Halloween Scene: Night Of The Creeps (1986)

night of the creeps tom atkins

The fist time I saw Night Of The Creeps was at a Manly Movie Mamajama with the Wizard gang several years back. As it happens, that’s also how I saw another Fred Dekker film, Monster Squad, for the first time. The other two films in that particular triple feature were Night Of the Comet and Nightbreed (still the only time I’ve ever seen that one). As it turns out, I remembered the least about Creeps because, as I watched this movie on Netflix in the past few weeks (it took me several viewings to finish because I take care of two very active children all day), most of the film was a surprise. Let’s blame that more on the length of time between viewings and not the presumed gallons of beer I probably drank that night.

night of the creeps poster 1The movie kicks off with some strange looking aliens fighting over a canister that gets knocked out the ship and heads towards Earth back in 1959. The canister lands in front of an escaped mental patient, infects him with its worminess and leads to him hacking up some kids with an axe. Flashforward to the 80s and we’re introduced to college students Chris (Jason Lively) and J.C. (Steve Marshall), the young stars of the film. Chris wants to get with a girl named Cynthia (Jill Whitlow) who’s dating the head of the D-bag fraternity, so they rush. They’re then tasked with finding a dead body, so they sneak into a nearby morgue (overseen by David Paymer!) where they find the body from the beginning of the movie in suspended animation. They get him out of there and wind up unleashing the worm-like aliens on their college campus. Enter wise cracking, jaded detective Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins) who was the cop who found the maniac in the first place back in the 50s.

night of the creeps poster 2

I mentioned above how this film took me several watches to get through. Most of that is because of the kids, but there was also a bit of a barrier for me as I tried to get into this film. I think that boils down to the film’s tone, specifically in regards to Atkins’ character. I’ve become a huge fan of that guy’s work, thanks mostly to Halloween 3: Season Of The Witch, but I just couldn’t get into his catch-phrase spouting wannabe hardboiled detective in this movie. He says “Thrill me,” so many times and it never once sounds like the kind of thing this guy would actually say.

On the other hand, I really enjoyed Lively and Marshall as the two geeky college students. They have a very realistic relationship that reminded me of the kind of thing seen more in the raunchy 80s comedies that you all know I’m a fan of. These young actors are very believable and I like the ways they got to express their characters as the story progressed. And, how can you not love a film that ends on the night of a fraternity formal with a boy in a tux and a girl in a fancy dress wielding shotguns and flamethrowers?

At the end of the day, I really want to like this movie because it mixes that great 80s comedy set-up with some pretty high quality horror special effects. It’s really too bad that Dekker — who also wrote the screenplay — decided to turn Atkins, who can handle a ton of levels even in fairly odd movies like this, into such a corny, one-note character. Just imagine if he was able to play this a little closer to Daniel Challis from Season.

It’s kind of interesting timing that I watched this Dekker film not only after he was announced as the helmer of the new Predator movie writte by Shane Black. These guys wrote Monster Squad together which is a real classic, so I’m excited to see what they can do all these years later.

Advertisements

Halloween Scene: Night Of The Comet (1984)

I’ve seen Night Of The Comet once before, but it was at a Manly Movie Mamajama (also featuring Night Of The Creeps and Nightbreed) with a bunch of pals, so I didn’t remember much about it beyond the basic premise: a pair of sisters happen to live while most of the world is taken out by a comet, also there’s zombies. See, the MMMs revolve around a bunch of dudes drinking beer, eating greasy food, watching movies and cracking jokes, so it’s probably not the best place to see a movie for the first time. Having watched it again on October 2nd, I was surprised that some very unusual elements from the movie remained in my head like how huge and weird the radio station was and one scene in a mall where one of the girls puts down an Uzi-type gun and picks up a shoe.

