Killer Mountain (2011)

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None of this happens

Perhaps the side of the Atlantic I’m on has affected my enjoyment of SyFy Channel movies, or perhaps I’ve just picked a couple of really rough ones to review recently. But never fear, because we’re sticking with this ludicrous plan to review them all to the very end, and today is “Killer Mountain”.

This has what I would refer to, if I thought about it at all, as a “classic” SyFy Channel lineup. You’ve got one guy from a famous sci-fi show, Aaron Douglas (Chief Tyrol from “Battlestar Galactica”), a couple of genre TV regulars – Emmanuelle Vaugier (“Lost Girl”, dozens of others) and Andrew Airlie (“Reaper”, “Intruders”); and lots of other people you’ve never heard of, unless you’ve watched way too much Canadian TV.

And you’ve also got a classic plot – the estranged couple! Ward Donovan (Douglas) is an expert mountaineer, who’s now working as an instructor; he’s asked by eccentric billionaire Barton (Airlie) to climb a mountain, somewhere in the Bhutan / Tibet region of the world, which has been declared illegal to climb by its government, to rescue his ex-wife Kate (Vaugier), who went up there for reasons which are left a little vague at the beginning. Reference is made to Aaron Douglas not exactly looking, physically speaking, like a typical mountain climber, which I liked – not that I’m one to talk, I look like a potato with a beard – and to some ancient curse, which is the real reason the government has banned all climbing, and we’re off for “adventure”.

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It’s a welcome return for the disused boat yard which has been seen in a few other SyFy movies. Yes, I appreciate how sad it is for me to notice when they re-use sets. This is Barton’s base of operations, and they film very carefully there because it’s on relatively flat ground and if they showed the far distance, you’d quite legitimately wonder where all the mountains were. Ward gets a new team, including a few old friends and Barton’s douchebag son, who has a pair of computer goggles that can apparently track anyone, yet are never used for that purpose at any point in the movie, or for any purpose at all (but I am prepared to say I might have nodded off for a second, and missed it).

There’s also a guy flying a helicopter, who gets himself killed a little later on because he goes too high. I mentioned this in my review of “Yeti: Curse of the Snow Demon”, but helicopters have rescued people from the very summit of Everest before, and while it’s certainly dangerous to fly in air that thin, it’s do-able. If you’re a billionaire, you’re going to be able to afford the very best in helicopters, is what I’m saying. Ah, dammit, I hate getting bogged down in these dumb details, but not as much as SyFy Channel love getting these dumb details wrong.

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Turns out the real reason they’re all up there is the mystical city of Shamballa, and the fountain of youth, as Barton has incurable brain cancer. When the local army gets wind of what’s going on, they go up there too, and as our couple are re-united in one thread of plot, Barton fights off the army guys in the other. Lots of mountain-climbing footage taken from a steep hill somewhere in Canada, you know the sort of thing.

I haven’t even mentioned the monster! I was expecting a Yeti-style beast, honestly, but it’s some sort of lizard-looking thing. If you’re wondering how a decent-sized family of large carnivores have survived way up a mountain where humans have been forbidden to go for…decades?…and it’s too high up to support other large life, then you’re in about the same place as I was. The CGI is, of course, absolutely terrible.

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The more I think about it, the more I feel I missed a chunk at the end, where they actually go into Shamballa (they see it in the distance at one point, deep down in a cave) and resolve their storylines. It all feels tacked on, like they got to a certain point and went “this’ll do. Main couple are back together, bad guys are dead. Done”. Writer / director Sheldon Wilson seems like one of SyFy’s most dependable movie hands, though, having previously given us “Red: Werewolf Hunter”, “Snowmageddon”, “Mega Cyclone” and “Scarecrow” – and a recent, amazing-sounding, movie called “Shark Killer”, so that seems unlikely. Perhaps it’s just a terrible movie and no-one really cared about making it good.

Rating: thumbs down

 

PS – If there’s anyone out there who collects “movies where the star makes reference to the TV show that made them famous”, then add this to the pile. Aaron Douglas says “let’s get the frack out of here”, frack being the PG-13 space-alternative to a slightly ruder word that “Battlestar Galactica” used.

