from Avatar for the total budget here, so if you are expecting a mind blowing visual feast, disappointment awaits (although the film makers did make the movie look like Mars, or at least what I imagine Mars looks like). Secondly, this is a retro movie. It is spaced based sci fi as it would have been imagined in the 1950s, with clunky equipment and obsolete looking devices. (Think of movies like It! – The Terror from Beyond Space, a movie that scared the wits out of me as a kid as a touchstone.)
If those things don’t bother you, there’s plenty to enjoy here. I particularly liked the deadly cook, who turns out to be the action hero of the piece, at least for a while, and I thought the script was very intelligent underneath the goofiness. So support independent filmmaking and give Interplanetary (and Hide and Creep) a try.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
If you read this blog, you know it is a ritual for my wife and eye to watch the spectacularly awful giant creature movies produced by the SyFy Channel (Sharktopus, Mega Sharp vs Giant Octopus, Wyvern, too many others to name). When I told her this week’s feature would be Mandrake, she said “Half-man, half-duck?” She knows her SyFy. However, the beast in question isn’t a hybrid between a man and a waterfowl, but a tree run amok.
Somewhere in the jungles of South America, a team sent by crazy rich guy Harry Vargas (Benito Martinez, The Shield) is searching for a dagger worn by a Spanish conquistador.* The team is led by Sgt. McCall (the underrated Max Martini of the sorely missed The Unit) and is unaware that at least one other team has sought the dagger and died for it. Vargas wants the dagger because…why do you have to ask so many questions? He just wants it, that’s all. The team finds the dagger, well preserved after 800 years, about ten minutes after they get there, so it doesn’t look all that hard.
Unfortunately for them, the dagger plunged into the ground was all that kept the giant killer tree from killing everybody. How did it do that? Always with the questions. It just did, that’s all. There are some evil tribesmen who having been killing outsiders by sacrificing them to the tree, but they seem to think an unrestrained tree is just too much. People are eaten by the tree, people are chased by the tree, and finally somebody remembers to put the knife back. During all this, Vargas goes steadily crazier and crazier because…well, some things we are not meant to know.
All those complaints considered, this wasn’t bad, by SyFy standards. The movie looks good, an d even the killer tree looks as realistic as possible given that it’s a tree. The cast is excellent, and really elevates this past SyFy’s usual standards. If you can avoid thinking about plot points which make no sense and enjoy this sort of thing, there is probably entertainment to be had here.
* Characters repeatedly refer to the dagger as being from the “fourteenth century”. Columbus made landfall in the Americas in 1492, which is at the end of the fifteenth century. Maybe it’s the former history prof in me, but that is the sort of thing that drives me batty.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
This is, or course, a remake of the 1972 movie of the same name directed by Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream), which was itself a re-working of Ingmar Bergman’s 1960 movie The Virgin Spring. I feel I should point out up front I am not a fan of the Craven version. I feel the directing was crude (it was Craven’s first film), it stepped over the line in glorifying the torture and sexual violence to which the two young girls were subjected, and it has comedic sequences which seem jarringly out of place. I was inclined to dismiss the remake, but bought the blu-ray after several people mentioned it was good. Still, it sat on the shelf for a long time before I put it in the player late last night.
(Lest you think I’m the only one who didn’t care for the original, I’d also like to mention Fred J. Lincoln, who acted in the 1972 movie, has called it the worst movie he ever made. It is worth noting that Lincoln is a long-time actor and director in porn films, and among his titles is Abducted by the Enema Bandit*, which presumably he thinks is better than The Last House on the Left.)
* I would like to note I got the title from imdb.com, and have no personal knowledge of the movie in question. It hasn't been shown on Turner Classic Movies yet.
In the same area where a sadistic killer (Garret Dillahunt, Deadwood, The Assassination of Jesse James) has made a deadly escape from custody with the help of his similarly inclined brother and girlfriend, a physician (Tony Goldwyn, Ghost) and his wife (Monica Potter, Saw, Along Came A Spider) have brought their daughter Mari (Sara Paxton) for a weekend getaway at their lake house. Mari is still dealing with issues relating to the death of her older brother, and goes into town to meet her childhood friend Paige (Martha MacIsaac). Paige is the type of character who, when a creepy kid comes by and asks them to go back to his low-class motel to smoke marijuana, happily goes within him. This is a terrible mistake, and is the sort of behavior that makes fathers want to send their daughters away to a convent, even if they aren’t Catholic.
The creepy kid turns out to be the son of the escaped psycho, and soon the girls have been sexually molested, tortured and either killed or left for dead. In the twist that is the real reason for the movie to exist, the gang of killers afterward seeks refuge from a storm at the house of Mari’s parents. The parents soon realize the fearsome foursome is responsible for the attack on their daughter, and even the score in graphic and sometimes over-contrived fashion.
So, is it better than the 1972 version? Yes, it is. The direction here is quite competent (Dennis Iliadis) and the cast seems professional. Potter and Goldwyn do a good job as the much put-upon parents, and the infinitely changeable Dillahunt is one of the better character actors working today. He makes a truly menacing villain. Only his character’s ultimate disposition seems completely implausible.
The prolonged assault on the girls is very difficult to watch, and goes on for quite a while. I definitely squirmed while watching that. Your ability to watch scenes such as that will determine whether you should watch this, but, all in all, I surprised myself by liking it.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
Long before it became trendy and hip, I was telling you how good John Hornor Jacobs’ novel Southern Gods was, which didn’t do you much good since you couldn’t read it. Well, the long gestation is coming to an end with the imminent publication of Southern Gods by NightShade Press, and the book is now up for pre-order at Amazon for just over $10. That’s a steal. All you’ve got to do is cut back by a couple of bottles of MD 20/20, and the book is yours. Order it now, he’s got another on the way and you don’t want to fall behind.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
So, the blog hasn’t been updated in a while, but this time I’ve got a good excuse: Last Wednesday’s tornadoes passed through my area, and power was out for five days. (It is still out for most of the city.) One of the twisters passed less than a mile from our house, and en masse, they pretty well destroyed the power authority’s grid for this part of the state. I would like to point out while many people’s experience with the tornado outbreak was very tragic (nearly 300 people killed, so far), mine was not. A chair in the backyard I hated anyway was destroyed, and the canopy of a glider swing I wanted my wife to get rid of was shredded, but other than that, our only loss was some food that spoiled, and having to live in the nineteenth century for a few days*. A mild inconvenience, at best. I missed the internet less than I would have thought. As I mentioned on Twitter, while I was without power, I missed television, then when it was restored, I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to watch. I guess Sharktopus 2 didn’t come out while I was cut off.
Anyone who sent me a message during the blackout, I promise I'll get back to you. To anyone who was looking for a review of their book, I'll catch up as soon as possible.
* With a Kindle and a cell phone, of course, just like the Western pioneers in the 1870s