Archive for the ‘Trash movies’ Category

With the Avatar: The Way of Water in the news for hitting two billion dollars (and on the verge of unseating Avengers: Infinity War as the 5th highest grossing movie of all time) I think its about time we go all the way back to the beginning of James Cameron‘s illustrious directing career and no I’m not talking about the Terminator(1984).

You see Cameron originally began his career as a poster illustrator and the miniature model builder for non other than B-movie legend Roger Corman. He graduated to being an art director for Corman‘s probably most expensive movie at a time (still pretty modest by regular standards) Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) and more notably did special effects for John Carpenter’s Escape from New York (1981).

He continued working for Corman on movies like Galaxy of Terror but his first opportunity do direct opened up when the director for Piranha (another Corman production) sequel Piranha II: The Spawning (love the title) left the production after clashing with the producer Ovidio Assonitis. Cameron would then be upgraded from special effect director to regular director and the rest is history. Well, not quite yet- we’ll get back to you on that…

Cameron’s sketch via Icollector.com

So, the movie starts with we kid you not- an underwater sex scene. Young couple decided that it would be a good idea to do it close to a sunken US ship. As you can presume- it doesn’t end well. They get attacked by the mysterious creatures and soon there’s blood in the water.

Then we cut back to a black man called Gabbi and his son fishing using dynamite. Steve, the police officer catches them but let’s them go with a warning.

Diving instructor Anne‘s student is one of the victims, but her estranged husband Steve (Lance Henricksen) who’s a police officer refuses to let her see the body. So, naturally she decides to ignore him and break into a morgue? That’s not rational thinking, quite the opposite. Tyler Sherman, tourist who can’t stop hitting on her also tags along.

They actually manage to enter the morgue but the nurse catches them and throws them out. Unfortunately she not knowingly seals her own fate- turns out one of the piranhas was hiding inside the body!? I mean, who’s really prepared for that. It bursts from the corpse like a damn Alien and the nurse is toast.

I love how the piranha just escapes trough the window when it’s done!

Anne on the other side gets a bit more lucky. She finally accepts Tyler’s advances and has a one night stand with him. Unfortunately her estranged husband shows up, turns out she lost her credit card in the morgue/ scene of the crime.

She tries to warn him about her suspicions but he is too angry (with her having another man in her bed) to really listen.

Anne desperately tries to cancel all the diving lessons but that only gets her fired. Tyler finally confesses that he isn’t here just as tourist, he is actually a biochemist who was on the team that developed a genetically modified piranhas, capable of flying (although actual flying fish glide- not fly like the birds but that’s B-movie logic for you). He suspected the cylinder of the fish they lost is the reason for the killings and he is proven right.

Gabby’s son ends up being the victim of the piranhas too and he decides that the only way to stop them is with dynamite. Anne tries to dissuade him but there’s no changing his mind.

To make things worse the manager Raul insist annual fish fry must go on- with disastrous results.

Anne and Tyler decide that the only way to end this is of course- take all that Gabby’s dynamite (Gabby also unfortunately met his son’s fate) and blow up the ship wreckage and all the piranhas with it.

In the meantime Steve (in a police helicopter) keeps searching for their son with the who in a completely unrelated and unnecessary plot point ends up stranded with a young, hot daughter of a rich British boat owner Dumont. I mean he probably got a better deal than most of the folks in this movie.

Anne and Tyler manage to dive to the wreckage and plant the device but they end up attacked by piranhas and end u stuck in the boat with a timer on a bomb still running.Tyler doesn’t make it out and ends up eaten alive but Anne manages to reach the surface just in time. There she is helped by Steve who found the young couple so I guess- family reunited (if only Tyler didn’t have to die for that to happen)!

Verdict: this movie suffers (for better or worse) from the usual 80’s syndrome, so expect lots of crude sexual jokes, idiotic characters and nonsensical plot points that go absolutely nowhere. On the other hand they are moments where Cameron’s potential shines through, the scenes of underwater photography are masterfully done and it’s pretty incredible that we can still see some of those elements in his movies some 40 years later.

Virtually Identical!

Epilogue: After an apparent food poising in Rome and struck with a high fever, Cameron had a vivid nightmare about a chrome skeleton burning in a fire – the rest is history.

As we all may know Christmas is pretty stressful holiday for huge number of people. There are many traditions, like ripping a bottle of wine and arguing with your shitty cousin about inane things, hostility over the course of family dinner, followed by watching holiday themed horror movies while ignoring the rest of your family and so on. So this really sets you in the mood for a really depressingly wonderful Christmas Movie. If so then look no further than Christmas Evil.

This one’s pretty straightforward so I’ll get right to it. The year is 1947. It is Christmas eve. A kid named Harry is traumatized when he sees his mom and dad getting it on whilst his dad is in full Santa garb (Santa performing oral on Mommy). Really ruined it for him. Also it doesn’t help that his brother did not believe in Santa. So Harry runs away to the attic where he intentionally cuts himself on piece of broken snow globe. I guess this is intended to represent his rebelion towards Santa. Flash forward takes us to present day (aka 1980) and adult Harry (played by Brandon Maggart) is in some middle management role at a toy company that makes Christmas toys. He’s also obsessed with Santa. Like really obsessed. Like spies on the neighborhood children and keeps a Santa-esque book of who’s naughty and nice, crazy. He even sleeps in Santa pajamas. You can sort of see where this is going.

