Youtube Film Club – Banzai Runner (1987)

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The risk you take when watching cheap movies, or ones you’ve never heard of, is false advertising. Big-budget movies can’t really mess around too much, because if they billed something as a knockabout comedy and it had a load of murder and misery in it, they’d get mocked endlessly in the press and their investors might be unhappy. There are no such worries for our low-budget friends, and in fact making something rather dull and cheap to produce look as exciting as possible is pretty much their business model.

So we come to “Banzai Runner”. Look at the picture above. Pretty exciting looking, right? Super-powered sports cars, hot ladies, probably a few good fight scenes, men shouting at each other about honour and friendship. Right up my street! But the reality is, it’s a fairly low-key drama about a couple of broken-hearted men (Uncle and nephew) trying to come to terms with loss and move on with new relationships, with a distant b-story of the Uncle trying to break up an illegal street-racing ring.

Highway patrolman Billy Baxter (Dean Stockwell! Did he think this would be his post-Blue Velvet star-making role?) and his nephew Beck (John Shepherd, who was the main guy in “Friday 13th: A New Beginning”) are still haunted by the death of Beck’s parents in a drunk-driving accident a few years ago. Unless you’ve personally been affected by drunk-driving death in this world, you think it’s absolutely fine, as pretty much everyone drives hammered whenever they like. At the beginning, Billy rescues a baby from a burning drink-induced car wreck, although “baby” is putting it a bit strongly, the kid he wraps in a blanket is like three years old. Could they not find a real baby? Anyway, he spirals downwards a bit and is eventually fired.

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There are lots of curious supporting characters in “Banzai Runner”. There’s the Highway Patrol’s mechanic, Traven (Charles Dierkop) who’s apparently also a criminal, as he has a case about him due up before a judge very soon. Billy, upset that his patrol car can’t keep up with the illegal racers, asks Traven to help him illegally soup up the car, offering to get his case dropped. But he never really does, he just takes him for a few rides in his pickup truck which he’s modified so it can go above 150 mph. Sure, why not? Oh, the judge is a hipster who wears a t-shirt in his chambers and was almost busted once by Billy for smoking weed.

Talking of weed, there’s a really curious scene where Beck and Billy are driving back from somewhere, and Billy’s asleep in the passenger seat. Beck decides now is a good time to have a quick smoke, you know, next to your sleeping guardian who’s also a cop! I have literally no idea why anyone thought the jumble of scenes I’ve described in the last few paragraphs made any sense, but they’re all there (heck, you can check for yourself if you like).

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Instead of fun scenes with the street-racers, we get lots and lots of scenes of Dean Stockwell looking sad, or dealing with his on-again, off-again girlfriend. Perhaps the director wasn’t remotely interesting in telling the fast car story, but wanted to do a meaty drama? Then the producers said to him “we love you, seriously though, make this a fast car movie or you’re fired”. I sort of thought from the description that we were going to get a proto-”The Fast and the Furious” (the plot seems heavily reminiscent of part 2 of that wonderful franchise). If Paul Walker had sat around for most of the movie getting drunk and feeling bad about his life, well, we’d have never had a part 3. Actually, if Paul Walker had done those things, and had a nephew who was a complete asshole throughout the movie, then I’d call ripoff.

Eventually, Billy sort of goes undercover and gets involved in this street racing world, but it’s not really that either. There’s only two guys, and their business model is driving cocaine through the desert to Las Vegas at speeds so fast the cops can’t catch them. Although, as they appear to have paid off the cops, I’ve got no idea why they’d need to drive fast anyway? They also sort of dabble in bets on races, so Billy takes on a comedy German stereotype, then the main bad guy himself. I think, I’d honestly stopped paying attention by that point. If you were expecting actual fast cars actually racing fast, then be prepared to be disappointed – although your disappointment tank may well be tapped out by that point – as it’s just sped up footage of cars driving totally normally. They don’t even really make an attempt to not have it look like sped up footage either, and it’s terrible.

