Movies We Won’t Be Reviewing: Nudes In Limbo (1983)

Bad movie afficionados of an older generation may remember “Orgy Of The Dead”, the Ed Wood Jr – written movie (although to call it written is perhaps overstating it) where a couple has a car crash, wanders into a clearing in the woods and watches bored-looking women strip for about an hour. Back in the day when you had to pay serious cash money to see these monstrosities, I bought a VHS of it only to go from rubbing my hands with glee at the thought of more work from the great Ed Wood to falling asleep at yet another partially undressed, sort of dowdy 1960s lady (ps – the twist at the end is that the couple are dead and this is some sort of purgatory. It’s not worth the wait to find that out).

 

Although the Priors are nowhere near as famous as Ed Wood, and this is rightly completely forgotten, it’s sort of in the same ballpark. Ted Prior, star of “Sledgehammer” and almost all his brother David’s movies, had a side-gig in LA of being a Playgirl model / bodybuilder and, between “Sledgehammer” and his second narrative movie, “Killzone” (review coming soon) he made this, which also stars at least one “Scream Queen”, Michelle Bauer. The only other cast member with an IMDB photograph is a lady by the name of Shauna Green, a porn actress who committed suicide the year after this movie was released. Her extraordinarily sad life story, which makes Dana Plato’s look like a walk in the park, can be read about on Wikipedia, should you have had a good day and want to feel bad for a moment.

 

It’s a soft-core videotape which you can still watch in its entirety provided you have ad-blockers and strong antivirus protection, on any number of “adult video” sites, and really isn’t a movie at all. It’s an hour’s worth of extreme closeups of hot bodies in motion, exercising or just moving about, on an entirely blank background to make it look like they’re in limbo. I guess. Clearly, there was some sort of market for this thing. Anyway, Ted is in it, for a few minutes, and if anything I’ve said so far appeals to you in the slightest, then please go and watch it. The director, one Bruce Seth Green, went on to direct lots of TV (including a decent number of early episodes of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”).

 

The microscopic gap between the low-rent B-movies I love and genuinely awful sleaze becomes a little miserable, at times. Normal service will be resumed soon.

Van Wilder 2: The Rise Of Taj (2006)

PRODUCER 1: We should make a sequel to Van Wilder.

PRODUCER 2: Ryan Reynolds costs too much-

PRODUCER 1: Kal Penn was in that “Harold and Kumar” movie last year! He’ll do!

PRODUCER 2: We don’t even have a script-

PRODUCER 1: Well, I’ve got this script from 1986. How about we just go through it and CTRL-F the star’s name with “Taj”, make the villain a racist and throw in two extremely brief references to Van’s character?

PRODUCER 2: I love it!

That is, I’m sure, how “Van Wilder 2: The Rise Of Taj”, was created. Were it not for 1990’s “Getting Lucky”, this would be in the conversation for worst comedy we’ve ever covered here. The first gag is Taj mentioning how he was “king of cool at Coolidge College” – if you laugh at that, you’ll probably be okay (because you’d clearly laugh at literally anything).

Into the beautiful English university of Camford comes a character with the same name and played by the same actor as Taj from part 1, but otherwise sharing no characteristics whatsoever. He’s basically Van Wilder, which either indicates Van rubbed off on him completely, or they just didn’t bother changing the spec script featuring Ryan Reynolds they’d already prepared. He’s come for his master’s degree and to work as a TA, and as his father (seen in a flashback from 1965, even though hippies and painted VW cards and all that wouldn’t come along for a few more years) is a legacy at the Fox & Hounds secret society, so he’s got a great place to stay – only they’re a bunch of idiots who apparently get to reject whoever they like then force those rejects to stay in a dilapidated barn somewhere on campus.

ASIDE: British universities don’t have fraternities, although they do have what amount to drinking clubs for rich people. No huge buildings, no bedrooms for members, none of that at all (one society I read about owns a building, but they rent most of it out and only have a small area to use as a “clubhouse”).

