Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Heavy Petting (2007)

Wow. Not one, but two miserable excuses for a poster? And, nice photoshopping there, Tex.

Best bad quote: "Don't take it out on me 'cause you're getting cock-blocked by a terrier." 

This movie is really fucking weird. I think I may have said that previous sentence more than twenty times during the hour and thirty minute run time of Heavy Petting, and days later I'm still thinking "Man, this movie is really fucking weird." Now admittedly, I'm not really a fan of slapstick-y romantic comedies. But this is a case of "It's not me, it's you, movie." The romantic leads (Malin Akerman, Brendan Hines) are bland, voids of boring cuteness, but I won't waste my time complaining about boring people that were cast just for their attractiveness when there is so much other strangeness going. 

We follow around Charlie and his Comedic Sidekick. Both are a special breed of douchey doofus who inexplicably hate dogs. Once, a dog took a shit and Charlie stepped in it. So, they hate all dogs forever. When Charlie bumps into Daphne, it's lust at first site. He just can't resist her squinty-eyed channeling of a wholesome Anna Farris. His hard-on (that he mistakes for love) doesn't even shrink when he finds out she's a creepy dog lady who keeps her dead dog's ashes in an urn among a shrine on the mantle. His "love" for her is so strong that when she gets a new dog he decides to pretend to play nice in order to further his conquest. But, then it turns out there is a brilliant pediatric surgeon/vet/hot dude that is also vying for Daphne via her dog. So, then Charlie is trying to one-up the other guy by buying illegal horse-cock chews for the dog instead of the limp-dicked Snausages Doctor McHottie has been providing. 

The cock-measuring contest goes absolutely nowhere, as do many plot points in the film. Like the Comedic Sidekick's penchant for dumpster-diving for antiques. Or the coffee connoisseurs at Charlie's shop that always bitch about his blends. There are all sorts of things I think are supposed to be jokes, like the scene where Charlie complains he has fleas, but just serve to uncomfortably pad out a movie that is short on laughs and heavy on what-the-fuckery. The source of the strangeness is the main conflict of the film. The difference the two leads must overcome does not have to do with Daphne finding out that Charlie doesn't actually like dogs, but that... well, he loves dogs too much. 

Charlie starts spending time with her dog, a lot of quality time. And something changes between Charlie and Babydoll the dog. Something magical happens. Charlie falls in love with Babydoll. He wakes up with Babydoll in his arms after a night of failing to get into Daphne's pants. After their night of passionate ball-fetching, Charlie only has eyes for Babydoll. He goes on dates with Babydoll and watches her try on outfits, he eats pizza with her. He tells her he loves her. But, when Daphne finds out that Charlie loves Babydoll and not her, she kicks him to the curb. So he mopes and pines for Babydoll; he creepily watches dogs at the park and caresses a slipper that Babydoll chewed up. When his friend steps in dog shit, Charlie bends down and longingly sniffs the wafting aroma. No fucking joke. He longingly sniffs dog shit. At one point Daphne asks him what he did to Babydoll to make her so unhappy. She asks him as if she suspects something strange has happened between them, something illegal.
I have no idea why the writer is insinuating that Charlie is in some sort of romantic relationship with a dog. He misses the mark on funny and shoots way into creepy and weird territory. Creepy and weird territory that I think even romantic comedy fans would find strange.  This is the kind of missed mark territory where you wonder, "Who is this aimed toward?" Kindergarteners, zoophiles, sea anemones? Is this a movie for people who hate romantic comedies? 

Ah, and there you have it. It's a movie by people who hate romantic comedies for people who hate romantic comedies. This is evidenced in Daphne and Charlie's first date scene, where the bartender's utter disdain for Charlie's dopey request of "gin and juice" with "cran...juice" and the couple's cow-eyed blandness seems to mirror how romantic comedy haters, like me, feel about the generic non-jokes and superficiality of this typically squeaky clean, staunchly conservative genre. It's also worth noting as supporting evidence for the anti-romantic comedy interpretation that writer/director Marcel Sarmiento went on to co-direct Troma associate, Trent Haaga's, script for Dead Girl, a film about teenage boys raping a zombie.

The more-than-meets-the-eye realization doesn't make Heavy Petting easier to watch, however. It's still a film whose surface jokes are supremely unfunny and who has unappealing characters and a script that half goes nowhere and half goes somewhere really strange and outrageous. It's maybe worth a onetime viewing with a group of drunk and snarky friends, but it's not a movie to be taken as anything more than a mediocre joke without a punch line.
Rating: 2 out of 5 Flea-Powdered Pretty Boys


Monday, October 25, 2010

Guess What Happened to Count Dracula (1971)

Best bad quote: "I don't know how to tell you this... SANTA CLAUS!"

