REVIEW: The Hidden 2 (1993)

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“Woof-woof! I want to die!” – The people involved in the making of this film.

The Hidden 2: F

I thought I wanted more from The Hidden, but I have changed my mind. It was stupid of me to want such a thing. It was fine the way it was and I don’t want any more Hidden. I should have been satisfied with a berserk alien movie that celebrates its own shamelessness as a ripoff of other science fiction horror movies. But I greedily wanted more and look what happened: The (fucking terrible) Hidden 2.

I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but the alien from the first film left behind some eggs. The eggs hatch in this one and they do pretty much the same thing their dad did: they possess a bunch of people and go on visceral crime-sprees with all the ambition of a cracked-out Jeff Goldblum-style Death Wish goon.

The cover of the VHS says “They live for lust. They live for power. They live forever.” I assume they are talking about the newly-hatched parasites, but that makes zero fucking sense because a) they are not sexual at all, b) they just want to do stuff like eat cheeseburgers and steal cars, and c) there is no mention of any sort of immortality, and their lives are actually very easily ended with the stupid ray gun that the stupid Good Alien has.

Maybe the tagline is talking about the new Good Alien and his human love interest. They hook up, but they have about as much on-screen sexual chemistry as a pile of wet rags. And I’m not talking about those sexy rags. I mean unsexy rags. It’s Alien Seed all over again, and this is a movie that you do not want to be compared to on any level.

The guy from Carnosaur is in it. So it’s got that going for it… I guess.

I am not even exaggerating when I say that about twenty minutes of this movie are totally unaltered scenes from the first Hidden movie. They seriously edit in a LONG clip from the first movie and pass it off as an “intro” to the sequel. Then they throw in another generous clip as a “flashback.” Then (I’m not joking) they have the audacity add ANOTHER clip in the form of our heroes reviewing VHS security camera footage from the climax of the first movie. It is pretty lame. All in all, The Hidden 2 is maybe 60 minutes of original content.

And the content sucks ass.

The same brainless “homages” to Terminator and The Thing are there and they are somehow worse. There is even a scene where a dog gets possessed and there is a gross dog transformation scene like the gross dog transformation scene from The Thing. There are also some terminator-esque “files” that the Good Aliens accesses. I’m surprised there wasn’t “alien-vision” that ripped off all the first person Terminator shots. The parasites carry out some attacks outside of their hosts (like the face-huggers from Alien! Holy shit, am I just now noticing another case of plagiarism?), but they look like cheap puppets that someone threw at the actors.

The layers of meaninglessness to the movie have basically made me a level-10 nihilist. It is a shamelessly unoriginal sequel to a shamelessly unoriginal movie. The hatchlings have all the same abilities/criminal inclinations as before and there is a Good Alien with a Special Gun hunting them with the help of an “I don’t believe it!” human sidekick.

“F” City, population: The Hidden 2.

 

REVIEW: The Hidden (1987)

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Take me to your leader… of this strip club.

The Hidden: B-

The Hidden is a weirdly charming mash-up of plagiarism and cheap 80’s tricks: It has the “Good Guy vs. Bad Guy from Another Word” thing from The Terminator and the “Who’s the Monster in the Room?” thing from The Thing. These setups are re-packaged with Chuck Norris-movie quality and come together to form 90 entertaining and brainless minutes of cassette deck boom-boxes and rocket-launcher carnage.

What’s interesting is that the movie is (pretty much) unanimously respected as a solid film (everyone from Roger Ebert to Amazon.com reviewers write glowingly about it) despite the fact that it consciously replicates other movies while stripping the thought from them. The movie is based on the plots/tropes from The Terminator and The Thing, but there are no deeper allegorical/philosophical messages about mankind’s fear of technology or Cold War paranoia. Now, you could argue that these things were only superficial backdrops in the films I mentioned, but they were at least there. The Hidden revels in the pointlessness of its own monotonous violence.

A parasitic alien criminal who can possess human hosts goes on a wild crime spree on Earth. The alien behaves with Id-like impulsivity; whatever looks good, he steals it. The host he possesses for a lot of the movie looks like the dad from The Wonder Years if there was an episode called “Kevin’s Dad Tries Meth.” Imagine that guy in a sweat-soaked beige business suit committing grand theft auto, armed robbery, and assault with a deadly weapon while looking like he’s having a stroke / overdosing on ecstasy.

The alien parasite causes all sorts of entertaining/hedonistic destruction – slaying characters who are basically all 1980’s stereotypes, eating steaks, stealing boom-boxes – until some fresh-faced FBI motherfucker (played by the fresh-faced FBI motherfucker from Twin Peaks) comes to town with an uncanny ability to predict the alien’s criminal activity. Surprise! He’s a Kyle Reece-style “good” alien who is trying to stop the “bad” alien. He’s got a ray gun and no sense of humor, which goes great with his wisecracking city cop partner who “can’t freaking believe” everything that happens in every scene.