So, Taj is forced to go to the barn, and meets the collection of stereotypes that anyone who’s ever seen one of these movies before will know and “love”. The super-smart nerd, the violent Irishman, the slutty girl, and the computer gaming nerd; you may also spend a few seconds and think “this is going to end up in a competition of some sort, isn’t it?” and you’d be entirely correct. Taj forms the “Cock and Bulls” society and enters his outcasts in the Hastings Cup, a series of entirely unrelated events scattered throughout the term which the Fox & Hounds have dominated for years.

The villain, an actor whose career has hit the skids so hard he doesn’t even have a photo on IMDB, is doing a sort of evil Hugh Grant impersonation, and his girlfriend is Lauren Cohan, bumming around in trash like this til “The Walking Dead” catapulted her to stardom, with her extra-posh English accent just waiting for Taj to show a whisker of character growth so she can hop into bed with him. There’s nothing new at all here, and it’s so dull and formulaic I started doodling rather than writing notes, occasionally being roused to pen something like “they’re the most obvious body doubles I’ve ever seen” (although it appears Cohan didn’t use one) or “it’s like the worst 70s British farce ever”.

There are a very small number of bits that crack a smile, though. For instance, the bit where the villain, just before the “climactic” sword fighting scene, says ‘We are going to settle this like our ancestors would have!’ to which Taj responds ‘you’re going to exploit me economically?’ – a reminder that Kal Penn can deliver a line well when he really has to. There’s the small visual gag of the writers of newspaper articles having names like “Ben Derhover”, “Anita Hanjaab” and “Mike Oxsbig”. Taj’s parents, British sitcom stars Kulvinder Ghir and Shobu Kapoor, appear beamed in from a slightly funnier, more self-aware movie.

I don’t know where to lay the blame. Is it director Mort Nathan, who got his start as a writer / producer of “The Golden Girls”? Or is it writer David Drew Gallagher, a bit-part actor for whom this was his only writing credit? Or is it one of the 19 (!) listed producers?

It’s a movie made by people who have no idea about youngsters, or the UK, or comedy. Perhaps one of those 19 producers lost their virginity during a showing of long-forgotten 1984 Rob Lowe movie “Oxford Blues”, and wanted to recreate it only much much worse. I’m honestly at a loss here, people. It has no reason to exist – the first Van Wilder movie wasn’t that big a hit and Taj was a one-note supporting character, at best. Lazy is the best way to describe it – like Van apparently giving up his beloved dog to the guy he was briefly at college with, or saying Taj is from the USA when the first movie very clearly said he was Indian (perhaps to justify his constant accent slips).

As I hope I’ve indicated in the last five years, I like lowbrow humour as much as the next man (significantly more than most) but I also like it when the people who have the huge privilege of getting paid to make movies actually put some effort in. This is a miserable failure.

Rating: thumbs down

Zombi 7 (1999) (aka Anthropophagous 2000)

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It’s over! No more “Zombi” movies to cover! For those of you just joining us, I decided for no good reason I could name to watch not only the 5 “official” movies in the “Zombi” pantheon, but every other movie which had ever been released as part of the series, anywhere in the world. There ended up being 15 of those, with 6 of the 15 not having any zombies in at all, which is a curious decision at best; but now this is done, we can get back to one of our hundred other unfinished review projects.

 

We’ve already encountered director Andreas Schnaas, who directed “Violent Shit” and has gone on to a lengthy career in bottom-of-the-barrel splatter / gore movies. While I had a laugh watching his first movie, I’d no particular desire to watch any more, and it was only the coincidence of him doing a “Zombi 7” that brought us together again. The extreme gore side of things has never been my cup of tea, and if you’re interested enough to dig out any of the “Violent Shit” sequels, there are plenty of horror-focused websites to guide you.

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Schnaas, from this limited exposure to his output, seems like the sort of director who’s just not progressed at all. Take a guy like Len Kabasinski, who’s always learning and trying to hone his craft; he’s a million times better than Schnaas, whose sole interest still seems to be just getting as much blood and guts on the screen as possible. This was made ten years after his first, and aside from marginally better gore effects it might as well have been ten minutes after. If the purpose is, even in part, to offend…well, doing it with a micro-budget horror that 99.99% of the movie viewing public wouldn’t even know existed is such a fool’s errand.

