Q: The Winged Serpent Is Awesome

Q The Winged Serpent Last fall a buddy of mine sent a few Blu-rays he got through his work my way. I’m always super appreciative when people do nice things like this because, unless I hit a really good sale, I’m probably not going to get my hands on a great many things. In that package was a little movie called Q: The Winged Serpent directed by Larry Cohen (It’s Alive) and starring Michael Moriarty (Troll), Richard Roundtree (Shaft) and David Carradine (Kill Bill). I was sold solely on Moriarty’s involvement who I had just seen in The Stuff and, as it just so happens, that film was also directed by Cohen, so I guess they bring out the best in each other because I love both of these movies, like hard.

Here’s the basics, as best I can remember them. People in New York City are dying and going missing. The police don’t know why, but it’s because there’s a giant flying monster eating them. Moriarty plays a wheelman dragged into pulling a jewelry heist that goes south. On the run, he winds up in the top Chrysler Building  which just so happens to be the monster’s nest. Meawhile detectives played by Roundtree and Carradine are trying to figure out what’s going on. In the process, Carradine becomes convinced that it’s not only a big monster, but also the reincarnation of the Aztec god Quetzlcoatl.

One of the many elements I love about this film is the fact that Moriarty’s character is so important to how this story plays out. This isn’t the story of a down on his luck hero finding the threat to the city and bringing it to the attention of the authorities. Instead, Moriarty uses the monster to take care of two guys trying to shake him down and he only tells anyone in the local government about what’s going on until after he’s made a deal to get a huge pile of money and pardons for all crimes, even the ones the NYPD might not know about (a “Nixon-like pardon” he says). Since he’s a sneaky, shifty dude, the movie goes places it wouldn’t if this were a more typical Hollywood tale.

For his part, Moriarty really carries this movie. He pulls off this oddly alluring synthesis of charming, down-on-his-luck and  bad that works so damn well. You might like him because he can play the piano so causally, but then you hate how he treats his long-suffering girlfriend. Then, at just the right point, he reveals a piece of his personal history that doesn’t excuse his behavior, but might explain it. That’s another major plus for this film, Cohen reveals bits and pieces of Moriarty’s character when they’re necessary, not before. In that way, it’s a really great example of delving out information at just the right time.

It might sound like I’m going overboard about this strange monster movie from the early 80s and maybe I am, but I still think it’s got a lot of greatness held within. However, it’s not perfect. The special effects don’t look so hot these days. From animated shadows to poorly composited images, there’s a lot for the modern eye to pick apart, but for me that was all part of the film’s charm. It did the best it could at the time and probably looked pretty darn impressive in 1982. I thought the actual Q monster looked pretty solid when it was on screen and there were plenty of dizzying aerial shots of NYC (maybe too many) that acted as monster perspective shots.

Now that I think about it, I think I might like this movie because it’s a combination of two of my favorite films without directly ripping them off. On one hand, all the perspective stuff reflect’s John Carpenter’s Halloween where he puts us in the killer’s perspective for chunks of time. Since we’re dealing with POV on a completely different level, it doesn’t feel like a direct lift. On the other hand, there’s a lot of “you don’t get to see the monster JUST yet” elements taken from Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. Around the time I watched Q, I heard a lot of people saying that the latest Godzilla  was like Jaws in the city, but it’s a dynamic that worked well given the setting and time of this film.

Also, like both of those admittedly much better films, Q also makes the locale a huge part of the film. Cohen and company made such good use of the Big Apple that it practically oozes all over ever frame. Obviously, the Chrysler Building plays a huge part in the proceedings, though how accurate the film is or whether they actually filmed inside, I don’t know, but those swooping arial shots also firmly cement the fact that we’re dealing with NYC. There’s even a scene shot at Columbia which I only knew because I’m familiar with another film that made such good use of New York City, Ghostbusters.

At the end of the day, Q: The Winged Serpent benefits from a great many positive notes. Moriarty is stellar, Carradine and Roundtree are great, the setting is perfect, the story works specifically because of the characters involved, the monster looks pretty good and presents a definitely threat and it’s got a pretty well thought out mythology. For all those reasons and more, I fully recommend checking this movie out.