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I thought the description of the factory-modded Porsche as being able to go 200mph was stupid too, but it turns out 2017 models can do exactly that, so I’ll give them a pass. Driving that Porsche is one of the very few interesting actors in the movie, Billy Drago (who we’ve covered in such gems as “Cyborg 2” and “Tremors 4”). He’s the main goon but he’s really under-written, like they had to fit in a five minute scene where Stockwell wanders round his house trying to play a trumpet, but can’t be bothered to have a scene of Drago being awesome and evil.

Please don’t be like me, dear reader. And not in any of the normal, “oh my god he’s wasted his life” ways! Don’t be fooled by the blatant false advertising of “Banzai Runner” – and don’t ask what a banzai runner is, because this movie will not tell you – and watch something fun instead.

Rating: thumbs down

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Youtube Film Club: Summer Camp Nightmare (1987)

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This appears to be the week of misleading teen horror titles. After “Hell High” and it’s not really hell, not really high school shenanigans, we’re now on “Summer Camp Nightmare”, and…well, look at that picture. If you’d looked at that and thought “cloth-eared Lord Of The Flies ripoff” then you’re a much smarter person than I.

Two very interesting names pop up in the opening credits, much more interesting than the movie itself. First is a co-writing credit for Penelope Spheeris, much much better known as the director of “Wayne’s World” and the “Decline And Fall Of Western Civilization” series. She rarely wrote, with this being one of only two non-TV, non-documentary credits for her, so honestly I was unsure what to expect.

 

Second is star Chuck Connors. His acting career is not all that interesting, having worked in all manner of styles, both TV and film (he got his big break as star of “The Rifleman”, a long-running TV show in the late 50s); but he was a fascinating guy. He’s one of only 12 people to play both professional basketball and professional baseball (Boston Celtics for basketball, and Brooklyn Dodgers / Chicago Cubs for baseball). He was also, amazingly, drafted by the American football team the Chicago Bears, but never took the field for them. Universally beloved by his co-stars, if only he hadn’t been a Reagan-supporting Republican!

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Having a religious nut who allows no fun run your summer camp seems like a poor business model. After hiring a bunch of fun-loving teenagers to work as counsellors, the owners then hired Mr Warren (Connors) to run the place. He loves butterfly collecting and the Bible, sets the TV up so it only picks up religious programming, etc. If I came back from that summer camp, I’d be sure to tell everyone I knew how much it sucked, and with all that bad word of mouth, it’d close pretty quickly, I’d have thought.

 

Anyway, the first hint things are wrong is when Franklin (Charlie Stratton), one of the counsellors, is seen reading “Civil Disobedience” by Thoreau, and rallying the other kids against the tyrannical Warren. He’s not a monster from the beginning, being kind to the younger kids; in fact it’s when one of those kids reports to him that Warren tried to sexually abuse him, that things really move into action. Eventually, he steals Warren’s gun and locks all the adult staff up in the “meditation centre”, does the same thing to the girls’ camp next door, and the Revolution is on! There’s a Supreme Revolutionary Committee, people being ostracised, Warren is stabbed by “Runk The Punk”, a rape occurs, and while some kids seem pretty happy with the new order (and some seem indifferent, like it’s a very weird game), a small minority tries to fight back and get word to the outside world.

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So, obviously, it’s an exceptionally heavy-handed political allegory. The book it’s based on, “The Butterfly Revolution”, appears much more interesting, and there are lots of things in the movie that seem crowbarred in from the book, that perhaps should have been given more time or cut out altogether. The book has a philosophical debate (the sensitive young boy reads Marx, which helps him understand the revolution is totalitarian and wrong, and the book is about how reading is important to arm yourself against bad ideas), but the movie, perhaps because it was made by Hollywood liberals with conservative money, doesn’t want to fall on either side of the fence. We’re left with a central character, Franklin, who doesn’t seem remotely charismatic enough to win an argument, much less lead a revolution, and people who go from normal teenagers to thugs in the blink of an eye.

