Sunday, August 25, 2013

"Freddy vs. Jason" (2003) d/ Ronny Yu

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Ironically, our final Friday the 13th review (until the day they decide to haphazardly throw another sequel/prequel/remake together, of course) also marks the first time we're covering Freddy Krueger here. If it's up to me, this will be the only time. Oh yeah, I'm fully aware just how many of you were weaned on and subsequently scared half to death by the corny one-liners and ugly sweater-fedora combo since Wes Craven's first successful series poo-step in 1984, it's just that I never was, thankfully. Even as a teenager watching the original, I felt insulted that they'd waste such an impressive m.o. on such an embarrassingly impotent-looking bad guy, horror's equivalent of Doctor Detroit (1984).
With the phoned in ending of Jason Goes to Hell:The Final Friday still cemented to the bottom of my breadbasket like a pound of grilled venison, I purposely avoided seeing this one on principle until finally, I snagged the dvd off of an A-Town Wal Mart shelf while rubbing elbows with the two a.m. shower cap and bedroom slippers crowd, it having finally been reduced in price to something that I no longer considered rape, and also constituting "something new"(post 70's), which my then concubine-of-the-moment constantly complained that I never indulged in, caustic little ball-breaker that she no doubt, was. What followed, was a decorous, campy effort from director Ronny Yu ( The Bride With White Hair, Bride of Chucky) that reminded me of an updated version of the old Universal monster battle flicks at times.
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One, two...look at the bobblers on you.
Having been rendered powerless when the townspeople of Springwood forgot his horrible crimes over time, Freddy Krueger (Englund) enlists the homicidal services of  prolific Crystal Lake slasher Jason Voorhees (Ken Kirzinger) to jog the town's collective memory, by posing as his mother and sending the silent giant off to punish the bad children of Elm Street, like Lori (Monica Keena) and her friends, who are having a sleepover. One of the boys gets butchered, leading the authorites to start throwing around the ol' capital F, capital K name again, which leads the kids to suddenly start having nightmares about Krueger again, but he finds himself too weak to actually snuff anyone in their dreams at this point. Jason, on the other hand, is more than willing to pick up Freddy's slack, murdering kids and parents alike, even hack-slashing his way through a cornfield rave while set ablaze, once again picking up Krueger's spare by stealing his intended victim. Lori and a handful of her friends escape in her ex-boyfriend's van, after he and his friend escape from a mental hospital where they've been kept, to warn her about the evil janitor's return.

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When they say you ought not tear the law label off of the bottom of the mattress, they ain't whistlin' Dixie.
Freddy does in Mark(Brendan Fletcher) with his signature glove o' finger-knives as Will (Jason Ritter) and Lori watch helplessly, sending them rushing back to the psych ward for the Hypnocil script that kept them from dreaming while asleep. At the hospital, Freddy assumes the form of a hookah-smoking caterpillar and dives down Lori's stoner buddy's yap, possessing him to flush all the pills down the sink drain. Voorhees makes the scene, electrocuting a cop, before splitting the stoner down the middle as he pumps two syringes of the drug into the hulking killer, sending him into a prolonged catnap as the remaining kids rush him home to Crystal Lake for his final face-off with Freddy, who's already discovered Jason's fear of drowning (?) in the killer's subconscious, and is using it to great advantage against him, poking his finger-knives into Voorhees' hydrocephalic head, being an obnoxious dick, and whatnot. With Jason drowning in his sleep, Lori volunteers to enter the dream battle-scape herself to even the odds, and manages to pull both baddies into reality, where Freddy reveals that it wasn't the girl's father who killed her mother all those years was him all along! Cue: the epic final reel serial-killer-fu-on-wire fight to the finish you paid to see, and throw in your obligatory shabby disembodied Freddy-head wink at the camera, and that just about wraps it up...

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Krueger-pillar, cater-killer, either or. Just pass that hookah.
Yu not only succeeds at making a relatively entertaining Friday the 13th/Nightmare on Elm Street mash up here, he uses just the right amount of Freddy to not piss me off and lose me before the end credits, which might be a trailer's worth for me? I dunno, but for some reason, I didn't mind the cheesy wisecracking and mugging for the camera the way I would normally have done. Definitely worth a look for the completist and the curious, but it probably won't end up among your all-time favorites. Not quite enjoyable enough to pass out Jason Lives (1986) or The Final Chapter (1984), but more than enough boobs, blood, and brawl to top garbage like Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) or Jason Goes to Hell (1993).Two wops.