To elaborate on the plot a bit, sisters Regina (the older, more responsible one) and Sam (the immature one) survive when a comet passes by because they happened to be in lead-lined rooms at the time. Neither of them quite catch on to the fact that everyone’s dead or turned into a zombie right away, but after they do they head to one of the most opulently decorated radio stations around (by 80s standards) where they meet a dude named Hector. They split back up and the girls go to the mall where some geeks from a think tank come to pick them up, but there’s something sinister going on.

I don’t want to give too much away because I want you guys to see this movie. When I watched it the first time, so many jokes were being thrown around that it was hard to really focus on the movie. Plus, some of the performances and costumes are so over the top that it can be hard to take them seriously, but there’s some real meat on the bones. Both Regina and Sam have some real moments of clarity and sadness to their performances. Plus, I give huge credit to any production that can make a big city look deserted. I also have an affinity for big, empty mall scenes where people run free and take whatever they want, but that’s a solid tether to my love for Dawn Of The Dead.

Another element of the flick I really dug was the characterization of Regina, mainly because she was written exactly like every slick 80s friend in every movie I can remember. Think Styles from Teen Wolf (the movie, haven’t seen the show), but a girl and you’re pretty much in the right headspace. She loves playing video games to the point where she gets crazy pissed that somebody wormed their way onto the top score of the game she plays while goofing off at her movie theater job. The actress pulled it off and made a million dudes wish they could pal around (and make out) with her.

Night Of The Comets is like a Godiva chocolate covered in an M&M shell, it’s slick and colorful on top, but when you get bellow the surface, there’s really something there to sink your teeth into. Okay, maybe not a Godiva chocolate, but something better than you’d expect inside of an M&M. It’s not a Halloween or Jaws by any means, but it’s more than you’d expect from the flick.

We Want Action: Robocop 2 (1980)

Watching Robocop 2, probably for the first time unedited and in full (I think I’ve seen it on TV, but didn’t remember many of the beats) was a ton of fun. They really don’t make movies like this anymore that mix action, satire and even slapstick together with a product that still stands up in the grand tradition of action flicks from the 80s and very early 90s.

The sequel picks up some time after the first flick leaves off, but Detroit’s in even worse shape. We’re treated to various commercials showing just how bad society is in general which are both funny and a little scary when you think of how reality TV obsessed we’ve gotten as a country. The evil megacorporation OCP continues attempts at recreating the Robocop formula (there’s a pretty great montage of the attempts) but with less human interaction. See, the big thing going on in Robo’s life is that he considers himself and Alex Murphy (the cop he was before getting killed and turned into a walking tank) one in the same and OCP doesn’t like that much. They want subservient killing machines who will only answer to them. There’s also a drug kingpin/cult leader running around spreading drugs and getting a robo body of his own later in the film. Oh, and, at one point, Robocop gets banged up pretty bad, OCP comes in to fix him and turns him into a totally PC pussy.

I guess you’ve got to be in the right mood to watch and enjoy this flick (a good or drunk one, basically). If you’re looking for a serious action movie that really takes into account the loss of human life therein or examines the motives of criminals in a realistic light, this ain’t for you. A little kid not only smokes, swears, runs drugs and shoots guns but also almost murdered a policewoman (which doesn’t say much about her skill levels as a cop if you ask me). This movie is funny and ridiculous and when I was done watching it, I wanted to watch the next one, though I haven’t heard great things.

I’m not a huge fan of the Robocop franchise, not because I don’t like it (clearly I do), but because I just haven’t seen the movies enough. I’ve probably seen the first one three times (once when I was around 16, then at a Manly Movie Night two or three years back and then once again more recently, I think). I definitely think it belongs in the pantheon of action movies from that time period and I really like that they went from the ultra dark tone of the first one and had a little fun with the sequel, though I can see why purists would think it’s a little too much. To them I say, relax, have a couple beers, get a pizza, call your friends over, watch it again and stop being so serious all the time. Have fun with it.

