Synopsis: In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds – and remembers.
Guillermo del Toro’s obsession with the things that go bump in the night began at an early age. He distinctively remembers seeing monsters from his crib and would frequently wet his bed making his mother upset to the point where del Toro finally decided to make a deal that if the monsters would allow him to go to the bathroom he would be their friend forever. Then there is the story of his Uncle Guillermo (whom he is named after) being fascinated with the occult and horror in general. One conversation led to a ghostly visit in which the younger Guillermo told his beloved uncle that when one of them passes on to the great beyond that they should come visit the other to prove that there is such a thing as the after life. When Uncle Guillermo did eventually die del Toro inherited the guest room his uncle frequented whenever he visited. One night while doing homework Guillermo began hearing groaning and deep breathing. Curious to find out where these sounds were resonating from he quickly turned off the television and closed the nearest window only to discover that the breathing was following him around the room. It got to the point where Guillermo checked his pillow and the mattress itself where he made the eerie discovery that the moaning was echoing throughout the bed springs and not long afterwards decided to never sleep in that room again.
The key thing that makes me such a huge Guillermo Del Toro fan is never quite knowing where each new project of his is going to be focused. When he came up with the concept of Pacific Rim and excitedly described fusing the kaiju and mecha genres together as one I couldn’t wait to see how he would transfer his soul into each metropolis leveling leviathan. When Pacific Rim hit theaters in July 2013 I wasn’t disappointed and as I made my way toward the exit I began to wonder where Guillermo would hang his hat next. When it was announced that his next directorial project would see him return to telling another ghost story a sly smile formed across my face as I said to myself ‘This will be vintage Del Toro!’ For the most part Crimson Peak is a love letter to those who grew up with the golden age of Gothic horror of the 1960s and 70s. I say for the most part because the first 35 minutes feel like something out of PBS’s Masterpiece block of programming. It’s not what you’d call a slow burn especially when a romantic subplot goes from simple flirting to marriage quicker than a hiccup. That minor annoyance aside as soon as story shifts to the newlywed couple moving into the haunted family estate is where Guillermo lets his brilliance run wild and free. Every scene is beautifully shot and like every Del Toro production it doesn’t take long to get lost in the sense of scale. Reading the movie trivia on IMDB the house used was built specifically for this film as was every item in it so when production wrapped it was torn down to make room for studio space which is a shame because its one of those structures that if it was left standing a majority of people would take one look at it and go yep that place is undoubtedly haunted. Where Crimson Peak really dials in it at is with the beyond outstanding performances from Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain. The chemistry between the two is so well executed to the point where everyone else has a difficult task keeping up. I’m not what you call an overly romantic type and there were several moments where I ended up rolling my eyes yet as soon as Del Toro got away from that and pushed the accelerator down to the floor board Crimson Peak rarely lost any momentum. I’m looking forward to giving it another watch since like any other Del Toro production there’s always going to be something you’re going to miss the first time around. That’s the power of Guillermo Del Toro though as long as those things still go bump in the night continue to haunt his memories he’ll keep the creative juices flowing.
Synopsis: A group of six ex-high school cheerleaders are stalked by a killer with a medieval war hammer and battle axe during their first Spring Break from college.
I often wonder if horror movie clichés have managed to become clichés in themselves. Jump scares, buckets full of fake blood, high body counts, scream queens with an impressive lung capacity. Each of these unique traits have built the genre and yet as soon as film companies found out that the general public had a rabid obsession for gruesome terror they began to crank out sequel after sequel after sequel at a relentless assembly line rate. Revolutionary concepts that were dreamed up over three decades ago by visionary directors don’t quite have the same bite when that idea is being dumbed down by people who’s biggest claim to fame are being behind the camera for music videos or a Victoria’s Secret commercial. The line between expanding a vision and truly making a genuine contribution to an established genre becomes greatly faded and it certainly doesn’t help matters when Hollywood goes into full on cash grab mode. Who cares if not everyone is satisfied? We’ve taken their hard earned money without remorse and there is nothing they can do about it. This is why I said that the clichés have become cliches in among themselves, go to a theater and check out any horror movie out in the market right now. Don’t over analyze too much just let your brain take in the current model of film making. I’m willing to bet by the time the end credits start to roll you’ll predict where 95% the suspense filled tension was supposed to be and maybe one or two of the jump scares actually got to you. On the one hand this ends up being a fun little game that you can play against friends however unless drastic measures are put into effect Hollywood will continue to be stuck deeper in an uninspiring rut.