 

Factor in a much-too-long act 1 (you could trim 15 minutes from the first 45 and not miss a thing) and a much-too-short act 2, and it’s honestly a tough watch. Still, if you’ve ever wanted to see two kids mime to FEAR’s song “Beef Bologna” and grab their crotches, this is definitely the movie for you.

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Rating: thumbs down

The Video Dead (1987)

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There’s a scam in the low-budget movie world. It’s a variation on the “make a cool poster, sell that to distributors, then make a film based on the poster”, but it’s a little more advanced. Have you ever watched a movie which started off really well, got you interested, then suddenly dropped off a cliff of quality after the first five minutes? This is often associated with a change of location or characters, or both.

 

The big secret is, they make that first five minutes to secure funding, and distribution, and all those other fun little ways low-budget people stay in business. Then, when they’ve got their money, based on the expectation that the rest of the movie will be as good as that first five minutes, they knock out any old piece of cheap crap. This crap will then get sold to cable channels, video rental places (now streaming services, I guess), eke out a meagre profit and the cycle will continue. The ur-example of this is Fred Olen Ray’s “The Tomb” from 1986, which starts off as an Indiana Jones-style adventure before switching to a series of people talking on telephones, but I think “The Video Dead” is a dishonourable member of this group.

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The scam in this instance is a first five minutes featuring a writer, depressed-looking, sat in his scruffy house with real dead goldfish when the doorbell rings. A couple of delivery guys bring him a TV, even though he didn’t ask for one. Or, indeed, anything – which makes the bit a few minutes later when the delivery guys realise they mixed up a delivery for the local Occult Studies Centre not really make sense – but never mind that, the TV keeps turning on and showing “Zombie Blood Nightmare”, which looks like a fun movie. One of the zombies emerges from the TV, a pretty cool effect if we’re being honest, and when the delivery guys come back for their TV they find the corpse of the writer. Boom!

 

And then they make the switch. This first part is well acted, filmed, tightly edited and has tons of promise – I actually turned to my wife, smiling, and said “I think this is going to be a good one”. But then logic gets thrown out of a window, and the movie goes down the toilet.

 

Now, you might be thinking “why do you expect logic from a movie about zombies coming out of a TV?” but that’s just letting crappy low-budget movies off the hook. The more times you ask “why did X just happen?”, the more you’re drawn out of the movie, and when there’s no reason for it, it just comes across as lazy. So, to begin, the zombie TV. The local occult place is aware of it, even if they allow it to be transported by the world’s dumbest delivery company – so when the writer dies, one would assume they’d ask for it back, or at the very least it’d be taken away by the police, the estate agent or the writer’s next of kin. But no, it’s just in the attic! Did it teleport itself up there? For what purpose?

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Three months later, and a new family moves in – a woman in her late teens and her slightly younger brother. It appears the woman is going to be the star, then the movie decides to concentrate on the brother and “The Garbage Man”, who’s apparently a zombie tracking / supernatural TV set expert (even though he waited three months before trying to track the TV down)…before switching back to the woman for the last 15 minutes or so. The Garbage Man tells them the rules of the zombie game, and the movie helpfully ignores both his most important instructions.

 

First up, zombies can apparently take on human “shells” and trick us living folk. This would be an interesting idea if the movie ever used it, but it’s just mentioned once and then ignored. They sort of hint one of the main characters might be one of these zombies right at the beginning, but it’s just a red herring. Boo, movie! Secondly, zombies can’t be killed by normal weapons, but if you do enough damage to them you might trick them into thinking they’re dead. Can you then just re-bury them? Oh hell no, that would be bad, you just have to leave them lying out to let nature take it course – but when our “heroes” do this, the zombies just lay there for a few minutes, before realising they’re zombies, waking up and getting back to killing.