No. You know what? Don't even bother guessing what happened to Count Dracula; there's no point. This movie never provides the answer. This movie is about the son of Dracula, Count Adrian, who is awakened by a cult full of the a-little-too-human-but-still-fucking-weird-looking cast-offs from the movie Freaks chanting "Puma! Puma!" or maybe "Pumbaa! Pumbaa!" Count Adrian, once awakened, decides he's tired of his main vampire bitch, ashes his cigarette in her hand and sends her away because her character has no point in this movie. He then opens his restaurant/night club, called Dracula's Dungeon, for that nights business and sets his eyes on its one female patron, the dull, clueless Angelica. Angelica gets the heebie-jeebies, but her boyfriend, a dopey-faced, missing fifth member of The Monkees, tells her she's a baby and leaves her to sleep alone, though she requested he stay. 

That night Count Adrian dons his toy capsule vending machine teeth that give him a Bubba lip and bites Angelica. However, she must be bitten three times in order to be turned into a vampire, so Count Adrian somehow gets in good enough with Angelica's idiotic friends to become a tag-a-long to an impromptu party. What follows is one of the worst party scenes, with some of the whitest, most terrible dancing that was ever recorded on film. After receiving a second bite that night, Angelica becomes sensitive to sunlight and makes a snack out of a piece of bloody steak. 

Despite the fact that she's reading a book on the "vampir," Angelica isn't sure why she's feeling ill. So, Angelica makes a date to go to a cult meeting at Count Adrian's nightclub castle home with him, where she witnesses a man eat a tiny rubber lizard and meets a gypsy who cackles at everything. She also meets Count Adrian's lethargic pet tiger, Alucard. Angelica's boyfriend shows up to save her from Count Adrian's third bite, but he's too late! She's been turned in a vampire- a vampire that causes the boyfriend to emit a very girly, Daniel Stern-ian scream.  

The plot of this movie sounds ridiculous, and it is. It's also boring. It has several laugh-out-loud unintentionally funny moments, but the sheer amount of nothing that also goes on really causes the movie to drag. There's a terrible part where the movie actually attempts to be genuinely funny; an attempt that falls so flat that it might as well have dug its own grave. There are great, terrible lines of dialogue, though. Lines that make you scratch your head in confusion, and then make you laugh at their absurdity. One the best of these moments is at the end when the boyfriend attempts to menace the son of Dracula with his tenuous connections to Hollywood, the connections that Count Adrian himself set up in exchange for Angelica.

But, the funniest parts of the movie have to be Count Adrian's facial expressions. His attempts to be vampire-y end up looking like a strange combination of surprised and concerned. His attempts to merge his eyebrows with his hairline almost succeed, however. Aside from the ridiculous story, stupid dialogue and questionable acting, also be ready to have your ears raped by grating organ music. Count Adrian's club plays annoyingly half-hearted circus music, as well. The editing is jumpy and sometimes cuts off lines, though that's somewhat a given with low-budget, exploitation films.
So, the question you must ask yourself now- now that you don't know what happened to Dracula, but do know what happened to his son, a dull woman and her dopey boyfriend- is: Should I watch this movie? You'll have to decide if slogging through seventy percent of nothing is worth it for the thirty percent of unintentional hilarity. I think it was. It's probably worth it just for the boyfriend's marvelous scream alone. 

Rating: 2 out of 5... This Guys? 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dracula (The Dirty Old Man) (1969)

Best bad quote: "It was a day just like any other day......... which doesn't say much."

I've never really been afraid of vampires. Out of all the movie monsters, death by vampire always seemed the best way to go. Sure, some vampires have been written as monsters, but, I find that more often than not, vampires are portrayed as sympathetic, almost human creatures who, unfortunately, have to drink blood to survive. Or, they are portrayed as so mysterious and sexy that death by vampire might as well be called la petite mort. Vampires, and especially Dracula, are not often portrayed as lecherously lovable goofs with thickly stereotypical Jewish accents. So, let's hand it to Dracula (The Dirty Old Man) for being the first.

This movie is a joke. I don't mean that like "Oh, this movie is so bad it has to be a joke!" I mean, literally, this movie is a joke. All of the dialogue is dubbed, and has been so in a way that seems as if the narrators are lampooning the film. A lot of the time it sounds as if their lines are being improved. And, most of the time, the narrators speak even when the mouths of the actors are not moving in order to wrench in something funny. The movie seems to originally have had very little dialogue, but with the dubbing it now features lots of funny internal soliloquies that almost make it seem as if the narrators are riffing the movie Mystery Science Theater 3000 style. 

