Friday, June 14, 2013

"Demon of Paradise" (1987) d/ Cirio Santiago

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Filipino director Cirio Santiago produced a prolific number of genre movies out of his native Manila during the seventies and eighties, tackling everything from blaxploitation (Savage!, T.N.T. Jackson) to W.I.P. flicks (The Big Doll House, The Big Bird Cage) during his heyday, and the guy wasn't exactly averse to Jaws rip-offs, either, having co-produced the awful Up From the Depths in 1979, before duplicating that same movie himself in the director's chair eight years later with even worse results.For Paradise, Santiago replaces Depths' surfboard with teeth for the baggy, rubbery bastard stepchild of ZAAT and Godzilla. If your appreciation for Bud Westmore's Gill Man from Creature From the Black Lagoon(1954) has lost enthusiasm over time, just compare it to the embarrassingly corny, ill-fitting monster suit from tonight's review, thirty-three years later.
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He looks pretty content. "Dismemberment by prehistoric lizard-man" must've topped his bucket list.
After some foolhardy dynamite fishermen awaken Akua, a carnivorous lizard-man from the Triassic Period, as lazily explained by Annie (Kathryn Witt), the resident herpetologist, the saggy-looking denizen of the deep stakes a rubbery claim off the waters of Kihono, Hawaii...or the Philippines,  if you have functional eyes. She claims the light-sensitive beast, a missing link between reptiles and man(!), feeds nocturnally, which would explain the first two attacks occurring in broad daylight. Keefer (William Steis) is the new tackle vest-wearing sheriff in town, burnt out from the 'psychotic bullshit' he was forced to deal with in Reno, now forced to deal with the smiling corpses of Hawaiian (translation:Filipino) fisherman that have been turning up. Standing in the way of the investigation is a resort owner (translation:home owner with an abundance of cheap lawn furniture) named Cahill (Laura Banks) who not only scoffs at the notion of a monster terrorizing her Flip busload of tourists, she exploits the legend with the help of an obnoxious journo with an afro named Ike (Frederick Bailey, who wrote this nonsense), when she isn't overacting her way through gem dialog like, "Take a hike, spaz ass!".

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Everybody's all smiles when the boobs come out.
Despite doing little more than popping out of the water and limply clawing/waving at people from a safe distance, Akua does possess the uncanny ability to make things explode, like boats, makeshift dynamite factories on the waterfront, and even full-size helicopter replicas full of National Guardsmen (translation: extras in outdated army gear) who light sticks of dynamite off of cigarettes in an air assault against the watery demon. There's a skinny cokehead model (Leslie Huntly) who breaks her bobblers out, overused fog machines, a Filipino Charlie Sheen lookalike, a police shootout with some dynamite dealers, and a 'Monster Egg' hunt at the resort before our expressionless heroes corner Akua outside a cave, where Annie fires tranquilizer darts into the monster's rubber yap from an impossibly hokey-looking gun contraption, but ultimately, soldiers well-placed grenades blow the beastie into pieces. Annie remarks about lizards regenerating their tails as the end credits roll. They wouldn't dare...

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"Keep still, Kardashian, this penicillin  is for your own good!"
You'll remember Kathryn Witt from several television appearances and roles in features like Looker (1981), Star 80 (1983), Philadelphia (1993), and wonder what the hell she was doing in this rancid pile of shit. Laura Banks was uncredited as Khan's navigator in the second Star Trek picture, if that means anything to you. The unintentional laughs here are numerous, as you'd expect, but the whole affair crawls along like a worm on the hot sidewalk in mid-July. If it has any value whatsoever, it's probably the feeling it'll give you to go off and watch a better movie to help you forget it. One wop.

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Not too shabby, and by that, I mean just shabby enough.
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