Listen here, if you dare!
If you’re keeping track, and I’m not sure why you would be at this point, I’m still muddling through Stephen King’s The Stand. And yet, I stray away from time to time to check out other books like Jason Zinoman’s Shock Value, which I stumbled across while looking for various horror films in my library’s database. With a subtitle like How A Few Eccentric Outsiders Gabe Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, And Invented Modern Horror, how could I not bite, especially around Halloween! Continue reading Halloween Scene: Shock Value By Jason Zinoman
Not Of This Earth wasn’t exactly my first choice for horror movies to watch from 1988, but as it turns out, I’ve already reviewed or didn’t have access to some of the bigger ones. So many of the big franchises debuted sequels that year — Halloween 4, Nightmare 4, Friday 8, Poltergeist 3, Phantasm 2, Hellraiser 2, Fright Night 2, Return Of The Living Dead 2 and Sleepaway Camp 2 — but I had reviewed those, couldn’t get to them on short-ish notice or just didn’t feel like it (sorry, Pinhead).
Other notable releases include Scarecrows (so boring), Serpent And The Rainbow,Waxwork, Pumpkinhead, Night of the Demons, Monkeyshines, Maniac Cop, Killer Klowns (which deserves a more in-depth review), Dead Heat, Child’s Play, The Blob remake (which I thought I reviewed) and Black Roses. I couldn’t believe how many of the biggies from that year that I’d seen and reviewed and then I stumbled upon a good one: Jim Wynorski’s remake of Roger Corman’s Not Of This Earth starring Traci Lords and Arthur Roberts. What made it the right movie? Well, I had it on hand thanks to Shout Factory’s Corman Classics line of DVDs from a few years back! I’ve also got the original, but that might have to wait until 1957 week.
Not Of This Earth is about a race of aliens scouting out Earth to see if they can feed off of its blood. They send a representative — Mr. Johnson (Roberts) — who immediately visits a blood bank to make a withdrawal only to find out that’s not really how they work. Using his mind powers, Johnson gets the doc to assign Nurse Nadine Story (Lords) to be his in-house aid along with his valet Jeremy. When the whole blood bank thing doesn’t work out for Johnson, he starts sucking the life out of people who theoretically won’t be missed like hookers and strippers. Another of his race also comes over, goes nuts and becomes a slasher for no apparent reason (other than they already had that footage from Hollywood Boulevard). Speaking of which, this movie has the most bonkers credits scene of all time because it basically consists of insane monster shots from previous Corman movies that have NOTHING to do with this one.
Anyway, since this is a Corman picture, there’s a fun story behind it. Apparently, Wynorksi bet the producer that he could make this movie in 12 days. Part of it was a challenge because Corman directed the original, but Wynorski walked away the winner completing it in 11.5 days! I was actually surprised because I thought this was a pretty well put together movie that didn’t feel rushed. In fact, it’s got a lot going for it. Lords’ casting was obviously a stunt as this was her first non-porn part, but she did a great job as did everyone else. The only times it gets overly campy is when the hookers and strippers are on the scene. Oh, there’s also the crazy lady on the bench and the long-haired, bearded alien who looks like a hung over DJ, but they’re not overly distracting.
Wynorksi, who also made films like Chopping Mall, Return Of Swamp Thing, Munchie and Ghoulies IV, is known for mixing T&A with genre flavors resulting in some pretty fun 80s and 90s films before segueing almost completely into the soft core zone. I love Chopping Mall and owe it a full review, but I think this is the best of his movies that I’ve seen. In a way it feels similar to Phantasm in that the mysterious older man is trying to send humans back to another planet that get all shrunk down, but the horror-humor tone is much different. I also appreciate how Not Of This Earth takes old school sci-fi and horror tropes, views them through a modern lens, mixes in some 80s slasher conventions and comes up with something new and different that’s pretty enjoyable even if it was shot very quickly and reuses footage from other Corman movies.
After the generally dark nature of Green Arrow: Hunters Moon and tomorrow’s Friday Fisticuffs offering it was nice to experience the lighter side of 1988!
Last week the weather turned gray and all I wanted to do was sit down and watch a marathon of Val Lewton, Universal Monster and Vincent Price movies. Of course, I have two small kids, so I only got to watch one of them, but it was still a great experience. A few months ago I got my hands on the excellent Scream Factory Vincent Price Collection II set and have slowly been making my way through it. As it happens, I’ve only seen a few of these movies before — House On Haunted Hill, Dr. Phibes Rides Again and Last Man On Earth — so the others have been a nice surprise, like Tomb Of Ligeia.