The nonsensical, outrageously redundant opening narration is a good gauge as to the strange hilarity Dracula (The Dirty Old Man) has to offer you during its 69 minute runtime. Newspaper reporter Mike is sent to meet a Mr. Alucard, (that's Dracula spelled backwards, as the movie helpfully points out several times, even going as far as to put "Alucard (Dracula spelled backwards)" in the opening credits) who lives out in the middle of nowhere. But, for Mike, "death lurked behind those beautiful hills, behind the beautiful hills, behind the beautiful hills." Well, not death, really. More like a dopey Dracula who decides that Mike should become his half-bear, half-rat, all-furry rubber masked henchman, whom he dubs Jackalman. Irving Jackalman. At night, Mike changes to Jackalman and then must capture sexy girls for Dracula to teleport to his mine shaft lair. There Dracula ties them up, strips them, rubs his weird face all over their bodies and then bites them on the breast, all the while saying the most ridiculous things.
The film isn't all fun and camp, however. There's a rather brutal rape scene where Jackalman finally gets to have a girl of his own. The narrators try to make the scene funny by riffing on what's happening on screen, but it just serves to make the scene more disturbing, even if it does manage to twist a couple of laughs out you due to the ridiculousness of the dialogue. There is an even more ridiculous rape scene later, where a randomly masturbating woman cuts to having Jackalman going down on her. And, despite having her eyes open and looking down at Jackalman's nappy mask it takes her quite a while to realize that the wolf creature is not, in fact, her doughy boyfriend.

Mike, as Jackalman, ends up capturing his own girlfriend to give to Dracula, but then decides that he wants her. Stripped naked, she sort of tries to escape as they fight. She giggles a lot and takes a rest after only jogging a little way and is thus promptly captured. Dracula is defeated via his own stupidity as it turns out his lair is right at the mouth of the cave. He decides to take a step outside during he and Jackalman's fight and is then turned to dust. Jackalman is turned back into Mike and then he and his girlfriend decide to screw right then and there in a painfully long, very softcore scene on Dracula's dirty makeshift bed.

The moving picture part of this movie isn't the main attraction. It's the dubbing that makes Dracula (The Dirty Old Man) worth watching. It's almost like you are watching a commentary track for a silent film where the actors decide to make fun of the shitty movie they were in. I haven't been able to find any information on the original script, but I know that the reason it was dubbed was because there were serious sound issues. I find it highly unlikely the finished product that I watched, with its goofy accents and ridiculous lines, was what the filmmakers originally intended. But, without the ridiculous dubbing, this movie would have just been another boring, sleazy exploitation film for kids at drive-in theaters to not watch while making out in their cars. But, with it, Dracula (The Dirty Old Man) turns into a strange joke of a film that, surprisingly, works. 

You can go to Something Weird Video to check out this movie.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Rape Faced Jackalmans

Friday, October 15, 2010

The House That Drips Blood On Alex (2010)

Best bad quote: "Yeah... blood. From something that was once alive." 

New cult hero Tommy Wiseau is back. He's back in all his bizarre glory with a hysterically campy short film written by Brock LaBorde and directed by Wiseau himself. Wiseau might say that "The Room", the movie he's infamous for, is meant to be a campy film, but I've never believed him. Because Wiseau fails so miserably in his attempt to create a sincere and serious drama, The Room ends up appealing to our love of schadenfreude; his absolute failure becomes the entertainment factor, because the movie is not entertaining in its intended way. "The House That Drips Blood On Alex" is entertaining in its intended way. It's a comedy, almost parody-like film. This time, you are meant to be laughing. If you aren't, then you need to check that your sense of humor hasn't flat lined.

Wiseau's strange, corpse-like appearance, weird accent and voice inflection, droll delivery and all around terrible acting are the main draw. In "The House That Drips Blood On Alex" Wiseau's strangeness is tapped and condensed down to a magnificent 12-minute stretch of hilarious insanity.

Joey Greco, of "Cheaters" fame, shares a scene with Wiseau and together they chew more scenery than I ever thought possible. Greco mugs hardcore for the camera while Wiseau acts as if he lives on a diet of hard liquor and whippets. Wiseau's acting is marvelous. Most of the time he's acting as if he just took twelve consecutive shots of Wild Turkey, and his serious lines are delivered with all the inanity of someone who just realized that they forgot to send back their Netflix disc. All the comedy doesn't fall to Wiseau and Greco, either.  The other actors, including Wiseau's Luke Wilson-y friend Thomas, play it fairly straight and low-key, which is a great contrast with Wiseau's amped up performance. Wiseau's two friends have some great comedic lines that work well with less outrageous delivery.

