Category Archives: Disaster

And another ones gone… And another ones gone… Another one bites the dust!

I don’t know what’s more difficult, devoting a full 31 days of the year to Schlock or working on the post game summary.

Boom! Done! Finished! Hasta La Vista Baby! Elvis has left the building! This year’s Schlocktoberfest was brought to you by the letter C which stands for Creature Feature and holy hell I think I set a personal record as there were 8 films that consisted of giant monsters, Giant Octopuses, Sharks of the Mega and 2 headed variety, carnivorous tentacles, 7 foot wasps, and hostile aliens.  If you’re sensing a bit of deja vu with several of these entries its because I went back into the archives and condensed older reviews from the first version of The Direct 2 Video Dungeon. This is also why you might have spotted a lot of this year’s list focusing on productions from 2012 with several coming from The Asylum.

The variety was off the charts – regular zombies, vampiric zombies, homicidal paper boys, psychotic grandparents, a couple generic slashers here and there and an reanimated corpse that dresses up as Uncle Sam. Go ahead and pick your poison.  Oh plus a book and soundtrack review that ended up taking the place of the horror based video games I covered last year (my gaming habits have been pretty sporadic lately and didn’t have enough time to look for any games that fit into the Schlocktoberfest mold).

Before I get to my top 10 Schlocktoberfest 2K16 picks I would like to once again thank all of you who came along for this wild ride. Schedules can be difficult to work around and there were days where life got in the way but I was still able to throw together an update of some kind. I know that in the last two years I’ve stated that I had plans to update this blog more often and thanks to procrastination getting the better of me that never happened. Well I do plan to be back very soon as I have a couple ideas I want to expand on so you’ll most likely be seeing me around sometime in Mid-November. As of right now I intend to enjoy the rest of my Halloween and start November off by catching up on the latest episodes of Elementary, West World, Gotham and the season 3 finale of The Strain. Until the next time – keep a stiff upper lip.

Schlocktoberfest 2K16 Must Watch List: 

1 – Stranger Things – Technically not a movie unless you view this Netflix hit as it was intended through binge watching and even then each episode is presented in chapters so really this is what I’d refer to as an episodic live action book. A series starring children with adult tones. Horror, science fiction, drama, romance wrapped up tightly in an coming of age bow. You’ve had an entire month to watch this so if you flat out ignored my recommendation never come to this blog again…. EVER!

2 – The Witch – Beyond effective delivery, stunning performances, spine tingling results. If you grew up with a basic of witch folklore prepare to have all of your senses jolted.

3 – The Poughkeepsie Tapes – Blending the popular docudrama style of Discovery Channel’s New Detectives with the found footage genre there were moments where I felt a twinge of legitimate fear that wouldn’t subside until two or three days later. Can only hope John Erick Dowdle wasn’t blowing smoke about getting a distribution deal with MGM finalized as this needs a proper DVD/Blu-ray release.

4 – Godzilla vs. Destoroyah – 2016 featured another big return for Japan’s native son and when Funimation signed a deal with Toho to distribute Shin Godzilla for a limited U.S. theatrical engagement I don’t think The King’s handlers knew what was going to happen. One week and $1.5 million later and Shin Godzilla decided to stay take in the sights and sounds of the good old U.S.A. for a little while longer. I still missed out so Funimation when you announce pre-orders for Blu-ray I’ll be ready. Godzilla vs Destoroyah on the other hand is a real treat for G-fans as at the time it was intended to be a hiatus for Toho and what a send off the effects are completely jaw dropping, the story features a few new concepts all the while paying tribute to Godzilla’s humble origins. If you don’t have this in your collection you’re not a true Godzilla fan.

5 – Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies – Don’t really have to say much here. Abraham Lincoln kills zombies and does so in such a kick ass way you’ll be completely shell-shocked  when you realize this was an Asylum production. Thank you Bill Oberst Jr. without your screen presence this production would have been brain dead long before the zombies reached it.

6 – 10 Cloverfield Lane – Goodbye handheld camcorder hello Hitchockian suspense. The not so much a sequel as it a completely different concept that no one saw coming. What a pleasant surprise give John Goodman a fallout shelter set off an apocalyptic event and watch the tension build to a fever pitch.

7 – The Final Girls – Would have been much higher up on the list if not for a PG-13 rating. I’ll say it one more time for good measure – A PG-13 slasher flick?!?!?!? Never in all my 35 years of life would I have thought such a thing could exist. Oh well it dusts off some old ideas applies some polish and presents them in like new condition.