She has been very naughty

While Harry takes great pride in his workmanship, wanting to make toys that some girl or boy will love for years, he finds his co-workers to be lazy wage slaves who think he is a fool and a sucker for working so hard. When he is promoted off the assembly line to a desk job, he finds the management is more concerned about the bottom line than the quality of the toys. Thats when he snaps. Harry dons his Santa suit, paints his van to look more like slay and makes the rounds of the city, distributing toys to deserving people.

Ive never felt better!

As good people get presents so naughty people get punishment. And where can you find wrong doers on Christmas eve? In church, of course! So Harry dispense some justice with sharp toys and an axe! Next, he comes back to his company Christmas party dressed as a Santa where he dances and sings and has a time of his lifetime like he hasn’t had killed bunch of people 10 minutes ago. He distributes some presents and leaves the place. Of course, none of his coworkers recognized neither Harry nor the toys he had stolen from the very same factory.

Christmas is not over yet so Harry visits home of his greedy coworker Frank (played by Joe Jamrog). He couldn’t quite fit through the chimney so he had to resort to other of Santa’s many feats – lockpicking. He leaves presents for Frank’s children while Frank himself receives death from decorational star from Christmas tree, all next to sleeping wife who doesn’t suspect anything. The police, meanwhile, based on eyewitness accounts, are also making the rounds of the city arresting every Santa they find. Why not play safe?

Meanwhile, Harry’s brother Philip (played by Jeffrey DeMunn) suspects something is wrong since Harry has never ditched him for Christmas before. His doubts arouse even more after watching news regarding church massacre. Harry comes by Philip’s house later that evening and confronts him, blaming his brother for everything because Philip said he didn’t believe in Santa when he was 6. Things get out of control and Philip strangles Harry. Believing he killed his brother he drags his corpse and place it into the van. Harry wakes up, notably angry, and gives pedal to the metal. Just in that moment angry lynch mob shows up and, while avoiding them, Harry drives off the bridge. But that’s not all! Instead of falling to his death his van flies off towards the Moon while Christmas music is playing in background in one of the most confusing endings in cinema history.

Conclusion: While the movie is considered a slasher flick (which it is to an extent) I think that it is more appropriate to call it a psychological thriller as it is more focused on Harry going crazy and that is where we can see Brandon Maggart’s brilliant performance. Director Lewis Jackson has to thanks only him that the movie wasn’t pissed on the moment it premiered. I really don’t agree with John Waters on Christmas Evil being “The best Christmas Movie ever made” (we all know it is Die Hard). I mean, there are almost no dialogues, most of the movie we listen to Harry talking to himself and humming Christmas carol. The sound design is shitty, especially at the beginning of this film. As for the effects it looks and sounds horrible for most of the film’s runtime. Still, I recommend seeing this movie if you’ve exhausted your other holiday-themed options.

Despite all odds James Nguyen (Birdemic: Shock and Terror) is back!

I still remember people trying to turn him away from further Birdemic movies an try to help him start a more reputable movie career but he would not be deterred. This is a man with a vision.

Close to seven years ago now- he said he plans to (first) film Birdemic 3: The Sea Eagle (and then sell the reboot rights) and by Golly he did it! After the second movie that leaned more into self- parody territory this finally looks to be a classic, earnest Nguyen doing his damnedest to save the world (mostly from the CGI birds but still). And it even has the original Birdemic alum Alan Bagh (now sporting a more hippie, bearded look).

“We have to do something about this damn global warming”

With distribution by Severin Films it seems like this one will get a surprisingly solid release– well, for this type of a movie. And the world premiere is just around the corner, it will be on this year’s Fantastic Fest (22-29 September). I for one missed these (exploding) CGI birds, it’s been a while.

You can say whatever you want about Mr. Nguyen but he’s a prime example that passion and blind determination can take you places.

Despite the fact that he doesn’t age like other human beings Chuck Norris just turned 82 (yeah, can’t believe it myself) and we felt the need to commemorate the occasion with an appropriate top list!

And as you can expect from the WM Crew we will concentrate on one for the most neglected, forgotten and outright ignored part of his illustrious career. That’s, you guessed it- Chuck Norris‘s very own animated cartoon series- Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos (1986)!

Produced during the height of Saturday morning cartoons and with Norris hitting his Cannon stride (with Invasion U.S.A. & The Delta Force) it was seemingly a perfect match. 5 episode mini-season was animated by the veterans Ruby- Spears ( Scooby-Do, Thundarr The Barbarian and my favorite Rambo: The Freedom Force ).

It stars Chuck Norris as (of course) Chuck Norris, a government agent who works with a team of operatives which consist of Pepper (tech support), Reed (her brother), Kimo ( a samurai), Tabe ( sumo wrestler) and (a tagalong kid) Too Much. Spoiler, he really is too much.

As you can see at least two members of the team are entirely disposable .

They fight the evil forces of VULTURE led by the genuinely cool bad guy- The Claw and his henchman , ruthless Super Ninja.

Now that you’re up to speed , without further ado we present you this ultimate list in the descending order:

05. TERROR TRAIN

Chuck and the Kommandos are tasked with protecting a robot laser while its being transported and naturally the Claw wants a peace of that. Super Ninja ends up planting an explosive device on the train and Chuck must act quickly to save both the laser and the unsuspecting civilians. Unfortunately the train proves surprisingly easy to get on and off from and the episode ends up loosing all the momentum because of it. It ends up being like a cartoon version of the Steven Seagal’s Under Seige 2: Dark Country just much, much worse. If you want to start watching Karate Kommandos don’t start with this one.