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What else can we add to the cavalcade of stupidity…how about the way the Garbage Man, after baiting a trap with the brother, immediately falls asleep, managing to stay that way through the sound of a shotgun blast from thirty or so feet away? Or how the brother, despite apparently being a horror movie fan, knows none of the rules? Or the way the Garbage Man prefaces the request to hang brass bells everywhere as a zombie detector with “Don’t ask me how or why, but…”

 

There’s the faintest whisper from time to time that this is a self-aware comedy, but there just aren’t enough jokes in it to warrant the description. The way the daughter handles the zombies at the end is great, but it’s a funny situation with nothing to back it up. Such a miserable shame of a movie, with an ending that manages to be deeply nihilistic and utterly pointless at the same time. And the name! I guess video shops were right at the peak of their popularity in 1987, so I understand the filmmakers were using something in the zeitgeist, an ancient and honourable tactic. But…there’s no video in it. It’s a zombie-infested TV – which I admit is splitting hairs slightly, but with such a cool title I at least wanted to see it delivered on!

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For such an extremely low budget movie (estimated cost $80,000, filmed on weekends when the cast was free over the course of a year) some of the flaws are kind-of explained. Actors would disappear for great swathes of the movie because they just weren’t available when the crew were; and the zombies themselves look excellent for the money. But it’s still boring and stupid, and you don’t need cash to avoid that.

 

Rating: thumbs down

Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)

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In Samuel Beckett’s classic play “Waiting For Godot”, Godot never shows up, a state of affairs that has left title literalists furious for decades. Sadly, “Jason Takes Manhattan” cannot live up to that magnificent standard, but it tries, as the famous island is not reached until just after the hour, and Jason’s entire time in something that looks like Manhattan (not just Vancouver, where it was mostly filmed) is about 10 seconds.

 

The opening pair of murders is a handy indication of how little anyone involved in the making of this movie cares about providing anything remotely satisfying or entertaining. A couple (topless girl, boy who keeps his jeans on – of course) are on a yacht on Crystal Lake, discussing the legend of Jason Voorhees. Before we even get started, this isn’t the only time he’s referred to as a legend, which indicates there are so many spree-killers operating in the state of New Jersey that the indestructible mask-wearing Jason isn’t even a blip on the news! Anyway…he gives a potted history of the timeline and says it happened thirty years ago…now, have a list:

 

Part 2 (1981): they discuss Jason’s story as if it’s an old campfire tale, indicating it didn’t happen the previous year.

Part 5 (1985): Corey Feldman had time to grow up from a pre-teen into an adult from the events of part 4.

Part 7 (1988): The main character is seen in flashback, just after the events of part 6, as a child, but the movie happens when she’s an adult.

 

So, despite there being less than a decade between part 1 and part 8, at least 30 years have passed – and that’s a conservative estimate. A smarter film would have made a joke about this, but unfortunately this is not a smart film. If you’re looking for stuff which isn’t just splitting hairs, the boy plays a prank on his girlfriend by dressing up in Jason’s actual mask (same axe mark from part 4 and everything), which he evidently has just lying around. Huh?

f13-part8-jason-rennieThe majority of the film takes place on a high school graduation cruise ship, going from New Jersey to New York. By the way, New Jersey is right next to New York, and the trip would take hours, indicating an overnight cruise ship as an unlikely form of transport – although, they’ve not actually mentioned the location since part 2, so it might be further away (let’s give them a little break). Your typical assortment of teen stereotypes are there; plus there’s an old guy on the boat who does the “you’re all going to die!” speech; and a couple of teachers, one of whom is also the legal guardian of Rennie, who’s probably the star (although she doesn’t get tons more screen time than anyone else).