The Hidden starts off as an action/sci-fi and evolves into an insane buddy-cop movie that celebrates all the things you expect from bargain-bin 1980s VHS flicks: automatic weapons, mullets, cocaine, minorities using weird slang created by white people (This is Danny Trejo’s second movie and although I didn’t watch the credits, I bet his character was named “Mexican Guy who says ‘fuck!’” or something), and strippers with big hair.

Is it original at all, like even for one minute? No. But it’s pretty fun. All of the make-up was detailed enough and the alien itself (a three-foot phallic slug) is super-gross when it forces its way down the throats of its hosts. Before watching, lower your expectations accordingly and I think you’ll have a good time.

REVIEW: Under the Skin (2013)

"Come with me if you want to not live."

“Come with me if you want to not live.”

Under the Skin: B-

Yes, this is the movie where Scarlett Johansson gets naked. Yes, it is also a pretty good movie that you should watch for reasons other than just the nude scenes. Again, yes, this is the movie where Scarlett Johansson gets naked.

What an extreme “don’t talk to strangers” cautionary tale. Johansson plays a seductive alien who drives around looking for dudes to lure back to her lair where she leads them into a vat of black goo that dissolves everything except their skin. You never see her do anything with their skin, but you know at some point she is going to wear it, or one of her alien homies is going to wear it. Underneath all that Johansson, is a really grotesque alien.

At first glance, the movie is really repetitive; the driving/seducing/goo takes up a good half of the film and the scenes are all really similar: Johansson drives up to whomever looks the loneliest, charms them into her van (and then to her lair), and then the next thing you know, the poor guy has a raging boner and is following naked Johansson (did I mention there are nude scenes?) until he realizes he’s in black goo, sinking like rock in quicksand. His face melts into disappointment; this was NOT covered in sex-ed!

What’s fun about this repetition is the tension. After you see one guy swallowed by the black goo, the rest of her seductions are rife with fucking evil dramatic irony. We know that if she gets a dude in the van, it’s black goo time, but all he can think about is naked Johansson, even though there is something sort of… off about her. All you can think about naked Johansson too, but you know there is also black goo. The music during the black goo parts is eerie and there are some uncomfortable first-person shots. I liked it.

What’s extra fucked up is the fact that a lot of the footage of her failing to convince a guy to hop in the van is actually footage of her asking real pedestrians, in real life, to hop in her van for a ride. A lot of guys turned Johansson down for a weird van ride and their nervous refusals are included in the film. So when you see her hungrily asking a dude to get in her van to hang out, and the guy says, “no Scarlett Johansson, I do not want to hang out with you,” it’s real! Fucking idiots.

Like I said, the drawn out and suspenseful seductions take up a lot of time, but the formula changes when the alien starts to have what appears to be an existential crisis. “Why am I getting naked and luring lonely guys into black goo?!” It doesn’t end well.

The majority of the director’s credits include music videos, which winds up being a good thing. The movie looks fucking awesome (Even scenes that don’t involve naked Johansson. There, I said it.). The shots are all carefully framed, there are those gnarly first-person sequences, and Johansson fluctuates between flawless and grotesque, angelic and demonic through isolating tracking shots and unflattering close-ups.

See it.

REVIEW: Plus 1 (2013)

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Plus One: D+

Some typical party-teens attend a typical teen house party when they are suddenly zapped back in time by about an hour or two. They are still at the party, but now they’re watching their past selves arrive and do all the typical teen house party shenanigans which they themselves did only hours before!

Every few minutes, the past house party zaps forward in time, so the zapped-forward teens watch their past selves “catch up” with them. With every flash-forward, additional guests from the party are duplicated and displaced in time. This gets the teens worried that once time “catches up,” they will merge with their past selves or maybe cease to exist.

The past doubles of the teens also act a little fishy and get the time-displaced teens worried that these might not be past versions of themselves, but alien doppelgangers who are bending space-time in order to steal their lives.

Here are some of the existential conundrums the movie presents:

  1. If you could get back with your girlfriend by murdering your past self and then murdering her future self, would you?
  2. If you had the chance, would you do that Bill Murray shit from Groundhog’s Day where you use your knowledge from the past to manipulate women?
  3. Who would win in a fight: you right now, or you one hour ago?
  4. If you stand near the place where your past self will be zapped forward through space-time, will the two of you become a fucking DUMB LOOKING conjoined twin thing?
  5. What happens if you pour vodka in your eye? Will it get you laid?
  6. What would happen if you ran into a tool shed to hide from a rift in space-time?
  7. Would you eat sushi off of a stranger’s genitals? What if there was time travel involved?
  8. Would you make out with your past self?
  9. Would you make out with your future self?
  10. If you made out with yourself from a different dimension, would the result be the two of you harmoniously merging into a smirking version of yourself?

