Monday, July 11, 2011

DINOCROC vs. SUPERGATOR (2010) d. Jay Andrews (aka Jim Wynorski)

Written by Mark Nelson

Another in SyFy Channel's long-running series of multi-syllabic huge-hyphenate monster melee flicks, produced by Roger Corman and directed by Jim Wynorski, the man who brought us hits of both the horror (CHOPPING MALL, THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING) and hooter (THE BARE WENCH PROJECT, CLEAVAGEFIELD) variety. Here we have the age-old tale of science-for-profit not-so-accidentally creating a pair of giant mutant lizards (the titular Dinocroc, sort of a cross between a raptor and a croc that walks on its hind legs, and the Supergator, a giant spiky-spined version of Captain Hook's nemesis) that break free and run riot in a tropical Hawaiian paradise. It's up to a dorky EPA investigator (Corey Landis, a nice everyman change of pace from the usual chiseled hero you find in these sort of things), a sexy (to be expected for a Wynorski film, just about every female role is filled out with babes) local conservation officer (Amy Rasimas), and "The Cajun", a legendary swamp hunter (Rib Hillis -- think a buff Crocodile Dundee without the accent). The head of the corporation that spawns the giant pair of swamp scrappers is played with a sense of fun by noneother than David Carradine, in what has to be the fifth or sixth film that's been released since his death in 2009 (for a dead guy, he's keeping pretty busy…). Director Wynorski (here working under his "Jay Andrews" alias) also makes an appearance as a farmer with a half-chewed head of cattle, and there are several subtle references to past Corman films throughout, including probably the only shout-out to SHE-GODS OF SHARK REEF that I've ever seen.

But what you want when you pop in a title like DINOCROC VS. SUPERGATOR is action, and this flick delivers. Unlike some other recent SyFy monsterfests, this baby doesn't make you wait until the last 10 minutes for your monster mayhem, giving you rampaging 'roided-up reptiles before the first minute is over. Monster appearances continue throughout, with plenty of "monster pops up and snatches victim in a flash" moments that I personally love. This really plays like an update of 50's giant mutated animal flicks, and the not-perfect but not-bad CGI can be viewed as the modern equivalent of passable stop-motion or model work of years gone by. The titanic tussle of the towering twin terrors doesn't happen until the last few minutes of the film (and is over rather quickly), but by that time there's been so much carnage and lumbering lizard action that you don't mind the brief encounter between the two. As this was originally a made-for-TV movie, the level of gore and gazongas is about what you'd expect from non-pay-cable, a little gooey here and there but nothing that would make it all that inappropriate for a monster-crazed kid to watch.

Hats off to Wynorski and Corman for delivering a modern-day equivalent of the kind of fun frivolous flicks that kept so many of us indoors as kids on sunny summer days, glued to local TV shows like CREATURE DOUBLE FEATURE and reveling in the rampaging ruination of remorseless reptile rabble-rousers.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

FROZEN (2010) d. Adam Green

Reviewed by Simon Oakland

Adam Green can kiss my ass.

But seriously, the guy has some directing talent. I can't complain about the cinematography regarding either HATCHET or FROZEN. (Or even the acting.) It's his writing that sucks.

1) When the lights go out, you wouldn't seriously begin screaming at the top of your lungs?

2) Survival tip: the first thing I would do to keep warm is to pull my hat over my eyes and the collar of my shirt over my chin. But I guess we absolutely need to see these Hollywood starlets faces to relate to them, eh? By the same token, any normal person would have pulled their hand into their sleeve to keep it warm if they lost a glove.

3) When trying to crawl across a rope, don't just try to put all of your weight on your hands to shimmy across. Wrap your legs around as well.

4) When you're freezing to death, I don't care who you're with and I don't care who you are, your first natural survival instinct is to huddle together for warmth. After the first night the two principles are still a good two feet apart, nevermind not fucking themselves to death. Hell, the tv series TAXI had them beat on that front by about 32 years!!!

5) WOLVES???!!! Seriously, WTF? This is a tense enough situation as it is, and you STILL have to pull a species into the scenario that doesn't even exist in the environment you set the movie in? Now THAT is a sign of a shit scriptwriter!

