Outsider filmmakers with a dream are the best kinds of filmmakers. These are the folks who get it into their heads to make a movie regardless of massive obstacles. All the things that make filmmaking difficult are mere challenges to overcome, annoyances to bypass. What requires a small army to get done in Hollywood, they do themselves. Of course, the final product betrays the humble nature of these movies, even when they are 127 minutes of bombastic insanity.
Bryan Brooks had a very limited career in film before 2022’s Wrecker, appearing in a handful of shorts and doing some work as a grip. If the internet is to be believed, Brooks had an epiphany while he was pinned beneath an 800-pound crab pot on a boat in the Bering Sea. After his shipmates lifted the cage and his lungs took in precious lifegiving air, Brooks took stock of his life and decided that filmmaking was his life’s calling. What followed was a decade of painstaking study of the craft of film before he unleashed his talents on the moviegoing public. It’s almost a superhero origin story. I don’t care if any of it is true. A little mythmaking in the b-movie movie industry never hurt anyone. Continue reading “Shitty Movie Sundays: Wrecker (2022)”
One would think that professional wrestlers are tailormade action stars. They are athletic, charismatic, decent at improv, and willing to do just about anything to put on a good show. Also, one of the most important weapons in a wrestler’s arsenal is the ability to play a character. These men and women spend months or years crafting characters to which roaring crowds respond, either favorably, in the case of faces, or with gleeful jeers, in the case of heels. These are people who know how to work crowds, but remove the crowds, leaving nothing but cameras and crew, and the vast majority of wrestlers turned actor seem a bit lost. Continue reading “Shitty Movie Sundays: Money Plane”
At first glance, this flick doesn’t look like much. It’s just another direct-to-video action flick with a miniscule budget, a small cast led by a Hollywood b-lister, and just a single location where all the fun stuff happens. It’s about as anonymous as these types of flicks get. Then, one looks a little deeper. It stars Dolph Lundgren. No surprise there. He’s starred in dozens of these types of films. This is also the first one he directed. Shitty movie fans rejoice! But, that’s not all.
This is also a very topical film, in a way most b-movies never bother with. It was released in 2004, at the height of The Global War on Terror, as it was dubbed in the political wonkiverse. The United States was engaged in two very bloody wars, and looking with paranoiac diligence for enemies wherever they may be. No one could be trusted, and this film, believe it or not, captures a lot of the prevailing mood of the time. But, there’s still more! Continue reading “Shitty Movie Sundays: The Defender (2004)”
John Tucker (David Carradine), the toughest and deadliest C.O.P. (Civilian Operated Police) is back in action, in Future Zone, the 1990 sequel to Future Force. This movie does away with explaining the lore, so some background from the first film is in order.
In the near future crime has become so rampant that government operated police forces have been disbanded, replaced by a civilian equivalent that has more in common with old west bounty hunters than proper law enforcement. These COPs (this movie drops the ‘S’ from the acronym) carry six shooters and dress like bikers. Tucker is the biggest badass of them all, blithely informing criminals that they have the right to die, just before he shoots them in the chest. He also has a power glove that shoots rays of lightning from its fingers. But, like the first film, it’s such a deus ex machina that writer/director David A. Prior keeps it mostly out of sight. Continue reading “Shitty Movie Sundays: Future Zone”
In the near future, by the year 1991, crime has become so rampant in the United States that all local police forces have been disbanded and replaced by private companies. These companies are collectively known as C.O.P.S., or Civilian Operated Police Incorporated. Wait, that’s not right. But that’s what the opening voiceover calls them. By the second scene in Future Force, from writer/director and b-movie auteur extraordinaire David A. Prior, viewers know that the last word in the COPS acronym is Systems, not Incorporated. We love a lack of attention to details like that here at Shitty Movie Sundays.
These new COPS aren’t like the old cops. For one thing, the American system of justice has been turned on its head. The accused are now presumed guilty, and are convicted before they are ever arrested, often without knowledge of their offenses. Continue reading “Shitty Movie Sundays: Future Force”
There is some mythmaking surrounding today’s film, so a little internet detective work was called for.