Best Double Feature Ever: Expendables & Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)

How weird is it that on April 17th of last year, I wrote a post about how excited I was about Expendables and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and now, lots and lots of months later, I got to see both flicks in the theater on the same day? At least sort of weird.

I actually cleared my work schedule earlier this week so I could go see Expendables at the first showing in my town. It was the 11:20 show at the Destinta and I had an amazing time. The movie, which combines all the best action stars ever (okay, maybe there were a few folks not in the movie, but there’s never been a movie with this many of them) as a team of mercenaries doing jobs. The actual Expendables consist of Sylvester Stallone, Jason Stahtham, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Terry Crews and Dolph Lundgren. They’re going up against a drug kingpin (played by David Zayas of Dexter fame!) who’s working with Eric Roberts who has Steve Austin as a body guard. Stallone got the job from Bruce Willis when Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t want the job. Oh and Mickey Rourke used to be an Expendable but he retired. I think that covers everyone.

I’m not going to get into the plot too much because, let’s be honest, who cares? If you haven’t seen the movie what you’re wondering is “Is it a solid action movie or a bunch of old men playing war?” It’s a solid action movie. Period. I had a ridiculous amount of fun sitting in the theater watching the flick. There’s all kinds of cheesy one-liners (to be expected), awesome team-ups and fights I never expected to see (seeing Stallone and Statham pall around is like a dream come true) and, as I hope you were expecting, tons of blood, explosions, punches, bullets, knives and body slams (not in a cheesy “hey look we’ve got wrestlers in the movie!” way, but it a way that makes sense).

Speaking of the fighting, I really like how each guy has his own specialties and sticks to them for the most part. Li’s obviously the martial artist, but Statham’s got moves of his own mixing knife and gun play. Stallone uses an array of weapons, Lundgren uses his caveman bulk and Couture just kicks ass. It’s fantastic. I will say that the fight scenes get a little shaky/jumpy, but I just kind of opened my eyes real wide and absorbed as much as I could. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything, but I still want to watch the movie again so I can absorb even more of it.

It’s funny because a few years ago the ToyFare guys and I created a group called The Manly Men of Action which was a generational grouping of action heroes starring Arnold, Dolph, Stallone and Bruce as the 80s team. We also dreamed up groups from the 60s and 70s, skipped the 90s and went on to the 00s which was the whole plot of the first story (check out some rad wallpapers here). So, it’s pretty awesome that Stallone reads ToyFare and turned our idea into a movie, but would it have been so bad to ask us to cameo? Just saying. Oh, also, the movie hints at a long history for this team and previous incarnations and I would be completely down for sequels and prequels and comic book adaptations and an animated series and anything else.

I was actually less excited about Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, but that’s only because my love of 80s action movies goes back further and is much deeper than my love of Scott Pilgrim. In fact, I’m not that huge a fan of the series and haven’t even read the last installment yet. I was really more excited to see what director Edgar Wright would do with the source material and how he would bring a comic book aesthetic to film. And he did it using some crazy jump cuts, lots of sound onomatopoeia on screen, lifting elements from Bryan Lee O’Malley’s panels and creating some truly epic fight scenes.

The story, as most of you probably know, is about clueless Canadian loser Scott Pilgrim falling in love with Ramona Flowers and having to defeat her seven evil exes to be with her. Like aside, the fights are numerous as are the video game references (coins fall from defeated enemies, weapons appear from seemingly nowhere and people glow red when they’re close to death). But I wonder if that makes the movie a little too inside baseball for your average viewer. I went with the missus to see the flick and she hasn’t read the books nor did she play Nintendo much as a kid, so a lot of the elements I was laughing at along with my fellow audience members (there were actually more people at the mid day Expendables than the 7:50pm Scott) went right over her head. She said she dug it and I asked her to write a post about it, but we’ll see.