Other than those 5 things, It's a pretty good movie. Three Stars.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

IMPULSE (1984) d. Graham Baker

Reviewed by Tracy Hook

IMPULSE is a film that I just happened upon. Literally! It was a cheap find at a flea market for a buck. This is what I'm reduced to because the economy is in the crapper. Small distributing companies are going under and the ones that are in business can't afford to give the Saturday Fright Special staff free movies. We've been so desparte we've actually started renting movies again. But I'm so cheap I go to the flea markets and yard sales. Just this past Sunday I picked up a great copy of the complete series of CHiPS on Beta for only 25 cents. What a buy! But I digress. I should be talking about IMPULSE.

IMPULSE stars Meg Tilly as a young dancer, Jennifer, living in in the city with her surgeon boyfriend, Stuart, played by Tim Matheson (of Animal House fame). Jennifer receives a phone call from her mother, who starts ranting and screaming at her and then a shot is heard. Jennifer and Stuart rush to Jennifer's hometown where a recent earthquake has happened. The minute they enter the town things seem strange. People are rude, discourteous and down right selfish. Petty crime, irritable dispositions and having intercourse with your brother-in-law at a seedy honky tonk seem to be a day-to-day occurance in this jerkwater town. Everyone Jennifer and Stuart come into contact with seem to be on the defense. Things start to climax as the days pass and Stuart and Jennifer want to find answers.

IMPULSE looks like it is a romantic thriller on the VHS cover, but nothing could be further from the truth. The 9 1/2 WEEKS look-a-like cover was probably some suit's bright idea to get people renting this film. It's so misleading. The cover should have my favorite scene in the film: an old man pissing on Stuart's tires. But I digress again. IMPULSE is very similar to Romero's THE CRAZIES. A town consumes something and it poisons their mind and all inhibitions are gone. I won't give away what the town consumes in IMPULSE, that's part of the mystery in the film. There are some pretty intense moments in IMPULSE, but over all it's one of the videos you'll only want to watch once. Apparently, this film is on DVD, but I've already spent the buck, so who cares. If you got some spare change and some time to waste watch IMPULSE. Or just rent THE CRAZIES, the original or remake. Same thing.

Monday, April 12, 2010

PREY (1978) d. Norman J. Warren

Reviewed by
Tracy Hook

I'm always up for a British Horror film. THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA, TWINS OF EVIL and COUNTESS DRACULA are a few of my favorites. There's lots of tension and usually very little gore. PREY was much different than the films mentioned. It's a mix of Science Fiction and horror and lesbian porn. Usually lesbians in British horror films are also vampires, but Jessica (Glory Annen) and Josephine (Sally Faulkner) are the good old fashion kind: human. Jessica and Josephine are cut off from society living in a large house in the country where they witness a huge flash of light one evening. Jessica suspects that it is a UFO landing nearby, but Josephine thinks she's being ridiculous. The next morning the ladies take a walk and come upon an unexpected guest: a man by the name Anders Anderson skulking around the ladies house and generally looking disoriented, but little do they know a cat faced alien has taken over his body. Funloving Jessica invites him in and their lives are about to take an interesting turn Anders presence adds tension to Jessica and Josephine's already rocky relationship. Josephine is a man-hater who controls Jessica's every move. We're given the impression that Josephine spends most of her time in jealous rage. Anders stays with the ladies, much to Josephine's chagrin, and a love triangle starts to form. All this happens despite Ander's odd behavior. He's awkward, quiet, and vomits every time he eats Jessica's cooking. This makes him the worst house guest ever to be put on film. The situation worsens during a little party Jessica throws where Josephine tries to seduce Anders. Jessica steps in the room just in time to make Josephine remember that, oh yeah, she's a man-hating lesbian. It's all downhill from this point on, especially when we learn Josphine has a dark secret she's been hiding. Jessica discovers her secret and decides to run away with Anders, but will she live to even see the inside of Anders' car?
PREY was pretty entertaining and very humorous, but whether it was supposed to be or not is debatable. Josephine's non-stop comments about men are enough to make anyone bust a gut. Jessica's naive and chipper ways make her the character that the viewer can really sympathize with the most (plus she takes her top off about five times in the film, so you fellas will enjoy her too). Barry Stokes as Anders is brilliant as the robot-like alien. He tells the ladies he's never played a game, can't eat and we later learn that he can't even swim. In a drawn out rescue scene complete with tinny synth music, we see Anders just can't do shit. Except keep calm while Jessican and Josephine have a knock-down, drag out, slap-fest of a cat fight.
The last few scenes are depicted on the back of the DVD case which could mislead any movie-goer that the film has blood and guts in every scene, but in actuality the film can be a bit slow for some people's taste. Me, I like a good build-up and background story. A new indie film called HOUSE OF THE DEVIL uses this technique well, but it's also been criticized for it, too. So there's your warning. Watch PREY if you'd like.