8 – Deep Rising – Oh Stephen Sommers how I miss thee, this is back when you presented some actual fun ideas. There’s not one person in the entire cast where I feel their talent was wasted. There are one liners galore, thrills, chills, gross out moments and plenty of laughs. Don’t get any second ideas here just because Deep Rising is in the number 8 position doesn’t mean it’s not as good as the films above in fact its the second highest rated creature feature next to Godzilla so if you’re looking for something completely campy but is so much fun don’t pass this one by.

9 – Don’t Breathe – Want to really throw audiences for a loop? Make a movie where 90% of the time the characters don’t even talk to one another. Don’t Breathe locks in the tension in a way where you don’t care if there’s dialogue you’re too concerned with monitoring your own pulse and wondering if your heart is going to into cardiac arrest by the time the credits roll.

10 – The Millennium Bug – Demented hillbillies, a normal everyday family getting off the grid to avoid any Y2K catastrophe and oh yeah a grotesque behemoth who’s rudely awakened from his  peaceful hibernation. If you miss the days of Stan Winston and Rick Baker this indie creature feature isn’t afraid to raise its practically created middle finger towards every CGI heavy production polluting the entertainment industry.

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Schlocktoberfest 2K16 Day 27: Deep Rising (1998)

It was a choice between the Deep Rising DVD artwork or the theatrical poster. The '90s was a decade full of bad promotional artwork.
It was a choice between the Deep Rising DVD artwork or the theatrical poster. The ’90s was the absolute worst decade for promotional artwork

Synopsis: A group of heavily armed hijackers board a luxury ocean liner in the South Pacific Ocean to loot it, only to do battle with a series of large-sized, tentacled, man-eating sea creatures who have taken over the ship first.

What defines a seminal creature feature? Two of the biggest qualities that will stand out for a lot of people are overall impact and longevity.  Each and everyone of us remember the days of sitting on the couch at our grandparents’ house drawn to the television screen to the point where if something freakishly weird happened such as the sky opening up and it raining down 100  dollar bills even that wouldn’t be enough to draw us away.  Part of the longevity factor is how well the special effects hold up over time from the impressionable moments of youthful innocence up till full fledged adulthood where we can sit and look back at childhood nostalgia and go was this something that was released at a point in time where certain fads and phenomenons were impacting pop culture to a point where they couldn’t be ignored.  Or was it simply high quality  film making at its very finest, nothing less and nothing more? Go ahead and pull up Jaws or Jurassic Park or Tremors even then go back further and explore the original King Kong or The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms or Japan’s response to both those classics in 1954 with Gojira. All the effects work in every one of those films that I just mentioned are what critics and average movie goers alike refer to as setting the standard.  Of the six listed only one took the mold and shattered the industry standard beyond repair where Hollywood began their journey into the unknown thanks to the advent of digital effects. Jurassic Park made us stare up at the silver screen in awe and wonder however once the mid-90s hit every major film studio was cashing in on the easier way to produce eye catching visuals to the point where what once was considered a special attraction in 1993 was relegated to the freak show a mere five years later.

In what will be the final creature feature to be included as part of Schlocktoberfest 2K16 Deep Rising hasn’t aged like a fine wine to be frank most wouldn’t compare it to bottle of Mumms. And let me set the record straight this is solely from a digital effects perspective as there are still a wide range of elements that drove the production above and beyond what any other science fiction/horror/action/comedy film of that era did. Take a competent director the likes of Stephen Sommers (before cinematic suicide attempts the likes of Van Helsing and GI Joe: Rise of Cobra) and let him loose with a fun script, genuine chuckle inducing one liners and some underrated casting the likes of the always bad ass Treat Williams, the stunningly gorgeous Famke Jannsen, the ever reliable and deeply missed Trevor Goddard and you get something that in many regards shouldn’t work. As the film continues to push forward at break neck speed one can’t help but get wrapped up in the fun popcorn flick style that Deep Rising has its tentacles tightly wrapped around. One thing I can’t figure out is how Sommers was able to write and direct this film and then immediately switching gears to work on The Mummy which was filmed and released almost a full year later. In many regards Deep Rising and The Mummy share the same DNA despite taking place in completely two different time periods and using the polar opposites in terms of movie monsters. Treat Williams’ Finnegan could be the distant relative of Brendan Frasier’s O’Connell as both have an affinity for firearms and equally explosive one liners. Frequent Sommers collaborator Kevin J. O’Connor slips into the role of a sniveling side kick although he’s not as weaselly as Beni was in The Mummy. Alright I sort of got off course somewhat so let’s wrap this up Deep Rising goes beyond a guilty pleasure or cult classic it was released during the beginning of 1998 which was a horrible decision because even to this very day this has summer blockbuster written all over it. Stephen Sommers reached his zenith in the span of two years and in the blink of an eye hasn’t been able to  get back on that same level of creativity again. I know you’re still out there Stephen. Want some friendly advice? Reinvent yourself, strip away the corporate side of the industry and get back to basics. A Deep Rising sequel most likely isn’t in the cards but a similar idea can go a long ways.