 

So anyway, an unpleasant group of high schoolers get slaughtered on a ship for about an hour, then a few of them escape on a life-raft and get to “Manhattan”. That they’re able to row up to the island, tie up and get out without anyone noticing them indicates pre – 9/11 security was really, really lax; but that’s peanuts to Jason, who swims there and is only a few seconds behind them. He’s a man of many talents! After a brief pause for a rare mid-movie “haha all our friends are dead”, Jason takes in the city, which mainly involves filthy back alleys, sewers and a subway set. Luckily, the subway system is set to be flooded with toxic waste (why? Because reasons) and the last shot of Jason in what was intended to be the last movie in the series – yes, that’s three times these people have tried to shut this garbage down and failed – is as a naked dead child in the sewer, as that waste washed away the barnacles that had clung to him and formed the tall, adult super-murderer.

jason-takes-manhattanIt sort of gets fun in the last ten minutes or so, with Jason providing a few laughs with his interactions with the weirdoes of Times Square, but it is way too little, way too late. Jason kills a bunch of people (although why he ignores some completely innocent people but murders other completely innocent people is sadly lost to time), gets stopped forever, see you in a few years. Although most of the murders are rubbish (one with a machete looks like bad local theatre) it does feature one of the all time greats…tell you what, here’s the video (NSFW, unless you work with serial killers):

This movie is a strong indictment of Health and Safety law. If the cruise ship had had an emergency radio on it that Jason couldn’t disable by pulling out a few wires, or had registered its route, then the Coastguard would have been on hand long before they got anywhere near Manhattan. Actually, where were all the staff on the boat? No cooks, no bar staff, no cleaners, no DJ, the only people we see are the captain and his assistant. Perhaps the school could afford to rent the (enormous) ship, but not any staff to help them out? Ah, who cares.

 

Rating: thumbs down

 

(PS – thanks to my wife for the “barnacles” bit, she was making a joke about the dumb endings these films have but it ended up being as good an explanation as anything else I’ve read)

 

Video Demons Do Psychotown (1989)

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Kiss my ass, person who made this cover

Screw you, Troma. Screw you forever. I hope the tiny amount of money you made buying this film, repackaging it with a lurid title and selling it to suckers (read: fans) like me was worth it. I admire Troma’s gonzo atttitude towards filmmaking, crashing the Cannes and Sundance film festivals, making cheap and insane horror movies, but the other side of their business is rotten and every bit as bad as The Asylum or the SyFy Channel.

In case you’ve not read any of my Troma reviews before, what they’ll do is buy the rights to bargain basement horror movies, often from overseas (although this one isn’t). Then they’ll change the title to something wild and exciting, give it a bright, fun-looking video cover and release it to the world. To the dishonourable list of “Rabid Grannies” (neither rabid nor grannies) and “A Nymphoid Barbarian In Dinosaur Hell” (there are at least dinosaurs, I suppose) we can add “Video Demons Do Psychotown”, for which not one single word is true.

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I’m not even being facetious. It’s about a haunted hotel, and how the rest of the tiny town (who are all into tarot cards and suchlike, not that it makes a blind bit of difference to the movie) kills the former owner, “Murder On The Orient Express” style. A college student comes along to make a documentary about the renovation of the hotel, but his psychic girlfriend starts realising there’s a dark secret…plus, she can sense ghosts.

SCREW THIS MOVIE – the “documentary” is appallingly shot, and to pad out the running time we see them do a thing, then rewatch the footage of that thing several times when they’re back at home. One of their friends is also in the film class, and he’s done a music video, so we watch that IN ITS ENTIRETY!

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If I’d made this film, I’d have been ashamed to show it. If I was Troma, I’d have been ashamed to buy it, and then been ashamed to expect people to pay money to see it. With the endless padding (some scenes are re-watched by the cast 10 times) the air of it being a half-formed idea put out into the world with “this’ll do” is perhaps the worst thing about it. I’ll leave the final word with crew member Brett Colarik, who posted of his experience working on this movie with director Alessandro DeGaetano:

“DeGaetano is a complete moron. COMPLETE. No, let me put that another way – a thieving conceited mean-spirited moron! A liar, also. OK, can you tell I don’t like him? But he is a THIEF, that’s for sure! Let me say this real quick: NOBODY on the crew liked the jerk. He was consistently rude, obnoxious, and over-bearing (did I mention extremely conceited?), and when you combine that with a VERY VERY low I.Q., this is what you get.