Monday, January 25, 2010

NEITHER THE SEA NOR THE SAND (1972) d. Fred Burnley

Reviewed by
Tracy Hook

ENDLESS LOVE, ROMEO AND JULIET, and ZOMBIE are all stories of undying love. Love that transcends this life, wait a minute... ZOMBIE? NEITHER THE SEA NOR THE SAND is a love story with a zombie spin on it. What better way to prove your undying love by not dying? Well, that can get pretty gamey when your body dies, but your soul just won't leave. This is what Anna (portrayed by Susan Hampshire) finds out in this film. So break out the Vicks Vapor Rub to block the smell and enjoy this DVD.

Anna is on holiday in Jersey UK when she meets Hugh (Michael Petrovitch) who is a dashing young lighthouse keeper. The two quickly fall in love and a passionate love affair blooms. They run away together to Scotland for a romantic getaway and then Hugh dies suddenly. (I won't give away what happens. I try not to spoil the movie surprises for you all). Anna is in shock and nearly has a nervous breakdown when a local doctor declares him dead. Anna is clearly devastated. She wants Hugh back with all of her heart and soul. Hugh does come back, but he's not himself. He has very little energy, is confused and cannot talk. As time passes Hugh decomposes and Anna must make a choice between the land of the living and the land of the dead.

NEITHER THE SEA NOR THE SAND put a nice twist on the short story "The Monkey's Paw" that we all read in our 7th Grade English class. Wishes may come true with disasterous consequences. There's similar British film from Amicus in an anthology called TALES FROM THE CRYPT. It's much more gruesome than NEITHER THE SEA NOR THE SAND, which surprisingly had very little gore. The director could have gone all out with body parts flopping off at inconvienent moments, but alas, he was too much of a gentleman to conceive of such crude things. There's was no zombie chomping scenes either. So if you're a gore fan you might want to just watch CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD instead. Hugh is actually the cleanest zombie I've ever seen. The film relies more on atmosphere and tension for it's scare factor than on gross out gut ripping scenes.

The atmospheric setting of the Jersey shore is dark and windy in the film. It's mentioned that it's off season for the tourist town that Hugh resides in. There's plenty of scenes of ocean waves crashing and it seems a great part of the film takes place by the ocean. It's a great date movie for Valentine's Day so pick this up along with a bottle of Champale. NEITHER THE SEA NOR THE SAND would make a great triple feature with ENDLESS LOVE and LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE. The latter is a little gorey, so maybe you should hold off if your date is one of those squeemish people. But on the other hand, your date might get so scared he/she might jump into your arms for comfort. Think of the possibilites.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

SPRING OF LIFE (2000) d. Milan Cieslar

Reviewed by
Tracy Hook

Spring of Life is a surprisingly tasteful film released through Redemption. I'm using "tasteful" rather loosely and I usually do, because I have such low standards in cinema. I went into this film expecting very little, but I got a good return on this one. It's a film that I would definitely revisit again and I recommend it to anyone who's looking for a good story of forbidden love. Yes, a love story as a Redemption release, believe it or not.

