Witchslayer Gretl (2012)

Once again, you fine ISCFC readers are not to be disappointed – while not entirely inaccurate, the title is really misleading. Gretl is in it, but only shows up as a character in her own right a few minutes from the end, and while she offs one witch, it’s not what I’d call the main thing of the film. Imagine a film called “Private Ryan Escapes From The Nazis”.

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This is the latest installment in our long-dormant Hansel and Gretel film review series, following on from Asylum’s “Hansel and Gretel” and some other poor studio’s “Hansel and Gretel Get Baked”I’m doing it this way so the big-budget version with Jeremy Renner will appear more entertaining when I finally get to watch it, because it must be said that this is right down there with those two in terms of quality. Feel free to stop reading now, as to get the root of this film, I will need to use some spoilers. 

 

No messing about with this film, as it gets right down to it. An unnamed man, known only as the Witch-Slayer, wanders upon a woman in the forest, knowing she’s a witch, questions her and kills her. He has a companion, Lara, a former witch who helps him with his slaying activities. Now, they both seem cold and emotionless, which makes it hard to believe they’re the people we’re supposed to be cheering on in this film. Everyone talks in that faux- Olde English manner that bad American filmmakers think is authentic (my ancestors swore like troopers, I’m sure).

 

The rest of the cast is made up of the baddie warlock, Abyss; the evil witch queen who’s obviously Shannen Doherty, even though the film tries to obscure her face for her first few appearances; and Ehren, the beautiful innocent who discovers her witch powers after being kidnapped by Abyss (who also killed her Dad). Ehren is tied to some magic stake thing in the woods, and it seems no-one gave her any lines but told her to just shout, as she just repeats “let me free!” and “who are you?” twenty or so times. Luckily there’s tons of makeup in the olden days, as Ehren and a few of the cannon-fodder members of the evil coven have plenty of eyeliner and lipstick. Perhaps it’s a spell.

 

Anyway, Ehren is rescued and she, Witch-Slayer and Lara go against the Queen, Abyss and the Queen’s gargoyle-looking familiar. There’s a rather brilliant scene where Wi…okay, his name’s Hansel, there’s zero dramatic tension in that reveal…Hansel tells Ehren about their tools and weapons. They have bullet-proof vests (which just look like bullet-proof vests), magic tazers, visors just like Geordi’s from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and necklaces that act as walkie-talkies. There’s a weird problem with magic at the end of this film, in that the central quest is to get rid of it, but our heroes use it all the time for their own ends. I don’t know, maybe that bit of circle-squaring was left on the cutting room floor.

 

So, it’s revealed to the surprise of no-one that the Witch-Queen is Gretl, Hansel’s long lost sister. We’ve got a few stories coming together – can Ehren control her power and use it for good? Will Hansel and Gretl be reunited? Will Abyss take over the coven for himself? Unless you’ve had a head injury recently, you’ll know the answer to all these questions. But the problem comes fairly close to the end, when Hansel and Ehren are trying to kill the witch-queen’s original body and free Gretl from her possession. Ehren gets possessed too, and Hansel just kills her. It’s jarring because it doesn’t fit the film – Ehren is the Luke Skywalker of the film, the small town kid who gets thrust into big battles after tragedy at home, realising she has great power along the way and trying to use it for good. Imagine “Star Wars” where Luke dies ten minutes before the end, and how much that ending would suck. Han (Hansel), Chewie (Lara) and Leia (Gretl) have a few more adventures before the end, in one of those cases of a film seeming to finish 4 times before it actually wraps up.

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Is this SyFy Channel movie worth trying? Of course not, don’t be silly. But my cat was sat on my lap and I didn’t want to disturb her to get the remote. Seriously, I want to find the advertisers who allowed their products to be sold during this film and slap them, because it’s their fault this dross gets made. SyFy Channel, do something interesting please.

 

 

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Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn (1983)

I know what the ISCFC’s readers like, and that’s films where the title bears very little resemblance to the action contained within. There’s no storm, metal or otherwise, in this, and the destruction of Jared-Syn? Well, I’ll leave that to you to find out.