DeGaetano ended up splitting town, and failed to pay everyone thousands of dollars in back-pay, owed to many of the crew.”

Rating: thumbs down

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PS – DeGaetano waited 7 years to make his next film, and that was the ISCFC-covered “Project: Metalbeast”. We sort of enjoyed that, but knowing now what a horrible guy the director was makes me retroactively like it less.

Frost Giant (2010)

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Considering I live in a place nowhere near any coast and have no naval people in my family, I’m fascinated by old-timey naval expeditions. The First Fleet to Australia, the doomed attempts to navigate the North West Passage, the “golden age” of piracy…I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading books about them all. So when I started watching this and discovered it was inspired by the journey of the Fury and Hecla in 1824, I was immediately more interested than I would have been by a SyFy Channel film with this title.

But despite an interesting concept, that title is good and misleading. Frost giants more traditionally look like this –

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– and not so much like this –

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A slightly better title would have been “Ice Alien”, which is actually a pretty cool name now I think about it. It’s not like the main baddie is all that giant, either.

In 1824, the Fury and Hecla are trying to navigate the icy wastes of northern Canada, and witness a meteor land on Earth, which has passed by Saturn and grabbed a mysterious creature on its way (it didn’t make much sense to me either). We get little bits of their story throughout the rest of the film, but it’s mostly about a scientific survey team near Fury Beach, where the original boat sank, sharing their space with scientist guy Dean Cain, who’s trying to recover the wreck of the Fury, as he’s a descendant of James Clark Ross. They do recover it, and as well as the journal of the voyage, thought lost, there’s a pretty unhappy ice alien tagging along.

The majority of the film is a bit like “The Thing”, but I suppose it’s difficult to have any ice-station-monster film without getting those comparisons. Dean Cain is the outsider to the group, and Lucy Brown is one of the scientists there, as well as being his former lover. Lucy Brown! She’s ridiculously beautiful, and has mainly worked in British TV, which is a damn shame as she’d make a fantastic lead for some smartly written US cable show about a lawyer or a doctor with a complicated private life. Or one where she gives monsters a good belting. Check this gif out from UK TV show “Primeval”:

Anyway, enough of me talking about women I have a crush on. The alien appears to be made out of ice, but kind-of isn’t, which causes problems for the crew trying to kill it. Luckily, the place is lousy with people from the extremely multi-ethnic and -national cast wanting to heroically sacrifice themselves, so it’s going to have a tough time.

There is a problem or two with the story, and the way they use history. The Fury is blown up to trap the ice alien in this film, whereas in reality it was abandoned due to damage from the ice. They had enough time to completely empty it and leave the stores on what is now Fury Beach, because when Ross came back 5 years later he was able to use those same supplies to help his new ship out. It’s not one of the great mysteries of the sea because most of the crew survived and went on to many other expeditions, but I suppose the actual history didn’t have an ice alien in it either, so I shouldn’t grumble too much.

Who takes a pool table to the Arctic?

Who takes a pool table to the Arctic?

It’s a pretty good film! Aside from the not-great alien effects, this film has clearly had some money spent on it, and the acting is strong too. There’s perhaps a smidgeon too much of people behaving as dumb as a box of rocks in order to stretch the running time, but it’s a minor price to pay for what is a fun little SyFy film.

Rating: thumbs up

The Holy Virgin vs. The Evil Dead (1991)

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Some films benefit from HD, from seeing every effect crisp and clear, from seeing expressions and the beads of sweat on a character’s brow. Others were born to be a 3rd generation VHS copy, fuzzy round the edges and hiding a multitude of low-budget sins. Judge for yourselves thanks to the wonders of Youtube, but I think this film is an ideal candidate for the second category.