Our story begins in the Sudetenland in 1939. As you students of history know, the Sudetenland is the much disputed area of Czechoslovakia that Hitler wanted so badly, because the inhabitatants were racially German. Hitler wanted a unified Germany and to unify the "Master Race". The main character, Gretka, is choosen by the Nazis, as a worthy example of the Aryan race. She is taken away from her family and sent to a spa. Or what she thinks is a spa and she later finds out the diabolical Nazi plan of Lebensborn, where racially pure chosen women will breed with racially pure SS soliders. This is all too much for a nice Catholic girl like Gretka and she later plans an escape. She also encounters the "spa's" resident hostage, Leo, who is Jewish.

Leo is punished when Gretka points him out as the reason she fell through the ice while on her way to the spa. She feels guilty and tries to stop the SS soilders from punishing him, but of course the ruthless Nazis have no mercy on him. Leo comes close to death after this treatment. Gretka nurses him back to health and in the process, she falls in love with him. Like Romeo and Juliet, it's a forbidden love that has a tragic ending.

I thought this would be a straight exploitation film, especially with the subject matter. I pictured sweaty blonde SS soilders heavy breathing all over Gretka. On the contrary, the characters, were all very polite considering the situation. There's even a scene, where one of the chosen women is chastized for having a dirty mind. When I viewed the included interview with author Michael Leapman, I found out why this was released under Redemption. It is an exploitation film in disguise. The Lebensborn Project was a little less aggressive than what is shown in the film. Leapman explains that the project was merely an encouragement of SS soilders to mate with racially pure women. Even if this meant out of wedlock or in an adulturous manner. The mothers then went to a hospital-like setting during their pregnancy and while the baby was waiting for adoption. There was none of the forced sex that Spring of Life would have the viewer think. But the truth is so boring!

Redemption has come along way with their presentation. In the past, the busty vampire mascot of Redemption would give the viewer some background on a film. Her information seemed pretty accurate, but her black contact lenses were a little distracting. By including the interview with Michael Leapman, this DVD went up a few notches on the class scale. It's very informative and worth watching after the feature.

I can't recommend this more. I really enjoy Czech films, like Jan Svankmajer's surrealist extravaganzas and a great film called Divided We Fall (2000). It would make a perfect double feature with Spring of Life. Coincidentally, both films were released in 2000. Pop open a pivo and enjoy. (Pivo is beer in Czech, in case you didn't know).


Saturday, December 26, 2009

BLACK TORMENT (1964) d. Robert Hartford-Davis

Reviewed by Rick Trottier

As time passes, what once was a staple interest of people becomes passé as fresh and more exotic pastimes replace the old standbys. As a child, I saw the final days of the joy of collecting and playing with marbles. I was transfixed by the seemingly endless assortment of agates, cats-eyes and other styles and by the myriad sizes that could be obtained. While I was a boy who tended to be more interested in “active” pursuits, playing with marbles was a pleasure in which I would occasionally indulge when the more contemplative side of my nature emerged, the same side that motivated me to build models and to illustrate science fiction scenes. I can no more imagine children today playing with marbles than I can envision them drinking Moxie. Just as that carbonated beverage of another era is an acquired taste, one of the most popular genres of film from bygone days has also become somewhat of an “offbeat delicacy” to modern masses, the Gothic Thriller. Once, that type of motion pictures thundered across the cinematic landscape like the buffalo, but now is just as rare and not nearly as fascinating to the young mind as the plains-darkening herds once were. Gothic novels and movies seem “quaint” and “old-fashioned” and perhaps they are. Sadly, an entire series of generations will likely miss out on this once proud genus, for this type of movie is just not being made anymore, and most would just pass by something like BLACK TORMENT. It is a shame, for while not an outstanding film, BLACK TORMENT is entertaining and even a little informative when it comes to old mores and fashions.

BLACK TORMENT is the story of Sir Richard Fordyke and his lovely new bride, the Lady Elizabeth. Sir Richard has just returned to his family estate after more than three months of sojourn in London. During his return and once he arrives, whispers and rumors begin to spread that it is Sir Richard who is to blame for the recent rape and murder of the daughter of one of his tenants. Before long, eerie incidents and ghastly goings-on cast even deeper suspicion over Sir Richard, a man whose first wife Anne died under mysterious circumstances and who now may be haunted by her spirit. Sir Richard’s sanity comes under assault as a doppelganger seems to be perpetrating new crimes, or is it Richard himself and he can no longer control his mind and body? Only the servants know the truth in this convoluted tale of 18th Century duplicity, murder and revenge.

