Giant Monstershow: King Kong Lives

What a gloriously stupid movie. Today’s movie is the movie I was looking forward to seeing the most for the October Horrorshow Giant Monstershow. It’s a movie of such shitty grandiosity that I was, in fact, giddy at the prospect. It’s not the easiest movie to find for viewing, either. As of this writing, none of the popular streaming services has it for rent or purchase. The only bootleg streams I could find were not in English, and even trying to find a torrent was fruitless. In the end, I had to buy a used DVD from eBay. It cost thirty-five bucks. That’s a lot of money for a shitty movie. Alas, it was worth every penny. Continue readingGiant Monstershow: King Kong Lives”

October Horrorshow: Chopping Mall, aka Killbots

I think it’s about high time to feature a flick from the Roger Corman stable. Chopping Mall, also released as Killbots, from 1986, doesn’t have Roger Corman’s name on it anywhere, but it’s definitely one of his. It was produced by Julie Corman, who has been married to Roger for almost fifty years, and it’s an underfunded piece of shit. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Chopping Mall, aka Killbots”

Stallone Month: Cobra

Oh, lord. Is this flick produced by the Cannon Group, the most lovable pair of shameless profiteers that Hollywood has ever seen? Yes, it is. Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus did as much for my love of shitty movies as any other filmmaker not named Carpenter. But, this month isn’t about Cannon. It’s about Sly Stallone. And Cobra, the 1986 film written by Sly and directed by George P. Cosmatos (who went on to direct films about a killer rat and a fish monster), might just be peak Stallone. Coming the year after Rocky IV, Sly wasn’t going to get any bigger. Continue readingStallone Month: Cobra”

Schwarzenegger Month: Raw Deal

This movie is Arnold Schwarzenegger on the cusp. After Conan and The Terminator, people knew who he was, he was a legitimate star, and this earned him more roles. But he was still making movies for Dino De Laurentiis. That man was a producing legend, but not always for the best reasons. For every Blue Velvet or Serpico, there were about five or six Maximum Overdrives. De Laurentiis movies look cheap, like the filmmakers that made them didn’t have the cash they needed, or weren’t competent filmmakers in the first place. Raw Deal was the last De Laurentiis film with Arnold to hit theaters, and Arnold was probably glad about that. Continue readingSchwarzenegger Month: Raw Deal”

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: Psycho III

...And then there was Psycho III. Part of the appeal of the first two films in the franchise was that there was a fair amount of ambiguity to events. There were murders, but it wasn’t at all clear until the end who had been committing them (of course, a person would have to be living under a rock to not have picked up on Psycho’s twist at some point in their lives). Not so in Psycho III. Norman Bates is doubtlessly the bad guy in this one, so it just remains to be seen how he will get his comeuppance. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Psycho III”

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”

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 readingOctober Horrorshow, Retroactive: Aliens”