Night Claws (2012)

I present to you what might be the ultimate ISCFC movie, a culmination of so many different review threads and interests that we’ve shown in our 6 years of operation (don’t worry, we’re carrying on. As long as there are weird B-movies, we’ll be here). So here goes:

Reb Brown! He was in two Bruno Mattei / Claudio Fragasso movies (“Robowar” and “Strike Commando”), an Albert Pyun movie (“The Sword And The Sorceror”), a cheap superhero movie (“Captain America”), an MST3K episode (“Space Mutiny”), and the not very great “Yor, The Hunter From The Future”.

Sherrie Rose! She’s been in teen raunch (“Lauderdale” and all-time classic “Summer Job”), martial arts movies (“No Retreat, No Surrender” parts 3 and 4), an old David A Prior movie (1992’s “Double Threat”) and a bunch of genre gems that I watched before I started working for this site and never got round to re-covering – “Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight” and the Cynthia Rothrock classic “Martial Law 2: Undercover”, to name but two.

Leilani Sarelle! After being very good in “Basic Instinct” (she was Sharon Stone’s girlfriend) she was not very good in Italian 80s horror “Neon Maniacs”.

Frank Stallone! The all-important “relative of someone much more famous” quotient of ISCFC reviews (see: Joe Estevez, Chris Mitchum, many others), he’s also been in “The Roller Blade Seven”, in the conversation for all-time worst ISCFC movie.

The “we can’t close the local festival even though there’s loads of deaths or we’ll ruin the economy” plot!

Sasquatch movie!

David A Prior! The director who’s filled our review schedule for the last six months or so.

All we’re missing is a link to Donald Farmer, Charles Band, and Len Kabasinski, and this would be at the centre of some FBI agent’s board, with bits of string going to all these other photos and genres (when they were trying to work out why I went crazy and committed those heinous acts, obviously).

Anyway, I suppose I’d better get on with it. Several different groups of people descend on the woods outside of Mobile, Alabama (which we’ve come to know and love as the budgets of Prior movies have gone down the toilet) – first up, is two couples and a guide, who’ve gone for a three-day wilderness adventure, learning to live off the land. Of interest to us is Ted Prior as Charlie and his trophy wife Cindy (Alissa Koenig, who was also in “Zombie Wars” and apparently retired from the acting game after this movie). Anyway, Charlie is, for absolutely no reason we’re ever given, a tightly wound ball of rage, threatening to murder the husband of the other couple after knowing him for about 30 seconds and nothing but wildly hostile to everyone he meets. I can’t help but think he told his brother that’s how he was going to play the character and David never bothered writing any explanation into the script.

Group two is led by Colonel Hunter Crawford, played by returning David A Prior villain David Campbell. Now, Campbell’s character has the same name and rank as his character from 1985’s “Killzone”, but whether this is a pointless Easter egg for us Prior obsessives or he just forgot is a question that we may never get answered. They’re huntin’ something!

Group three is the cops, led by Reb Brown and Sherrie Rose, who are just starting on a relationship, it would seem. I’m not sure even Alabama cops allow their deputies to wear their shirt as low-buttoned and cleavage-revealing as Sherrie Rose, but never mind. They’re accompanied by group four, which is Sarah (Sarelle), a scientist from a local-ish college, and her assistant.

All of a sudden, Bigfoot has awoken and started killing people, and that’s all the explanation we get. There’s a subplot about the real reason one of the characters is there which may or may not tie into “Killzone” (I mercifully remember almost nothing about it), but that’s about your lot.

“Night Claws” features some of the all-time worst “day for night” shots ever – when it’s very obviously daytime but the film is either underexposed or darkened in post-production to make it appear like it’s night. They even film a fire, which looks every bit as murky as the background around it, which is just lazy.

We’re also treated to a stealthy sasquatch, as the 8-foot tall, huge, hairy beast is able to get the drop on our human characters over and over again. I don’t care how naturally agile you are, if you’re that big, someone would hear you coming. And then there’s a few twists at the end which just leave you annoyed. Also high on the annoyance scale is how major characters are just killed off seemingly at random, as if the people who’d made this had no idea how drama works.

I’m genuinely delighted we’re getting to the end of this series now, dear reader. This might as well be a SyFy Channel original movie, just one with an older cast who’s slightly better at acting; I’m just annoyed now. I think I’ve found the person to blame, and that’s Fabio Soldani. He appears to be a rich kid who wanted to be a producer so threw some money at David A Prior – he also has story credits on these later movies, so I guess he went “hey David, I want you to do a sasquatch thing”. He even appears as a money man in the next Prior movie, so I may be on to something.

Anyway. Avoid, obviously.

Rating: thumbs down

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Double Threat (1992)

I had a whole thing planned for the beginning of this review based on a line from the “official” IMDB synopsis. It reads in part: “The plot becomes difficult to follow as it changes between real life and the movie they are making.” I was expecting some bonkers David A Prior film-within-a-film nonsense, like 1990’s “Invasion Force”.