As well as the title, which is surely one of the greatest in the history of cinema, the opening credits pile on the awesomeness. They’re like edited highlights of what we’re going to see, so there’s lightsaber-looking things, demons with glowing eyes, some snippets of what look like home movie footage of a garden party, and the nude ladies.

Oh, there are a lot of nude ladies in this film. More than any non-porn film really needs, to be honest, and I get the feeling someone wanted to make a “Category 3” (the famous rating in Hong Kong cinema, where they’re either virtually pornography, exceedingly violent, or both) film but chickened out at the last minute. Anyway, if you’re a fan of vaguely unhappy-looking Chinese women getting their clothes torn off, this is the film for you!

The basic gist of this film is demons and Gods and so on. The main baddie, “Moon Monster”, wants to go back to the moon and take a woman with him; his boss, God Of All Mother (it’s how his name is shown on screen) has masks for his followers which look like a bit kabuki masks with large, bushy moustaches attached, also wants a whole bunch of naked women, for some reason. A teacher investigating the death of his students at the hands of Moon Monster and his cop friends, along with a super-ass-kicking Princess and her Dad, a local village elder in Cambodia, round out the cast. I’m confused writing that paragraph out, and I watched the film last night!

The first half of the film is pretty dull, with its fairly sedate police investigation, library research, long conversations, and only rare appearances from Moon Monster (looking really good in his wide-shouldered trenchcoat, feathered hair and carefully ripped jeans). This dullness may or may not be enhanced by the extremely poor quality of the subtitles on the version I watched, where English was seemingly an afterthought. If there’s bright light on screen, or anyone is just wearing white clothing, the subtitles become invisible, which lends certain dialogue-heavy stretches a pleasingly odd quality.

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Anyway, the film kicks off when they take the investigation to Cambodia. It’s just an increasingly insane series of fights, as Moon Monster and God Of All Mother try and do whatever it is they’re doing, and our heroes try and stop them. It’s wire-fu all the way, and while it looks as silly as ever, the helping of liberal doses of gore and magic helps keep things moving.

Is this film worth watching, though? Well, it’s certainly unusual, which is almost qualification enough on its own, and Donnie Yen is always good fun to watch. But it’s just cheap, and stupid, and while I normally love cheap and stupid I just wasn’t feeling it for this film. Maybe if I’d been able to read more of the dialogue? Who knows. Anyway, it’s free so provided you’re in a good mood and don’t feel like really knowing what’s going on, there are worse choices.

Rating: thumbs in the middle

 

EDIT: Almost forgot – there are no zombies or anything that could be called “Evil Dead” in this movie, and I’m not 100% convinced “Holy Virgin” could be applied to anyone in the cast either. But “Small Town Teacher v. Moon Demon” would not be quite as catchy a title.

Boggy Creek (2010)

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1972’s “The Legend of Boggy Creek” was a pseudo-documentary about the “Fouke Monster”, a Bigfoot-esque creature which reportedly attacked a few people in Fouke, Arkansas at the time (I was about to say “it’s real”, but I just mean reports of it were in real newspapers). 1985’s “Boggy Creek 2…And The Legend Continues”, famously covered by “Mystery Science Theater 3000”, has recreations of alleged events, but is mostly a more straight monster movie. So, 25 years after the last installment, what would be a good thing to do? If you said “make a really terrible cabin in the woods movie, set in Texas with absolutely zero to do with the previous ones”, then a shiny prize is yours.

The beginning of this film is so thoroughly annoying that I need to break it down for you. Jennifer is getting over the death of her father, so asks her best friend Maya to come with her to her family’s cabin, just outside Boggy Creek, Texas, for some quiet time away from everything. So far, so good, right? But as they get to the car to set off, Maya reveals she’s decided to invite her father’s godson Dave, as he’s having a bad time and could use a holiday…oh, and he’s hot. This on its own would have annoyed me, coming from my best friend.