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"You couldn't find this machete?!!? It was buried in your lung the whole time, you boob!"
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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Yet Another Reason to Look Forward to Halloween This Year...

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As if the fall chill in the air wasn't enough of a harbinger of another gloriously sinister season of Halloween hijinks nearly upon us, as diligently reported by the Rock Father, the fine folks at General Mills have upped the Monster Cereal ante this year, by serving up not only the usual seasonal suspects in Franken Berry, Boo Berry, and Count Chocula, but also resurrecting both Fruit Brute and Fruity Yummy Mummy for the discerning breakfast palates of trick or treaters, old and young. Though I remember seeing Fruit Brute on the grocery store shelves with my mom back in the mid-seventies, I never gave it a second look, hardcore Franken Berry addict that I was, at the time. Boo Berry had also once been tops, in the days of color-coordinated/flavored peg-shaped marshmallows, footie pajamas, and such, but I never personally fucked with the Count until one of my concubines finally spooned some into my reluctant yap during the double-aughts. I vaguely recall seeing the commercial for the Mummy stuff in the late eighties, but I'd replaced cereal with cigarettes by then. All cereals will be available in mint-looking retro boxes at Target sometime in early September, with the modern packaging, pictured above, being offered everywhere else. In keeping with my current spirit of inclusivity, I'll be giving both fruit chumpys a go, but my true loyalty remains with Frankie and his strawberry-flavored sweeties, as always. Nuge.

Monday, August 19, 2013

"Popcorn" (1991) d/ Mark Herrier

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Here's a curious little oddity that should have been the next horror opus from the collaborative team who brought us Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things (1972) and Deathdream (1974)(only two of my favorite genre releases of a decade rich with cult classics), but apparently, producer Benjamin "Bob" Clark and writer/director Alan Ormsby had creative differences early on, which forced Clark to replace Ormsby in the director's chair with Mark Harrier, the young actor who played "Billy" in his earlier hit comedy, Porky's (1982). In the end, even Ormsby's screenwriting credit is under the pseudonym "Tod Hackett", and only the faux footage he shot for the retro-horror movies shown in the theater remains in the final cut. Clark even replaced the original female lead, Amy O'Neill, with Jill Schoelen, who had appeared in genre work like The Stepfather (1987), Cutting Class (1989), and Phantom of the Opera (1989) to that point.

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If I was to hang movie-related values on the multiple movies-within-a-movie movie...
A gaggle of mostly repellent collegiate film students (with all the personality of that A/V uber-dork with a hunchback full of patch cables, back in high school) decides to hold an old fashioned all-night horror movie marathon to raise funds for their study program, with the help of Mr. Davis (Robbins), who looks like he won his seventies jew-fro in a potato sack race at the Brady place, and kindly old ham, Dr. Mnesyne (Walston), who lugs several trunks full of vintage theater props from the historic first run of the B-movies they've got lined up. Cue: overly long theater house restoration montage with obligatory fun pranks and wisecracks that the college set is renowned for, a la "we wished that summer would go on  forever, man!" or something. Oh, it's just that, one of the trunks contains a reel from an unfinished  horror movie called "Possessor", made by a mad visionary/film guru named Lanyard Gates who killed his family on stage and tried to burn the theater down fifteen years earlier. Maggie (Schoelen) faints upon screening the avant-garde footage, recognizing the director on the screen as the same man from her recurring nightmares. Her mother (Dee Wallace) suspiciously dismisses the connection between the two, but after a crank call, she pays a late night visit to the theater with gun in hand, and is attacked by the marquee letters(!), which rearrange to spell out "Possessor" and gets grabbed up in the dark while snooping around inside.