04. ISLAND OF THE WALKING DEAD

The Claw is (again) attempting to to gain control of the whole country by bringing down the US satelite (with the plan to reprogram it and use it to control military bases). Unexpectedly satellite ends up in a Voodoo Island (of all places) and Chuck and co. must faces and evil Witchdoctor and his army of the Walking Dead to get to it. Now the premise is kinda fun but of course the team gets easily captured and Chuck basically must do everything himself. The only thing stopping him is a Chuck Norris voodoo doll the Witchdoctor produces (they should have sold that as a toy too) but not even magic can defeat Karate and Chuck Norris manages to save the day, and blow up a volcano destroying all the evil creatures on the island. They were all dead anyway, at least most of them.

03. DEADLY DOLPHINS

Chuck Norris and his comrades are helping a scientist named Dr. Sanford test experimental equipment that would enable people to breathe underwater by (somehow) converting water into oxygen. The Claw sends Super-Ninja and also a female VULTURE operative named Angelfish (great design with a classic Femme Fatale hair across the eye) to kidnap Dr. Sanford and break into Sealab. It’s up to Norris’ team to defend them both.

02. TARGET: CHUCK NORRIS

Second best and coincidentally also the second episode in the order of release. Target: Chuck Norris has our favorite recurring villain- the Imposter! As the name states he is master of disguise yet he’s always recognizable by his thick New York accent! As you might imagine, that can pose a bit of a problem.

Hired by CLAW after unsuccessful bid to steal a computer chip that would gain him control over NATO’s defenses. Impostor sets up a couple of traps first, a ludicrous ambush on a gas station and then on a fancy dinner (I especially like his bartender disguise).

Greatest spin- kick of all time!

Things don’t quite work out and Chuck Norris survives but Super-Ninja gets away with Chuck’s irritating kid sidekick Too-Much. The only logical follow up is Chuck leading the pursuit in a plane that he just randomly took from some man (only thing he had to do was say- “I am Chuck Norris” and there was no resistance).

Of course the plan devolves into Super- Ninja kidnapping Too Much and Chuck Norris Of course it all ends with an Impostor almost getting away dressed as a Grandma. No, I’m not making
this up!

01. MENACE FROM SPACE

The ultimate episode because Chuck not only fights alligators (and defeats one of them by simply stashing him up in a closet) but he ends up fighting Super-Ninja on a Space Station in almost 0 gravity.

Unfortunately devious Ninja finds a way to escape but still, you’ll never find those elements together again (unless someone decides to make Alligators in Space film). I can watch this one over and over again.

Honorable mention: Chuck Norris’s sage (live-action) life advice. Often it has nothing to do with just happened in the episode, even though he does give it his all.

I mean you can’t help but be motivated.

Verdict: If you like 80s craziness (and I would say a lot of people do these days) than this is a show for you. It’s so ridiculous and over the top that Adult Swim would wish they thought of it first (and they did run reruns of it). Voice acting is perfect and the fact that Chuck Norris isn’t really capable of showing emotions is perfectly balanced with Keone Young as Super Ninja who’s at times so over the top he would make Nicolas Cage jealous.

The only things that’s a bit baffling to me is the fact that for a show that puts action first- Martial Art scenes are pretty clunky. And that could have been easily solved- if you look at even older productions like He-Man , they used rotoscoping for a few key action scenes and they would just re- use it over and over again. If you watched any of Chuck Norris’s films he basically uses couple of combination over and over again (like 1-2- backfist or 1-2 and a spin- kick) and that would be so easy to animate.

On the other hand the real selling point of any cartoon is Action Figures! And boy- we got some awesome ones:

Tell me you didn’t want these as kid, I dare you!

Trivia: Besides these super- awesome toys (any funds donated to the WM page may be appropriated to buy some off eBay) we also got Karate Kommandos in comics. Marvel’s kid label Star Comics produced a short 4 issue run of Karate Kommandos and shockingly they didn’t get some random no- name artist to do the job- nope, they got freaking co- creator of Spider-Man and Dr. StrangeSteve Ditko himself! How that happened I’ll never understand.

Then why did we never get more than 5? Here’s what Chuck had to say: “We only did 5 then the woman in CBS said these are too violent. I said what do you mean they are too violent, do you see what’s on TV now? This is good guys versus bad guys. She said yeah, but you’re a real person, so it’s too violent”.

I can’t believe we missed out on more Karate Kommandos just because Chuck Norris is a real person. This never happened to Santa!

Now with HBO Max in full swing and WB producing a lot more animation, maybe we could finally get that second season? We only waited 35 years for it.

Well, another lousy year is behind us and so we are bringing another lousy review of lousy movie. Genre holiday movies are always fun. Comedy Christmas movies are the obvious genre (see under Don’t open till Christmas), but horror Christmas movies are the next logical choice (see under The Thing). To All a Goodnight continues a nice line of below average holiday horror attempts.

As it is usual set up for such low effort horror atempts here we got bunch of dumb teens as well, ready to die just for our entertainment. This set up takes place in all girls school somewhere in California. Of course, young sluts jumped to opportunity to invite some guys over to Christmas party since the proprietor Mrs. Calvin won’t be there for a weekend. They even drugged their housekeeper Mrs. Jensen (played by Katherine Herrington) so they could whoring in peace. One of the girls Cynthia (played by Lisa Labowskie) was too horny to wait for party so she decides to sneak out in order to meet with Paul who was already waiting for her under the window. As you can guess both of them met only death. Hey rules are simple: no boys and no leaving the grounds without a permit.

