REVIEW: Humanoids from the Deep (1980)

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Humanoids from the Deep: C-

This isn’t the first movie I’ve seen where disgusting monsters mate with gorgeous, terrified girls, and, if my addiction to horror movies continues, it probably won’t be the last.

Horny, amphibious, carnivorous, sea monsters slaughter, molest, and mate with the teen populace of a run-down beach town in this 1980’s gore-fest. Everyone in the town is either a flannel-wearing Indian-hating mustached redneck or a nubile teen, so the movie has nothing but disposable lives/boobs to feed to the monsters.

The whole Indian-hating thing exists so we can have this subplot where the Indian character rescues some racist rednecks from Humanoids and then they learn that maybe Indians aren’t so bad after all. They’re way better than murderous Humanoids and maybe we can all get along.

The Humanoids themselves suffer from Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers syndrome and all look like dudes in moss covered rubber Godzilla suits. They lumber around slowly and made perfunctory monster noises. The carnage is decent, though. There are a half dozen dog corpses and some gnarled up boyfriends/fathers-of-nubile-teen-girls that actually look pretty gruesome.

I didn’t feel too much sympathy for the people who get killed. One guy’s cut-off jean shorts made me pretty glad he met with a painful death. Another few fatalities are Indian-hating bigots for whom you are incapable of feeling pity.

I really felt bad for the girls. How would you like to be rebelling against your Indian-hating redneck dock worker father by frolicking around a deserted beach with some pale dude who wears daisy-dukes only to have your afternoon ruined by a biped sea-creature who holds you down and does bad, bad things to you?

This movie is like the deformed twin of Species, where a sexy female alien seduces willing human men in a gripping thriller with an all-star cast. In Humanoids, un-sexy male monsters rape human women in a schlocky actor-less creature feature.

If you have a room full of friends and don’t feel like using your brain, this movie is worth a peripheral watch.

REVIEW: Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

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Jacob’s Ladder: B-

Tim Robbins plays a scatterbrained ‘Nam vet who believes that demons, real and figurative, are out to get him. Is it a government conspiracy, or is Robbins nuts, or both? He has sort of a mullet, that’s for sure.

I hope you enjoy movies in which the protagonist suddenly wakes from a nightmare, drenched in sweat with a look of terror still on their face. Over and over. Because this is one of those movies.

The film progresses with the jagged velocity of a bad LSD trip. There are tense quiet scenes that are interrupted by violent Vietnam flashbacks and demon action. You might get up to grab a beer while Robbins is being adjusted by his chiropractor and when you sit back down, he’s being stabbed by Charlie in a jungle ambush.

The demons are great. Sometimes there’s just a reptilian tail subtly hanging out of someone’s trench coat. Sometimes, some guy in a car will jiggle around and morph into a demon. In one scene, Robbins is bobbing his head at a house party and everything explodes into demonic pandemonium like the orgiastic “lizard scene” from Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.

Imagine you work at the post office, have a mullet, and ate the brown acid and now that’s your life forever.

When Robbins discovers that his war buddies are also haunted by demons, the supernatural element of the film settles down a bit and now we’re in an X-Files style government cover-up story complete with sunglasses-wearing guys in black suits and an abundance of car-bombs. Did the US government expose Robbins’s platoon to toxic materials that induce hallucinatory demon trips? Sweaty sleep-deprived Tim Robbins tries to get to the bottom of this.

You aren’t really sure if it’s demons or the government who are ruining Tim Robbins’ life, so the movie keeps you guessing, which is good. Macaulay Culkin gets hit by a truck, which is okay.

Points off for the most pompous/abrupt post-modernist cop-out ending I’ve seen in a while. This is the godfather of M Night Shyamalanian “twist” horror endings for sure.

REVIEW: Nurse 3D (2012)

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Nurse 3D: D

When a man sits down to watch a rated-R horror movie, he does so with the understanding that breasts and/or full-frontal nudity may be part of the deal. About 90% of the scenes in Nurse 3D feature the full frontal nudity of physically flawless people, many of whom are medical professionals. The 10% of the movie that wasn’t that was a cliche grab bag.

A hot nurse, Abby (played by Paz de la Huerta from Boardwalk Empire), hates guys who cheat on their wives so she entraps married guys by seducing them and then later, she kills them, usually while wearing only a bra or nothing. There’s a real Dexter vibe to this formula because she’s killing “bad” guys and we are treated to her witty voice-overs as she does it.

There are other characters whose function is to be oblivious or sexy, or oblivious and sexy. Katrina Bowden from 30 Rock plays another sexy nurse. Kathleen Turner is in it. I can’t even describe the ruckus that occurred when my roomful of friends saw that Judd Nelson was in the movie. He gets his arm cut off with a bone saw. The world is an imperfect place.