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...then Jill, you're the nectarous white cheddar seasoning on the profuse vat of wop-corn in my lap...
This all leads up to a murderous crescendo at the theater, packed with rabid genre nut weirdos of all sizes, shapes, and costumes, when somebody starts creatively offing the college goers in the wings. The wheelchair-ridden invalid gets electrocuted off the prop control board during "The Electrified Man"(which stars Crispin Glover's father, Bruce), while Mr. Davis gets shishkebabbed on a giant prop mosquito's proboscis. It's up to Maggie and her ever-horny/clumsy boyfriend to determine whether Gates survived that theater fire all those years ago, or another entirely different maniac with a similarly homicidal agenda. The power goes out, and a full Jamaican band inexplicably takes the stage and sedates the horror-hungry crowd with some generic reggae(luckily, the only musical style that doesn't require electricity for it's electric instruments), before the wild latex switch-o-face on stage square-off in the finale that'll leave you satisfied, I'd merit a guess...

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...and Tony's the greasy two hundred and seventy pound mouth breather who's obstructing my view of the screen and about to get baptized in fountain soda...
Though the pacing is uneven at points, some of the supporting cast fail to lend any real character to the script, and the sun-drenched Jamaican locale isn't redolent of other, more sinister Clark/Orsmby work, there are some memorable deliveries by Villard and Walston, Ormsby's retro-faux movies are a whimsical tribute to the bygone era of Castle-styled theatrical showmanship (and I don't know about you, but I could imagine a few lines of dialogue early on coming straight outta the man himself, still in those horrible striped bellbottoms of yesteryear), and though Schoelen looks mostly uninspired throughout her scenes, she's never very difficult to gaze upon. Flaws notwithstanding, Popcorn still manages to be a pretty entertaining experience, and for that it wrangles a pair of Wops on the scale. Give it a look.

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...while Tom's strictly seventies retro snack bar cartoons here, and nobody likes to miss those.
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Sunday, August 11, 2013

" 'Gator Bait" (1974) d/ Ferd and Beverly Sebastian

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Few redheads ever reached the volcanic heights of cinematic sensuality the way the late Claudia Jennings did in her brief but memorable run in drive-in fare of the early seventies, just four years removed from achieving  Playboy's Playmate of the Year at the outset of the decade here. For those unfamiliar with the tragic starlet, tonight's focus is as an adequate place to begin as any, a standard low budget chunk of swampy seventies sexploitation that's nearly as short on acting ( Not since Vic Morrow in Castellari's Great White has a main character gone in and out of accent as much as Jennings does here.) as it is long on boat chases ...and nipple slips during said boat chases.

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Wardrobe malfunctions happen to the best of 'em, even coon-ass bitches like Desiree (Claudia Jennings).
Desiree (Jennings) is interrupted while poaching snakes and 'gators by the sheriff's oversexed son Billy Boy (Clyde Ventura) and his buddy Ben Bracken (Ben Sebastian), and is graciously offered a sex or jail option from the relentless young poonhounds after a lengthy boat chase, to which she chooses option c: chucking a bag of poisonous snakes into their boat, causing the young lawman to not only shoot his father's boat full of bullet holes, but his partner-in-crime's face piece also gets a good aerating in the melee. Naturally, he blames the sunk boat and dead buddy on the wild scarlet-haired bayou minx, who once castrated one of the other Bracken boys when he came on too strong(!). The two lawmen boat over to lay the bad news on Pa Bracken, who's been bullwhipping six shades of shit out of one of his other sons for trying to fuck his own sister moments earlier(!!).

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"Rape?!!? Aw hell, I was just gonna ask ya to accompany me to the soda jerk to share a malted milk!"
An angry swampbilly posse motors out to the farthest reaches of the swamps where Desiree's shack lays, and her mute younger brother and sister are quickly set upon by the vengeful hicks and it only gets worse from there, when a sexually frustrated Castrati Bracken gives the girl a twenty gauge blast up the panty purse. 'Dere gon' be some re-vange fo dis, ah guaaar-on-tee.
The murderous rednecks vainly attempt to torch the Thibodeaux shack, but Desiree returns in time to discover her sister's lifeless body, leading the cajun swamp-ginger to exact bloody vengeance on all parties involved. If that wasn't bad enough, her plan of attack revolves around boat chases. Lots of boat chases. Seriously. Even Andrea Bocelli could see how this is all gonna wrap up, ten minutes into the movie.