We then discover that Dave has taken it upon himself to invite his girlfriend Brooke along, unbeknownst to either Jennifer or Maya. What? Who does that? “Hey, honey, my godfather’s daughter’s best friend invited her to a cabin in the woods, do you want to come? Even though I have a phone and could call them to ask, I’m not going to bother”. When it’s revealed a little while into the film that Maya has also invited her own boyfriend Tommy along, again without asking Jennifer, I gave up. Could they not have figured out a less annoying way to fill a cabin with hot young actors?

The guy next door is full of portentous statements about the danger of the monsters, and Jennifer, while being plagued with flashbacks of her parents, has to suffer her friends getting eaten too. Well, the first main cast member doesn’t die til nearly the hour mark, which is a weird choice and leaves the last half-hour thick with bodies.

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Thing is, this film clearly isn’t all that cheap. Although some of the shots look like a poor-quality digital camera took them, there’s quite a lot of nice-looking footage on display, and the special effects look good too – the blood and gore is decent; and the monsters have decent make-up, looking like the weird half-human monsters they’re intended to be. Also, the entire cast can act, and pretty well too. The brilliantly named Texas Battle (Tommy) has been in “Death Valley” and spent five years on a soap, and the rest of the cast all have a decent number of credits.

The blame must, I think, lie entirely behind the camera on this one. Firstly is the use of the “Boggy Creek” name, which I think happened solely because Charles Pierce, director of the first two, died in 2010 and didn’t do the right sort of copyright-filing for his films. The film, aside from a few tiny scenes of cannon fodder getting eaten (which is confusing, as the couples we see dying all look like Dave and Brooke), for over two-thirds of its running time is a group of young adults trying to have a good time in the creeks of rural Texas. In August, which my wife reliably informs me would not get much below 30 degrees C even in the middle of the night. But whatever the temperature, nothing interesting happens!

I fear a little trip into spoiler territory is needed to explain the rest of the film’s problems. That cannon fodder I mentioned above? Their deaths are investigated by a Sheriff and his squeamish deputy, but after their couple of appearances they play no part in the last hour of the film at all. The neighbour is obviously going to be the guy who saves the day, and when it’s down to just our star and she runs into him, you think “okay, it’s been dumb up to here, at least they’re going to get this bit right”. Then she just runs off!

It’s been established that Jennifer is a decent runner – she’s seen training at several points in the film. “Okay,” you think. “That last bit where she ran away from the guy with the guns was pretty stupid, but she’s in her element now, no way the monsters are going to get her”. Think again, voice in my head who sucks at predicting the ends of movies! Running into a clearing, she sees she’s a few hundred yards away from a motorway, where cars and help will be. So what does she do? Takes a phone call from her mother (her phone apparently unable to call the police at any point), then just sort of stands there while a load of monsters emerge from the woods and carry her off, presumably for mating purposes. What?

I have to assume the film was unfinished, and they edited it the best they could after running out of money. There’s way too much of the “kids” messing about on the river, and their assorted relationship dramas, and way too little of anything to do with the monster(s). Which is a shame, because when they appear the monsters look decent – credit to the special effects people.

The only interesting thing about this movie is that it joins that legion of sequels which are absolutely nothing to do with the previous films in the series. “Halloween 3” is the most famous example, despite at least having some John Carpenter involvement; but we’ve got the “Project Shadowchaser” films, a few of the “Puppet Master” franchise, and my personal favourite, the David Hasselhoff’s-penis-featuring “H.O.T.S. 3”. Filmed in the 70s as “Revenge of the Cheerleaders”, a decade before college-raunch comedy “H.O.T.S.”, it featured uniforms roughly the same colour as the other films in the franchise, so that was enough for the producers to buy the rights to it, slap a new title on it and have it be a sequel to a film it obviously predated. Oh, and the Hoff plays a character called “Boner”.

Hey, serial killers! If you’re reading this, and need a new mission, then the crew of this movie can be found at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1493798/ . Not saying they deserve to die, but if you’re going to kill some people, why not prioritise?