Final Grade: A

Schlocktoberfest 2K16 Day 20: Megashark vs. Giant Octopus (2009)

My advice to Mega Shark and Giant Octopus is go listen to War's Why Can't We Be Friends and resolve their differences.
My advice to Mega Shark and Giant Octopus is go listen to War’s Why Can’t We Be Friends and resolve their differences.

Synopsis: The California coast is terrorized by two enormous prehistoric sea creatures as they battle each other for supremacy of the sea.

Ever since Stephen Spielberg’s rise to fame through the little tale of a killer great white shark going by the name of Jaws filmgoers have had a bloodthirsty obsession with the ocean’s greatest predators. In the near four decades since a wide array of copycats have tried unsuccessfully to seize the same sense of unknown terror that looms off shore. In the case of Megashark vs. Giant Octopus it’s a standard monster flick set up with a pair of scientists (one of them being Debbie Gibson) stealing a submarine and studying the migration patterns of whales while at the same time a military helicopter drops some experimental sonar transmitters in the same area disrupting the whales to the point where they crash into a nearby glacier freeing a hibernating Megalodon and a ginormous octopus. With chompers and eight arms unleashed on the modern world they quickly choose to take several millions years of pent up aggression out on a dumbstruck society. As time begins to run out and few options remain Gibson takes charge leading a ragtag bunch of scientists and a pony tailed Lorenzo Lamas into battle desperately searching for a way to deal with this terrifying double dose of teeth and tentacles. Realizing that contemporary artillery is having little to no effect on either beast and inspired by the legendary boxing match Thrilla In Manilla between Muhammad Ali and Smokin’ Joe Fraizer humanity’s last hope is getting these two monsters to battle one another in a fight to extinction.

Throughout the history of mankind there have been some truly dastardly pair ups – Frankenstein vs. The Wolfman, King Kong vs. Godzilla, Billy the Kid vs. Dracula, Joe vs. The Volcano, Alien vs. Predator, Freddy vs. Jason, and who could forget a rivalry intense as Vanilla Ice vs. Justin Bieber however all those pale in comparison to the monumental showdown between the notorious Megashark and Giant Octopus. I mean go ahead and try to get an appointment with wildlife expert Jack Hanna or wait until next August and tune into Shark Week on Discovery Channel chances are they won’t even acknowledge the age old question – Why do sharks and octopuses have such an undying hatred for one another? It remains one of those mysteries the likes of how far is up? Or why is the sky blue? Sure you could look long and hard and incorporate all sorts of scientific theory but as one day comes to a close and another begins it is easier to go with simple logic that both animals just can’t stand to be in the general vicinity of one another. In fact once the opening title logo pops up on the screen and these two prehistoric enemies are unthawed that’s exactly what they do, they head off on separate paths. I really can’t blame them for doing so as imagine getting into an intense argument with your roommate over who ate the last bag of Oreos when all of a sudden a freak ice age ends up cryogenically freezing you for 25 million years and then a weird accident ends up waking you up. Would you continue belittling one another immediately afterwards or would you suddenly realize that the world has drastically changed so nothing else really matters except exploring this new unknown. The Asylum has set up a film in which works well on one side of the coin whenever the Megashark pops up out of nowhere and causes a lot of collateral damage yet whenever Giant Octopus tries a relatively similar approach it becomes painfully repetitive. No matter how many times you see an octopus there’s nothing to get excited about it always has the same eight apendages so watching a tentacle fly out of the ocean and take down a navy aircraft or destroy an oil rig is about as exhilarating as working on your taxes or catching a marathon of The Boring World of Niels Bohr. Megashark vs. Giant Octopus teaches viewers valuable life lessons the likes of ‘Don’t love the ocean too much, it doesn’t love you back!’ or if you’re traveling on a jumbo commercial airliner and some turbulence begins to rock the plane whatever you do don’t tell the stewardess that you’re getting married in two days. Such a proclamation will only bring about the harbinger of death as well as an entirely new meaning to the idiom – Jumping the Shark. If you’re up to tackling this beast head on it’s going to take a pretty strong will and a high tolerance of bad acting from pretty much everyone who appears in front of the camera. As for the epic final confrontation between monstrosities there isn’t really much to write home about other than realizing you could probably be inspired to design a better ending with a keg of Old Milwaukee and a 10 year old copy of Adobe’s After Effects.

