The only reason I can imagine that you don’t know about The Asylum’s latest opus, Sharknado, would be that you didn’t touch any social media platforms in the past week. If SyFy (I still hate that name switch) had put this much effort into promoting series like Stargate Universe, the show’s ratings would have likely been more than enough to keep it going….not that I’m sore about that or anything. Still, I think the ramped up ridiculous-ness of this “series” of mega-monster films is definitely to thank for its popularity and presence in our collective social consciousness. It’s become not unlike a bad joke that you just keep telling hoping that it will somehow get funny. Mostly, that doesn’t work. With last night’s premiere of Sharknado it absolutely did. Continue reading
You all know the story, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the USA, was out on a hunting trip with his buddies when a chance encounter with a werewolf left a couple of his friends dead and a chunk bitten out of his leg. What he didn’t know at the time was that werewolf bites give you polio. He was also not aware of the deeper conspiracy involving the Third Reich. Now, the history books may tell it differently, but that’s how Ross Patterson’s film FDR: American Badass begins, and it only gets better from there. In the most hilarious way possible. Continue reading
Before Jennifer Connelly danced with David Bowie, before she flew around looking like Betty Page with a guy in a jet pack, before she went A2A….she teamed up with Dr. Loomis, a chimp, and used her psychic connection with insects to hunt a serial killer at an Italian girl’s school. No really. That’s Phenomena.
As many young actors (and some Christopher Walkens) do, Jennifer took just about any job she could get early in her career. It’s a perfectly understandable method. There’s some actors who turn down work, but the only ones successful at doing so are the ones famous enough to get away with that, like perhaps Jennifer is now. Well, in 1984, she was flown out to Italy to star in a movie directed by cult horror legend, Dario Argento.
These days, Argento is lauded and loved as one of the true artistes of Horror cinema. The suspense and atmosphere of his films are as uniquely recognizable as an Eddie Van Halen guitar solo, or a Bob Ross landscape. You’ll be hard pressed to find a “Top 10 Best Horror Movies” list without “Suspiria” listed.
Back to the subject at hand. Argento had heard stories of police using insects during murder investigations and got to writing this film. It would seem that he blended this with his penchant for serial killers, animals, and the supernatural to give us what some, even the man himself consider his best film.
The movie begins simple enough. A tourist is stranded at a beautiful roadside vista in the middle of the forest. She finds a house in the woods, the camera flips back and forth from her to some beastly thing chained to a wall and trying to break free, it does, she dies and is beheaded. The head is found, and brought, by police, to etymologist, Dr. McGregor (Donald Pleasence) who looks at is and tells them the murder was about 8 months ago. Simple enough, right?
Cue Jennifer Corvino (Connelly), escorted by Head Mistress Frau Brückner arriving at the Richard Wagner Academy for Girls. Jennifer is the daughter of a famous actor who just so happens to be the crush of her room-mate, Sophie. On her first night at the dorm, she begins to sleepwalk. She goes out onto the roof of the school where she witnesses one of the students being murdered. In shock, she wakes, falls, and stumbles out into the street where she’s hit by a car. The two boys driving the car, pick her up, put her in, and drive away. At this point, I could never tell if she was just freaking out, or they were trying to rape her, but either way, they throw her out of the car in the middle of the woods where she tumbles down the side of the hill and is awakened by a rescue chimp.
At this point, you can forget everything you’ve just watched except for Jennifer, Dr. McGregor, Frau Brückner, the murders, and the chimp. IMHO, the movie could have just started here and been fine.
Now we get to the nitty-gritty. The chimp, named “Inga” leads Jen back to Dr. McGregor’s house. He takes her in for the night, but notices that her presence has a strange effect on the insects in his lab. He tells her that some people possess a sort of telepathic connection with insects and it seems that in her excited state, that connection is exacerbated. The next morning, she makes her way back to the school where she is almost immediately subjected to testing for her somnambulism.