I knew nothing about this film going in aside from the main star, but it also happens to be directed by Roger Corman and adapts an Edgar Allen Poe story. This was Corman’s last Poe film and, instead of shooting all of it in the studio, he actually went out and used the gorgeous crumbling British abbey you can see in the film. This not only opens the world up, but also brightens it and adds a sense that everything’s about to crumble around the main characters.
The story follows Price’s Verden Fell, a widower who hangs out in a mansion next to the crumbling abbey. His dead wife Ligeia said that she would never really die, but that doesn’t stop ol’ Verden from flirting with the delightful Rowena (Elizabeth Shepherd). The two have a whirlwind relationship, that ends in marriage and a honeymoon. While away, the super-serious Verden lightens up (and even takes off the strange sunglasses he’s always wearing), but upon returning he goes back to his old, strange ways. The longer they’re in the mansion, the more Rowena realizes that it might be haunted, the pet cat is a jerk and her husband is clearly up to some craziness that most likely involves his seemingly deceased former love. All of this comes to a head at the end of the film in a delightfully crazy manner.
At 82 minutes, Ligeia moves at a quick clip and covers quite a bit of ground in a short time while also taking time to show off some beautiful scenery before returning to the darkness within the castle (and Verden). I highly recommend giving this movie your full attention if you’re going to watch because it’s very easy to miss a few key details here and there. You might think the horse riding scene or long shots of the honeymoon are going to take a while, but as soon as they lull you into wondering what’s happening on Twitter, you’ve already missed a major explanation. I rewound a few times thanks to brief distractions from my phone and am glad I did because otherwise I would have been pretty lost.
As far as the Blu-ray transfer goes, this one looks spectacular, enhanced by the real locations used to shoot about half of the film. You really get to see that abbey in all it’s creepy glory. The pops of red from the flowers and blue and purple from the candles can all be properly seen and wondered about thematically. I haven’t listened to the commentaries (one by Corman, the other by Shepherd) but I do enjoy the intros and outros that Price recorded for this and some of the other films back in the 80s. They were part of a PBS Price marathon series and the kind of awesome find that Shout/Scream Factory has become famous for in the film fan community. Kudos to them for that and for this amazing set. I hope to get my hands on the first one at some point, but am also looking forward to watching The Raven and the rest of these movies in this rad-looking format.
I was looking at the calendar last week and realized that there wouldn’t be another Friday the 13th until November. I celebrated last month’s by watching Funhouse and The Shortcut, but wanted to go all out for this one. So, here are a review I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks along with a few new ones! Continue reading A Feast Of Friday The 13th Frights!
A few weeks back I was looking around on Netflix Instant and saw the poster for a Shannen Doherty/Antonio Sabato Jr. movie called Jailbreakers from 1994 that looked very 90s Miramax. Even with all that going for it, it wasn’t the kind of movie I immediately wanted to watch until I looked at the director and saw that it was directed by William “The Exorcist” Friedkin! That was such a bonkers combination that I needed to check it out.
While reading the IMDb trivia page for this movie — something I can’t seem to go 10 minutes without doing after starting anything — I discovered that it was actually part of an anthology series on Showtime called Rebel Highway. The basic idea was to take the title of an old American International Pictures teen movie from the 50s and 60s, give it to a director and have them make a more gritty film with a cast of young up-and-comers. Each project had a $1.3 million budget and 12 days to shoot. Sounds like a pretty rad experiment to me!
So how are the results? Well, not so great in the case of Jailbreakers which suffered from two major problems for me. First off, there wasn’t a frame of this movie that looked like it was from the time period of the story. Actually, that’s not quite the case. More accurately, there isn’t a frame of this film that doesn’t scream, “I was made in the mid 90s!!!” It’s just got that dull look of TV movies from the 90s that, no matter how good your costumes or set dressing are, look like the time it was made in instead of the time it’s supposed to be. I can chalk that up to the low budget and pay cable quality of the day.
The second problem is more, well, problematic and it leads in to the part where I talk about the plot. Doherty plays a high school kid named Angel who was a good girl up until she met Antonio Sabato Jr.’s Tony, a bad boy biker. The two start getting into trouble which leads to them getting caught by the cops. Tony goes to jail while Angel moves with her parents to another town where they don’t know anything about her mistakes. Tony eventually gets out and reunites with Angel only to realize he might be more than just a little bad. Sound familiar? Yeah, it was pretty familiar to me too and hit a ton of notes that I’ve seen before. And, aside from a great performance by Adrien Brody, the tried and true elements don’t get much of a boost from this particular group of actors.