The fact that this film is a short I think is a definite boon. I know we all can't get enough of Wiseau, but compressing him down to 12 minutes works so well that it'll be tragic if someone doesn't utilize him in this way again. I have to say , as well, that however insane Wiseau is in front of the camera, he's actually pretty good behind the camera. His directing adds to and does the intended campiness of the film absolute justice.

"The House That Drips Blood On Alex" is a tongue-in-check effort that does not fail in its comedic attempt, nor in its attempt to showcase Wiseau's special brand of strangeness. Wiseau might be a joke to many, but here he shows that now he's in on it. LaBorde and  Wiseau use our fascination with Wiseau's eccentricities to their advantage, creating a film that not only satisfies Wiseau fans, but a film that should also satisfy anyone with an appreciation of B movie-esque camp. This film is genuinely funny because it succeeds, not because it fails.       
You can watch this film over at Atom.com. I highly recommend that you click that link.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Naked, Bloody Wiseaus

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Blood Gnome (2004)

Best bad quote: "You can't kill me; I'm a cop! What the fuck you gonna do with body?"

I steeled myself for this one. I mean, come on. Just look at that cover up there. And the title. Seriously, it looks terrible. I expected to be miserable five minutes in. But, ten minutes in, Blood Gnome had kept me waiting. The movie had yet to descend into a sarlacc of suck.  And, I kept waiting for the moment when my palm would meet my forehead in Picard-ian disbelief. I kept waiting for Blood Gnome to commence with the pain. But, as we took our journey through what looked like a colonoscopy image tunnel to where the credits finally rolled, I knew. It didn't suck. Hallelujah! It didn't suck!

Blood Gnome is a micro-budgeted  film that works with its limitations, not outside or against them. A lot of micro-budget films have serious issues with sound and video quality that often render them virtually unwatchable. Though here it's painfully noticeable that you are watching a movie made with a tiny budget, the sound and video quality are excellent. The director/writer, John Lechago, succeeded in creating a polished finished product with very few imperfections.   
Our hero is Daniel, a mumbly, awkward Bill Pullman look-alike. Though he may not seem like hero material, I found his absolute dorkiness rather charming. Having recently been put back to work after a stint in a mental hospital, Daniel accidentally captures a Ghoulie-looking Blood Gnome on his very sensitive infrared camera at two murder crime scenes involving BDSM. Knowing no one would believe him if he tried to explain without proof, Daniel decides to learn more about the BDSM angle of the murder while waiting for some special film for his camera. He calls gorgeous Divinity, whom he met at the scene of the first murder, to help him understand the BDSM world. 

Meanwhile, we already know the villain from scene one. Elandra, Divinty's mistress, keeps a tentacled thing in a box, a thing that's possibly just a giant vagina with a bad case of dentata. This thing births the Blood Gnomes from its toothy vagina and Elandra extracts from the squealing puppets a potent substance that she sells to the BDSM community. The Blood Gnomes target those who take the drugs and engage in bloodsports in order to feed themselves and their mother. I assume. We don't actually see them really eat anything, just lots of hacking and slashing. But, I'll let that slide, because the Blood Gnome puppets are pretty cool. And creepy. 

After the Blood Gnomes set Daniel up for failure at work by removing the film that allows him to see them before taking pictures at a crime scene, Daniel starts to spiral into insanity. His insanity is justified, however, as the Blood Gnomes are taunting him and just waiting for him to fall asleep so they can kill him.  This sets up one of the most hilarious scenes in the movie, the first fight scene between the Blood Gnomes and Daniel. The Blood Gnomes threaten Daniel via Generic Instant Messenger (under the screen name blood_gnome) and he retaliates by stomping some heads. Literally. He even goes as far as to bash one in its non-existent balls. It's a great scene, full of plenty of intentional and unintentional hilarity. Soon after comes the final showdown, where doofy Daniel must not only destroy the Blood Gnomes, their mother and Elandra, but he must also save his love interest, Divinity.

 The movie's biggest strength is probably its directing. As I've said, director/writer John Lechago works hard to make sure we get, at the very least, a watchable product- which is more than I can say for other low budget films I've reviewed. (Yeah, Skeleton Key 2, that means you.) Scenes with dialogue are always filmed up close to the actors' faces in order to compensate for, most likely, lack of proper audio equipment. The filming locations are small, as well- tiny rooms, usually- and thus the director focuses close on the actor in the scene.  This gives the film a bit of a claustrophobic feel that I think ends up working to its advantage. 