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"You're wrong, Lowell, Berluti was left at the snapping turtle..."
Despite her erratic performance, Claudia still possesses enough beauty and screen presence to keep the viewer watching right up until the final reel, and though she doesn't appear fully nude here, there are the aforementioned bevvy of nipple slips to help the actress further stand out against the backdrop of horny hayseeds. On the other hand,  Janit Baldwin you may recall from Ruby (1976) or Humongous (1982). In fact, most of the supporting cast and crew are either named Baldwin or Sebastian. Wait a second, did I just watch a documentary? Either way, there's just enough CJ going on in this one to keep me from crawling into the back seat with my drive-in demigoddess and steaming up the windows, late eighties style. Deuce.

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How'd you like to make an Indio girl, Claudia? Sorry. Lenzi moment there.
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Saturday, August 10, 2013

R.I.P. Haji

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                                    01/24/46 - 08/10/13

Thursday, August 8, 2013

R.I.P. Karen Black

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                        July 1, 1939 – August 8, 2013

Sunday, August 4, 2013

"The Incubus" (1981) d/John Hough

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I had to have come away sourly after the first time I saw tonight's review back in the VHS eighties, my usually unreachable teenage expectations of demon screen time and goopy levels of gore having been largely unrealized. I probably even brought the tape back on time, too, as I had a habit of doing whenever the movie didn't grab me. I mean, I must have done that, as I really hadn't watched this one since the Chachi-hair/fragstache days, not something I can say about too many horror movies. An unfair assessment on my part, it turns out, as Incubus contains some fairly moody and effective stuff, underneath the conventional crime drama vibe that's maintained throughout by an especially touchy-feely John Cassavetes and company, leading up to what's gotta be one of the better "Huh??" climaxes in genre history.

 photo incubus_shot1l_zps6b4d10ff.jpg enough to fry both your eggs out there, mama. Too late.
We kick off with an unseen fiend rubbing out an unfortunate pair of young lovers who foolishly decide to have a swim at the old quarry, and after using a rundown change shack nearby for prank's sake, which everybody knows, is never a good idea in movies like this, they end up rape-killed and clobbered with a bat with obligatory protruding nail, respectively, for their youthful folly.When the slimy new physician in town, Dr. Cordell (Cassavetes) isn't being creepy about his own daughter Jenny (Erin Flannery) or extensively rubbing people's faces during conversations, he's investigating a recent series of ultra-violent sexual murders that share the same massive vaginal trauma and unusually abundant amount of discharge therein. Cordell's especially impressed with the semen, for some reason, raving about it on several occasions.

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S'okay honey, I had the rape-proof glass put in last week.
Meanwhile, Jenny's reclusive beau Tim Galen has been having livid dreams of torture that just so happen to coincide with the murders. His mollycoddling grandmother knows more than she's letting on, too.If that's not enough, the seemingly apathetic drunk that wears the sheriff's badge (John Ireland) has been staving the journalistic inquiries of a masochistic sex bomb of a reporter (Kerry Keane) off, and she somehow ends up romantically linked to Cordell, who may or may not have done in his own girlfriend in a jealous rage, mind you. If you guessed that she's a dead ringer for his old flame, give yourselves a pat on the back. It turns out that the Galen family were renowned for their witch-hunting skills, the last successful hunt transpiring some thirty years ago, bagging a sorceress who'd been impregnated by her incubus(!), the conception somehow resulting in eighteen year old Tim, who can naturally channel the horny hellion's line of sight while asleep. That climax that I mentioned before, occurs thereafter, and I'll leave it for you to experience for yourselves.

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Thus, the riddle of Eddie Money's face was solved, once and for all.
You'll instantly spot Iron Maiden front man Bruce Dickinson in a well glammy cameo here, performing with Samson. Director Hough helmed Twins of Evil  for Hammer in 1971, and also the superb Legend of Hell House (1973), a haunted house movie par excellence, as well as Disney efforts Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) and 1983's Watcher in the Woods, with Bette Davis. You probably won't class tonight's review with the best of those titles, and the flawed script might leave your head spinning at certain points, but over all, it's still a pretty good time for genre fans, and as such, it earns three big ones on the ratings scale. Check it out...

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"Relax, guys, John Cassavetes'll vouch for my sperm count..."
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