But, you might be saying, “Who cares what the newbies think, if they don’t get it, screw ’em.” Okay, fair enough, I guess. But, from a business standpoint, you’ve got to imagine that people like me were already pretty much guaranteed to see the movie, but people like her (norms as I call ’em) aren’t. If she goes to work and tells her friends she didn’t really get it, then they might not go. What I’m saying is that it might have made a little sense to explain some of the video game elements earlier in the movie so that EVERYONE gets the gag. There’s even a scene where Scott and his then-girlfriend Knives play a Dance Dance Revolution-type fighting game, but if the elements were foreshadowed there, I didn’t notice. I was just watching the crazy game.

Another complaint–though a minor one–I had while watching the movie is that sometimes, the fight scenes seemed a little stagey, like Michael Cera (playing Scott) was responding to the next move in the series of moves before the attack was coming. It’s a minor complaint because, frankly, the fight scenes mostly moved pretty quickly, but I definitely got that vibe a few times which was a bummer.

Speaking of Cera, I really had my reservations about him playing Scott in the movie. Like I said, I’m not a die hard fan of the books, but in them, the character is kind of an infuriatingly dull loveable loser who just doesn’t understand most of what’s going on around him, while Cera’s awkward movie persona didn’t really jive with that. I’m still not 100% sure on it, as the movie sometimes felt wobbly as far as Scott’s characterization, but that’s how things were in the book. You really like him one moment, then he does something stupid and you want to give him a wedgie. Overall, I dug his casting and everyone else, so good on Wright and Company for that.

Two more quick complaint and this one actually goes back to the books. First off, like in the first volume, I think it takes too long for the rules of the world to get established. You go from normal people to crazy superhero/video game fights in the blink of an eye without much of a warning. The other problem is that the books felt like they were running out of steam and rushed towards the last couple volumes (I can’t speak to the 6th volume). I mean, come on, two of the exes are twins? I guess it’s not necesarrily a bad thing that we spend time with the character of Scott before he and Ramona start dating, but some of the exes just feel rushed.

Okay, enough bitching. The effects are awesome as is the music. I think I might actually go out and buy the soundtrack (though as a music geek I’ve got to call bullshit that Scott can afford one of the most expensive basses around–the kind you have to call Musician’s Friend just to get the price off–and Steven gets such a good sound out of an acoustic that doesn’t look to have a pick up anywhere inside it). I LOVE the bass battle.

All in all the movie’s a lot of fun (at least for 20-something dudes) and, from what I can remember, follows the comics pretty well (though I wonder if deviating a little more might have helped make the story more accessible to non geeks). Anyway, if I had to choose one movie between Scott and Expendables to see again this weekend, I would definitely go with Expendables. I walked out of that movie just feeling awesome all over, but I’m really glad I got to see both movies in the theaters on opening day. I haven’t done that for just one movie in quite a while!

Live Blogging: Crank High Voltage (2009)

Continuing the Crank fun from the other day and to show my support for tonight’s Manly Movie Night I’ll be missing, here’s my live blog of Crank’s sequel Crank: High Voltage. I was super jealous of Sean when he got to see this flick in theaters and blogged about it. Sean had this to say earlier this year: “Like an unholy cross between Chuck Norris’s Invasion U.S.A., Troma, and Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, the movie was wildly and needlessly experimental, and was offensive even to me at times, and had no redeeming social value whatsoever except to punch you in the face repeatedly with a fist made of entertainment. I’d be amazed all over again if I see a movie I enjoy more than this one for the rest of the year.” I would honestly count this as one of the best action movies of all time and it’s ability to top its predecessor, which was already an impressively over the top movie is, well, just plain amazing.

The plot of this one is that Chev Chelios fell out of the helicopter, but they grabbed his body right away and kept him alive for 3 months before opening him up to harvest his organs. They get his heart and replace it with a robot one, but it isn’t until he overhears them talking about cutting of his penis that he freaks out and kicks ass. Amy Smart and Dwight Yoakam return in their same roles and Efren Ramirez plays his character from the first movie’s brother Venus. Now, instead of needing adrenaline to stay alive, Chev has to shock his robot heart to keep it charged. As you can imagine, it’s amazing.