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House Of The Dead 2 (2005)

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Having wasted my best line about this in a Twitter exchange with the excellent HorrorHoneys – “House of the Dead 2 makes House of the Dead look like Dawn of the Dead” – I found myself with not tons to say about this movie. It exists, and that’s about it.

Uwe Boll had nothing to do with this one, and the main way you can tell is it’s gone from crazy to boring. The one and only thing about “House of the Dead” (games and first film) is that they never let up. You kill a lot of zombies, pause to have the barest minimum of plot, then kill more zombies. This has, after a wildly sexist “raid the sorority house” opening, some scientists and a group of army guys trying to make their way through a school campus to get to the lab where the professor apparently started this particular zombie outbreak, but taking their sweet time about it.

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There are a couple of fun scenes as we’re introduced to the characters. Main scientists / agents Emmanuelle Vaugier and Ed Quinn establish their flirty relationship early on, and then the army people are sketched out (including Victoria Pratt from “Mutant X”). Nothing spectacular, but competent, and done relatively briefly; and the way the “antidote” MacGuffin becomes important for different reasons to everyone is a nice basic bit of storytelling. It’s just everything else that’s the problem.

There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. I lost count of the number of times people had blood from zombies splash onto their face with zero ill effects; yet a zombie-mosquito bite is enough to finish one guy off. Our main people run through huge crowds of zombies and don’t get bitten, as if all of a sudden our walking dead friends suddenly forgot how to do it (yet there’s other scenes where one zombie finishes off several people). Worst of all is the pacing. We come to a crescendo of sorts at 1:10, so I was quite happy that the experience would be over quicker than anticipated. But it just keeps going, and the ending is just the previous 15 minutes of the movie, sort of repeated. It’s weird. And bad.

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Worse than movies that are terrible are movies where there’s no real reason for them to exist. It’s a sequel to a computer game movie, made by people who (I’d hazard a guess) never played or even saw any of the games it was based on; it just feels sloppy, like they couldn’t be bothered outside of a few key scenes. Leave this off your Uwe Boll bad movie night playlist, because people will be falling asleep.

Rating: thumbs down

Mindstorm (2001)

Hey, DVD cover people - you know there are women in this movie, right?

Hey, DVD cover people – you know there are women in this movie, right?

“Hey Mark, we need some page views”.

“Sure, boss! How about I review a virtually forgotten 13 year old ‘Dead Zone’ ripoff?”

“That’s my boy! Here’s another bag of money!”

Should this wander along the schedule for a low-budget TV channel one evening, or be on a market for 50p, then I think you could certainly do worse. It also features two women who really ought to have had much bigger and better careers than they had – Emmanuelle Vaugier, who’s had some recurring TV roles and…actually, forget about her, she’s doing great; plus, Sarah Carter, who…oh it turns out she’s working all the time too. I really ought to pay more attention.

Anyway, there’s a government experiment with psychic kids in 1984, and it’s destroyed by Russians, who presumably want to keep their advantage in the psychic war stakes. It’s never really explained. Of the two main kids, the boy dies in the fire and the girl is rescued by one of the guards, who then raises her as his own. Cut to adulthood, and she’s a private investigator finding missing kids, and she has a friend in the FBI who knows her secret, and helps out on cases.

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There’s a cult run by Eric Roberts, who does make a great cult leader, and the Senator who looks a bit evil is Michael Ironside, who makes a great evil senator. The cast is strong, and the idea is okay, but like I said up top, it’s just like we’ve seen this before.

It looks great, and some of the locations are well chosen (the cult’s base, the tram graveyard) but the other feeling I couldn’t shake was how this felt curiously unfinished. When the last scene rolls around, you’re thinking “okay, here comes the twist, or where they at least explain to each other what’s going on” but no. It’s not like it cut from the film too quickly, either, because the credits rolled…all in all, it’s a curious experience. I wonder if it’s like a double-pilot episode for some TV show that got cancelled, and the last (deleted) scene was the setup for that? I guess we’ll never know.

Rating: thumbs in the middle