But it turns out that doesn’t happen, and IMDB are lying to us. There’s a grand total of two scenes from the movie they’re working on, and it’s totally obvious that’s what it is (because the characters have different names, for one). So let’s journey through this “erotic thriller” together and see if he’s figured out how to make one by now, eh?

Anyway. Sally Kirkland, Oscar-nominated (“Anna”, 1987) and way too classy for this, is Monica Martel, an ageing movie star who’s attempting a comeback after 20 years away. We’re never informed what caused her hiatus, but she’s back, and starring in an erotic thriller alongside her much younger boyfriend Eric Cline (Andrew Stevens, “Mongolian Death Worm”...and “Dallas”, “Massacre At Central High” and tons of other things – best known now as a producer, though). When the director shows the producer what he’s got, the producer (Tony Franciosa, who was in “Tenebrae” and tons of other great things, and was also nominated for an Oscar, in 1958’s “A Hatful Of Rain”) likes it, but says there needs to be more flesh. I mean, he’s not wrong, as no-one watches this nonsense for the plot.

So they hire a body double, Lisa. She’s played by Sherrie Rose, who we first met in the extraordinary “Summer Job”, and is now something of an ISCFC regular, appearing in “Lauderdale”, “No Retreat, No Surrender 3”, and “No Retreat, No Surrender 4” (as a different character).

While Monica does not want to take her clothes off for the movie she’s making, Sally Kirkland has no such issues, and we’re treated to a scene of her masturbating to a video of Eric lifting weights, and a few topless segments later on. Anyway, she’s furious about the body double but there’s nothing she can do, so after the necessary introductions we get a love scene between Eric and Lisa which is, I have say, not how I’d film a sex scene involving a body double. I’d probably do it by filming Monica’s face in close-up looking all excited, then filming a variety of shots of the naked Lisa, but making sure her face wasn’t in shot or was obscured. They just straight-up film the scene with Lisa instead of Monica here. Regular ISCFC readers may remember Prior’s “Deadly Dancer”, which features one of the craziest uses of a body double in history, and maybe he got mocked for it so much that he decided to make it a plot point in a future movie?

There’s also a cop lurking round proceedings, played by Richard Lynch (“Invasion Force”, “Scanner Cop”, “Terminal Virus”, “Cyborg 3”, “Puppet Master 3”), who suspects Eric of some unspecified but serious crime; and the producer is immediately established as a nice guy, which is a really weird choice. He’s Lisa’s Dad and the ex-husband of Monica, which I’m ashamed to say I completely missed the first time I watched it – yes, reader, I’m thorough.

Right, I’d best get on with it, if you wanted a vague recap of the movie you could just head to IMDB. Eric is a dog from minute 1 and tries to get with Lisa, Monica suspects and Eric barely tries to pretend he’s not going to have sex with her the first chance he gets. There’s a PI sniffing round, paid by person or persons unknown, a one-scene appearance by Ted Prior as a hoodlum, and another nice hefty clue in the shape of a missing gun which is full of blanks.

Aside: Again, I’m not a director, but the movie-within-a-movie scene where Monica tries to shoot Eric but there’s no bullets is ended by the director saying they’ll have to shoot the entire thing again. Er, why? It cuts to Monica right before she pulls the trigger, why not just shoot that bit again? David A Prior, you’d been making movies for over a decade by this point, you must have been aware of that, right?

The plot lurches all over the place in the last half-hour, as people try to kill other people, and people react weirdly to being told they’re being cheated on, and there’s an extremely risky strategy to expose the real villain. You know, one of those house-of-cards plans that just needs one thing to happen in a slightly different way to bring everything crashing down. But I’ll try and avoid spoilers, even though…are you going to spend all the effort I did to track down a VHS copy of this movie and watch it? Probably not, honestly. Just ask yourself – these people appear to have known each other for some time. Would there not have been family photos lying round? Or parties that family members were invited to?

I’ll say no more. Prior shoots this like every other bland TV movie, flat lighting, scene transitions like in TV, and were it not for Kirkland going all out to make it better than it deserved to be, it would totally appear to be every late-night Cinemax soft-core erotic thriller you’d ever seen (not that I’m implying you’ve seen a lot of them, dear reader, that’s just me). There’s just a little bit too much of that thing where the movie deliberately misleads you, rather than writing a clever script, and characters when there’s no one around to fool, acting like they don’t know each other when they very much do. Still, it’s nice to see a change from Prior.

It’s also nice to see a professional cast. While I don’t love Andrew Stephens, he’s a fine leading man; Kirkland is superb; Lynch is great too; the supporting cast are all okay; and Sherrie Rose deserved a much better career than these bottom-of-the-barrel movies we love so much here at the ISCFC. The budget remains high, though, with a car getting wrecked for no reason, and actual sets to accompany the real actors he’d hired.

Next up is a movie starring David Keith, Robert Hays, Stacy Keach, Charles Napier, and…Pamela Anderson? I presume it was filmed some time before its 1994 release date, as she was among the most famous women in the world by that time, two seasons into “Baywatch”, appearing on “Home Improvement” and getting her own starring vehicles.

Rating: thumbs down