Saturday, June 30, 2007

Shark Zone (2003)

Jimmy Wagner has nightmares about the day he was scuba diving with his father, a former navy seal, and the sharks arrived. Dad had taken some tourists to dive near a shipwreck, but the arrogant tourists thumbed their noses at his safety tips and went off on their own. This act of ignorance made them prime shark bait and the only person to come up from the dive was Jimmy.

With the back story in place, we cut to ten years later where Jimmy - having not aged a day - has a hot wife, a young son, and a job watching over the beaches. The upcoming festival has everyone excited, especially Mayor John Cortell, as crowds will flock to the town and take advantage of their lovely beaches and water sports, which translates to mucho tourist money.

Unfortunately it is at this time that Jimmy's past comes back to haunt him. The festival is sponsored by the evil Russian Volkoff, who insists on going out to the old shipwreck and having Jimmy guide him. There are supposed to be diamonds on the wreck and Volkoff wants them.

It is also at this point that the sharks start eating humans again. It always happens right before the big holiday weekends or summer festivals. With stock shark footage a-swimming, Jimmy insists that the Mayor shut down the beaches! But damn it, the mayor is not going to ruin the festival, or alienate the sponsor, Volkoff.

With cries of "You need to shut down the beaches" and "Everyone out of the water - we've got sharks!", plus a mayor who refuses to risk the town's revenue against a man who refuses to risk people's lives for profit, you end up with a sub-par version of "Jaws".

Jimmy is a fairly useless hero as much of his shark hunting is done by looking through binoculars, watching his friends get mauled in shark cages, or dropping bombs into the ocean in random attempts to kill any shark that happens to be in the area at that moment.

While it is essentially a poorly done rewrite of Jaws, there is some laugh value in it's lack of logic, ridiculous plot points, Volkoff's inarticulate mumbling, and the fact that the actor who plays Jimmys dad is the same one who plays the mayor. With meaningless lines like, "If you mess with this festival, it's going to be more vicious than a shark attack!", how can you not laugh?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Bloody Dead (1967)

aka Die Blaue Hand

David Emerson is locked in an insane asylum for murders that he claims were committed by his twin brother, Richard. David's room is filled with manikins in various poses, including two hanging from the ceiling in nooses. No idea why, but it certainly gives the appearance that he's not right in the head.

When David escapes from the asylum, he heads back to the family mansion. A guard from the asylum tracks him to the house, enters the corridors which are lined with suits of armor, and is killed by someone wielding The Blue Hand, an armored glove with knife tips at the end of each finger. Spooky.

David pretends to be his twin brother Richard, which works okay as Lady Emerson was never able to tell them apart. Richard has disappeared, but since David is there, no one realizes it. Head of the asylum, Dr. Montague, is involved in many nefarious doings, and eventually slips a mickey to the detective looking for David. I still can't believe the guy drank it.

The cover made the film appear as if it were a bloody living dead movie. While it wasn't that at all, it did turn out to be very entertaining.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Honeymoon of Fear (1972)

aka Fear in the Night

Young bride Peggy, who recently suffered a nervous breakdown, is repeatedly attacked by someone wearing a black glove and a fake arm. Her husband Robert is skeptical and thinks it is her imagination.

Robert and Peggy move into an apartment at a boys school, where Robert has a job. As Peggy wanders the empty corridors, she hears a class being taught. But when she opens the door, the room is empty. As she looks around the room, headmaster Michael steps out behind her, giving her a start. Michael shows Peggy around the school before creepily getting his hand stuck in her hair while assisting in letting her hair down.

Back at the apartment, Peggy is attacked by the black-gloved, fake-armed man. Once again, her husband thinks she's imagining things. At this point, things were moving so slowly, the tape came out of the VCR.

This is a Hammer film, which explains the slower pacing since British films concentrate on dialogue rather than action. Peter Cushing as headmaster Michael, was suitably strange and interesting. Joan Collins played the typical bitch, which she does so well. But the film moved too slowly, especially after viewing the cover photo and description on the back.

Assassin (1986)

When Robert Golem, a killer robot built by the CIA, runs amuck, retired agent Henry Stanton is called to help capture him and protect Mary Casallas, an agent who helped program Golem. Mary informs Henry that the only way to stop Golem is to shoot him in the stomach, as this is the only vulnerable part of his body and where his brain is housed. The only other Achilles heel that Golem has is he must recharge every seventy-two hours via a 220 outlet... using his built-in extention cord. During this thirty minute recharge, he can not defend himself.

