October Horrorshow: Of Unknown Origin

Man vs. beast, a perennial narrative for as long as there have been narratives. Rich, fertile ground for storytellers. Combine that with the creepy-crawly subgenre of horror, and you get Of Unknown Origin. Directed by George P. Cosmatos way back in 1983, Of Unknown Origin tells the tale of Bart Hughes (Peter Weller), an investment banker of some sort, and the confrontation he has with a rat. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Of Unknown Origin”

October Horrorshow: Leviathan

(Note: I wrote this way back in May, then decided that, rather than post this immediately, it would fit in better with the October Horrorshow. Hence the slightly dated references in the opening paragraph.)

From 1989, Leviathan is George P. Cosmatos’s follow-up to the classic Sylvester Stallone shitfest that was Cobra. And Leviathan isn’t any better. Little more than a mashup of Alien and John Carpenter’s Thing, Leviathan is a stroll down recognizable and well-worn plot paths, comfortable in its familiarity, like an old pair of shoes or the quilt that your grandmother made when you were a child. A more crass reviewer could say Leviathan is a blatant rip-off of much better films, and they would be correct. But I choose to view Leviathan in a more forgiving light, especially since, these days, Hollywood is determined to cram sequels, adaptations, reboots, and remakes down the throats of the all-too-willing public. This week, I could have chosen to see The Avengers or even Battleship at the theaters. Instead, I decided to stay local with my garbage, and rent a fine example of shitty monster movie cinema to view in my own home. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Leviathan”

October Horrorshow: The Fly (1986)

The FlyTeleportation is a fascinating subject. Most sci-fi fans have watched the transporters in Star Trek or elsewhere and thought how cool it would be to travel instantly from one place to another. But then science rears its ugly head. Sure, it’s a novel idea, and would change the way we live in ways that are hard to comprehend. For instance, if distance becomes meaningless, so does security and privacy. There’s no point in having locked doors if anyone at anytime can just teleport into your apartment and steal your stuff. There’s no point in living in cities if you can have cheap housing in the boonies and just teleport into midtown for work. Hungry for some Italian food? Forget the quaint little place that just opened in the old downtown, in the spot the shoe store used to be. Go to fucking Italy! Teleportation would be such a revolution in the way we think about distance that it would remake society in ways we can scarcely imagine. But there’s a dark side. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: The Fly (1986)”

October Horrorshow: The Thing (2011)

Last week, The Thing was released to theaters. Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr., this new Thing is a bit weird. Originally conceived as a remake of the 1982 John Carpenter film, during pre-production the film morphed into being a prequel. This was not a bad idea, as the Carpenter Thing is not only a strong film, it also had a ready-made introductory story that could be made into a full-length feature...possibly. The new Thing, however, while being clearly a prequel to anyone familiar with Carpenter’s work, contains so many visual cues from Carpenter Thing that it also becomes clear the remake idea was not completely scrapped. Or maybe it’s just a case of lazy filmmaking. Maybe there was a script for a remake, the concept changed, but that draft remained, was altered, and became what was finally put to film. Either way, it’s the remake/prequel aspects of new Thing that make it weird. Maybe it’s an homage, but if that’s the case, there was a bit too much homaging going on. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: The Thing (2011)”

October Horrorshow: Pumpkinhead

Stan Winston was legendary in the film industry. Before he died, he won three Oscars for visual effects (Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and Jurassic Park), one for makeup (Terminator 2 again), and racked up a total of six other nominations. He either led or was part of the effects and makeup teams that worked on The Thing, The Terminator, Ghoulies, Predator, Leviathan, Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, Interview with the Vampire, Avatar, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. In short, the man had a hell of a career turning the unreal into the real. In horror, he was a master monster maker. But, a man has to branch out, explore new opportunities. Enter Pumpkinhead. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Pumpkinhead”

October Horrorshow: Basket Case

This is one of the more bizarre movies I’ve ever seen. From writer/director Frank Henenlotter, Basket Case is an ultra low budget black comedy horror flick about a young man and his brother. By all accounts, Duane Bradley is a normal person. Raised in upstate New York, he’s on his first trip to the big city. He’s naïve — green as all hell, in fact — but he has his charms, and it’s easy to tell that the city can’t come close to extinguishing all his innocence. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Basket Case”

October Horrorshow: From Dusk Till Dawn, or, a Tale of Two Movies

From Dusk Till DawnOctober has come again. It being the month of Halloween, we at Missile Test choose to celebrate by watching and reviewing horror films. Ah, blood. There just can’t be enough in October. Today’s selection has plenty of it, even though it’s mostly green. But what the hell, it’s all in fun.

Quentin Tarantino was riding high after the success of Pulp Fiction, a film that had a strong case for winning Best Picture at the Oscars the year it came out. Was it Tarantino’s youth which kept his opus from taking home the top prize? Who knows? Some of the competition were no slouches in their own right, but none broke any new ground, nor did they spawn a whole genre of imitations that crop up in cinema to this day (just like Alien and all its clones). And the winner that year, Forrest Gump, felt like little more than the Baby Boomers trying to justify their actions in retrospect by infusing their youths with blandness and innocence, when naiveté (with a sharp edge, at least) would have been a more apt description. This trivializes the profound role they played in turning public opinion against the war in Vietnam, but their role was not nearly as important as that played by the news media who brought home the images of war to the American public. The youth had always been suspicious, and were never onboard with the war policy from the beginning, but every other demographic in America couldn’t have given two shits if we had been winning the war instead of losing it. Anyway, I honestly can’t tell if that film was an apology to their parents or an apology to the directionless void of malaise left behind by their sudden thrust into real adulthood that was then passed on to their slacker Gen X children. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: From Dusk Till Dawn, or, a Tale of Two Movies”

October Horrorshow: The Blob (1988)

Things have calmed down a bit here at Missile Test. Today is the second straight day without a zombie sighting in the October Horrorshow. No walking dead, no rambling hordes, no barricaded windows or locked down shopping malls. Instead, we return to the realm of the creature feature with the 1988 remake of the classic b-horror flick The Blob. Directed by Chuck Russell, who shared the screenwriting credits with Frank Darabont, this remake is a fine movie in its own right. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: The Blob (1988)”

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”

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 readingOctober Horrorshow, Retroactive: Deep Rising”