Final Grade: D+

Schlocktoberfest 2K16 Day 19: Shin Godzilla (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (2016)

Shin Godzilla Official Motion Soundtrack

You can’t keep the King of the Monsters down. Yesterday was intended to be the last day audiences could catch Shin Godzilla in its limited theatrical run stateside however in one week’s time Shin Godzilla managed to rake in around $1.5 million in ticket sales, it’s with this monster success that Funimation and Toho decided to extend Godzilla’s North American vacation for the next  week until October 27th.  There will also be a special matinee screening in over 200 theaters on Saturday October 22nd. If you’ve been bogged down with work and life in general or stressed out with what all the talking heads  are blabbering on and on about with BS politics make the most of this extended opportunity to enjoy a night out before the mighty king descends back into the ocean for his long swim home.  For all the details on theater listings and where you can order tickets make sure to check out – funimationfilms.com/movie/shingodzilla/ 

Unfortunately for myself the nearest screening is three or four hours out of the way so I’ll have to patiently bide my time as I wait for an official Blu-ray/DVD release date to drop. Until then I plan to do the next best thing which is to spend a little time talking about the official soundtrack for Shin Godzilla which combines some of Arika Ifukube’s most iconic motifs with the modern stylings of Shirō Sagisu who best known for his work on Hideaki Anno’s popular anime Neon Genesis Evangelion (Anno was one of the co-directors on Shin Godzilla great collaborators are always difficult to separate). I haven’t really followed the anime culture but have heard rumblings through social media that Sagisu recycled several of his most popular Evangelion themes here and for someone who isn’t familiar with his work man does this guy know how to deliver music that can be completely sporadic when it comes to working the wider range of emotions but isn’t afraid to turn it on and be bombastic when Godzilla decides to lay out some destructive carnage. The two main themes that Shirō did compose for Shin Godzilla – Persecution of the Masses and Who Will Know are big sweeping orchestral numbers with an even amount of brass and choir. Perhaps the best way I could describe them is Mozart’s Requiem for Godzilla and while nothing can beat Ifukube in his prime the one thing I always ask for when it comes to the kaiju genre is having music that is just as enormous as the monster itself. You notice it right away and as you try to pull yourself away from the grotesque amalgamation you slowly began to realize there is  beauty deeply hidden beneath its core.

The Shin Godzilla Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is now available digitally through Amazon & iTunes thanks in part to Milan Records who have recently  hinted that physical copies (Vinyl and CD) might be available sometime in 2017.

Final Grade: A

Schlocktoberfest 2K16 Day 7: 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

You'll never be able to look at James P. Sullivan the same way again.
You’ll never be able to look at James P. Sullivan the same way again.

Synopsis: After getting in a car accident, a woman is held in a shelter with two men, who claim the outside world is affected by a widespread chemical attack.

Expect the unexpected. Three words that are rarely spoken when describing contemporary Hollywood. Are we partly to blame though? How can we as the movie going public truly expect the unexpected when we’ve been pampered to the point that the film industry has given up on thoughtful and compelling stories and instead rely more on over saturating the market with computer generated fluff. What was once considered a tool for helping directors when the limitations of practical effects couldn’t handle it is no longer wanted to assist in the storytelling but has become an quintessential need in a never ending battle of one-upmanship between corporate gargantuans. Is the script good? Will the plot have a cohesive beginning, middle and end? Can the actors hit their marks and draw audiences in with memorizing performances? Who cares! All we have to do is throw a large mass of half rendered computer animated visuals and people will still flock to the theaters in droves and spend their hard earned money on a movie ticket. We’ll take the money and run while people turn to the internet to begin arguing with one another on whether or not what they say was actual worth going out to the multiplex for.