I fucking hate CGI blood and this movie was CGI drowning in it. Not just CGI blood either; there are CGI weapons that make CGI wounds that make the CGI blood. I watched it in 2D so maybe I missed out on some really life-changing moments where a CGI scalpel “jumps out” at me but – maybe I’m being cynical here – I doubt it.

There’s a really bizarre and consuming subplot that sort of evolves into the main plot. Abby develops a crush on Katrina Bowden, so she date rapes her and takes a billion blackmail pics. This is an excuse for gratuitous/mesmerizing boobs, ass, side-boob, side-ass, and vagina footage. We have the date rape scene, dramatic crying in the shower scene, looking at the date rape pictures scene, arguing in bra and panties the morning after the date rape scene, etc. If you wanted to watch that sort of thing, you certainly don’t need to go to Nurse 3D, a movie that simultaneously tortures you with predictable CGI carnage.

If you want someone to argue with you in their underwear, let me know. I don’t have much going on these days.

The movie reminded me more of one of those softcore semi-porn movies that Cinemax shows at midnight than a horror movie. There is a really violent scene where Abby snaps and kills a bunch of people in the ICU but, again, it’s a CGI-fest that really takes you out of the movie.

If you are really lonely, watch this film.

 

REVIEW: Sharknado (2013)

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Sharknado: C-

A CGI tornado full of CGI sharks hits LA in this perfect storm of B-movie shittiness.

Sharknado basically exists for you and your friends to converge in the living room, turn down the lights, and tear this movie a new asshole a la Mystery Science Theater 3000. It achieves this goal with a calculated, precise balance missing from most other movies designed to be fucking dumb.

One of the guys from 90210, Tara Reid, and the dad from Home Alone are trying to flee LA and the hungry Sharknado. The plot holes are astronomical, the CGI is cheap, and the acting is wretched, ON PURPOSE.

Numerous times, I caught myself marveling at the fact that this movie was allowed to exist. Like someone at SyFy said “Hey, how about we make a movie about a tornado filled with sharks and a blonde with huge breasts who launches missiles at the tornado filled with sharks and we make it so fucking bad ON PURPOSE that its intentional shittiness makes it all ok. And we’ll call it Sharknado.” And then they made the movie exactly like that.

A cocktail waitress operates a helicopter and the dad from Home Alone beats a CGI shark with a bar stool.

I couldn’t tell if it’s semi-ballsy genius or just another B-movie off the conveyor belt that, through some fluke, achieved some sort of flawless creature-feature awesomeness and inflated cult status. I fell for it though. In my opinion, Sharknado is the product of the realization that there are a lot of people who like to cleverly bash shitty movies and that these same people would enjoy a movie made for this purpose alone. The movie is meant to be mocked and SyFy did a great job of doing what they were trying to do.

In conclusion: this movie is fucking dumb.

REVIEW: Dracula 3D (2012)

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Dracula 3D: D+

This is a retelling of Bram Stoker’s classic with some added nudity, carnage, and a Dracula who looks about as threatening as an H&R Block employee.

The villagers who, in Stoker’s novel, were limited to being terrified background fixtures are more prominent in Argento’s retelling. They have secret meetings that reveal that they live in an uneasy alliance with Dracula. Dracula builds schools for them and loans them money with the understanding that he can eat anyone anytime he wants. As you might expect, some people aren’t really into this arrangement but insubordination is met with decapitation and/or a jugular extraction so for the most part, everyone plays ball.

There’s no England in this one. Harker, Mina, Lucy, Renfield, they all go to the Carpathian Mountains and get fucked with by Dracula, who looks like he’s modeling pea-coats for JC Penny. His hillbilly/gypsy/whatever accolades are an added threat. Van Helsing shows up, played by everyone’s favorite Dutch psychopath, Rudger Hauer. SIT THE FUCK DOWN, HUGH JACKMAN. He avoids a lot of attacks, wields crucifixes, and delivers his lines like a drunk Christopher Walken.

Harker gets turned into a vampire and there are a half dozen scenes where young actresses unburden their breasts from the oppression of constrictive corsets. One of these actresses is the director’s daughter, but you aren’t allowed to find that awkward because this is art!