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This film, rather unsurprisingly, feels like a mashup of many different films – we get scenes “inspired” by Star Wars, Dune, Mad Max, sword & sorcery movies, westerns, and many others. This mashup appears to extend to the plot, which is so confusing I had to look it up on Wikipedia to see how close to right I was with my initial guess (not very). Deep breath…

A guy called Dogen is venturing across the galaxy to track down a super-criminal called Jared-Syn, who’s ended up on the desert planet of Lemuria. Syn is now, for some reason, in charge of a race of one-eyed fellas who apparently gouge their eyes out in some ritual or other; and his son, a green-skinned chap with metal all over his face and an arm which is actually a weird gun that shoots green gloop (I know), is wandering the desert trying to…seriously? I can’t believe how dumb this plot is. The son is trying to start a war with the human miners of some precious substance, also on this planet, in order to get all the warring alien races together, so Jared-Syn can become their ruler, kick the humans off and get all the lovely mining rights for himself. Unfortunately, the people who made the son’s make-up / mask didn’t think of making one that could move, so he keeps the same expression throughout and all his dialogue appears as if it’s telepathy.

Apart from a few minutes right near the end, none of this has any relevance at all to the film. In case you were wondering.

This is one of those early 80s films that got lucky with its casting. Kelly Preston plays the daughter of a prospector who finds a huge crystal, only to be killed by Syn’s son. Preston, wandering and grief-stricken, is found by Dogen, and the two of them find they have some super-powerful bond that gives Dogen some weird strength and energy boost (but does nothing for the woman, of course, she is a prize to be claimed and not an actual character!) They both want Jared-Syn dead, but get separated blah blah blah.

On his way back to her, he hooks up with a drunk old hunter called Rhodes, played by Tim Thomerson. It appears the director (Charles Band, the guy responsible for the Puppet Master series too) liked Thomerson enough to make him the star of his “Trancers” series a few years later, as well – man, I love the “Trancers” films. I might have to review them soon. They encounter, fight and then befriend Hurok, played by Richard Moll from TV’s “Night Court”…okay, it’s not the greatest cast of all time, but it’s rare to find a film like this that features people on their way up the ladder.

Never mind this lot, the real star of the movie is Jared-Syn. He reminds me of Bennett from “Commando”, with his extremely camp but psychopathic performance, and he steals every scene he’s in comfortably. You kind of want him to win just because he’s so much fun, even though you know he won’t.

You magnificent bastard

You magnificent bastard

There are lots of driving scenes in this film, from the POV of the front bumper of the car. As it’s a desert planet, there are dune buggies everywhere, but these are crappy dune buggies with thin wheels. I know nothing about cars, but I know cars in the sand need wide wheels, so they don’t just sink. During one of the numerous chase scenes, tons of the bad guys die through sheer incompetence, driving off hillsides or just crashing into other bad guys – and their cars are made of petrol, because the slightest nudge and they explode.

There are lots of fun things to notice about this film too. Dogen manages to look different in every shot, which is weird – just the light or a slight alteration to his hair, and he’s 10 different actors. Maybe he’s just got one of those faces? Also get ready for a pre-Lethal Weapon “I’m getting too old for this stuff” (he doesn’t swear, sadly) and some genuine old-school 3-D effects. An arm gets torn off and thrown at the camera, that sort of thing.

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As you may have guessed, I had a blast watching this film. It’s stupid and makes no sense, but everyone’s having a good time (and there’s a strong sense that none of the main actors are taking it that seriously) and it rips along. Charles Band clearly gave more of a damn here than he did about the Puppet Master films. It also bears a weirdly strong resemblance to the film “Roadhouse” in terms of the beats of its plot, one almost too strong to be a coincidence (even though it definitely is). Seriously, check them both out and tell me I’m wrong.

Two enthusiastic thumbs up from me for this one. I recommend tracking it down and having yourself a good time.

Alien Tornado (2012)

This never happens

This never happens

Fun pre-film fact: one of the trailers on this DVD was for a film called “The Preacher’s Daughter”, one of those wonderfully earnest pro-religion films made by church front companies. It was so out of place that I kept expecting them during the film itself to go “well, we’ve tried everything else, what about prayer?” but I was sadly disappointed.

