October Horrorshow: Lifeforce

Sometimes a movie tries to be an epic, but has a hard time shaking off its b-movie stink. Such is the case with Lifeforce, the 1985 sci-fi/horror film from director Tobe Hooper and writers Dan O’Bannon and Don Jakoby. The film opens with a bombastic score composed by Henry Mancini, in quite a departure from the type of music cinema buffs would associate with him. The camera flies over an endless asteroid that looks plucked from the long, dichromatic shots that Stanley Kubrick filmed for 2001. What follows is a quick introductory voiceover that takes care of all the backstory and character development. Viewers are told of the mission of the HMS Churchill, a joint American/British space shuttle mission tasked with exploring Halley’s Comet upon its dodranscentennial approach to the earth. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Lifeforce”

October Horrorshow: The Keep

What a weird fucking movie. I’m glad I watched it.

The Keep, from 1983, was Michael Mann’s second directorial effort, coming two years after Thief. The film tells the story of a unit of German soldiers who occupy a remote castle keep in Romania during World War II. But, this is no normal keep. The walls are inset throughout with over two hundred crosses made of nickel. The battlements appear designed not to keep an invading army outside of the walls, but rather to keep something in. There’s even a creepy caretaker on site to make sure that anyone who crosses the threshold knows the story of all those before who tried to spend a single night in THE KEEP. Spooky. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: The Keep”

Schwarzenegger Month: Batman & Robin

Ah, Batman & Robin, the movie that killed the Batman film franchise. I get it. After the Batman comic books took on a darker tone in the late ’80s, it was only natural that the new films that began with Tim Burton’s Batman would become more serious and less campy. Batman, his character and his fictional world, had changed. I also get what the director of this film, Joel Schumacher, was trying to do. He understood the character of Batman from a different era. When he chose to craft a Batman movie he chose to do so in the form of a costume ball. Bright colors, festive music, outrageous outfits — its participants are all out for a wonderful night on the town, and all seem to be in on the joke. This was the Batman from the comics, just not the right Batman comics. Continue readingSchwarzenegger Month: Batman & Robin”

Schwarzenegger Month: Hercules in New York

For no reason other than that I feel like it, I hereby declare this to be Arnold Schwarzenegger month at Missile Test. His Arnoldness has 54 acting credits to his name on IMDb. I’m going to watch a whole boatload of them and write some reviews. I’m looking forward to hours upon hours of explosions, gunfights, and rough accents. The first flick has only one of those, but it depends on which print a viewer manages to see. Continue readingSchwarzenegger Month: Hercules in New York”

October Horrorshow: Critters, or, Power of the Night!

I don’t think I’ve seen this movie since the late 1980s. That’s almost thirty years of depriving myself of big hair, a pack of unstoppable, ravenous fur balls that are more teeth than animal, and Power of the Night, the number one single by Johnny Steele. Oh yeah, this was the decade I grew up in, with all its foibles, bad fashion, and shit music. This was the decade that put Eric Clapton in pastels and convinced teenagers everywhere that synthesizers were an acceptable accouterment to rock music. And my God, Reagan was in the White House. No, no, no. If it weren’t for the amazing run of substandard cinema throughout the decade, I would want to have the entire time wiped clean from my memory. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Critters, or, Power of the Night!”

October Horrorshow: Kingdom of the Spiders

I have a mental list of things I would do if I could go back in time. The standard stuff is there. Kill Hitler, catch a live performance of Beethoven’s Ninth with the composer himself conducting, etc. But those are representative of my more grandiose schemes. Far down the list is finding some way to weasel into the movie industry, and direct a film starring William Shatner in the 1970s. It’s a fleeting obsession, really, and was conceived only after watching Shatner’s star turn in Kingdom of the Spiders, from 1977. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Kingdom of the Spiders”

Shitty Movie Sundays: Spice World & Trancers II

I never met a movie I wouldn’t watch.

— Missile Test

I thought I was being clever when I made that little play on the famous Will Rogers quote. I never thought it would get me in trouble, that I would be forced to live up to such whimsy as if it were a true declaration. I was wrong. One of my friends, Michael, over at Daily Exhaust, decided to challenge my integrity and the integrity of Missile Test by throwing out a suggestion for a shitty movie review. Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: Spice World & Trancers II”

October Horrorshow: Fido

Vampire bats fill the night sky, deranged slashers lurk in the woods, werewolves bay at the moon, and the undead walk the earth in search of human flesh. It must be October, when imaginations turn to Halloween, and Missile Test celebrates with the October Horrorshow, dedicating the entire month to watching and reviewing horror films. The good, the bad, and the putrid. If there’s blood, there’s always a reason to watch. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Fido”

October Horrorshow, Spring Edition: Class of Nuke ‘Em High

Class of Nuke Em HighWhat a shitty movie. From Troma Entertainment, a production company well-versed in churning out b-movie fare (most famously the Toxic Avenger series of films and its spinoffs), Class of Nuke ‘Em High is self-aware schlock. From the opening scene to the end, the filmmakers never miss a chance to remind the viewer that what they are watching is not meant to be taken seriously. But the way they choose to draw attention to this fact, with overwrought characters and performances, only serves to make the film feel forced. It revels in cheapness, and this would be a good thing, if only they weren’t trying so hard. At every step of the film, Troma seeks to establish its brand, reveling in its ineptness at putting together something that is watchable.

The film has a strong beginning. After an opening shot purposefully evocative of Troma’s production logo, the scene shifts to the fictional town of Tromaville, New Jersey, where an accident at a nuclear power plant has leaked radioactive goo into the high school next door. A hapless student is exposed to the contaminant when he drinks from a water fountain before class, and his transformation from stereotypical 80s film nerd to smoking corpse is hilarious. But in that scene is a first glimpse of the film’s downfall. Most of the ensemble cast is present, and all exist, like the poor victim, as caricatures of the diverse collection of jocks, losers, horndogs, and punks that populate the banal visions of high school typical of so many films from the 50s to today. The problem is, there isn’t a straight man among the bunch to balance things out. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow, Spring Edition: Class of Nuke ‘Em High”

The Empty Balcony: Big Trouble in Little China

As I was watching John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China recently, I was struck by the familiarity of the material. I felt I had seen it before, but in some other context. Confined, mazelike, and windowless environments; various tricks and traps the heroes must overcome; goons, monsters, and the bosses that control them, etc. And there it is. Big Trouble in Little China plays like a videogame. Considering it was released in 1986, before videogames became complex enough to compare, does that mean John Carpenter was breaking new ground, that Big Trouble in Little China is ahead of its time? No. It just reaffirms that the pacing and storytelling of today’s videogames are derivative of cinema. There are plenty of other films from around the same time that are akin to videogames (Aliens, Commando, and Total Recall all come immediately to mind, among many others). Continue readingThe Empty Balcony: Big Trouble in Little China”