The Space-Fighter, according to its credits, is a production of The Stryker Brothers, Michael and Matthew. They wrote, directed, produced, starred, and handled the digital effects. On the IMDb page for the film, though, the credited director is Matthew Arnashus, who also stars as Vic Rider. Vic’s brother in the film, Ken, is credited to Michael Jean. However, Vic and Ken are clearly twins. But, are they?
Some more digging in the tubes has turned up info that Matthew Arnashus is a freelance editor and voiceover actor working out of the Chicago area. He has a brother named Michael, but I couldn’t find out if they had the same birthdate, because I’m not going to pay some sketchy white pages site for that information. Continue reading “Shitty Movie Sundays: The Space-Fighter”
Before Michael Krueger horrified viewers by writing the execrable Amityville Curse, he wrote (with Dave Sipos and Curtis Hannum) and directed a shitty shot-on-video horror flick called Mindkiller. In the vein of a David Cronenberg film, Mindkiller follows a protagonist whose forays into psychoscience lead to a strange lovelife, followed by horrific consequences.
Warren (Joe McDonald) has a problem. He can’t get laid. He’s a thirty something with a dead end job in the basement of a library, doomed to spending his days filing meaningless reports, and his nights watching in envy as his roommate, Brad (Kevin Hart, not that one), hooks up with every hottie in sight. It’s all a personality problem. Warren is deathly shy and when he does work up the courage to talk to a woman, nothing but gibberish comes out. It’s a tale as old as flirting. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Mindkiller”
Many creative people hail from the rusted industrial corpse of Akron, Ohio. Some of them even get famous. Musicians, mostly. But, when it comes to filmmakers, there is one name, and one name, only, associated with Akron. And it’s not Jim Jarmusch, despite what the list of people from Akron on Wikipedia would suggest. This filmmaker has not only made more movies than Jarmusch (who I like as a filmmaker, by the way), but made many of them in his good ole hometown. His name is J.R. Bookwalter.
His first feature, released in 1989, is the classic low-budget, ultra-gory Dead Next Door. Produced, written, and directed by Bookwalter, production began in the summer of 1985 when Bookwalter pitched Sam Raimi on the film. Raimi, gaining an executive producer credit, agreed to pony up the cash, and shooting began in spring of 1986 after some fits and starts. More problems cropped up, as often happens in productions like this, but the majority of the film was in the can by that autumn. 1987 and 1988 were for reshoots, more tinkering, and editing. Finally, sweet release on video in November of 1989. That’s a labor of love, folks. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: The Dead Next Door”
Regular readers of the Horrorshow and Shitty Movie Sundays will know that I have an appreciation for John and Mark Polonia, the twin brothers behind shot-on-video gems Splatter Farm and Hallucinations. Those flicks were a combination of amateurish and sublime that is hard to fathom without actually seeing it. Their relentless love of filmmaking, horror movies, and their ability to work on the cheap kept them employed in the movie business. But, actual growth as filmmakers, and in particular, storytellers, is something that is sorely missing from their oeuvre. As time marched on, the efficiency of their movies seems to have superseded all else. Almost twenty years on from Splatter Farm, 2005’s Razorteeth lacks all of the charm and intensity of the early movies, and continues a pattern of absolute bottom-feeding filmmaking. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Razorteeth”
The Polonia Brothers are at it again. After sitting on a shelf for the better part of a decade, 2003 saw the DVD release of Hellspawn, one of the brothers’ more stylistically classic movies.
Hellspawn has the feel of an homage to horror films from the 1950s and ’60s. It has lingering, atmospheric shots that evoke English gothic horror and Hitchcock’s Psycho, and a soundtrack reminiscent of Night of the Living Dead. Hellspawn is clearly a movie the Polonias put a little more time and care into than something like Feeders. And yet most of it still feels mailed in.
What hurts this movie the most, and might be the reason behind its delayed release, is the sound quality. The brothers shot this movie on video, as was their wont, and it sounds like they used the built-in mic on whatever camcorder they were shooting with. The result is entire scenes with muddled or unintelligible dialogue. Without fail these issues with the sound happen during scenes with much-needed exposition. That places an undue burden on the rest of the movie. Where the brothers succeed in homage-ing, they don’t keep pace in scares or effects. For a movie with an 86-minute running time, long for the Polonias, that makes watching a slog, despite flashes of vintage Polonia. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Hellspawn”