Jeff Fahey, star of “100 Degrees Below Zero”, is seemingly working for anyone at the moment. I’m not saying he had the greatest agent in the world before, but I think his voicemail nowadays must go “if you’re calling about work, the answer is yes”. How else to explain a film called “Alien Tornado” that DOESN’T HAVE ANY DAMN ALIENS IN IT

Calm down, Mark. One good thing about this film is that it kicks off fairly quickly, establishing the evil tornadoes along with the central relationship in the film between Fahey, as a farmer who’s down on his luck; and Stacey Asaro as his high-school daughter who’s desperate to get out of this small town and off to college in Chicago. They both look like they were cast for this film years ago and it kept getting delayed until they were both too old to play the parts, but it went ahead anyway – Asaro is 25 and Fahey is 60.

Rounding out the film’s main cast is Kari Wuhrer, who in a better, more just world would have been cast as Lara Croft in a pre-Jolie “Tomb Raider” movie as she combines being a believable love-interest lead with looking like she could kick ass. Instead, she got a few seasons on “Sliders” and is now reduced to appearing in, what I just discovered after thinking I’d escaped one, a SyFy Channel original movie. Why do you torture me so, SyFy?

So, these two groups are brought together by mysterious tornadoes appearing above government institutions, army bases, power stations and the like. They’re unusual in that they are black, with weird flashing green lights inside, and this is enough to bring Wuhrer from her big city meteorologist / reporter / storm chaser job, as well as pique the interest of some shady Government agents, who dress in black jumpsuits with little red stripes on one arm. They look like they’re wearing outfits that the band Devo rejected for being too dumb, but I’ll let that one slide. The main man of the agents is a Malcolm MacDowell-wannabe who fills this film’s quota for soft-spoken verbose psychopaths (although he does have an interesting character arc).

Too late to call your agent now mate

Too late to call your agent now mate

Fahey’s first meeting with the government guys is ridiculous. He’s driving, sees the tornado up ahead then sees a black SUV go flying past him. He catches up to try and warn them, sees they’re all uniformed guys who look like they know what they’re doing, then they speed up away from him again. His response to this is to try and run them off the road for absolutely no reason whatsoever, endangering the life of his daughter in the passenger seat too. Huh?

Wuhrer gets her hacker friend to decode some mysterious signal they record coming from one of the tornadoes, and to the surprise of no-one who saw this film under its original title (it was renamed “Tornado Warning” for its DVD release in Europe, presumably because the distributor saw it and thought “why the hell has this got alien in its title, there’s none of them in it”) the tornadoes are either aliens or under the control of aliens – it’s never really made clear. They’ve been on earth for some time, apparently, but they’ve only recently become violent, with tendrils coming off the tornado to scoop the occasional unlucky person up. The government guys realise they can either keep it under wraps and kill the people who know about the aliens, or help Wuhrer and co and damn their evil orders, a matter which becomes more pressing when it’s discovered the tornadoes are headed for Chicago and could kill millions.

Given that the bad guy in this is some wind, the ending manages to be fairly decent. We do get to see Bernie from “Weekend at Bernie’s” (yes, the corpse) in a rare living role, which caused me and my wife to spend several of the quieter moments of this film debating what happened in “Weekend at Bernie’s 2”. Did they store him in a fridge between movies? Does the second one start the instant the first one ends?

Anyway, it ends with all being resolved. Dad had to use the daughter’s college fund to repair his farm at the beginning of the film, which causes conflict (obviously), but as she’s a national hero thanks to her uploading her exploits on Youtube, she gets an offer from an overseas college with a full scholarship. Wuhrer, whose main job is running a weather website, decides she can do it from Fahey’s farm just as well as from the big city, and despite sharing basically no scenes all the way through the film, having zero chemistry, one of them being a gorgeous celebrity and the other an old farmer, they kiss and all is well.

Literally up to the last few minutes of the film, part of my brain was waiting for some aliens to appear and do anything at all, but sadly no. It has inspired me to write my own film though, called “An Entirely Off-Screen Dracula Tries To Kill Teens With Remote Control Planes”. Look out for it in cinemas near you soon.

awww

awww