Fucking boring!

If you hate annoying teen house party movies, imagine watching one where THE SAME SCENES HAPPEN TWICE with the only difference being someone LOOKING UPSET while it happens. It’s like some annoying bro took a philosophy class and made this movie.

There’s this one scene where a bunch of people hide in a shed, but the past gets zapped into the shed and there’s a bunch of fights to the death. Then you don’t know who’s left standing: past versions or present versions of annoying teens.

REVIEW: Breeders (1997)

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Breeders: D+

Ah, Breeders: the horror movie that unashamedly delivers monsters, college girls, and monsters molesting college girls without taking itself seriously for a single nanosecond.

There’s this alien monster. Let’s call him Breeder. Why? Because he dwells in a labyrinth catacomb underneath a girls boarding school and uses fragments from his glowing meteorite to breed with college girls.

Breeder’s meteorite chunks are very attractive looking and so, in a classic case of reckless hubris, a flock of hot college chicks transform the shards into necklaces for themselves. They probably lie to all their friends and say they got the crystals at Burning Man.

The hot girls don’t realize that their space-rock necklaces will put them under the telepathic control of Breeder, who is going to make them (one-by-one, over the course of about 50 real slow minutes) climb into giant (lame looking) cocoons under their school so he can impregnate them. What a dick! Breeder is basically an intergalactic date rapist! I bet those meteor chunks won’t even show up on a TOX screen in a forensics lab. Someone has to stop this perv!

Some (literally) panty-sniffing professor who looks like a wholesome, sweater-wearing Sears model SOME-FUCKING-HOW figures out the ridiculous plot I just described to you and he descends to the tunnels under the school to stop Breeder and rescue the hot girls, one of whom he is banging. I guess this makes him an anti-hero but, trust me, it doesn’t add any notable depth to his piece of shit character. 1997 was a crazy year.

Cue 25 minute cat-and-mouse scene that is about as exciting as moss on a tree stump. It’s like when they’re looking for the Alien in the movie Alien except there isn’t any suspense, high-tech radar equipment, spaceship setting, good acting, or moment of brilliantly eerie silence. Breeder lumbers out from behind corners and roars like a fucking panther. He suffers from Looks-Like-a-Power-Ranger-Villain syndrome. People trip over cocoons and space snot. And, yes, what you’ve been hoping for happens: Breeder touches some girl’s boobs. Are you happy? You disgust me.

REVIEW: Village of the Damned (1995)

village of the damned

Village of the Damned: C-

This is a variation of The Brood and Children of the Corn that features telepathic blonde kids who have long-term plans for world domination and short-term plans for hurting/terrifying rednecks.

There’s this little town with a population of 2,000. One day, everyone in the city limits passes out for a few hours. There’s a real Under the Dome vibe as law enforcement even paints a border around the coma zone, marking lines that, once crossed, cause people to faint. When everyone wakes up, ten women are pregnant, several of whom have legitimate excuses for how they couldn’t have gotten pregnant.

Some weirdly autonomous, chain-smoking government agent, Kirstie Alley, shows up and takes a creepy interest in the immaculate coma-conceptions. She convinces the women to carry the mystery kids to term and then even personally helps in the delivery room (all the births happen at once), punctuating the ordeal with her nihilistic wise-cracks and power-smirk. You can tell she isn’t to be trusted because she smokes, wears sunglasses indoors, and always wears black.

Nine kids are born and one is still-born. SPOILER: The dead baby looks like an alien fetus and Kirstie Alley keeps it in a pickle jar in her basement so she can look at it and, I think, ponder her own cosmic insignificance.

Then something stranger than any of the coma-pregnancy alien fetus stuff happens: the film flashes forward several years to show the nine kids, all Aryan looking toddlers, existing as acknowledged telepaths with a dominant choke-hold on the town. No one openly fucks with the kids because they will telepathically make you jump off of a cliff or telepathically stick your arm in boiling water. Why wouldn’t they show us the townsfolk realizing that they have creepy telepaths on their hands? Why wouldn’t they show the power-plays the kids must have used to take control? THAT sounds like an interesting story. Instead, the rest of the movie is the kids being mean to / killing people and fucking Kirstie Alley smirking.

Christopher Reeve is the only one who has any success blocking the kids’ mind-reading so the town nominates him as the kids’ special tutor and he decides the best course of action would be to suicide bomb them. Mark Hamill is a priest who is bothered by everything.

The kids reveal they are aliens with similar telepathic colonies set up elsewhere on Earth. Kirstie Alley reveals that the government knows all about it and that she has a little alien fetus in her basement. John Carpenter reveals that he is a badass with belligerent synth music but inept as fuck with an acoustic guitar.

Not horrible, I guess.