A few years ago while bumming around on Amazon Girls Gone Dead was a film that would frequently end up in my suggestions in terms of my browsing habits. Jerry The King Lawler is when I caved and decided to give it a watch. As the film progressed whenever King would come on the screen I’d yell – ‘Do the Piledriver!’ and once things began to slow down I’d just sit there thinking to myself man if Jerry Lawler would just knock at the door and give someone the piledriver all would be right in the world. Then as luck would have it during the last 10 minutes old King-fish actually delivered it in grand fashion to the point that if Andy Kaufman were still with us he’d give a standing ovation. Get a hold of your pals,buy a couple six packs and every time The King comes on the screen start recalling your favorite moments from Memphis Championship Wrestling or some of his vintage heel commentary back in the glory days of the World Wrestling Federation (before the World Wildlife Federation laid the smackdown on Vince McMahon in court). What else can be said we’re now three days from the end of this year’s Schlocktoberfest and it will now most likely be remembered for Happy Gilmore’s Grandma and one of the most devastating pro wrestling maneuvers ever created. Variety is truly the spice of life!
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.
Synopsis: Survivors escape to a deserted atoll after a Semester at Sea ship is sunk by a mutated two-headed shark. But when the atoll starts flooding, no one is safe from the double jaws of the monster as it eats fresh delicious women and men.
Every so often the appetizer that is served before a main course isn’t very appealing and in the case of Megashark vs. Giant Octopus while it helped The Asylum break out into a larger spectrum the film was marred with excessive pacing issues and a plot that withered and died not even a quarter of the way through. Despite these gaping flaws MSvGO is proud to walk that line between insanity and sheer genius fifty times over and in the years following its conception it has found a loyal following from creature feature fanatics. Now if you weren’t satisfied with little to no blood or gore or even less of Megashark and Giant Octopus laying the smackdown on one another today we’re focusing on a much more savage predator born into this world with two heads attached to the same body and according to the DVD/Blu-ray tagline it has 6,000 teeth between the both of them. It couldn’t be a true shark movie without a bevy of bikini clad women and several dumb jocks and thankfully 2 Headed Shark Attack takes these two stereotypes and meshes them together better than peanut butter and jelly. The only thing worth questioning about the plot here is how Calvin Klein catalog models were able to get passing grades in their college courses in order to qualify for a semester at sea aboard a scientific research vessel but than again maybe its best to throw all logic off the port bow considering if you try and devote more than 5 minutes to dismantling an Asylum production you deserve to get ripped to shreds by a 2 headed terror.
One has to wonder what the person who coined the phrase two heads are better than one would think of a schlocky horror flick the likes of 2 Headed Shark Attack? Would they sit and watch in awe as this awesome creation goes through hordes of college students faster than Leatherface and Michael Meyers could do in a weekend fueled by binge drinking, ruthless chainsaw swinging, and competition kitchen knife throwing. While Megashark vs. Giant Octopus takes multiple viewings to live up to its namesake 2 Headed Shark Attack is near flawless in its overall execution wasting no time by killing a group of wake boarders within the first two minutes of the film. Why go for dull plot exposition? Bring on the shark ravaging goodness and that’s exactly what The Asylum promises and delivers upon in spades. If you’re a bad movie aficionado, like me, then you’ve probably built up sort of a immunity to watching trash cinema and in doing so you now actually encourage the film to kill off all the irritating characters with stone cold precision. 2 Headed Shark Attack wipes the floor with 99.999% of the cast and it does it so quickly that you’ll get an adrenaline high that lasts until the next victim bites the big one. The funny thing is that this never becomes overly cliched either you get someone dropping a horribly quipped one liner one moment and then quicker than you can say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious they’re in the belly of the beast trying to read Louisiana license plates realizing that they forgot to pack a flashlight. This is another Asylum feature where there are some spectacular locations to take in plus I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the spontaneity that the filmmakers took here where they didn’t keep everyone fighting for survival on just a broken down boat. Moving the action to an atoll made for a great change of pace because it gives the group what they think is a safe haven but when sudden