The writing is fairly tight as well. There is never an attempt to explain the Blood Gnomes' origins, and that ends up working as well. Any story we got would probably come off as insubstantial, idiotic, or both. All we need to know about the Blood Gnomes is already present in the film. The story is a fairly simple slasher. But, you know, with invisible killer gnomes who target the subset of the BDSM community involved in bloodplay. 

If you are willing to give Blood Gnome a chance, I promise you will have a good time. Despite the ridiculous sounding premise, the film is fairly solid. And campy. We mustn't forget that camp is often what makes B-movies so fun.  

Rating: 5 out of 5 Baby Blood Gnomes 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

8213: Gacy House (2010)

Best bad quote: " Clown, you are not alive. Loki, make mischief here tonight!"

For those of you who don't know, or for those of you who haven't seen the movie yet, John Wayne Gacy is an infamous serial killer who had a taste for young men and boys. He killed 33 people and kept 26 of the bodies under his house and in his backyard.  In 8213 Gacy House, a bunch of idiots hoping to catch some paranormal activity on camera go to the new house that has been built on the Gacy property. Of course, they all die. This is stated at the beginning of the movie, as is typical of these Blair Witch Project type movies. That's okay, if unnecessary.  As soon as we know that they aren't content with just catching some of the ghosts of Gacy's murder victims on film, that they want Gacy himself to show them what he's got, we know they'll all be dead by morning.

The majority of the group is from "the institute," and has been  trying to capture "verifiable" paranormal activity at serial killer sites. They bring along a psychic who is only useful in conjuring up Gacy and having huge breast implants. The psychic asks for protection from a bunch of moon goddesses, and then offers Gacy's spirit the white, pure t-shirt of her neighbor's fifteen year old son in order to coax Gacy back from the afterlife. It's the moments like this conjuring scene that make the movie even remotely watchable. If not for these scenes that make you laugh out loud at their ridiculousness, then you might as well be watching the wall. Or, at least a better found footage film, like Paranormal Activity. 

You've got a lot of minutes of virtually nothing to slog through to get to the funniest moments at the end, however. The director does a fairly decent job at setting up potential jump scares and then not delivering the scare, which set me on edge a bit. The fact that I was watching this late at night in a dark room probably enhanced my unease. However, my unease was muted by the fact that I didn't care about the idiots on screen. I knew they were going to die, and they hadn't done anything to show me that I should care that they died. 

They conjure Gacy, then taunt him. To their taunts he responds "Kiss my ass," his supposed last words before his death. And, "Kiss my ass" is what I'm thinking too. They might not deserve what happens to them, but they sure asked for it. So, let the killing commence. The last twenty minutes,  when Gacy starts slaughtering people, is the best. At first he's busting heads out of sight and behind closed doors, but then he starts throwing people around. He rips off Fake Tits' shirt so she can show us exactly why she was  hired. Gacy also jerks off the young cameraman's pants and drags him away to the basement for some ghost rape. At one point, Gacy shows up dressed as his Pogo the Clown alter ego. 

These scenes are fairly hilarious, but it's a chore to make it through to see them. The scenes with the psychic are pretty funny, but they are sparse. This movie just doesn't have much going for it. It's boring and pointless and not campy enough. It's another lackluster release from The Asylum.  

Rating: 1 1/2 Undressed Ghost Gacy's out of 5

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dark House (2009)

Best bad quote: "What kind of black guy plays chess and watches PBS?"

Jeffrey Combs can do no wrong. Sure, the movies he's in are sometimes the biggest sack of wrong to ever be committed to celluloid. But, Jeffery Combs is always awesome, always chewing the fuck out of the scenery like a starving man, and generally just commanding your attention in every scene he's in. But, thankfully, Fangoria's Dark House has more going for it than just Combs. Despite its devastatingly generic title, Dark House turns out to be a fun little slasher flick. 

You'll have to forgive the beginning, however. It's absolutely stupid (but perfect for some Mystery Science Theater 3000 style riffing). You see, there's this creepy house. A creepy immaculately maintained Victorian house that's painted a pleasant shade of light blue, with quaint architectural details, and a sunny, welcoming porch. But, it's creepy, okay, because this weird foster mother lives there with her eight foster children. One day, fourteen years ago, a young girl decided to trespass on this creepy house to prove to her friends that she was bad ass. So, in broad daylight, she walks up to the creepy, adorable door and goes right in. The dead body of a kid at the front door has the audacity to just lay there and bleed, so she enters the creepy house further, looking for someone who will properly greet her. The dead kid on the stairs just lays there too. And the dead kids in the parlor. One kid even decided to be murdered on the table! What a little snot! 