That very night, Sophie is murdered and once again, Jennifer sleepwalks. This time, she is guided by a firefly to a maggot covered glove which she reports only to then be mocked and ridiculed as a freak by her fellow school-mates because of her “supposed” connection to insects (children can be so cruel). She pulls a “Carrie” and summons a swarm of flies which covers the academy. Nobody gets hurt, just scared, then Jenny passes out. Only now, instead of fearing her, they just say she’s crazy and try to have her committed to the loony bin…..
Speaking of loony bins, that’s enough of the story for now. You really need to just watch this. It’s crazy, convoluted, kind of all over the place, it’s got psychic bug powers, a crazy germanic power-bitch school-marm, Loomis in a wheelchair, a homicidal helper-monkey, a dwarf dressed as a little boy who’s also a mutant-monster-thing, a lake on fire, a pit of maggoty body-parts and fluids….everything that you can ask for to enjoy with your popcorn on a lonely Saturday night.
Seriously, there is no way to logically explain this film to anyone. I thought I could, but ultimately, no. Can’t do it. It’s like trying to explain “Eraserhead”. You just have to watch it. It’s good, you enjoy it, but you simply can’t figure out why and every time you tell someone why they need to see it, you end up sounding like a buffoon……..wait…did I just insult myself?
Now, why oh why did I “aka” this film “Creepers”?
When release in the UK and US, the film companies didn’t know what to make of this film, much less what made the gore in it contextual, so a bit of it was cut. Also, the distributors didn’t feel that “Phenomena” was catchy enough or as easy to say. So they cut the heck out of what little cohesion the film had and a few of it’s more gory scenes, slapped the name “Creepers” on it and tossed it like a chewed up bone to the rest of the world’s theaters.
To date, if you wish to acquire your copy, there’s only one “complete”/”director’s” cut available on DVD in the US and that is the Anchor Bay release. There are two minor scenes cut from that edition, but they were done so at the behest of Dario Argento himself.
So now you know! Head over to your local DVD acquisition site and pick it up!
Every site’s gotta have at least ONE Top 10 list these days, right?
Here’s a list of the 10 best movie re-makes (that I could think of, it’s by no means definitive, but then again, what is? Everyone’s got an opinion). I hesitate to use the new term “Re-Boot”. I think that term is something that some Hollywood PR guy cooked up because of all the press and social ire towards the incredible lack of individuality being pumped out of the big studio movie making machines. I think for something to be called a Re-Boot, it needs to come out within the same decade as the last iteration of its license.
Either way, here’s a list of our favorite unoriginal films!
10) Death Race (2008)
Okay, before anyone starts going “What?! Have you even SEEN the original? They’re barely the same movie!!”, I know. I know. The changes between the two are vast. However, let’s be honest here, the original “Death Race 2000” (1975), like many Corman films, was remarkably cheesy and the only REAL draw to it was the point system (which they sort of hit on in the remake) and the funky cars.
The thing about this movie, and what most of its naysayers aren’t aware of, is that it’s not really a re-make or a re-boot, per se. It’s actually meant as a prequel to “Death Race 2000”. As a prequel, it fits rather nicely. I mean, of course there are inconsistencies, but they can be forgiven, if for no other reason than, are you REALLY going to take a movie about souped up death-cars that seriously? Bottom line is, this movie is an enjoyable action fest with all the bloody-explodey-gritty-boom-boom that makes such guilty pleasures in the genre so memorable.
9) I Am Legend (2007)
“Omega Man” (1971) is one of my all-time favorite films. I’m not saying it’s a great film, but it’s up there in a collection of movies that since I first saw it when I was about 6 years old, I can and have watched multiple times without getting tired of.
Vincent Price is one of my favorite actors, always has been. Perhaps because there was just something about him that reminded me a lot of a really classy version of my grandfather. Imagine my surprise when I found out while pouring through a video store at about 10 years old that he had made an earlier version of that story called “The Last Man on Earth” (1964)!
So yes, early on, one of my favorite tales of post-apocalyptic earth was the film versions of Richard Matheson’s “I Am Legend”. Having finally gotten around to reading the source material for the films in my teens, I discovered that the movies I loved had little similarity to the book. The closest being “The Last Man on Earth”, the screenplay of which, I had found out, was originally written by Matheson. Alas, after many rewrites by the studio and production companies, he had his name taken off.
That leads us to 2007.
I’m not one of those big “Oh “f” Wil Smith” guys. I honestly quite like his movies. He’s really not a bad actor. Regardless, with the huge amount of stinker remakes coming out of Hollywood at the time, I was understandably cynical about this movie. It was probably the last time I allowed myself to act in such a way as to dismiss a film before seeing it.
“I Am Legend” is not the book. It’s neither “Omega Man” or “Last Man On Earth”. Rather it is a combining of all three while standing on its own. The beginning of the film, like the beginning of “Omega Man”, really captures the loneliness of the Smith’s Robert Neville. The flashback sequences, telling the story of how the world came to be in such a state, harkens back to “Last Man on Earth”. Lastly, and perhaps most interestingly, the ending…no, not the weird “butterfly glass”, explodey ending that was on the theatrical release, but the original, cut, ending of the movie, was a very big nod to the novel. Neville is made to realize that the creatures are attacking him because in actuality, HE is the monster. They’re defending themselves from him and Neville finally recognizes it. As the character in the book says before he dies, “[I am] a new superstition entering the unassailable fortress of forever. I am legend”.
8) Fright Night (2011)
“Oh you’re so cool Brewster!”
Say that to anyone who is or was a fan of 80’s horror films and they’ll know almost immediately where it’s from. At the absolute least, they’ll remember that squeaky voice of none other than Stephen Geoffreys’ “Evil Ed”.
“Fright Night” is a film that could only have been made when it was. In the mid-80’s, the larger corporations were starting to gobble up network TV, and the reign of the late-night horror host was coming to an end. The Horror Host shows as some younger readers may not know, where a big staple of late-night TV for about 20 years from the 60’s through the 80’s. The likes of Vampira, Zacherlie, Svengoolie, and of course, Elvira would host showings of (mostly low-budget) horror movies during the late hours on local tv stations as a pull to try to grab viewers that would normally have turned off the tube hours ago. Unfortunately, with the coming of the infomercial, stations found they could make more money from hours-long advertisers/ments, than something cheap just placed there to run more commercials.
The original “Fright Night” was definitely a film for its time, so you can imagine the hesitance when a re-make was announced. Nobody knew what kind of angle they could take. All the general public saw was another studio trying to cash in on a beloved favorite. Even if that’s what it was at its base, it was so much more.
“Fright Night” 2011, was just enough of a separation from the original to really let it stand on its own and feel fresh to new audiences while not feeling like an “insult” to the fans or the 80’s film.
David Tennant (who was brilliantly cast here. The producers knew who they had and really marketed him to the Doctor Who fans as this was his first big American film after coming off his run as the 10th Doctor) plays the spirit of the original “Peter Vincent” so well, replacing the washed up Horror Host with a washed up Vegas magician. Anton Yelchin’s “Charley Brewster” (which honestly surprised me since I’d only seen/noticed him as the garble-accent-mouthed Chekov in 2009’s “Star Trek”) was fantastic and very much like the original. Who now could you possibly get to play the geeky-weird friend other than “McLovin” himself? Well, I will say this, Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s “Ed” is definitely NOT as memorable as Geoffreys’ was, but good nonetheless. Lastly, Colin Farrell’s “Jerry Dandrige”? Creepy. Creepy in an almost realistic, unstoppable serial killer/predator way. Smart, manipulative, and brutal.
If you haven’t seen it yet, and you need a good Friday night creeper, I recommend it.
7) Invasion of the Body Snatchers
I’m not going to do a big write-up on this one. I’m just going to say that this remake of the classic 1956 film of the same name is not as well-known, not because it’s bad by any means, but rather because it’s so damned creepy that nobody wants to think about it anymore after seeing it. Seriously, maybe these are “spoiler-y”, but if you haven’t seen this movie in the past 30 years, I can hardly be blamed, but I’m going to leave you with just these two short clips to watch:
Okay? Now try to go to sleep. Can’t do it? Don’t worry, neither can I. *shudder*
6) Dawn of the Dead (2004)
The original “Dawn of the Dead” is, in the opinion of many, one of the greatest zombie films ever made. It is one of my personal favorites. As you can imagine, to this day, there are many, MANY who still complain about the changes made to the feel and especially to the zombies in Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake. I am not one of them.
This remake is only similar in very few ways to the orignal. The setting, (some of) the characters, and the undead are pretty much all that is kept. I’m okay with that. Why? Because I’ll always have my collection of all the different release versions of the original to watch. Also, if you take some “artistic license” and do it well, any changes can be made acceptable. This movie is most definitely acceptable. The human emotion and danger is captured very well. The theme that Romero puts forth in his films, that the “humans” can pose a bigger threat than the monsters is well engrained in this film. Think about it, if everyone just gave a moments thought to the consequence of their actions, they could have survived comfortably in that mall. But really, when does that ever happen in real life? Some concepts in this were brilliantly conceived. Having the other survivor so close, but so far, the “pregnancy”, the greedy power-mad mall workers, all led to the drama and thrill of this movie to the point where the zombies were almost…almost an afterthought.
If you happen to be one of those that have dismissed this movie and/or refuse to watch it because you’re so upset about what it does to the original, you really must get over that hurdle and allow yourself to enjoy this great entry into the genre.
Written by: Christopher Lee
The next few months are going to be crazy times in the theaters for geeks, nerds, dweebs and spaz’s, but let’s not let all the blockbusters take our focus away from some of the “smaller” films that might otherwise slip under the radar, like “ParaNorman” which comes out on August 17th, 2012 from Laika Entertainment, the studio that brought us “Coraline” and “The Corpse Bride”.
“ParaNorman” tells the tale of young Norman Babcock who is your stereotypical “Weird Kid” who gets put down by his family and picked on at school. The difference here lies in the odd ability young Norman has for communicating with the dead.
This of course leads him to all sorts of issues that a kid his age shouldn’t have to deal with, but nothing like the sort of problem that’s coming when an evil witch spirit casts a spell to raise the dead and rule the world. Her plan might come to fruition if not for the heroic efforts of the reluctant little hero.
Okay, I’ll be the first to admit. The plot is/seems a bit “done”, cliche’d, and contrived. It really seems like the studio just wanted to make another “creepy kid’s movie” and having run out of ideas and not wanting to deliberately rip off Edward Gorey, instead ripped off Peter Jackson. Really, this movie looks like the “Frighteners” for kids (and Hot Topic patrons). Not to mention all the obvious stereotypes. C’mon, haven’t we had enough of the “friend of the misfit hero is a dopey fat kid”? I’m sure that if it wasn’t that, it’d probably be a ginger. I mean, everyone knows the only hero dork in pop-culture who has a best friend that’s not an idiot, socially inept, or of obvious physical difference than the norm, is Spider-Man (I refer to Harry Osbourne if you didn’t get that), though, granted, as much as I love the new series, “Ultimate Spider-Man”s Miles Morales’ best friend is a chubby asian nerd…stereotype much? Okay, okay, that’s a different article all together.
All that being said, none of it means that I don’t want to see “ParaNorman”, mind you. It still looks fun, and I honestly think going into it with lower expectations will let me enjoy it a bit more than if I expected something great and new. Your thoughts?