Couple of moments after murders, into one of the girls’ rooms busts Ralph (played by Buck West), a strange looking huge guy who seems to be school gardener and religious nutcrack. Hm does this qualify him as potential murderer? I guess we are going to find out during a course of this movie. Ralph really likes shy and introvert Nancy (played by Jennifer Runyon) while other girls are constantly making fun out of him. Anyway, the boys have arrived by private plane and two of them are dressed as Santa Clause. Why am I pointing this out? Because both Trisha (played by Angela Bath) and her boyfriend Tom (played by Solomon Trager) got killed the following evening by person dressed as Santa Clause. Thats foreshadowing for ya all.

The next couple who is going to “retire earlier” to bed are Sam (played by Denise Stearns) and Blake (played by Jeff Butts). After bit of courting and playing “catch me if you can” two of them fall in passionate lovemaking in the middle of living room. Well their passion must have awoken something larger (no pun intended) since shortly after they were both slain by walking knight armor! With a crossbow! If you don’t believe me then take a look at this:

Number of people being killed seems to doesn’t bother the rest of the characters who spend the next day sitting around the place and planning picknick. Group’s geek Alex (played by Forrest Swansen), having lost his virginity previous night with Melody (played by Linda Gentile), gets sudden burst of selfconfidence and starts chasing Nancy around the grounds. Nancy, being shy as she is, runs around giggling until she trips over Ralf’s body which, with no explanation, rises up in sitting position and stays that way. I guess Ralf wasn’t the killer after all. Seriously, this is my favorite scene in the movie.

Ralf’s unexpected demise was a sign that someone finally should alert authorities. Young detective Polansky (played by Sam Shamshak) arrives with two helpers and states that there might be more victims. Lets try to see a bigger picture from his point of view: There is already one body found and several of other guests are gonne missing. Elementary, my dear Watson. So he orders his helpers to scout the grounds and be on lookout. This whole situation doesn’t seem to bother Mrs. Jensen who started dinner going soon after she learned Ralf’s fate. Hm maybe cooking is her way to deal with the stress. Plus she stated that she feels safe now with the police arround. It turns out that it was false belief since both of detective’s helpers were dispatched by killer Santa the following night. One of them was axed and another one died while being on the biggest slut in the group Leia (played by Judith Bridges). She is soon to follow the same fate. Which leaves us with remaining couples. Melody, after deflowering the geek, now jumps on group’s hunk T.J. (played by William Lauer) who again had a thing going with Leia. Both Melody and T.J. weren’t lucky enough to score this night as well since the evil Santa litteraly fished poor T.J. from the tree above.

Bodies and severed heads now started showing up everywhere around. Alex tries calling the police but, of course, all the lines are cut off. I really don’t know why people even bother trying to do that in such movies. Phones are never working in such situations. On the other side of the house Alex and Melody find Leia, who has clearly lost her mind, dancing in the dark. I don’t know why the killer spared her. She was naked and having sex with the police guy. If thats not a red flag then I don’t know what it is. Anyway, all of 3 them confront the killer and it turns out it was mild-mannered Mrs. Jensen the whole time. She rambles something about her dead daughter and how they pushed her off a balcony. That must have been some previous group of sluts. Melody runs for help, Leia is of no use since she is nutty as a fruitcake which leaves poor Nancy to deal alone with ravaging woman. Nancy manages to subdue her by hitting her head with some sort of figurine. And that should wrap it all up, right? Wrong! You see, Melody went after pilot (played by Dan Stryker) for help. He was there the whole time guarding the plane and sleeping under it in a sleeping bag. As it happens the plane doesn’t work and it needs a quick fix. Of course, the killer won’t miss this opportunity to dispose both of them by starting the engine and letting a propeller to do the rest.

What killer, I can hear you ask. Hasn’t Nancy delt with her? Believe me, I was confused as much you are. Mrs. Jensen turned out to be a tough nut to crack. She starts chasing Nancy with a knife around the house until Nancy finally throws her off a balcony. What a poetic justice. Now it is all finally over. Wrong again! As Nancy was crying in relief another Santa brings in Mrs. Jensen’s body behind her. That another Santa is none else than detective Polansky, who turned out be Mrs. Jensen’s husband and grieving father. What a plot twist! He advances on Nancy but then out of nowhere geek Alex shows up and finishes him with a crossbow. Yup the same crossbow. Another poetic justice. Alex and Nancy storm out of the house leaving Leia behind them to dance on a balcony as a living memorial of the events that occured. The end

Nerd’s revenge

Conclusion: The cast is rather weak, and it really makes you question how this school survives. There are very few students, they appear to be from all over the globe with different accents, and the school is “isolated”. Nancy is the school’s “good girl” who is obviously going to be the final girl from the start. The “nice guy” Alex beats the geek victim tradition and makes it to the end to be a hero (probably because he loses his virginity). To All a Goodnight underwhelms. The plot falls in the classic “someone was killed in an accident and someone wants revenge” like Friday the 13th, The Burning, Prom Night (though it does predate them), and you know that the deaths relate to it. The gore and guts aren’t as hardcore as later slashers so you hope that the film would have more style. Some of the later films following Halloween have creative ways of telling a cliché story, but To All a Goodnight isn’t one of them.

Movie starts with a trio of (ethnically diverse) fighters that are demonstrating their deadly abilities. After an OK from a stern looking Madam Lee (Mari Honjo) they are taken to a darkened room where they are injected with some sort of a super- serum.

Ron Marchini, Michael Chong & Joshua Johnson

They get going right away, disposing off criminals left and right, first by ramming a tractor in a phone booth, then continuing with a car into the Italian restaurant and then big finale- attacking a Karate school (that’s a front for a drug dealing operation I believe).

Unfortunately they are all yellow belts.