earthquakes begin to rip everything apart all the survivors know that they are now royally screwed. Looking at the acting both Brooke Hogan and Carmen Electra were able to hit their marks respectively more so than any of the other actors featured but in many regards there isn’t anything that they add to the movie as a whole. Electra is well past her prime looking like she had to trim down quite a bit to fit into a swim suit and even when viewers get a scene of her tanning its nothing like almost two decades earlier when posters of her were selling like hotcakes. Brooke Hogan, on the other hand, is a Jill of all trades including a pop singer, a model, has followed in her father’s footsteps by being a professional wrestling personality of sorts, and now with her trying to become a respectable actress the only thing she does in 2 Headed Shark Attack (way too much I might add) is flaunt herself in a bikini top. Charlie O’Connell proves that he can handle any part that his brother would most likely pass on without a second thought. It was such a blast watching this guy all the while thinking to myself ‘Hmmm, I wonder how Jerry would deliver that line???’ Witnessing a 2 headed shark devour everything in its sight is the main reason to drop rental money down on this and in doing so I have to ask – is it weird that I secretly obsess over wanting to see a major network pick up a sitcom with both the 2 headed shark and Charlie O’Connell working together to solve bizarre crimes on the high seas? Personally I think that has the words smash hit written all over it.
This evening history will be written as the Chicago Cubs enter their first World Series in 71 years. I like so many others am a devoted fan of those lovable losers and will be away from the computer as I soak in every moment hoping that the Cubs will be one step closer to attaining their first World Series championship in over 100 years.
For those of you who are not baseball fans you’ll most likely remember Breeders 1997 from last year’s Schlocktoberfest. Popcornflix.com has the entire film up for streaming so if you’re willing to risk killing a few brain cells maybe you’ll manage to gain more entertainment value from it than I originally did. I’d highly suggest having some form of alcoholic beverage on hand to immobilize any pain you might suffer. Somehow I managed to get through Breeders ’97 in one viewing without having to enter a drunken stupor so I wish everyone who’s up to the challenge the very best of luck!
Embedding the video directly into this blog post didn’t work as I had hoped. Instead please click on the artwork which will open a new tab where you can sit back and enjoy this headache inducing mess. In the words of former professional wrestler Perry Saturn – You’re welcome!
Synopsis: Six young actresses auditioning for a movie role at a remote mansion are targeted by a mysterious masked murderer.
The lengths some actors/actresses will go to to deliver truly iconic performances are what separates those who set their sights on Hollywood because of their model good looks and just want to be famous for the attention to those who start out with simple bit parts as they slowly struggle their way up the ladder of success to one day be nominated for the biggest prize in the industry, a coveted Oscar. The late great Heath Ledger got his first big break as a heart throb in the teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You and after the monster success of that film refused to be typecast choosing his next roles very carefully. By the time he accepted the role of The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight the initial reaction from people was how could someone who did lighthearted comedies like 10 Things and A Knight’s Tale play the clown prince of crime? In preparation Health locked himself in a hotel room for the better part of a month keeping a journal and slowly created the Joker’s voice, laugh, and mannerisms. With Heath’s unexpected passing months before the film’s premiere there were some who wondered if he perhaps went a little too far down the rabbit hole in order to attain the performance of a lifetime. I never really thought of the events surrounding Heath’s death as more than a unfortunate tragedy and upon watching the first half of Curtains I can definitely see where that certain line of thinking can come into focus. An actress decides that in order to fully embrace a character that she is going to be playing convinces the director of the film to have her committed to a woman’s insane asylum and surround herself with individuals who have a wide array of disorders. At first she is able to play along relying on her acting to convince the staff that she has had a complete mental breakdown yet as the days wear on her interactions between fellow inmates legitimately begin to take their toll on her own mental stability. It certainly doesn’t help matters when she comes across an issue of Variety with front page news that the director has decided to hold an open casting call looking for another actress to play the role instead.