Again spoilers follow and I highly encourage you to see this movie as soon as possible. It just came out on DVD last week or the week before. It’s simply amazing. Well, here we go.

*Love that 8-bit credits.

*This is like watching Star Wars or Lord of the Rings back to back, but way cooler.

*News guy calls events of the first movie “implausible” – no kidding.

*Oh man, that dude puts ashes in Chev’s open chest cavity. That’s cold.

*He’s awake during the surgery!!!

*”The famous Chelios heart” – subtitle, dude’s so rad his HEART is famous.

*Where did she shove that pencil? Not cool.

*He dips the shotgun in tar and sticks it up the dude’s ass–that’s what you get bad guy!

*I like that he basically figures out the catch to survival on his own in both movies.

*”Jesus H. Chelios” – needs to be on a T-shirt.

*Nice film strip-like fake heart explanation from Yoakam.

*Oh man, his battery is already messed up after skidding.

*I don’t think any movie star runs more than Statham.

*I love seeing the Social Club get emptied from the outside, that’s a great touch. One man goes in (Chev) and everyone else flies out!

*There’s Corey Haim…in a strip club, did he even know this was a movie? He’s wearing a Nice Jugs t-shirt with pictures of milk jugs. Classy.

*Strippers with guns, it’s like Sin City with implant jokes.

*Haha, the cops tazed him, not good for them.

*They finally explained that he’s been gone for three months, love the phone message explanation.

*”Is Doc Miles gonna have to choke a bitch?” – nice one Dwight!

*Nice porn star cameos in the porn strike scene.

*Free style walking ball smash!

*Dog shock collar and the dog bits the cops junk, heh, nice.

*Kaylo’s brother Venus has tourettes, that should be interesting.

*He’s dry humping an old lady and she’s loving it!

*The soundtrack is brilliant, Tarantin-esque.

*People love watching people have sex in various positions on a race track.

*Smart’s way too turned on by seeing horse penis.

*”Well, you ain’t no Ralph Macchio yourself Chev” – Venus.

*Gotta love a good man vs. car chase.

*They just made the heart transplant nonsense make sense. Impressive.

*Best in-car shootout ever.

*Dude just cut off his own nipples, squirm-o-ramma.

*Love seeing Haim get the hammer dropped on him by Smart after sucking.

*The shrink totally wants to bang the orderly from the first one…heh, sucks to be him.

*What the? It’s like Godzilla under the power lines!!!

*Interesting talk show-style flashback to Chev as a kid with his mom complete with “he’s a bad kid” clips. His mom looks an awful lot like Amy Smart.

*That’s a lot of balls, but nicely followed by lots of boobs and butts.

*Floating robot head villain from the first movie AND his brother is The Ferret AND Ferret’s beating Chev with a cat-o-nine-tails.

*Venus FINALLY kicks ass and with nun-chucks no less.

*Crazy awesome multi-group shoot out and fight scene!!!

*Chev’s literally on fire and kicking ass, damn, even his face. GET SOME WATER!

*Watch through the credits as they actually end the story there and then do some fun out takes and whatnot.

Halloween Scene: Manly Movie Night 10-17-08

2008-10-19
4:26:11 pm

About three years ago my friends and colleagues at Wizard decided to get together and watch three “manly” movies hooting, hollering, drinking and making jokes the entire time. For a more complete history check out Sean T. Collins’ blog post about what we’ve dubbed Manly Movie Mamajama.

About a month ago we started exchanging E-mails about a Halloween-themed MMM and finally decided on a line up consisting of The Lost Boys, Slumber Party Massacre II (which I take full responsibility for adding to the line-up) and Dead Alive. So, Friday night we gathered together in manly fashion eating pizza and chili (some of us simultaneously) and drinking beer and Red Bull. I’d actually seen all three movies before, but it’s always a new experience watching them with these guys.