"Like, let's get outta here Scoob. That house looks too cute to be haunted."

 Finally, she finds someone who is not dead. In the kitchen, the foster mother has decided to murder her hands too. So she sticks them in her garbage disposal. Because movie garbage disposals are bladed and magical, this reduces the foster mother's hands to a bloody stump. Our intrepid trespasser sees the pantry door move, so she walks past the murderous woman grinding her hand to a pulp and puts her eye to the keyhole. She promptly freaks the fuck out when another eye meets hers and she slips on the copious amount of blood coating the floor, causing her to pass out.

Now, years later, we meet this basket case brunette who is traumatized by what happened in the house. Her psychiatrist instructs her to meet her trauma head on by visiting the house, with a seven nation army if need be. This surely will cure her trauma and not end in slaughter! Convenient coincidence kicks in when her drama class is recruited by a flamboyant Jeffrey Combs to be actors in his horror attraction that utilizes the house as a creepy backdrop. 

The Dark House uses advanced holographic technology to create realistic images of scary things. Like clowns and mad scientists and witches. But, when some cannon fodder- I mean- two reporters come to the attraction for a sneak peek at the horror, the ghost of the murderous foster mother decides to give the computers running the show a ghost virus. This, naturally, causes the holograms to become solid and start killing. Then it becomes a slasher film, with different holographic images killing people with glorious sprays of blood.

You might be saying, "But, wait! Aren't holograms just recordings of scattered light?" (Thanks Wikipedia!) And, normally, I'd say, "It's a movie about ghosts. Just sit back and try to relax." Dark House has an explanation for this, however. Though, it's possibly a more problematic one that just rolling with the fact that a ghost caused it. But, don't worry. There are multiple endings, and a few explanations, just so you really know just what happened. And, there is no ambiguity, really, about what happened. It is what it is. I like that in this case, because it makes the movie so easy to watch. No brain power required, which is nice occasionally. 

You'll get a kick out of, not only Jeffrey Combs' scenery chewing, but that of the foster mother. She's amazingly over the top. You'll think she's choking back vomit with each line she spits out. That is, when she's not flying into a psychotic rage. It's absolutely fantastic. There are a couple of annoying characters, as is required in a slasher movie, but they get killed off fairly quickly. The film is also refreshingly self-aware. There's one scene where three characters pull out their Zippo's to illuminate a dark room. One of them says "It's a good thing we're all smokers."  

I know, it sounds kind of stupid. But just trust me, it's not as stupid as it sounds. There are many things that make Dark House a surprisingly enjoyable film. From the laughable beginning, to scenery that gets ripped to shreds by many of the actors, to the... well, look, okay. It's kind of stupid. But, the kind of stupid that's fun and leaves you laughing, not the kind of stupid that leaves you banging your head on the wall. It's a bad movie lover's kind of stupid.  

Rating: 4 out of 5 Evil Clowns       


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dot.Kill (2005)

Best bad quote: "Go see a doctor. That's why we call 'em doctors."

Despite the stupidly redundant and ridiculous title, this film isn't half bad. That isn't to say that it doesn't have some major issues, but it does manage to create a compelling enough story that kept me entertained through the majority of the run time. Charlie Daines (Armand Assante) is a hard-nosed, gruff New York detective who hides the fact that he has terminal cancer. He refuses to get any sort of treatment and eventually resorts to hitting up a former junkie for some morphine.

Det. Daines is assigned to the case of a killer who broadcasts his kills online, even going as far as to hijack the televisions in Times Square. The human mind has a disease, the killer says. A disease that makes one want things, and then want more things. (So, human nature then?) The killer's cure for this disease is to kill rich white dudes.
The severity of Det. Daines illness, and the fact that he refuses treatment, means we already know the ending of this movie. He and the killer will clash and the brave detective will go out in a blaze of glory, taking the murderous psychopath with him. I'm okay with the predictability, as long as the movie can hold my attention as we try to discover the identity of the killer. 

This movie has many, many weaknesses, but its strengths lie in the scenes where Det. Daines interacts with the people close to him. The scenes between him and his wife are tender and bittersweet when they aren't rife with tension. The scenes between him and the former junkie who has now become his deliverer from pain are heartbreaking . There's a scene where, frustrated and desperate, Det. Daines beats the shit out his worried and accusatory partner.  

The major problem with this film is that it blows its load too early. As we already know what the ending will be, we need to be strung along with false leads until the very, very end as to the identity of the killer. But, about thirty minutes to the end Det. Daines starts getting really suspicious of someone who  has given him no reason to be suspicious. Maybe in Det. Daines' world  complimenting a man's nice family means you are a killer? Maybe, it's just cop's intuition? 

