Halloween Scene: Not Of This Earth (1988)

note of this earth 1988 eyes

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 corman classicsNot 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.

not of this earth boxAnyway, 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!

Halloween Scene: Blade (1998)

We as comic fans owe a lot to Blade. Not only did the movie show audiences and studios that comic book movies didn’t have to be corny, but also that they could be fun, good and play with different genres. These things had been done before, of course, but the Batman series of films did a lot to both elevate and then destroy people’s conceptions of what a superhero/comic book movie could be. Then Blade came along in 1998, which makes me feel quite old. I followed the movie’s progression in Wizard and was in full support of it like I was of every comic related project I ever heard or read about. I would have been about 15 when the movie came out and since it’s rated R–another brand new concept for the subgenre of movies based on Marvel or DC characters–so I probably didn’t see it in theaters but somewhere along the way I did and I dug it.

I watched it again on Friday and planned to do a Halloween Scene themed Friday Fisticuffs about it, but we wound up hanging out with friends Friday night and it got away from me. Overall, I’d say the movie holds up pretty well, but some of the special effects just look silly.

But first, the good. I like that the movie’s a well-balanced mix of horror and action. With the tragic backstory and F-bomb filled one-liners, the movie definitely feels like a 90s action flick. For me that’s a good thing, but I could imagine it would get to be too much for some. At the same time there’s a pretty cool vampire story going on here. The vamps are from different clans and somehow, some of them were born as vampires while others have been turned. The purebloods have built empires on every continent that help to supply them with blood, but also keep them unknown. Enter Deacon Frost, a non-pure blood who wants to bring about an ancient blood god who will turn everyone into a vampire so it won’t matter who came from who. I thought it was an interesting angle to take with the story, one that I most definitely hadn’t seen at that time and can’t recall seeing since, but that might just be because I’ve got a crummy memory.

The monster story elements might have been great, but the effects weren’t so great. I should clarify, the CGI effects are crap, the practical stuff looks fantastic and the jump from one to the other is pretty jarring. Take that epic opening action scene at the blood rave (everything about this scene is great, by the way, the soon-to-be victim plays it pitch perfectly). The teeth look great (the only way you can really tell someone’s a vamp), then Blade shows up and there’s some great action scenes, but as soon as the vamps start getting blasted they turn to dust which just look bad, especially because they have a weird spark inside. It makes me think about Buffy and how those effects looked pretty good. There’s also some pretty bad stuff going on at the end when a blood toxin thing gets introduced and the blood god kind of makes an appearance. I know there’s been a lot of talk of filmmakers going back and mucking with their films, but I would be in full support of Blade getting some new effects added in. Go back and watch that scene with the subway train and tell me it doesn’t look terrible.

I had a great time watching this flick again. Snipes is at his action star best, Stephen Dorff plays a great “low man on the totem pole trying to rise up” bad guy, Kris Kristofferson is absolutely awesome and reminds me of Sam Elliott in Road House and Donal Logue is great as the unlucky vampire henchman. If you haven’t seen the movie, I recommend it, if you haven’t seen it in a while, give it another look. I think you’ll dig it!

Halloween Scene: Serial Mom (1994)

2008-10-01
3:53:36 am

Oh John Waters, you lovable scamp. Only you could turn a lovely housewife played by Kathleen Turner into a hilarious murdering psychopath. Kudos. If memory servers (and it very likely doesn’t) this is the first horror-ish movie that I ever watched on tape from beginning to end. I had this friend named Jeff Kurt whose parents were way more lax when it came to rental choices (or maybe his older sister got it for us, I can’t remember). Anyway, we stayed up and watched it and I laughed my head off. Kind of like I do when characters get hit by buses in movies and TV shows.

Tonight is the first time I’ve watched since probably 1994 or ’95 (when I was 11 or 12, yeesh) and I loved it. First off, I had no idea how recognizable the cast is. You’ve got Scream’s Matthew Lillard (who I loved in that movie), Law and Order’s Sam Waterston, Katheleen Turner who still looked pretty good in 1994, Ricki Lake who would go on to entertain me during days off school and summer vacation with her crazy talk show and finally, Justin Whalin who you might remember as one of the Jimmy Olsens from Lois and Clark The New Adventures of Sueprman (which I LOVED as a kid).

12 year old me also had no idea who John Waters was (well, maybe in the most basic sense). I haven’t seen a ton of his movies (I liked Cecil B. DeMented more than Hairspray, but Serial Mom the best). I’d like to think the dark sense of humor he displayed here would go on to effect me in a good way (I was the only one of my friends who didn’t want to leave the theater when we snuck in to see Very Bad Things, the sissies). So, thanks for that John and Jeff Kurt’s parents.

Now, the movie itself features Turner as what seems like an ultra-sitcom-like housewife whose married to Sam Waterston and has horror fan Matthew Lillard and boy crazy Ricki Lake as kids. Everything seems okay until the cops show up asking about obscene phone calls. Sam and Kathleen say they don’t know anything about it. We then find out that Kathleen is in fact the one making the calls (it’s a hilarious scene).

From there, she goes on to kill more and more people for silly reasons. Lillard’s teacher thinks he’s too obsessed with horror movies. Heck, she’s making the obscene phone calls because the woman took her spot in a parking lot. She also ices a dude who stood her daughter up with a fire poker through the chest (his liver gets stuck on the edge).

Eventually, the police start to take notice, which is great because in a lot of horror movies, the killer seems to avoid any and all contact with the law. In fact, the cops have a pretty good idea it’s her early on. Even the kids and husband get freaked out until they find Lillard’s buddy (Jimmy Olsen) hasn’t been killed even though they thought he was the next on her list. Instead she was stabbing his neighbors to death, seemingly for eating chicken in a sloppy manner. Later, the police are waiting on the proof that she’s the killer while they’re in church (which is also hilarious as this huge line of cop cars rolls through town). Also of note, at this point, the town is freake dout and terrified of her. They freak out after she sneezes on a baby at which time Lillard and his girlfriend help her escape. They’re really excited about the fact that she’s now bigger than Freddy and Jason. Anyway, this lady comes into the video store that Lillard works at and she’s mean, so Turner gets into her house and kills her with a roast.

Kathleen then sees Jimmy Olsen watching her and gives chase in the middle of the day, running after him with a huge butcher knife. THEN she steals a delivery truck and chases him down. To get away Jimmy Olsen makes his way into a packed punk rock club (L7’s playing). The funniest part (and I’m not sure if this is intentional or not) is that it’s in the middle of the day! Have you ever seen a concert that starts before dark? It made me laugh pretty hard.

So, she gets caught and ends up defending herself. At some point the people in the town stop being disgusted and start supporting her (including her family, of course). It turns out there’s no actual evidence so she gets off scott free and goes on to kill a woman of the jury for wearing white after Labor Day with a pay phone. That juror? Played by Patty Hearst! Look her up if you don’t know who she is and feel ashamed. Truly crazy! Oh and she’s also going to be played by Suzanne Sommers in the movie. Hey, remember Step By Step? Hot, right?

I really like how Waters flips the script, making such a big deal out of the case and turning this absolute nut job into a local hero. He really smacks you in the face with this satire of “celebrity trials,” public perception and how the media and public can make these crazy killers into celebs. But besides that, the kills are pretty enjoyable and I can’t think of another female killer in a movie that has that crazy “I WILL kill you” look better than Kathleen Turner. Man, that’s a weird sentence.