’cause Death Machines are many things but Ninjas they aren’t. Silent and deadly approach just doesn’t work for them. They get in with as big BANG as they can. It would be a fair fight but I guess most of the Karate students are beginners so Machines start beating them like rented mules.

Madame uses their killing spree (and a basket with a decapitated head) to convince the main Mobster Mr. Gioretti (Chuck Katzakian) that they are only game in town if you need someone offed.

Things get complicated when it turns out that the blonde dude from the Karate Dojo Frank survived and they send the White Machine (Ron Marchini) to silence him. He ends up in the police custody but the concerned detective uncuffes him and whole hell gets loose!

Damn, there goes the police station!

After a hard days work Marchini goes to a restaurant to get a hamburger but ends up in the fight with some idiotic bikers. When we think that he finally has no more energy to keep fighting the rest of the Machines show up and clean up the place.

In the meantime Frank Thomas (John Lowe) goes back to the dojo where he got his hand cut off. Now if this was a Hong Kong flick he would dedicate himself to training and become stronger than ever. Hell, maybe he would be punching his opponents with a cool metal fist! No such luck here.

He is just super depressed and the only person who seems to care is his nurse who might be nice or just a stalker (jury still out on that). One of the most entertaining scenes is our hero Thomas taking his nurse to the seedy bar where he works. And I mean seedy enough that it has a stripper that dances next to the jukebox, every time the music plays.

An old drunk man punches out the owner, than the bartender and then demolishes the whole place (with a little help from a local biker dude) and then I guess goes somewhere else to continue his complete rampage. And no one can stop him!

I want a spin-off movie of this dude!

Beaten and even more depressed Thomas decides to leave town (with his nurse ofc) but they actually ran into Machine’s car- he writes down the license plate, sends the nurse to call the police and goes after them.

Madam Lee decides that Machines have become a liability and they need to die but that’s easier said than done. Thomas follows the car to her mansion and almost gets his head chopped off with a katana by Lee- but police arrives just in time to save him.

May be an image of 1 person

And Death Machines- they just got away with everything- they a re last seen at the airport. Remember kids if you’re bad-ass enough police won’t ever catch you.

Verdict: This movie defies the norms by not actually having a main character. It’s actually very hard to classify Frank Thomas (John Lowe), as a protagonist. I mean he is a Karate yellow belt with a dead- end job and gets destroyed by everyone in every fight, from the titular “Death Machines” that’s to be expected, but by an old man an a woman too. That’s a bit too much. His only win was that he got and he successfully tipped off police.

Also we never find out what happened to the mysterious bearded figure that actually provided the super- serum for those killers. PS Jon T. Benn from The Way of the Dragon would have been a great choice.

The distributor bizarrely decided to present this as a SF movie (like Martial Arts weren’t a thing in the 70’s) which couldn’t be further from the truth-but hey I do like the poster with the evil tower buildings showing their teeth.


Trivia: Marchini was a well known name in the Karate circles in the 60’s and interestingly Chuck Norris earned his first martial arts tournament victory by defeating Marchini in the finals by a half a point. Marchini would go out to have a movie career for decades being lead in movies such as Karate Cop, Omega Cop and generally any movie that has Cop in it. Also some with Ninja in it too.

This wretched year has finally come to an end and although WM crew wasn’t very active during it’s course (we were forced to get real jobs due to lack of donations), we felt we should celebrate upcoming new year our style with this Canadian gem. And no, in case you already heard of it, this isn’t underrated as many people would say it is. In fact, looking at IMDB rating we would say it is greatly overrated.

We have a young couple Jenny (played by Riva Spier) and Marty (played by Murray Ord) on holiday in some snowy mountain region of Canada, accompanied by a sluttish friend of theirs Chrissy (played by Sheri McFadden) who has the hots for the man. One day they are out on their jet-skis when suddenly their machines pack out!! Oh no!! Luckily for them, there’s a long abandoned old hotel nearby, presided over by a mad Native old bat (played by Georgie Collins) with two sons. There’s one can of food in the entire place, but the group sings songs by the fire and makes the best of the situation they’re in, all the while wondering if people from their own lodge were out looking for them. Something isn’t right with the old lady and her son is never around, either. There go the plans for the party. Soon enough, Chrissie goes missing (of course, we know she’s had a little accident with someone’s blade and her delicate throat in the scene that resembles the popular shower scene from Psycho) and the one working snowmobile has been tampered with. With waist-high snow, a pounding blizzard and no transportation, Marty and Jenny are stuck in the place. Now the party can begin.

It is quite obvious that director Jim Makichuk was attempting to make his own cash-in of The Shining. The problem is that, apart from creeby scenery and music by Paul Zaza (Prom Night, Curtains) he didn’t have any actual plot here. Anyway, as strange things begin to happen, Jenny stumbles upon a book of Native legends and reads about the “windigo”, a giant spirit of the North that feasts on human flesh and the keeper that makes sure it’s fed because of an ancient power. In that moment old lady’s son starts chasing her and ends up impaled on a fence, cheerfuly swinging on it as a gentle breeze and blizzard are moving his body back and forth.

Seeing corpse on a fence Marty completely loses his mind (you might say he is as mad as a blizzard) and starts accusing Jenny of murdering Chrissy and the other guy. He decides then to take a stroll alone through woods. Meanwhile, back at the hotel, local storekeeper (played by Les Kimber) arrives just in time for his own death. You guess it, old lady butchers him. Jenny is back at the hotel too. She finds a shotgun and confronts old lady. In a heartbraking plot twist it turns out that old bat is Jenny’s long lost mother and had been taking care of Windigo (who is also her son). Jenny shoots her and apparently gets possessed by old lady’s madness. Jenny finds Windigo locked away in some basement room and promises she is going to take care of him from now on. She takes over the hotel as the new Ghostkeeper. Oh right, and Marty sits somewhere in woods frozen to death.