REVIEW: Ghosts of Mars (2001)

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Ghosts of Mars (2001): D+

The Transporter and Natasha Henstridge play some cops in the future who have to go to colonized future Mars because future Ice Cube, a real badass future criminal, is awaiting an interplanetary transfer to another futuristic prison. It’s directed by John Carpenter and takes place in the future.

The future cops and Ice Cube have to team up to fight some disembodied spirits of an ancient Martian race that have been possessing some colonial miners, turning them into self-mutilating murderous psychos.

What could go wrong, right? Entertaining cast and an awesome director, right? Well Natasha Henstrisge doesn’t do any sexy-violent stuff, The Transporter doesn’t roundhouse kick anyone, and Ice Cube doesn’t rap or have any cool one-liners. The pace is boring as fuck and the possessed miners look like The Crow with infected botox injections in their foreheads and a bunch of dumb hieroglyphics burned on their cheeks. They look like Marilyn Manson if he conditioned his hair and stuck his head in a waffle iron.

I have heard the film described as a misunderstood homage to Carpenter’s own Assault on Precinct 13, which I think is a pretty superficial stretch. Maybe I am “misunderstanding.” Sure there are cops being attacked by a seemingly endless army of bad guys, but that’s where the similarities end as far as I can tell. I think it shares more with Pitch Black (which was released only months before) where the future cops have to team up with future Vin Diesel to battle the army of scary aliens on the foreign planet.

The Martian spirits are a malevolent cloud of dust that floats out of a subterranean door. Even if you kill one of the possessed motherfuckers, all you really did was release the Martian spirit dust so it can go possess someone else. The not-possessed people learn this rule, yet they continue to bust lethal caps in the Martian assailants. They decide to blow up the dust and the ending is basically one big drawn out “run away from the explosion we started” followed by a Shyamalanian zinger that you probably won’t care about.

REVIEW: Dreamcatcher (2003)

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Dreamcatcher (2003): D

This is a movie based on a Stephen King novel, so you already know it has about a 75% chance of sucking pretty bad ass. Guess what? It doesn’t beat the odds. Dreamcatcher was a fucking nightmare in which several talented actors are trapped in a convoluted mash-up of old Stephen King ideas, PG13 action movie cliches, and CGI aliens that crawl out of rectums.

Some childhood friends get together for a snowy weekend of male bonding in a secluded cabin. No rectums involved yet, but just you wait! It is slowly revealed to the audience that the buddies share a telepathic bond.

The testosterone and wasted movie minutes really start to flow and then some stranger covered in a weird fungus shows up and dies, really bumming everyone out. Even worse, a worm-like alien organism slithers out of the corpse’s butthole and starts killing the friends. The butthole alien, which resembles a three foot long hookworm with rows of shark teeth, kills Jason Lee and some other guy and then lays eggs / farts fungus all over the cabin. For a few minutes, it is trapped in a toilet, which I guess is supposed to be ironic because it came out of some dude’s asshole. How clever!  Luckily, the cabin gets burned down later, cooking the alien/fungus/larva to death and saving dozens of human buttholes from future shredding and saving the movie from something possibly exciting happening.

Then some larger alien calling himself “Mr. Grey” possesses the body of Sgt. Brody from Homeland, who narrowly avoided being slaughtered by the anal eel back at the cabin. Mr. Grey wants to contaminate the water supply in Boston with worms and have a big sphincter-shredding party. Sounds good to me at this point because so far, not much has happened.

As Brody’s Mr. Grey-controlled body treks to Boston, Brody has an internal struggle with the alien in a metaphorical mental “library” that houses all of Brody’s memories. Mr. Grey is rummaging around in Brody’s head looking for a specific memory. You find out later what it is. It has nothing to do with buttholes. Or dreamcatchers.

The military gets involved, some people get infected with the fungus and get “quarantined.” Many of the infected are exterminated because this secret branch of the military is familiar with the fungus which matures into the angry butthole worm. “Angry Butthole Worm” would be a pretty cool band name, by the way.

Come to find out, one of the friends was secretly an alien… a good alien disguised as an autistic dude! Not some cavity eel that sprays moss everywhere and bites people. We learn that Mr. Grey was looking for the memories associated with this benevolent alien friend, who also gave everyone their telepathic powers. At the last minute, good alien reveals himself, battles Mr. Grey at the reservoir, and stops the water supply / butthole murder plan. The CGI fight scene thankfully lasts just a few seconds.

If you were already at the end of your rope with this messy shit, sorry: The product of the CGI alien fight is a big CGI explosion that looks like a dreamcatcher and there’s no more butthole stuff.

The fraternal childhood bond, flashbacks, and subversive alien plot remind me of ItTommyknockers, and Stand By Me. The direction was nothing special and all of the worms look like that really liquidy CGI from the late 90’s.