 

In summary, this movie is a cover version of the original, so if you’d like filling in on the plot, please feel free to read our “Antropophagus” review. Pretty much all the major beats are covered – couple gets killed on beach in the cold open, group of friends visits weirdly deserted village, find lots of bodies, cannibal starts eating them, mad sister tries to get them to leave, they don’t. A foetus gets eaten, although rather than trying to make a good effect, they just got a doll (admittedly, a realistic one) and covered it in gore. You know, all those bits you remember and love. But Schnaas gives you extra, including a local simpleton happily eating the vomit of one of our main characters, to which the vomiter’s friend replies “what did you have for breakfast?” with a grin on his face.

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While it’s got more of a budget than “Violent Shit”, it’s not a lot more. Substituting for the boat ride they take in “Antropophagus” is a camper-van, and rather than an island they just go to an Italian village. They’re also missing a character (the Tisa Farrow free-spirit lady who drives some of the central conflict) so lots of the scenes don’t really make much sense – thinking about it, them being in a landlocked village makes the whole “guy goes crazy while being stranded on a boat” plot very confusing. I’m trying to avoid saying stuff like “they don’t mention X” because the version I saw had maybe the worst subtitles I’ve ever seen, leaving out lines all the time, and translating others quite badly too. The dialogue may have been a rich stew of philosophical debate and character discovery, but we poor English-speakers would never know.

 

As this cover version by some local bar band rumbles on, we discover that our villain, Nikos Karamanlis (Schnaas himself, dressed and made up quite like the guy in the original) is for some reason super-strong and indestructible. He tears off someone’s head towards the end, and then there’s the final scene. In the original, it’s a moment of some pathos, where the monster is seen as so pathetic and demented that he eats his own intestines, after his stomach is opened by an axe. In this version Nikos is shot several times, but tears his own stomach open and eats his intestines for no reason, before dropping to the ground dead…then getting up again a minute later as if he was fine.

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The actual ending is a rare level of double-bullshit stupidity, as Nikos’ dead wife tells him to stop killing people, giving the last survivor the chance to chop his head off with a shovel; then we cut to the framing structure, a bunch of cops finally turning up to the village (where, lest we forget, everyone was brutally murdered, so they really ought to have been there before now), and it turns out that the killer is still alive, the “implication” being that psychopathy is contagious, or leaps to a new host on death, or something equally daft.

 

I guess Schnaas had the idea to remake “Antropophagus”, it being in a loose copyright situation, after the death of its director, Joe D’Amato. But even though the original is a fairly low-budget video nasty, its budget was “Titanic” level compared to this. D’Amato was a hack porno director, but he still had vastly more ambition than Andreas Schnaas. I’ve been doing a little reading about “splatter” cinema, and how it substitutes that re-establishment of the old order at the end (good triumphing over evil, etc.) for chaos. Okay, but there’s a universe of difference between those two extremes, and movies where you’re guaranteed no resolution, and the deaths of everyone you like, become a bit tiring after a while. While I certainly don’t demand a happy ending from all my entertainment, a satisfying one is always appreciated, and this is a very long way from being a satisfying movie.

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One final thing – with reading a few splatter sites, I feel like I missed something. Perhaps they were all paid to write “a love letter to D’Amato’s original” in their reviews? Because it’s definitely not. If it were a love letter, he’d have probably used the good things about it, not just taken the main plot beats and thrown several buckets of intestines over it; he wouldn’t have got rid of all the tension; and definitely wouldn’t have removed the character who drives the damn plot. We should expect more from our cinema, is all, and saying “well, it’s a splatter movie, it doesn’t need to make sense, or be any good” lets directors like Schnaas, who’s clearly uninterested in doing anything but show the human body torn to pieces in as many different ways as possible, off the hook.

 

Rating: thumbs down