Mini Monsters: Troll 1 and 2

2009-04-10
3:19:35 am

Okay, I’m in search of a movie from my childhood. I thought either of the Troll flicks might jog my memory. Unfortunately, neither the original nor the non-sequel struck a chord in my memory, but I sure had a good time watching both movies.

Even though the first Troll (1986) flick has a mini monster with a ball on the freakingposter, it’s not the movie I remember. It is however a really strange flick with a father and son duo by the names of Harry Potter. Harry Jr’s sister gets taken over by a Troll (or something) when they move into their new apartment building. Soon enough the troll is causing all kinds of trouble, even converting the other tenants in weird creatures. Luckily there’s a weird old lady with a pet mushroom plant who helps Harry Jr. save the day. I’ll be honest, I watched Troll over a week ago and my already shoddy memory has forgotten a lot of the details. Sonny Bono, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and June Lockhart all have rolls and entertain in their own way. It really is just a great, weird movie.

Okay, so a swing and a miss on the first flick, maybe the second would be a hit. Nope. Whiff. Yeah baseball metaphors! Anyway, I didn’t really know Troll 2’s crazy history or its title as “Best Worst Movie” when I added it to my Netflix but between adding it and getting the movie, it was mentioned on both Horror Movie a Day and in the Totally Rad Show podcast. So, I was kind of excited to finally watch the movie, which apparently started life as a completely different movie about goblins. BC and HMAD did a pretty right on review though I think I liked the movie a lot more.

Yes, it’s completely ridiculous and poorly acted, but it’s definitely not the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Slumber Party Massacre 2 still holds that spot. Anyway, the TRS guys talked about a documentary created by the kid who starred in Troll 2 that I’m interested in checking out.

Instead of doing a straight-up review, I’ll post the notes I made while watching the first three quarters of the movie (I gave up and just watched, probably buzzed, after a while).

Here goes, with commentary when necessary:

-he’s imagining his dead g-pa telling him a story?

-Kid has a Superman poster and fucking Killing Joke Joker HAHAHAHAHAHAHA poster!!!

-“You take them to bed with you and i don’t believe in group sex” (the daughter in the story says this about her boyfriend and his friends)

-acting is BAD

-“Joshua start singing” (I think one of the parents yells this at the kid/hero)

-this kid has crazy dreams – green blood/sweat, tree fingers and sucking chest wound

-holy crap, they’re driving an aerostar (in high school I drove a 1994 Ford Aerostar Mini Van, this one is pretty similar)

-the town is called Nilbog, hahahaha

-who would ever trade houses with strangers? (the whole story revolves around the main family leaving their regular house to live in the house of some strangers in Nilbog who never really leave)

-mom has a menacing/evil quality because she keeps staring RIGHT AT THE CAMERA

-is that a stripe of blue frosting on the corn? (yes, goblins love putting frosting on stuff)

-hahaha he pissed on the food! (to make sure his family wouldn’t eat it)

-dad just challenged Josh to a not eating contest “just remember I’ve got more practice at this than you do.” (which is exactly how your dad handled you when you peed on the food)

-i hear my friend scream in the woods, i’m out the door seeing if he’s okay, not drinking mountain dew (the boyfriend and his friends borrow a mobile home which they park near Nilbog, not a good move in the long run)

-eww, Nilbog “special milk” that’s not refrigerated

-that’s not pudding it’s a cheesecake with green frosting

-nothing like a warm jug of milk on a hot day

The movie goes on from there and never lets up in the weirdness. There’s a scene where the Nilbogians throw a surprise party in the family’s house without them knowing it that is out of control and of course, the end is nuts (you’ll never hear a kid say Grandpa so many times).

Ha, which reminds me. The grandpa’s name is Seth, but the kid seems to have a ridiculously hard time wrapping his mouth around the word and it just comes out garbled every time.

Anyway, you could probably start a whole blog just on this movie. I enjoyed it for the most part and have my eyes peeled for the Troll 1 and 2 DVD at a reasonable price, but, unfortunately, my mini monster quest is not yet over. Somehow I’ll soldier on…

By watching Ghoulies 1 and 2! Coming soon!