The story loosely follows the original with the aforementioned alterations being the most significant. Dracula also showcases some new powers:

  1. The ability to turn into an owl
  2. The ability to turn into a swarm of house flies
  3. The ability to turn into a giant praying mantis
  4. The ability to teleport
  5. The ability to deliver telekinetic choke-slams
  6. The ability to look like an innocuous grocery store clerk

The special effects are cheap and include one of my pet peeves: CGI blood. The acting is mediocre and there aren’t any interesting twists on the story. All in all, this was a pointless, disappointing movie from Argento, whom, like I have said, I hate talking shit about. This is devoid of suspense or scares. You’re better off watching Bram Stoker’s Dracula if you want to see something interesting done with the original source material.

 

REVIEW: Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006): B+

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Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon: B+

As if you needed more evidence that Scream is one of the most influential genre films ever, Behind the Mask is yet another example of meta-horror floating in Wes Craven’s wake.  Mask takes place in a world that not only acknowledges Freddy, Jason, and Michael, but treats their stories as if they were inspired by true events carried out by real killers.  However, instead of examining the horror movie tropes and rules from the victims’ perspective, a la Scream, it takes us…behind the fucking mask.  Duh.

Leslie Vernon is a mass murderer in training, but he’s also an affable guy who’s letting a broadcast journalist intern named Taylor (Macauley Culkin’s sister in Home Alone) and her two camera guys trail along as he prepares to massacre semi-innocent teens at a remote cabin.  The film crew looks on with a mixture of curiosity, awe, and trepidation as Leslie shows them how to select and stalk one’s “survivor girl,” do cardio to “make it look like you’re walking while everyone else is running their asses off,” and foil victims’ escape routes and defenses by blocking exits, cutting tree limbs, and sabotaging potential weapons.  Such is Leslie’s charm and humor that even though he’s describing terrible things, he’s exceedingly likable.

So is his mentor, played by Herschel from The Walking Dead.  The crew visits his house for a sausage cookout, but first they have to un-bury him from the backyard where he’s practicing the art of appearing to be dead.  He later regales them with tales of the truly great, enduring slashers and derides “one-hit wonders.”

Most of the movie is shot documentary-style until the turning point when the film crew decide to break the fourth wall and insert themselves into Leslie’s murderous scheme.  There’s a pretty sweet plot twist, a couple nice boobies, and a buttload of homages to horror flicks.  Robert Englund is an “Ahab,” the Dr. Loomis archetype (the dude from Halloween, not me) who knows Leslie’s past and is trying to foil his plans.  His character’s name is Doc Halloran, which almost assuredly has to be an allusion to The Shining, amiright?  There’s also an appearance by the “This house is clean” lady from Poltergeist (who knew that dwarf bitch was still alive?), and an awesome end-credits sequence that features Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees) over the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.”

Good stuff.  But to be truly great, you’ve gotta have a sequel.  So get with it, Leslie.

REVIEW: Berberian Sound Studio (2012)

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Berberian Sound Studio: B

Toby Jones plays Gilderoy, a soft-spoken, genius sound engineer who is hired to work on a gory Argento-type Italian horror film in this psychological thriller. You never see a single frame of the movie he’s working on, but the anxiety and brutality that takes place in the sound studio is nerve-racking enough.

Gilderoy is a pretty gentle guy who has extensive experience working on cutesy nature films. He thinks he’s signing on to make a movie about horseback riding, so you can imagine how stressed out he gets when he is squirting hot water onto a skillet to make a sound for when the on-screen undead witch jams a red-hot poker up the vagina of one of her victims. He records women screaming and he massacres vegetables all day to create sounds for the movie’s apparently endless demand for gore-noise. He then must hunch over his console and devote hours to mixing the noises with 70’s sounding synths and pipe organ chords. Understandably, this erodes his sanity/happiness quite a bit. Sad Gilderoy.

Gilderoy’s mild-mannered gentility is a stark contrast to the demeanor of his co-workers’ who are all macho Italian dudes who have no problem putting in a ten hour day of chain-smoking, drinking, and sexually harassing the female voice talent. By degrees, he betrays his roots, dubbing sound for increasingly, wretchedly evil scenes that depart farther and farther from his placid nature movies.

The movie is a fascinating thriller but it abruptly unravels in a cluster-fuck swamp of surrealism of David Lynch proportions. I don’t want to give it away, but the last 20 minutes of the film are a multi-layered nightmare/metaphor and you should keep that in mind when trying to assign meaning to it.

Have you ever seen the last episode of Twin Peaks? Don’t ask me what the fuck happened there but compared to this movie, it makes perfect sense.

One obvious appeal of this movie is that it arouses in the viewer an appreciation for sound engineering and the creativity of behind-the-scenes production in film. It was really fun listening to the movie Gilderoy is working on and watching, not the undead witch cauterizing vaginas, but Gilderoy’s revulsion and distress. Ultimately it was a fun movie with an ending that had an sort of forced, awkward fit. Worth a watch.