BLACK TORMENT starts off a bit slowly and winds its way through a narrative that has more in common with Gothic soap operas like DARK SHADOWS than it does a horror movie. By the mid-point of the tale, the drama begins to escalate and the pace picks up, weaving in very delicate threads akin to ghost stories, mysteries and romantic suspense. While some may not make it to the pay offs late in the film, BLACK TORMENT does deliver some pleasant “shocks and surprises” that may seem obvious to the modern, cynical audience, but are still quite enjoyable and charming none-the-less. The plot is both predictable and yet gripping, and it is only in the last acts that some of the “knowing looks” of the villains tip off “who done it”. It is the wonderfully dramatic overacting coupled with the atmosphere of the film that helps to make BLACK TORMENT a very satisfying experience. Just as with an 1960s English, Regency Romance, the performances are meant to be a little “over the top” and when stitched together with the sumptuous costuming, attractive and even opulent interior sets and the emotively archaic score, there is a deeply authentic feel to BLACK TORMENT. While not the grandiose spectacle of the typical early 60s Hammer Films production, this British cousin still radiates a charm all of its own. The aristocratic men are dashing and suave, the peasants thoroughly rustic, the ladies bedecked and coiffed beautifully and just as impressively heaving out of their scoop necked décolletage. From the overly dark “day for night” scenes, to the cerulean-tinted hues of the evening interiors, to the wide-eyed portrayals of Enlightenment-era characters pushed to the brink of madness, BLACK TORMENT is a delightful admixture of daytime TV and London stage performance that is probably not for the “adrenaline junkies” of today, but I liked it for what it was.

From a technical standpoint, BLACK TORMENT is a mixed bag. The audio is crisp and clean, which is not always typical of early 60s Euro-cinema. While not as gaudily colored as it Hammer Films rivals, there is still a visually alluring element to this flick that probably has more to do with the very competent manner in which it was shot than anything else. Scenes are well-framed and well-composed and over the last one-third of the movie, there are some excellent and creative camera angles that help to intensify the shift in mood and tone. The transfer that Redemption Films had to work with may be the culprit when it comes to final quality. There is a slightly grainy and washed-out look to most of this dvd and the brightness and contrast come and go at times. All too likely, the people at Redemption had to work with either a variety of quality levels for film stock and/or negatives and the end result was uneven, but still impressive. That this none-too-well known film survives at all is notable and from a purely historical standpoint, that is cause for praise. Classic Dr. Who fans will certainly recognize Patrick Troughton as The Ostler in this film. For that cameo alone, BLACK TORMENT has its own fascination.

The bonus features of this disc are thin but better than most dvds that aren’t “special editions” or “big releases”. There are two small stills galleries. One is called “Artwork” and features promotional literature, while the other is a series of black & white photographic stills. There are five Redemption trailers of a wide variety. Strange to say, only one I had seen so far, so that was a bit of a treat. The jewel in the crown was the 13 ½ minute interview with director Robert Hartford-Davis, who died in 1977. The interview was done with “TV legend” Bernard Braden and is a compelling look back at this project and the era in which the interview takes place, which seems to be shortly after BLACK TORMENT was released. Much like the feature itself, from a purely historical standpoint, this is a rare treasure and should be regarded as such.

BLACK TORMENT is certainly not the finest Gothic Thriller I have ever seen nor the best British film has to offer, but it is still worth your time if you have a hankering for “old school” cinema, or looks and sounds of an era long gone, or a story that just doesn’t get told anymore. I doubt that many of today’s young people would find all that tempting, but then again who knows? My 10 and 11 year old students enjoy having J. R. R. Tolkien’s novels read to them and that is as Victorian as it gets. Possibly, we are seeing the pendulum swing back the other way and that more effete times are upon us once more.