October Horrorshow: Friday the 13th

There’s bad cinema, and then there’s bad cinema. Some movies are just unwatchable, displaying a profound lack of skill on the part of the filmmakers. There is nothing to them, not even the satisfaction of shock value. Take, for example, something like Theodore Rex, a film I wrote about last year. That movie was pathetic, with no redeeming qualities at all. It was even uncomfortably racist. But, had the title lizard gone on a murderous rampage, the filmmakers may have had something. Imagine that, a film so bad that it elevates grisly murder to the level of ‘redeeming quality’. Truly, a film that must be seen to be believed. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Friday the 13th”

October Horrorshow, Retroactive: Deep Rising

Yikes. Sometimes a shitty movie crosses my path and I don’t know whether to lose myself in the fun of it all, or to hate it. Deep Rising, written and directed by Stephen Sommers, whipsawed me back and forth between deep belly laughs and outright revulsion so quickly that by the end I was praying for something, anything, to appear just for a moment, a fleeting second, and justify the mystifying amount of time I spent with this dog. Didn’t happen, so now, instead of letting the experience fade away into the deep recesses of my memory, I’m going to write about it. Continue reading “October Horrorshow, Retroactive: Deep Rising”

October Horrorshow, Retroactive: Horror Express

Horror ExpressHorror Express is one of those good bad movies. The budget is low, the plot has twists and turns which serve little purpose than stretching out the running time, and a middling celebrity makes a token appearance to swipe a quick paycheck in exchange for lending some prestige to the film. Ah, Telly Savalas. During the 1970s, cheap European horror films must have been how he expensed vacations. His name is in the credits, to be sure, but the title of the film could easily be changed to Where’s Telly Savalas? Kojak takes his sweet time making his entrance, but such bliss, for Savalas plays a Cossack captain in command of soldiers in Siberia. He’s gruff and flamboyant all at once, smoking cigarillos and drinking vodka, never quite sure if he should talk with a Russian accent. It looked like his scenes were filmed in a day. Anyway, Savalas isn’t in a starring role.

Those honors go to Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Lee plays a British scientist who discovers a two million year old frozen ape man in 1906 China. Peter Cushing is a British doctor on his way back to the home islands. Lee and Cushing make an engaging duo, in a kind of reprise of their successes in the Hammer horror films. The Horror Express of the title is a train traveling on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Continue reading “October Horrorshow, Retroactive: Horror Express”

October Horrorshow, Retroactive: The Last Man on Earth, The Omega Man, I Am Legend

The Omega ManThe three films adapted from Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel I Am Legend vary widely in scope, story, and distance from the original source material. They are all shaky and mostly forgettable, but The Omega Man maintains a special place in cinema as one of star Charlton Heston’s many 1970s forays into post-apocalyptic science fiction. For that, it is the most interesting of the three adaptations, if not the best, edging The Last Man on Earth by a close margin.

The Last Man on Earth was the first of the adaptations, released in 1964. It was an Italian production following the spaghetti western model, and was credited with two directors, Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkow. The film stars Vincent Price, at his Priciest, as it were. Price’s acting style takes some getting used to. He was a consummate professional who was more than capable in most of his roles. In Theatre of Blood, he was excellent. But he was victimized not just by type casting, but his own insistence on becoming a caricature of himself at times. The Last Man on Earth is b-cinema, and unfortunately, Price, playing protagonist Robert Morgan, fits right in. His many solitary scenes all seem to play like the boat deck scene in King Kong, where Robert Armstrong screen tests Fay Wray, giving audible directions for her first off camera encounter with a wild beast, finally yelling for her to “scream, Ann, scream for your life!” Continue reading “October Horrorshow, Retroactive: The Last Man on Earth, The Omega Man, I Am Legend”

October Horrorshow, Retroactive: Prince of Darkness

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Victor Wong will kick your ass with a chopstick and a can of Shasta.

This is attempt number five. The fifth time I’ve begun a review of John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness. Hopefully, I’ll be able to finish this effort. Suppose I start with a declarative statement, then justify it with an argument? Sounds like a plan. Continue reading “October Horrorshow, Retroactive: Prince of Darkness”

October Horrorshow, Retroactive: The Thing

Last week saw a unique event in film. Four John Carpenter films landed in Brooklyn as part of a mini-retrospective at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). The featured films were Big Trouble in Little China, The Thing, They Live, and Escape from New York. All unique films from a unique filmmaker. B-movie schlock artist or perennially misunderstood genius, depending upon who’s doing the watching, Carpenter is a knowledgeable director who draws on his education, talents, and the best aspects of low-grade cinema to craft films that are unmistakably his. As soon as the opening credits roll, one enters Carpenter’s world. Viewer hears music (usually) from Carpenter’s own synthesizer, and the credits themselves are all the same white serif font on a black background, no matter which of his films is playing. Anamorphic lens effects and dark lighting cross among his works. Finally there is the thematic distrust of authority as a conceptual continuity throughout. All of this makes Carpenter’s films easily recognizable to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of his oeuvre. Continue reading “October Horrorshow, Retroactive: The Thing”

October Horrorshow, Retroactive: 30 Days of Night

The film 30 Days of Night, adapted from the popular graphic novel, was marketed as a modern update on classical vampires. A break from pattern, these creatures of the night were more fearsome, more violent, more bloodthirsty, than any that had been onscreen before. Indeed, the vampires of 30 Days of Night are not Anne Rice’s cultured charmers, nor are they the stealthy apparitions of Bram Stoker, although their physical appearance pays homage to the Dracula of the classic film Nosferatu. Continue reading “October Horrorshow, Retroactive: 30 Days of Night”

Shitty Movie Sundays: Doom

Sundays are usually pretty slow for me. The day and evening tend to drift by, lost in the newspaper, a book, televised sports, leisurely cooking, and the occasional shitty movie. It was late one Sunday that I came across an awful latter-day Godzilla film dubbed into Spanish (that I subsequently reviewed, along with its sequel). I usually get all heavy thinking out of the way before the sun goes down, and a mindless movie is a great complement to the relaxed nature of a Sunday evening. Paradoxically, this past Sunday’s fare, while mindless, was also frenetic and violent. But it was enough to satisfy the craving for bad cinema that I think all of us have a weak spot for. Continue reading “Shitty Movie Sundays: Doom”

October Horrorshow, Retroactive: Aliens

Alien is an artful film. It is frightening and suspenseful, but it also has operatic grace and gritty realism, despite being set mostly aboard a spaceship. It’s hard to imagine Alien spawning a sequel so tonally different yet still so successful, but Aliens does just that. The two films are poles apart, sharing with each other only the alien creatures and Sigourney Weaver, who reprises her role from the first film as Ripley. Continue reading “October Horrorshow, Retroactive: Aliens”