We started with Lost Boys (1987) directed by Joel Schumacher and starring Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman and Kiefer Sutherland. There’s a lot going on in this movie and I’m not sure how much of it was actually intended. As Rickey pointed out, it really seems like brothers Jason Patric and Corey Haim are in a budding romance. There’s also the hilarity of the clothing throughout the flick. Between Haim’s crazy jackets/robes and Sutherland’s gang of mulleted biker vampires. Did this ever look tough? Ah, it was a different, simpler time.

Anyway, for those of you who haven’t seen it Lost Boys is about a pair of brothers and their mom who move in with their grandpa in the town of Santa Carla, CA which looks like Coney Island on crazy pills (but sadly lacking The Warriors). Well, it turns out that Santa Carla has a bit of a vampire problem and may or may not be the murder capital of the world, depending on how much stock you put into billboard graffiti. As Jason Patric gets wrapped up in Sutherland’s vampire gnag (which also includes Bill from the Bill and Ted movies), Haim meets the Frog Brothers, one of which is Feldman with seems to be doing his best Stallone impression throughout the movie. Their parents own a comic book store (probably the most disorganized store of all time). One of my favorite not-funny-on-purpose lines comes when Haim explains why two Superman comics shouldn’t be right next to each other (Lori Lemaris hasn’t even been introduced yet). How about because they’re no less than 100 issues apart from each other. Oh, also their parents look dead. Just saying. Anyway, the Frog Bros. are vampire hunters.

Anyway, you can imagine where things go from there. Sean Collins made the point that, in the 80s kids progressed from Goonies to Monster Squad to Lost Boys. Now, I had never actually heard of Monster Squad as a kid and I didn’t see Lost Boys until Rickey and I lived together, but these three films definitely share a spirit that you can’t find in movies aimed at kids anymore. Heck half the stars of this R-rated movie probably couldn’t legally see it when it premiered. Awesome!

But, really, you should check it out. There’s some pretty good effects and the last battle in the mom’s house is pretty great. Plus it’s good for a lot of laughs, both intentional and unintentional.

So, after Lost Boys we popped the VHS copy of Slumber Party Massacre II (1987) that I bought off of Amazon for just this occasion for about $6. It’s one of, if not THE most ridiculous movies (horror or otherwise) I’ve seen ever. As I explained to the group before we started, the first SPM movie had a random mental patient killing high school kids at a slumber party with a drill. This movie stars Crystal Bernard (the cute, blonde girl from Wings) as the sister of the survivor from the first flick. She’s in a band with three of her friends. One of the girls’ parents’ decided it would be a good idea to allow the girls to head up to their new condo (which are treated with the same sense of “newness” that malls were treated with in Dawn of the Dead) for the weekend.

Crystal keeps having crazy visions about a rockabilly dude with an Elvis haircut dressed in leather and rocking what looks like a BC Rich designed drill-tar. Well, as you can imagine, she keeps getting freaked out by various visions (the zit one is my favorite, worth the $6 I paid for this junk) but her friends just think she’s crazy until the dude comes to real life and starts killing her friends and their visiting boyfriends. What?!

From there it’s your average kids running away from a slasher movie, but with a lot more dancing as the Driller Killer busts some moves at random intervals and sings crazy songs. Seriously, if you love bad slasher movies, check this one out. Though I’m not sure if any of my MMM colleagues would agree with that sentiment. General consensus was that it was in the least liked films in MMM history down there with Steel Dawn and King Kong Lives (which I also found hilarious).

Unfortunately, I started coming down with a pretty bad cold that I’m still dealing with today, so I bounced out before the end of Dead Alive, though I’m not sure how much longer anyone else watched it. I would recommend skipping to the last 30 minutes, but make sure to view the zombie sex scene. It’s hilarious. Anyway, for my full Dead Alive/Braindead review, click here. As always, I had a great time at the MMM (even with getting sick) and I highly recommend starting up your own.