I had a much better time with another Rebel Highway offering, Runaway Daughters. This one features Paul Rudd and Julie Bowen, though they’re not really the stars 0f this film directed by the always awesome Joe Dante. In this case Mary (Holly Fields) winds up getting together with two of her girlfriends Angie (Bowen) and Laura (Jenny Lewis who was in The Wizard!) and driving to San Diego in order to grab Bob (Chris Young, PCU), Mary’s baby daddy before he can officially enlist in the army. Along the way they find themselves dealing with crooked cops, crazy preppers and a variety of other problems.
While Jailbreakers took an old story and just did it again with more cursing and violence, Runaway Daughters actually used the framework of this kind of story to get into some actual social commentary. Throughout the film, Laura talks about how ridiculous it is that society shuns young women for having sex when it’s a natural thing. We’re mostly told by TV and film that everyone in the 50s was a buttoned-up square, but that’s a myth. There were plenty of people looking at the norms and realizing some of them were silly.
Plus, while this movie looks the same as Jailbreakers, it does boast a more interesting story and a much better cast. Rudd doing his best James Dean or Marlon Brando impression is a lot of fun. Then you’ve got Bowen playing the instigator perfectly, Dick Miller as a grizzled but also somewhat socially conscious private detective and even appearances by Roger Corman and Joe Flaherty. And those are just the people I recognized. This might be the least Joe Dante movie I’ve ever seen, but it was still an enjoyable outing that adds a nice layer to his filmography.
As anyone who reads the blog on a regular basis will know, I’m a big fan of 80s teen and college movies. If it’s goofy, wrought with sexual tension, set on a beach or during spring break, I’m probably on board. That’s basically everything I’ve watched and posted under the 80s Odyssey category and here’s another one.
Netflix is finally starting to understand what kind of movies I like to watch and immediately notified me of Beach Balls‘ presence on the streaming service. I didn’t even notice that it’s a Roger Corman-produced film until after the fact. Frankly, I was on board when I read that, in addition to this being a movie about a kid pining over a girl, he also wanted to be in a band. That’s a subgenre of 80s teen comedies I didn’t even know I wanted, but I’m in!
The plot follows Charlie (Philip Paley), a beach kid who’s in love with Wendy (Heidi Helmer), but she only digs guys in bands. As it happens, Charlie is a solid musician, he’s just not in a band. At the same time, he’s also dealing with some legal problems after getting drunk one time and borrowing a car from some local toughs who stole the car and think Charlie turned on them when he got arrested. Because of this he’s got to deal with a recovering alcoholic parole officer, his already crazy, super religious mom and Young Republican sister who think he’s a much worse kid than he is. So, can Charlie throw a huge party, get the girl, get the band in front of a record producer and finally get in his own band? Watch the movie to find out.
A lot of this movie is pretty by the numbers, but there were some pretty interesting storytelling approaches I wanted to point out. For one thing, all of the car stuff happened before the movie starts, so we find out about it as it becomes relevant and not in one huge info dump. This actually surprised me considering these kinds of films tend to dispense with exposition in the most obvious way possible. I was also impressed by the ultimate reveal that Wendy doesn’t just date band dudes, which was Charlie’s assumption from the beginning. Those are the kinds of assumptions at the heart of plenty of movies like this, so to see it turned on its head in a realistic matter was fun. Plus, guys, I love movies about kids who want to be in bands, house party movies and bits where ultra religious weirdos get shown the error of their ways. So thumbs up all around.
The cast and crew did a solid job to the best of their relative abilities across the board. Cheapo 80s comedies like this tend to be 50/50 when it comes to seeing all kinds of recognizable faces, but this falls on the “not so much side.” There are a few interesting names on board. Director Joe Ritter was one of five writers on the original Toxic Avenger which had a far greater affect on me than I’d like to admit. Also, star Philip Paley apparently starred as Cha-Ka on Land Of The Lost as a kid. Oh and Steven Tash, who plays Charlie’s best friend Scully, was the kid in the beginning of Ghostbusters during the ESP test. I also thought it was interesting that screenwriter David Rocklin never worked on anything before or after this project.
Also, real quick, how weird is this poster/box art? If you look at it real quick, it looks like the woman is pregnant, right? Obviously, I get what they were going for, but I would have gone for a second draft on this one.