Conclusion: Taking its premise from the North American Indian legend of the Wendigo (or “Windigo,” as Ghostkeeper spells it), a Northwoods-dwelling, flesh-eating monster that is one of the country’s only mythical beasts, the film promises a uniquely nationalistic creature feature, but never quite unfolds that way, eventually getting lost in the snowy wilderness itself. There’s a few problems with the pacing as the characters walk around too much and make several boneheaded mistakes. It’s not so bad until it all unravels and you realize that you’re in for a dumb twist and a hairy guy in a cellar who effectively does nothing. Given its potential for creating a distinctive Canadian horror film, it’s hard to classify Ghostkeeper as anything but a spectacular failure.

Last night I decided to watch Marvel’s X-Men anime, one of the number of Marvel collaborations with the legendary Japanese Animation Studio Madhouse (Ninja Scroll, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust).

Their dark and violent approach proved to be a pretty good fit with the X-Men comics but then I remembered that this wasn’t really the beginning of Marvel’s work with the Japanese Animation. Actually in the 1980 Marvel produced two feature length adaptation of their Horror line, first one being an adaptation of their popular The Tomb of Dracula comic by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan that ran for 70+ issues (and spawned now world famous Vampire Hunter Blade) called Dracula: Sovereign of the Damned. That adaptation can also be called Madhouse but for a more literal reason.

Movies starts like any other horror with outer Space!? (I guess The Howling 2 had that too.) Oh, yes- we have a narration that informs us about forming of the planets and one such planet is Earth. This might explain things- movie was made for Aliens! Then they zoom into Europe and Dracula’s castle in Transylvania just to inform us that he is no longer there because he had to constantly deal with the Vampire Hunters. So, like any other reasonable person he fled to Boston. Makes sense to me!

But in Boston some strange things are afoot. We are shown a satanic ritual in progress that as it is customary involves chanting and sacrificing a virgin. Now, in a strange twist of fate instead of Satan, creature of darkness that appears is actually Count Dracula but the followers guess not knowing any better (or thinking “good enough”) just give him the girl! He instead of bleeding the girl dry falls in love with her (without her even waking up) and goes out to bleed some other poor girl to death.

Dracula Attacks!

Day later news start reporting on a series of strange murders that happened. Frank Drake seems interested for some reason. He receives a call from a mysterious woman who dares call him by his original last name- Dracula! Turns out he is the descended of the human line of Dracula and gets pretty angry when someone confronts him about.He does go on a meeting with a woman and her elderly father in a wheelchair- but that father turns out to be Hans (not Quincy as it is in the comics) Van Helsing, continuing his family tradition of tracking Dracula down. He also has a nice tan for an old man. Now he wants Drake to join him as his newest Vampire Hunter but not before testing him with an old cane- blade!  Props for Rachel pushing his wheelchair faster and faster- what a team!

If only he could move some other way beside the straight line.

Satanist learn that their master is really angry ’cause he never received his gift– but he also tells them to wait a while for their revenge. He’s definitely plotting something.

While Hellsing’s team still searches for him without any results Dracula actually marries the girl Dolores and they even get a cute son- Janus! Satanists of course offer to baptize the child in a Black Mass and put in under the protection of Satan. Of course it is all a trap and the cult leader uses shining crosses and a gun loaded with silver bullets. Dracula turns into fog to escape but the leader accidentally shoots the child!? Damn, the Japanese really show no mercy! Dracula kills him but then gets ambushed by Hellsings, I mean his day just goes from bad to worse. He narrowly escapes leaving his wife in tears holding the body of their child. He really is a terrible person.

After his disappearance we move to New York, New York– mustachioed idiot picks up a sexy Redhead Layla in a discotheque. Well, it turns out she is the vampire! Can’t say I feel to bad for him. Back in Boston we see Dolores mourning on the graveyard just to witness some sort of act of God. Janus is suddenly resurrected and aged up into some kind of Angelic Vampire Hunter. Dracula tries to interfere but fails miserably. This Dracula is a bit of a loser.

 

New super-hero-like Janus attacks his father but after a short altercation Dracula runs away. Dracula then confronts Satan himself and manages to get strip off his powers. Now left being a mere mortal he steels the money from a homeless person to buy a hamburger.

 

See how happy he is! You could have ended the whole movie right there.

Now that he is just a mortal he decides to begs other vampires like lady vampire Layla.  to turn him back which lead him back to his home in Transylvania. Interesting how he wanted to be human but when he got what he wanted he was ready to do anything just to be a vampire again. I guess grass is always greener on the other side. There he finds a Vampire named Sir Tomo usurped his title and refuses to give it up and Dracula has to fight some Zombies? He also uses a cross to save some orphans, so he’s a good guy now?  Old man Harker doesn’t give a damn about all of that and blows himself and Dracula both. Janus returns to his crying mother and they vow to make a clean start together. The End

 

Verdict:  It might not be the best but Dracula sure is the first long- form animated movie based on the Marvel property so it definitely has some historical value despite it’s
undoubtable trash- movie value.

Somewhere in the English to Japanese to English translation some wires got crossed and even after re-watching it for this review I am still not quite sure what I saw. Best guess is- Toei got a plot in English, they did their thing with it (not really understanding the Western culture at all) and then in the states when Harmony Gold tried to fix things with new dialogue and dubbing they somehow managed to make things even more bat-shit crazy!