Every now and then a few surprises come out of the woodwork. 10 Cloverfield Lane dropped this past March when the days of a long talked follow up had faded into obscurity. While this does fall into the sequel trend that Hollywood loves to sink its claws into the fact that JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions were able to do this in complete secrecy without the of news of it leaking out on to the internet is a miracle in itself. This approach needs to be incorporated more to turn the industry around. Cloverfield took a concept and held back the traditional way that a film company would go about presenting it. 10 Cloverfield Lane, on the other hand, works in a similar fashion. Filmed under the name Valencia to keep any suspicion at bay the actors didn’t know what the film’s true title was until the first trailer premiered with 10 Cloverfield Lane attached to it.  While there was talk about continuing with the giant monster/kaiju concept explored in the original it was decided that this would be a spiritual successor that happens in the same universe. In many ways this reminds me of what John Carpenter wanted to do with Halloween III: Season of the Witch abandoning the whole masked killer/slasher concept  and instead focusing on the season of Halloween itself where anything could happen. Personally I’m glad to see the found footage style done away with. In its place is having a small cast of three very talented actors put in a confined space and watching those three different personalities clash. Who knew that John Goodman could reach down deep inside himself and pull out a performance where its impossible to take your eyes off the screen. He may have played a big friendly monster in the past but this, this is a creature of another sorts. One that I would not want to come in contact with or risk setting him off. Time will tell if Bad Robot will continue to play around in this newly evolved universe they definitely have a solid foundation in place in terms of working in secrecy so if a third Cloverfield does pop up unexpectedly that’s exactly the way I want to find out about it.

Final Grade: B+ 

Schlocktoberfest 2K16 Day 6: Cloverfield (2008)

cloverfield
Lady Liberty is going to be feeling that one in the morning.

Synopsis: A group of friends venture deep into the streets of New York on a rescue mission during a rampaging monster attack.

There was a point in time where I generally detested found footage movies even if the premise was something naturally appealing to me the moment I found out it was taking the found footage approach I’d work myself up into an inconsolable rage. My general frame of thinking would always be why would I waste my time trying to enjoy one of these when all I want to do is walk up to the person working the camera and tell them to take a few deep breaths, calm your nerves and just hold the damn thing steady. It is sort of difficult to find any entertainment value when you walk into a movie theater the lights go dim and then all of a sudden the camera starts shaking wildly and you have to run to the nearest bathroom because motion sickness gets the better of you. I mean doesn’t that sound like an absolute wonderful night out at the movies? You come home and your friends/family/loved ones ask how the film was and you’re like oh it was pretty entertaining up until the point where I almost redecorated the floor of the cinema with the lunch I had this afternoon. Over time my feelings have began to simmer as I found the best way to view the found footage genre is through the comfort of your own living room television set (quite the revolutionary concept, isnt it?). No matter the consensus the shaky cam technique has left its mark transitioning into action films like the Jason Bourne series and will most likely continue to be a thorn in the side of those who wish film makers would lock the camera down in one stationary position until the final credits roll.

Its no secret that I live and breath Kaiju (giant monster) movies so long as there is a giant creature rising out of the earth finding its way towards civilization and toppling over humongous skyscrapers reigning down chaos and destruction I’m front and center. Cloverfield remained out of my collection until I came across it in the value DVD bin and thought to myself you’re too good of a deal to pass up but I’ll never find any tolerable way to get any sort of fulfillment out of you. Then a strange thing happened one night out of the blue (to quote Doc Brown) I figured what the hell popped the disc in the Blu-ray player and hit play. I managed to make it through the movie and to my complete and utter surprise I said to myself you know what this really isn’t half bad. Yes the shaky cam can be a bit irritating however keeping the point of view solely from the perspective of a group of people witnessing a monster attack at the very moment it happens is something that up until 2008 had never been done before. I really didn’t care for having a bland love story as the jumping off point but where the saving grace takes form is with the comedic relief in a great character actor by the name of T.J. Miller. The footage is shot from his point of view and he’s always keeping the mood light through his witty banter. There’s a point where his group of friends are walking in a subway tunnel and he brings up an incident that happened years prior to the monster attack where a maniac was lighting hobos on fire in the very same area. It’s probably the most sporadic line of dialogue in the entire film and part of me wonders if Miller ended up throwing that line out there in a random take to see how the rest of the cast and crew would react. Regardless I have a newfound respect for Cloverfield that I didn’t when it initially hit. It takes some splintered elements from Godzilla and Gamera and presents them for the modern generation who are constantly documenting things on the fly then minutes later upload the footage for the entire world to see warts and all.

Final Grade: B

Schlocktoberfest Day 28: Godzilla (2014)

With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound. He pulls the spitting high tension wires down.
With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound. He pulls the spitting high tension wires down.

Synopsis: The world’s most famous monster is pitted against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence.