Category Archives: movie review

How Christopher Lee Made Me Cry for My Mummy!

The Mummy
starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Yvonne Furneaux, and Felix Aylmer
directed by Terence Fisher
Hammer Films (1959)
I have never found the Mummy that horrifying. He’s just not a scary cat, you know, he’s always been the toilet paper zombie to me. Well, Christopher Lee has helped change that.
I was trying to think of a classic monster movie to watch for the Monster Movie Marathon, and when someone on Twitter suggested Hammer Films, I figured it was a good idea. I’ve not seen any of the Hammer films, at least not that I can recall. Chances might be good I saw a couple in college, but watching old movies then involved drinking games, so memory retention ain’t that great. So, I hit up my local library and found The Mummy.
Now, one of the things I always hear about Hammer films is how great the set designs are for the historical backdrops. It’s true, despite being dated by today’s standards. The staging for the Egyptian excavation and the small England town may very well have been filmed on the same sound stage, but each really had that golden age of film feel. The costumes were something else that I found exceptional in the film, but I’ll go into that a bit later.
So, Peter Cushing plays a globetrotting archeologist, bedridden with a broken leg, while his father and uncle lead the dig that uncovers the lost tomb of Princess Ananka. As the old codgers are about to go inside the tomb for the first time, they’re warned to abandon what they’re doing by a dapper stranger in a fez. Of course, old white men of the time aren’t in the habit of heeding the local ethnic community, so they kindly tell him to sod off and carry on with their exploration. Inside, they find an astonishingly tidy crypt ornamented by various artifacts and the tomb of Princess Ananka. It becomes apparent very quickly why Cushing’s character is laid up: so he can’t save his father from an encounter with whatever was waiting for him in the tomb.
Turns out it was the Mummy, a condemned priest entombed with the Princess to protect her for eternity, as punishment for his amorous feelings for her. I was really worried this would be the point where the movie would go right off its own rails, and Christopher Lee would look like a lumbering drunkard who fell into a janitor’s closet and came out swathed in toiletries. Fortunately, the costume design was near perfect. There’s an inexplicable menace to see that thing just standing there. Maybe it’s Lee’s height and physical stature, or perhaps it’s the eyes as close-ups on his face carry the torment and near-instinctual malice to anyone who offends the object of his love.
An interesting factoid about the film surrounds a scene where Cushing’s character fires a gun at the Mummy after it breaks into his home. The Mummy is unphased as it trudges off, getting shot in the chest and back, but Christopher Lee actually suffered burn marks from the squibs used for the effect that left marks for weeks. Ouch! Talk about staying in character. If I got burned like that, I don’t think I could stay in character–more likely I’d lay down a tirade on every stage hand within shouting distance.
The movie ends on a bit of a predictable note, but it’s all built up to the final scenes very well. Lots of drama, lots of suspense, and even a bit of romance for good measure. If the other Hammer films are this good, then I need to track them down.
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Filed under Christopher Lee, hammer films, horror, monster movie marathon, movie review, Peter Cushing, Rabid Rewind, The Mummy

Dinocroc Vs. Supergator: Not exactly David Carradine’s finest hour, but …

Dinocroc Vs. Supergator
starring Corey Landis, Amy Rasimas, and David Carradine
written by Jay Andrews and Mike MacLean
directed by Jay Andrews
Anchor Bay (2010)
Oh, Roger Corman, you do love your killer beasts, don’t you?
In a production of slighter higher caliber than a SyFy Channel schlockfest, this slice of B-movie heaven stars two CGI monstrosities and a squad of actors whose talents are even more frightening than the creatures hunting them.
Do you really need a plot? Okay, fine. There’s a secret research lab situated on a picturesque island oasis, and its two research specimens, a giant alligator and a mutated crocodile that looks like it’s been crossbred with a T-Rex, have escaped to wreak havoc on all the tasty humans on the island. And it’s up to a sexy game warden, her doting sheriff of a father, a supposedly swarthy undercover agent, and a mercenary called the Cajun–don’t you just love that–to stop the beasts before they devour everyone on the island.
If you’ve ever seen a Roger Corman film, you’ll know what to expect: bad acting, blood, and boobs. And this movie has plenty of all three.
Now, I may be spoiling things for you, but the title of the movie says it all: the whole point of the movie is to pit the two giant beasts against one another. But the two creatures don’t actually get to throw down until the final ten minutes. The first eighty minutes are spent having the two monsters pick off random disposable characters in slapdash sequences. The death scenes involving the Supergator are particularly frustrating, because the creature doesn’t really appear on screen like the Dinocroc does. Instead, some meat puppet utters a hammy one-liner before a flash of scales goes across the screen and the actor disappears. Well, there is one scene involving a couple of bikini-clad blondes–easily the two worst actors of the bunch–one of whom gets chomped in two. Other than that, Dinocroc seems to be doing all the dirty work, and doing most of the chasing as it bounds down roads chasing the main cast.
The monsters don’t look terrible, though. I was expecting low resolution garbage akin to those SyFy movies, but the care put into these wound up producing two monsters that were good enough for Jurassic Park’s maybe pile. As for David Carradine, he’s not involved in much of the action, basically sitting poolside and issuing orders with his steely gaze. It wasn’t exactly a movie that did the late legend any favors, but I suppose it paid the bills.
I have been resistant thus far to bother watching Piranha 3D, mainly out of cynical rejection of its appeal to the lowest common denominator, but Dinocroc Vs. Supergator has softened my resolve. Sometimes, it’s okay to watch a terrible movie for the sake of watching of a terrible movie. This movie is proof of that.

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Filed under David Carradine, Dinocroc, horror, monster movie marathon, monsters, movie review, Rabid Rewind, Roger Corman, Supergator

Night of the Comet: a guest post by Rosey’s Reviews

I wrote a few guest posts earlier this year for Rosey’s Reviews. One about the series finale of Smallville, the sixth season of Supernatural, a mid-year list of my favorite books so far, and another about my favorite fantasy book series, The Dark Tower.

So it seems only fair I invite Rosey to write something here, and the Monster Movie Marathon was the perfect chance. The movie Rosey decided to write about is one I’ve never seen, but I think I’ll have to hunt it down now. What do you think?

Rosey’s Thoughts on Night of the Comet

Staring:
Robert Beltran…Hector
Catherine Mary Stewart…Regina
Kelli Maroney…Samantha
Sharon Farrell…Doris
Mary Woronov…Audrey
Geoffrey Lewis…Carter
Peter Fox…Wilson
John Achorn…Oscar
Michael Bowen…Larry
Director: Thom Eberhardt
Release Date: 16 November 1984 (USA)

Plot:
A comet wipes out most of life on Earth, leaving two Valley Girls to fight the evil types who survive.

Verdict:
The cheese-o-meater on this movie is is through the roof! It starts out with some voice over about the comet hitting 65 million tears ago and then cuts to Regina (Catherine Mary Stewart) playing an old school game of Tempest. The comet is going by soon but Regina wants none of it. She wants to have sex with her boyfriend in the projection booth instead. Well that just saved her life because everyone that was outside either turned to red dust or became a zombie. Regina gets attacked by a zombie that I’m sure was an extra in Thriller. She gets away on her boyfriends motorcycle and drives through Los Angles, back to the Valley to her home. There are no cars, no people, no nothing. Just a red hazy cloud in the sky. Now I can see not figuring out something is wrong in LA with a red haze but…NO TRAFFIC!? HELLO!!! She gets home and finds her younger sister, Sam. They head down to the radio station thinking someone is still there. Only no one is there besides a guy that I thought was Eric Estrada for a good five minutes. It isn’t him BTW.

Question: What do you do when the zombie apocalypse is happening? Well go shopping with your sister! Duh!!

While in the store the girls get shot at by zombies. They are saved by these scientist whom put built an underground facility to live because they new the comet was bad news. They take Reg but leave her sister. Hector comes back in a Santa Claus outfit BTW. Because that’s normal. Anyways, the scientist turn out to be wackadoodles and they get the hell out of there.

The rain comes and cleans all the dust and haze away. Because obviously that is all it takes.

Oh and I think there are about less then ten zombies in the movie.

The screenplay and the acting are just terrible. Better job in Child’s Play. I actually can’t believe I watched this sober. In the list of cheesy 80’s horror this HAS to be in the top ten. If you get some people together, grab some booze, and play fun drinking games then that will make it all the better.

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Filed under guest post, monster movie marathon, movie review, Night of the Comet, Rosey's Reviews

Monsters Vs. Aliens: This is as close as I get to enjoying a Reese Witherspoon Rom-Com

Monsters Vs. Aliens
starring Reese Witherspoon, Hugh Laurie, Seth Rogan, Will Arnett, Keifer Sutherland, Paul Rudd, and Rainn Wilson
directed by Conrad Vernon
Dreamworks (2009)
There seems to be an animated movie that pays homage to just about every genre out there, so it’s only right there would be one dedicated to monster movies from the mid-20th century. I used to love those movies as a kid. Ah, who am I kidding–I still love ’em.
Monsters Vs. Aliens actually focuses on one monster movie I’ve never seen though: Attack of the 50 Ft. Tall Woman. I remember the iconic poster for it, but I’ve never had an opportunity to watch it. Susan (Witherspoon) is set to marry the man of her dreams, an ambitious weatherman voiced by Paul Rudd, but while fretting outside the church she’s struck by a meteorite and soon grows to a frightening fifty feet tall–and her hair turns white for some reason. She’s captured by the military and thrown in a prison for monsters until a giant alien probe lands on Earth in search of the substance Susan absorbed to gain her height and powers. Her allies in the battle against aliens include the Missing Link (Will Arnett), the Blob (Seth Rogan), a super-intelligent cockroach (Hugh Laurie), and a giant bug that’s even bigger than Susan.
The plot of this movie is shaky, which could be forgiven considering it’s both a children’s movie and an homage to those cheesy sci-fi movies from the 50s and 60s, but I’ve seen so many high caliber animated movies over the last several years that a film like this needs more than an A-list cast and slapstick. Basically the meterorite that hit Susan had a precious mineral the aliens want, so the chase is on to capture her and extract it. Meanwhile, the U.S. President, aptly voiced by Stephen Colbert, goes into panic mode and authorizes the other monsters to thwart the aliens. Good enough for me.
I didn’t watch this in 3-D, so I couldn’t tell you how that turned out. I will say watching the film in plain ol’ 2-D doesn’t hinder the viewing experience, though the scenes meant for the 3D viewing are blatantly obvious–just like every other 3-D movie. If you’ve got kids that might have a penchant for the weird, this is a good movie to let them watch, and for the grown-ups it is a nice tip of the hat to those movies of yesteryear. Though, I would suggest the adults grab a classic monster movie to work with this one as a double-feature. Maybe Attack of the 50 Ft. Tall Woman or Them!.

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Filed under aliens, animated, Hugh Laurie, Keifer Sutherland, monsters, Monsters Vs. Aliens, movie review, Paul Rudd, Rabid Rewind, Reese Witherspoon, sci-fi, Seth Rogan, Stephen Colbert, Will Arnett

Norway’s answer to Godzilla can be summed up in one word: TROLL!

Trollhunter
written & directed by Andre Ovredal
Alliance Films (2010)
Only on rare occasions does the fake documentary/found footage sty;e of storytelling ever work in movies, even rarer in horror movies. Cloverfield, Quarantine, Diary of the Dead. These are not what I consider particularly good movies, and they’re three of the better films of this genre. So when I heard there was a Norwegian horror film that uses the found footage gimmick to incorporate giant trolls, my expectations weren’t too high. But the idea of a new horror movie with giant trolls was still too tempting to ignore.
The movie starts off by saying the footage was found and examined, but the events shown cannot be verified. Okay, fine. The footage is captured by a trio of student journalists investigating unexplained bear deaths in the forests of Norway. Hunters are up in arms because it’s all apparently the work of a vagabond poacher. The trio eventually track down the poacher, a grizzly middle-aged hunter living in a cramped mobile camper who only hunts at night. They follow him into the woods one night when he leaves the campgrounds, hoping to get footage of him shooting a bear, but what they instead discover are strange lights over the thickly forested horizon, guttural roars that could come from no bear, and the poacher retreating back towards them screaming one word: TROLL!
And with that one line, a mundane mockumentary turns into one of the best monster movies I’ve seen in years. The teens convince the poacher to let them tag along on his hunts, oddly amused and enticed by his assertions there are trolls roaming the countryside at night, and he is the one man in Norway hunting them down. For a while, there’s no sign of actual trolls on camera, much like there was no shark in Jaws beyond allusions to him. The cameraman films treetops swaying wildly as if a giant is pushing its way between them, while the girl with the boom microphone is picking up strange noises that sound less like a wild animal or more like expletives from a Klingon. Then, they see the troll for the first time and all hell breaks loose.
While the CGI effects aren’t perfect, they are more than enough to suck you in, and the three-headed troll that stands three-stories high gives the movie’s first holy shit moment. There’s more than one troll though, as they spends days scouring the countryside hunting them and gathering footage, trying not to get eaten (with various levels of success), evading the government officials trying to confiscate their footage and keep trolls out of the public eye, and learn more about why this trollhunter is so disenfranchised with his lifelong duty to keeping the mythical menace at bay.
There are moments in the movie where the plot strains credulity, but the suspension of disbelief came quite easily for me, and the incredible character designs of some of these trolls, which range from miniscule to gargantuan, were commendable. The subtitles are a pain in the ass at times, but when aren’t they a pain when you’re trying to focus your eyes on the action. At least when the action hits a fever pitch, dialogue becomes inconsequential. I also thought the way aspects of the real world are used to rationalize why trolls aren’t widely known, especially the bigger ones, like high tension power lines on the mountainous landscape are really electric fences to keep them penned in, and the rocky countryside is really a troll graveyard since many trolls turn to stone when they die. It’s a bit cheesy in a way, but I dug the logic employed to explain them.
If you love monsters, you need to see this movie, if for nothing else than to see the trollhunter slap on a suit of homemade armor and duel with a troll literally living under a bridge.

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Filed under european films, horror, monster movie marathon, monsters, movie review, Rabid Rewind, Trollhunter, trolls

Rabid Rewind: True Grit (2010)

True Grit
starring Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and Barry Pepper
written & directed by Joel & Ethan Coen
based on the novel by Charles Portis
Paramount Pictures (2010)
It has been so long since I saw the classic John Wayne film, watching this iteration of True Grit was like seeing the story unfold for the first time all over again. And I think the experience was the better for it.
Mattie Ross (Steinfeld) is an unflappable fourteen-year-old girl in search of a marshal to track down the man who shot and killed her father. Unable to compel the law at Fort Smith to take up her cause, she manages to enlist a gruff drunkard of a marshal named Rooster Cogburn (Bridges). While Cogburn has the ruthlessness to apprehend Tom Chaney (Brolin), the killer is on the run in hostile territory in Arkansas, so enter a Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf (Damon) who has been on Chaney’s trail for months. Together, the trio set off in the wilderness to find, capture, and in Mattie’s case, kill Chaney.
Now, I’m not one who usually gravitates towards directors when it comes to my movie preferences, but I’ve noticed over the years that I have yet to be really disappointed by a Joel and Ethan Coen’s films. These two guys seem to really know how to tap into good storytelling with outstanding characters. The intro feels a tip of the hat to the westerns of old, and I kind of wondered at first if they were doing something like that, but the rest of the movie really strikes its own chord and doesn’t feel like anything from those old westerns. It felt more like the modernized westerns, a la Unforgiven and that 3:10 to Yuma remake from a couple years ago. Gritty, hard-bitten stuff.
Hailee Steinfeld does a remarkable job as Mattie, considering this was her first movie, and seeing her in the DVD extras looking like one of those gals fresh off the Disney factor line, I was a wee bit surprised at the caliber of actor she’s bound to be. Jeff Bridges, on the other hand, seemed to be playing a campy characterization of his character. I’d have to go back and read the book, since this movie is taken from the book rather than a remake of the John Wayne film, but Bridges was just eating up the scenery with his over-the-top performance. Oh, I loved the performance, don’t get me wrong, but given the accolades heaped on him for this movie, I was expecting something much different. Oddly enough, it was Matt Damon who stole the show for me as the swellheaded Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf (pronounced LaBeef by Bridges).
The story and the characters develop so well through the first two-thirds of the film, that by the time Chaney finally shows up and the plot really kicks into gear, you almost don’t want to see it come. At least I found I didn’t, since I was so wrapped up in the interactions between Mattie, Cogburn, and LaBeef. That said, seeing Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper–an unrecognizable Pepper thanks to make-up and prosthetic teeth–play such scoundrels was a treat and made for great antagonists for the ragtag trio.
The movie is easy to recommend to anyone, whether they’re a fan of westerns or not. It’s just a really fun, kind of poignant film, and should appeal to all ages.

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Filed under Barry Pepper, Charles Portis, Coen Brothers, Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, Josh Brolin, Matt Damon, movie review, Rabid Rewind, Steven Spielberg, True Grit, western

Rabid Rewind: Hobo with a Shotgun

Hobo with a Shotgun
starring Rutger Hauer, Gregory Smith
directed by Jason Eisner
written by John Davies
released 2010
How do you make a really good movie out of nothing but a fake trailer? Well, you don’t. You make Hobo with a Shotgun.
The plot is the movie title. You’ve got a hobo, played by none other than Rutger Hauer, who arrives in a city ruled by a criminal element led by a psychopath called the Drake. The hobo just wants to scrape up enough money to buy a lawnmower though, so he can start a horticulture business I suppose. He picked a crap town to do it in, since I don’t see any lawns in a drab cityscape populated by the morally bankrupt. Thugs, crooked cops, pedophiles, pimps, prostitutes, and a guy with a camera exploiting the homeless. But, he’s eventually dragged into the fight against evil and instead buys a shotgun–and a shitload of shells.
I gotta say that out of all the movies associated with the Grindhouse franchise, Hobo with a Shotgun only interested me for two reasons: 1) Rutger Hauer, who I haven’t seen in a starring role in ages; 2) the movie is filmed in Halifax, Nova Scotia. If this film had been made in Asbury Park or Des Moines, I wouldn’t have given a damn. There was that homegrown element to it that peaked my interest.
As it stands, the movie is drenched in a weird 80s, dystopian backdrop. It’s kind of like a view of the near future via a 1987 kaleidoscope. I even saw an honest-to-god K car (anyone remember those?). Ultra-violent, accentuated with hammy dialogue, the movie is more amusing than engaging. I remember someone saying–maybe it was author Jeff Strand–“if you’re the kind of person who wants to see Hobo with a Shotgun, you’re going to love Hobo with a Shotgun.” That just about sums up the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it.
I didn’t love it, though. And I think that’s because I didn’t want to see it for the same reason as most folks. I basically just wanted to see it so I could say I’ve seen it, sort of like the audience for The Human Centipede, a movie I do not want to see.
It’s a conveniently short movie, clocking in around 100 minutes, yet it seemed to take forever for the hobo to get his shotgun. At least when the gunplay started, the entertainment factor went way up, and the ending was deliciously ridiculous. The practical effects, as silly as they were at times like Rutger Hauer bursting through the entrails of a slain villain used as camouflage, were a welcome respite from the ceaseless CGI of today’s films too, to be honest. And, I think it works really well as an homage to those low-budget, low-rent action movies of the 80s, but the characters (especially the villains) felt like parodies rather than tributes. I’ll sum the movie up by reiterating that if you’re the kind of person who wants to watch Hobo, you’re going to love Hobo.

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Filed under Best Horror of the Year, Canadian, exploitation, Hobo with a Shotgun, movie review, Rabid Rewind, Rutger Hauer