If nothing else this movie gave us this iconic shot of Dracula eating a hamburger. You sure won’t find this in other Dracula movie!

                 

Highlander II: Quickening  is what happens when you try to think of a (pseudo)scientific explanation for something that’s clearly mythological.

Movie starts with NASA– like launch of a protective Dome over the whole planet that’s supposed to help protect us instead of the failing Ozone layer (early 90’s were big on Climate Alarmism just like the present). For some unknown reason Connor MacLeod is leading he project.

Now the consequence of this is that the world is plunged into eternal darkness and it’s always 37.2 °C so he might have just made things even worse?

Decades later old man Connor watches the opera and he remembers his previously unknown past on I kid you not- planet Zeist! (Yes they wasted no time in trying to burn the franchise to the ground) You see 500 years ago he and Ramirez led a failed rebellion- against their ruthless ruler- General Katatana (and if the name is not over the top enough he is played by Michael Ironside too).

Katana condemns them to be reborn on a another planet where they will stay eternally young and strong and fight for the right to return to war-torn dusty hell that’s Zeist? I’m not really sure Katana grasps the concept of crime and punishment.

“Oh, no it’s the Plantet Zeist flashback!”


So, Connor manages to murder the goons, regain his youth and have a go at it with a sexy scientist Louse right there on the street in what seems to be no more than 2 minutes. I understand he didn’t want to waste any time after being a decrepit old man for so long but still- that does seem a bit excessive!


Then if that wasn’t enough Ramirez resurrects himself for no reason whatsoever (right in the middle of Shakespearean play too), well no reason beyond the fact he was paid incredible 3 million dollars for a cameo appearance (less than a week of work) and producers tried to milk it for all that it’s worth.

Every time you say “Alas, poor Yorick…” Sean Connery magically appears!

Ironicaly one of the producers actually ended up marring actress from the now infamous “face sitting joke” airplane scene she had with Connery. I’m genuinely not sure what to make of that.

You were a part of one of the worst cinematic scenes in movie history, will you marry me?”
                                                

Katana disappointed with the fact that he actually helped Connor by sending those idiots decides to go to planet Earth himself to finish the job. He actually transports himself directly into a moving train and causes a bit of a ruckus. Once on Earth he threatens Connor but then proceeds to team up with the leader of the evil corporation controlling the Shield. I mean- who doesn’t want to go corporate?

Ramirez surprises rejuvenated Connor and they decide to help Luise break into The Shield Corporation to finally prove that the world doesn’t have to live in a eternal darkness and despair. You see Ozone layer actually repaired itself years ago so it seems Connor’s environmental overreaction cost billions of people their life quality and even their freedom.

They infiltrate the compound by being shot by the guards multiple times and then ressurecting when they drag them inside (the only semi- clever thing anyone has done in this movie) but they end up being stuck in the ventilation. Ramirez sacrifises himself AGAIN when giant fan almost rips them to pieces and Connor finally reaches Katana.

After defeating and beheading Katana Connor has a quickening that causes the overload of the shield and finally frees the humanity. We hear the Connery quote from just few minutes ago and all is well the world. Of course it would be even better if none of this has happened in the first place but it is what it is.

Verdict: What’s interesting is that from the plot standpoint Highlander 2 is full of characters who would actually better achieve their goals just by doing nothing at all and waiting things out for a bit.That is pretty much the exact opposite of what you are trying to achieve when writing any kind of a story!

So in a way that Highlander 2: Quickening has actually stood a test of time- is as a classic case of what no to do. Like- don’t completely change the genre, don’t ignore the rules you set up in the first one, and for God’s sake- don’t start the movie with the previously unmentioned planet Zeist!

The fact that you actually had a solid cast, beautiful looking sets, great cinematography and lots of neat practical effect didn’t help at all. With so many catastrophic mistakes in the early phases of development things only got worse and worse (and the choice to film in Argentina proved to be  the straw the broke the camel’s back).

Now the director Russell Mulcahy did return to the movie with a Renegade Version where he restored more of his original vision for the movie and completely removed any mention of the planet Zeist which by itself made the movie at least 70% better.

But I do find it unfortunate that most of today’s DVD’s and BluRays actually use the Renegade Cut because this movie is such a perfect case of what not to do and I think some of the modern directors working in Hollywood now should take the time to study it and see if they are making some of the same mistakes.

Trivia: Economic collapse of Argentina right in the middle of filming had almost catastrophic effect on the movie. Movie’s budget ballooned and almost doubled and investors started to  take control of the final product thus making it more nonsensical by the day. If you are interested you can see more information about filming in this mini- documentary:

 

And remember most importantly, beware of the dark haired ladies, they…

 

 

 

Charles Laughton directed once. Shame. So did Brando. Tragedy. Presumably Rospo Pallenberg, director of this tension-free 80s “whodunnit” slasher, realized that he and talent were but distant pen pals and laid down the megaphone. Praise be! As for the movie itself, it is cheesy 80s black comedy which fails at being either of those two things.

The film opens with a paperboy delivering newspapers. A paper is delivered to Paula Carson’s (played by cute girl from Stepfather, Jill Schoelen) house. Paula is approached by her father, Bill (played by Martin Mull), who is the district attorney, on his way to a hunting trip. He warns Paula to do her homework, not to allow boys in the house, and most importantly not to cut class (as it might prove deadly). Paula then puts the newspaper in the bin, showing its headline: “Boy who killed father released from Mental Asylum.” What a time to go hunting ducks! Anyway, Bill Carson drives to the swamps for his hunting trip. As he takes shots into the air, someone is hiding nearby and holding a bow and arrows. The person calls over to Bill  and fires an arrow into him. Bill cries out and then falls down to the ground, presumably dead. But more of that later.