So what do you honestly think is going to happen when an aging actress is conned into being institutionalized and then finds out that the director of the film she was set to star in had little to no interest in using her in his production? Anyone… anyone… Bueller? Bueller? Congratulations, if you said that the emotionally crippled, highly jealous, now potentially insane former starlet was going to find a way to break out of the women’s asylum and begin plotting her revenge give yourself a pat on the back. Curtains has a solid dynamic behind the first 30 to 45 minutes where you’re naturally intrigued as to whether there is going to be a huge payoff or not. The director and writers go so far to introduce a second killer to really try and keep you second guessing but like any murder mystery of the week it doesn’t take much sleuthing to figure out who is behind the other set of killings. What’s even worse is there’s a point a good three quarters of the way through where the plot starts to drag itself around like the dead body of one of the film’s victims. I like the fact that Curtains takes the secluded approach of The Shining by having the main setting be a house that is out in the middle of nowhere while a blizzard has all the roads are snowed in. I love that John Vernon (National Lampoon’s Animal House and Killer Clowns From Outer Space) gives audiences another solid performance as a vile/cutthroat director that treats all the actresses auditioning for him as nothing more than mere set decoration. There’s certainly a sense of style here and regrettably its marred down by trying to do too much too fast and not allowing that much breathing room in between. While I understand that Curtains has developed a cult following over the years after my one and only viewing I think I’d find more enjoyment in comforts of a straight jacket and a comfy padded/soundproof cell.
Synopsis: After a mysterious blackout, a son goes out to investigate and captures footage of actual aliens. When the aliens follow him and his brothers back to their home, all hell breaks loose.
Presented around the same time when the X-Files was the hottest show on television Alien Abduction: Incident In Lake County brought a lot to the table in terms of delivering a creepy little sci-fi feature. It tends to throw every alien/UFO cliche at viewers from cattle mutilations to ray guns to exploring the missing time paradox. Like so many other found footage movies the acting is fairly atrocious but than again when it involves spur of the moment dialogue a majority of actors will just end up using improv as their best friend. The production unfortunately suffers from horrible pacing due to the fact that even though there are a lot of weird things happening the director couldn’t make the film itself more interesting even if he had E.T. stop on by with an entire 30 pack of Coors. At the time it premiered Alien Abduction: Incident In Lake County definitely was a hot topic between people trying to decide whether it was authentic or a complete hoax. I didn’t see it when it initially aired on UPN but if I had I would have known right away that it was a hoax considering a young Emmanuelle Chriqui (who starred in an episode Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark? before this and more recently went on be featured in the show Entourage) was one of the family members ‘abducted’. Not to mention when both the aliens are listed in the closing credits you tend to wonder why they have human names. I guess even in Hollywood it’s the best way to get noticed and hopefully find future work.
The build up to the big reveal is downright laughable as the VHS version I’ve seen has family members sitting at the dining room table eating turkey when all of a sudden a couple little green men come in and abduct everyone while the kid who was filming the night’s festivities is literally having a conniption fit. From what I’ve read the original television ending was a lot more satisfying as the teenager gave a sort of last will and testament knowing he probably wouldn’t make it through the night. He then pans around to catch a glimpse of an alien coming right at him and the tape freezes. The family as a whole are rather annoying and once weird occurrences start happening the group of females ask one another what is going on outside while the males decide to pack some heat and go out and check the perimeter while trying to get to their truck so that way they can get everyone to safety. Of course any logical form of thinking doesn’t happen and quite honestly I actually wonder if the MacPhearson family was struck by a stupidity ray the aliens had secretly stashed aboard their ship. If I had the unfortunate opportunity of being a member of this family I’d be making sure all doors and windows were locked, no one would be let in or out, and rest assured I’d be designing a tin foil hat as soon as I caught wind of an alien invasion. If all else failed I’d then try to appeal to our alien friends by inviting them in for a nice turkey dinner (since it is Thanksgiving after all) I’d even offer to fire up the grill and cook some mutilated cow burgers from the remains of the poor bovine they killed earlier in the movie. (I actually have an out of this world BBQ sauce recipe that would knock their little alien socks off).
Final Grade: C-
The original UPN presentation of Alien Abduction finally surfaced on Youtube some five years back. Compared to the full 82 minute VHS release the UPN version runs only 45 minutes and has interviews with various UFO and extraterrestrial experts (something I had no idea was included but definitely adds more dramatic effect to the overall presentation). If you’re interested in giving it a watch you can check it out below:
Hell is when the VCR starts eating your VHS collection & spitting the remains back out at you…