No, it's just plot convenience. It has to be the least likely suspect, fuck logic, because the audience won't suspect it. But, we know it's the least likely suspect far from the end. And, even before that, we were being beat over the head with clues. Everything else goes down as expected, and thus we lose interest, because what was holding the thin plot together was the mystery behind the killer. And, the movie never really explains his motivation, or how he set anything up. He's just "the killer" and that's that. 

Another problem I had with the movie, maybe one you might find a bit superficial, was the music. It was terrible. Half the time it sounded like someone let their three-year old compose the score, and half the time it sounded like the cheesiest of porn music. The porn music kicked in at the most inopportune times, almost killing any tension or power the scene had.

Though, despite its numerous problems, this film is not rendered unwatchable. It's well-acted and mildly interesting enough that you don't feel completely let down when the screen flashes up the unnecessary "THE END." 

Rating: 3 out of 5 Banana Phones


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Thing With Two Heads (1972)

Best bad quote: "Honey, I was wondering... uh, do you have two of anything else?" 

The trailer for the film so succinctly sums up the major plot points with these two sentences: "It seemed like a good idea at the time. The white bigot was dying the black soul brother needed time to prove his innocence." With lines that ridiculous I bet you're thinking that The Thing with Two Heads is the epitome of camp, with its outrageousness culminating in the most awesome movie ever made. Well, you'd be wrong. Though, that's not to say that this film doesn't have any redeeming features.  

Of the hour and thirty minute run time, the first fifty minutes is a somewhat interesting drama concerned with racism that, unfortunately, seems such a distinct disconnect with what one was expecting based on the trailer. The disparity between what you are expecting and what you get makes it hard to enjoy the film. Well, that, and it's rather boring for most of that fifty minutes too. After that, we get two chase sequences that are fun at first, and more in line with what we are expecting. But, they are not fun enough to really sustain twenty-five minutes and become repetitive. The fifteen minute quick-fix finish ends with an unsatisfying, but hilariously abrupt ending.  

The white bigot, Dr. Kirshner (Ray Milland), is a surgeon who has been experimenting with a way to transplant a head from a dying body onto the body of another, allowing the new head to ultimately take control of the body. After a month or so, the old head is removed. Dr. Kirshner is comatose and dying of chest cancer, so his right hand man must make a quick decision: let the old man die or transplant his head onto the body of a black death row prisoner Jack Moss (played by Rosey Grier) who, at  the last minute, decided to donate his body to science in hope that he would gain more time to prove his innocence. What the "black soul brother" didn't count on was that he would wake up with the head of a racist old white man attached to him and sneering in his ear. 

As Dr. Kirshner doesn't have control of his new body yet, Jack escapes and takes along not only the reluctant head of the bigot, but also the brilliant Dr. Williams. In one of the more compelling scenes in the first part, Dr. Kirshner wrongs Dr. Williams in a confrontation that cements the fact that Dr. Kirshner is a bigot in a believable way- in a way that is unsettling in its unfairness and wrongness. Dr. Kirshner meets Dr. Williams for the first time after hiring him based on just his excellent credentials. However, after he discovers that the Dr. Williams is black, he tries to back out of their employment contract by saying that something unexpected has come up. Unfortunately for Dr. Kirshner, there is no "Void if the man you hire is black" clause and Dr. Williams is allowed to work out his time allotted in the contract after an uncomfortable confrontation.

After the confrontation Dr. Kirshner has an excellent line in defense of his actions that sums up his stupidity and bigotry perfectly. He says: "I just got carried away by some superficial accomplishments before interviewing the man." He doesn't say that Dr. Williams is only a brilliant doctor if he can't see the color of his skin, that the perceived wrongness of being black supersedes his excellent accomplishments. The wrongness of his dark skin now defines him, and thus relegates his accomplishments to a superficial, unimportant status. That it doesn't occur to Dr. Kirshner that he is making decisions based on the superficiality of skin color would be hilarious in its idiocy if it weren't so terrible and so true to life.

The rest of the film involves Jack and Dr. Williams running from the cops. Because this is the 1970's, the duo, along with the reluctant head of Dr. Kirshner, end up at a motocross rally where they steal a bike. The subsequent chase scene results in a couple of cops crashing their cars at multiple angles- I mean, fourteen doofy cops crashing their cars in wacky ways. The end of the film comes rather quick, as I've said. And, though it's rather unsatisfying, the sheer absurdity of the last two scenes will make you laugh. 

This film had its moments. At times it was intentionally and unintentionally funny. And, despite the ridiculous premise, the bigotry of the Dr. Kirshner was believably written. The problem is that the movie gets bogged down by, well, nothingness. There are so many long stretches of nothing, especially with the twenty-five minute chase scene, that watching becomes a test of patience. 

I almost just want to recommend the trailer for this movie, as it really boils the film down to its best components. But, then you'd miss the magnificent last two scenes. So, I recommend that you watch the trailer and then watch the end of the movie. Five minutes of its best parts, without all the nothing, is really the only way you can enjoy the absurdity of The Thing with Two Heads

Rating: 2 1/2  out of 5 Two-Headed Gorillas

Here's the trailer for your veiwing pleasure.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fantastic Fest Double Feature: Machete Maidens Unleashed! and Sharktopus

 Fantastic Fest is an Austin, Texas film festival that specializes in horror, fantasy, sci-fi. I was lucky enough to attend the screening of Mark Hartley's follow up to his 2008 documentary on Australia's exploitation scene, this time about the Filipino exploitation scene, and the premier of Syfy's new creature feature on a double bill that revolved around Roger Corman. 

In Mark Hartley's documentary, Machete Maidens Unleashed!, he explores the American B- movie, low budget film industry's use of the Philippines and its people as a vehicle for making cheap movies with the popular elements: beasts, blood and breasts. Pro-Americanism, a "Wild East" (an Asian Wild West) climate where everyone was packing heat, the fact that so many people would do anything for a little cash, and exotic jungle sets proved the perfect mix of elements for low budget film makers looking to capitalize on the popular genres of drive-in fare in order to turn a profit. The film featured insightful and funny interviews with directors, including Roger Corman, actors, and film critics. Of course, the film also featured hilarious trailers and clips from Filipino exploitation films such as Corman's The Big Dollhouse, a women in prison type film, and For Y'ur Height Only, a movie about a Filipino midget James Bond, as well as many others.

The director, in a Q and A beforehand, mentioned that unlike other documentaries, we wouldn't learn anything from this film. I'll have to disagree with him, as not only did I feel like I learned quite a bit about Filipino filmmaking but, also, a little bit about Filipino history in the '70's and '80's. And, even if I  hadn't learned anything substantial, I would have at least learned that there are a lot of really awesome movies I have to get my hands on. Overall, I found Machete Maidens Unleashed! to be a lot of fun and a superbly entertaining look into a genre of film that's often unfairly overlooked. 

Next up was a Q and A with Roger Corman himself. Also in attendance was his wife, Julie. In reference to a comment made in an interview from Machete Maidens Unleashed! someone asked if Corman was really in it for the money. He and his wife's answer was a hilarious (and I'm paraphrasing): "What? Are you fucking kidding me? Of course." Then he and his wife received a "Syfy Imagine Greater" Lifetime Achievement Award that was, for some reason, some sort of sword.  

The introduction to Sharktopus really set the mood for the film to come. It was going to be fun, it was going to be campy, and should not be taken too seriously. The director, Declan O'Brien, and the Cormans cheekily warned us that Sharktopus was under the impression that the movie was about his plight, but when he found out how evil he had been portrayed he became upset. It was an amusing segue into the film, and a hint  that even the filmmakers didn't take the film too seriously. And, really, how could you? It's a movie about a half-shark, half-octopus military experiment gone wrong presented on the Syfy channel. If you take something like that seriously, you're doing it wrong.

Like I said, this movie was fun. A lot of people like Mega Pirhana and Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, and yeah, those films have their moments. But, I've seen better. Sharktopus is better. It surprises me that those films get a lot of attention when Syfy and the Asylum have put out so many better films with more than just a few entertaining moments in films that are, overall, rather boring. Sharktopus is not boring. Everything about Sharktopus works, from the ridiculous premise to the campy death scenes to the slightly douchey characters. And, of course, it features Eric Roberts, who is always awesome.

One death scene I found particularly hilarious features the Sharktopus jumping up to grab a bungee jumping woman. The Sharktopus itself is particularly hilarious, as well. It has the head of a Great White Shark, with huge superfluous (read: awesome) spikes sticking out near the gills, with the tentacles of an octopus. And, it was created to fight pirates. Seriously. Apparently military scientists drop a lot of acid when brainstorming. 

Really, it's just a fun movie. As Declan O'Brien's previous ventures with Syfy show, he knows how to play to the B-movie genre and craft a film that's not only entertaining from start to finish, but hilarious too. 

Sharktopus premiers tonight on Syfy at 8:00 central time. I'm going to watch it again, and I hope you don't miss it.  

This article is also posted here and here at badmovienite.com