Hunter has  become the hunted

Meanwhile, Dwight Ingalls (played by Brad Pitt) shows his lousy driving skills by almost causing two car accidents on his ride to school where he gets teased by friends for not knowing what is H20. Later, after gym class, Paula  walks past a set of bow and arrows and notices a leaf hanging off one of the arrow.She picks the leaf off. Clue already? Anyway, later she meets with her friend Colleen (played by Brenda James) and her boyfriend Dwight at a hot dog stand. Dwight then goes to buy Paula a hot dog, but he is beaten by Brian (played by Donovan Leich) who hands her one and says, “You had that look.” Dwight and Brian then have man to man talk. It turns out they used to be friends until Brian went to mental institution. Could Brian be that creepy kid from newspapers? My hunch tells me he just might be.

Ars gratia artis

That evening Dwight tried to score at Paula’s place but she wouldn’t give him until he improves his grades. Really odd condition. But he is not the only one who wants to score. The principal Mr. Dante (played by Roddy McDowall) seems to be perv since he invited Paula to his office in order to give her a present, which he deliberately placed on the floor so he could see her underpants from his hiding place after Paula bents over. Really nice view. Oh yes, and meanwhile someone burned art teacher in school’s clay oven, but spooky janitor will clean up that. Never mind that, lets get back to the view:

What a view

Paula starts hanging around with Brian, despite Dwight’s disapproval. Wanting to expose Brian, Dwight sneaks into the school at night together with Paula, Colleen and Gary (played by , where they find school records. It turns out that Brian is cannibal and was treated with electroshocks. But they didn’t notice Brian who is following them and hiding behind a water dispenser. Seems Brian is not the only one who like hide and seek. Tomorrow, at school basketball game Gary was hiding under retractable stands and looking under skirts. Colleen joins him just to find out she and Gary are not alone. Killer is there too and he disposes off them quickly with a knife. More blood for spooky janitor to clean.

Shot of Bill Carson staggering through the swamp takes us to next to school day. Dwight made another incident at class, Brian tried to back him up so they are both sent to vice-principal Mrs. Knocht (played by Nancy Fish) by their math teacher Mr. Glynn (played by Eric Boles). Mrs. Knocht suspends Brian for foul language and ends photocopied to death later that day. Karma, some of us would say. Meanwhile, police sends search team to local woods hoping to find missing teenagers there. One of their dogs finds Bill Carson who starts yelling at dog to get some help. Dog wouldn’t listen to him. Poor Bill can’t catch a break.

Dwight isn’t on easy street either. Coach Harris wouldn’t let him to practice archery without gym gear. They got feud there and Coach tells him to come tomorrow for private class with his gear on. Later that evening Brian sneaks into Paula’s house where he shows copy of the Mrs. Knocht murder. On the pictureyou can see ring on killer’s hand. Paula recognizes Dwight’s ring. She and Brian agree to stop him. Tomorrow, after private class with Dwight, Coach Harris decides to let some steam off on a trampoline. Our killer takes opportunity to sneak up on him and place sharp American flag under trampoline. Poor Coach didn’t suspect anything so flag thrusts him right through his ass. You might say he gave his ass for America. YEEAAAAHH!

Meanwhile, Brian and Paula are back to school to stop Dwight. Spooky janitor Shultz (played by Robert Glaudini) scares them away with his broom, while accusing Brian to be a murderer. They each run in opposite directions. Paula finds missing lovebirds in the locker. Then Dwight comes by and she starts running again. She stumbles upon Mr. Glynn, tells him Dwight is the killer and then they both hide in the science room. Doors behind them lock and the only way to get out is by solving math problem killer has left on blackboard. Mr. Grynn solves the problem and opens door number 1. Then, for no apparent reason, Brian reveals himself as a killer by yelling “Wrong door!” and chopping Mr. Glynn with an axe. Why did he do that when everyone else were suspecting Dwight is beyond me. So, the killer is the one who was the most suspicious from the very start. Seems to me they pulled Gyles here. Anyway, Brian was just about to kill Paula when Dwight shows up. Dumb as he is, Dwight ends up with his head captured between clamps so Paula had to use her girly charms, seduce Brian and finish him off with a claw hammer. On their way back they almost hit Bill Carson with the car who somehow staggered back to civilization. He asks Paula is she is cutting classes and that’s where this nightmare ends. Pretty dumb movie.

Conclusion: The basic ideas were there along with a rudimentary plot twist, they just managed to forget to add anything interesting in-between. So boring in fact, the small instances of things going on in the background became the most interesting factors. All throughout its running time, Cutting Class is careful to give both Brian and Dwight equal cause to hate most of the people who eventually turn up dead, while simultaneously serving up the expected obvious red herrings in the form of Schultz the janitor and Principal Dante. Unfortunately, however, only one member of the cast ever seems actually capable of hating someone enough to kill them, and that’s Brian. Now, when normal people make a “whodunnit” movie, they throw in some clues here and there as well as a couple of red herrings. What they don’t do is have the killer be the one person they’ve been pointing big red arrows at the previous 70 minutes. But Cutting Class does exactly that. To ‘cut’ to the chase, Cutting Class kinda sucks… A lot. It’s boring and slow and there’s very little to keep you interested until the end. The chicks are cute, the boobs are minimal, and the characters are uninteresting. I really can’t find any reason to tell you to give a watch. So give it a pass.