This isn't a great movie, but there are a few unintentionally funny bits, such as Henry telling Mary it's safe for her to enter her apartment as he's searched the entire thing, except for the locked closet. Cut to an alarmed Mary exclaiming "what locked closet?", as Golem bursts through the closet door. Oh Henry.... maybe you shouldn't have come out of retirement.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Sledgehammer (1983)

Sledgehammer has to be seen to believed. It is a low tech, shot on video film with the most excessive use of slow motion footage I have ever seen. It's like your uncle just got a new camcorder - back when they were massive things that had to sit on your shoulder - and he was experiementing with the new slo-mo feature.

There doesn't seem to be any reason for it either. It appears totally randomly and makes the movie unbearable. There are slow motion scenes of luggage throwing, walking in a field, walking in a hallway, shutting a door, turning a doorknob, people listening to a scary story, fighting, falling, and more of the same all over again.

The story is about a bunch of friends who plan to stay the weekend in an old cabin that hasn't been lived in for ten years due to murders that took place there. While the outside shot looks like an old cabin, when the gang goes inside, it looks like a modern day condo.

The group is supposed to be a fun loving bunch, but they act like idiots. They make lame jokes, have a nasty food fight, and get drunk. There's a subplot that goes nowhere involving the main couple who aren't sure whether to get married, even though the guy already asked her and she said yes.

Chuck, the muscular blond leading man, decides to have a seance where they will try to contact the spirits of the two people murdered by a sledgehammer in the livingroom. The story is that a man and woman were having an affair in the cabin. The woman locked her little boy in the closet so he wouldn't get in their way. The two adulterers were murdered, but the little boy was never found.

As Chuck weaves his tale of death, his friend goes into another room and uses a boombox to play a tape with a spooky voice, which is supposed to fool the others. Chuck's seance also awakens the hulking ghostly sledgehammer killer, who has apparently just been waiting for someone to have a seance in the cabin.

The killer goes to the room with boombox and kills the friend....with a knife. But what about the sledgehammer he was carrying? Where'd he get the knife? No explanation is ever offered. The rest of the killing is done with a sledgehammer but its extremely tame. There isn't much blood and other than the opening segments sledgehammer to the back of the head, there aren't any special effects - just blood smeared on people.

There is a soft focus on some scenes, which is pointless. The hallway is the narrowest hallway in existence, (you wouldn't be able to get any furniture through it). At one point, the killer appears in the hallway, and you can see that the "wall" behind him is not even attached to anything as there is a big gap on the left side. Also the killer must widen his stance to step over the cameraman who is shooting from the floor.

There are flashbacks in the film which are the exact same footage from earlier in the film!??! We've already seen it, and even if they felt the need to refresh our memories, they didn't have to show the entire scene.

The acting is subpar. Chuck does a really bad Bill Murray imitation during one drunken scene. No one can realistically imitate being drunk, which is a problem since much of their time is spent drinking. The food fight scene in the kitchen is really strange, and its just plain gross watching the guy in the football jersey shove an entire sandwich into his mouth.

I liked the record player in the cabin, but they were listening to 45s and had no spindle to stack them on. This means that someone is going to have to get up to change the record every two to three minutes, which is not practical during a party.

The killer is a huge hulking figure in a clear halloween mask - the ones that bank robbers used to wear during the 70s. He appears and disappears randomly. Then he changes into the little boy who was locked in the closet. Then he changes back to the hulk. Why?

We are left with so many questions and no explanations. Why does the killer randomly change into the little boy and back again? If the little boy died, then why is the killer a behemouth instead of a little boy? How and where did the boy die? Since he was never found, he didn't die there, so why is his ghost haunting this cabin? Why would a seance bring back the killer instead of the victims? Why does the sledgehammer randomly appear and disappear? Is it a ghost? If you have a sledgehammer and you're huge, why would you kill someone with a knife?

The scariest thing about this movie is the hair. This is 80s blow dried hair at its worst. The guy with the massive mullet blow dry do and mustache is the scariest. But the lead couple both have the same mullet so that's not very pleasant either.

Parasite (1982)

When Parasite was originally released in theaters, it was in 3D. While the effect is not used in the home video, we do get the benefit of the odd shots of things coming towards the camera: a steel pipe pierces a body and blood flows out; a thug sticks his fingers into the parasite tube; a gun barrel points toward the audience; a parasite falls from the ceiling, and even parasites bursting from flesh.

The story starts with Paul, a scientist with a moldy parasitic stomach, who heads out into the post apocalyptic landscape, ending up in Joshua, population 64. There is a distinction made between city fellas and the lawless rurals who only accept silver in payment for services. Gas is $40 a gallon, and the local eatery only has canned fruit, canned beer, and canned soup, which is apparently scarce. The other major difference is the city people have laser guns and fancy vehicles, while the rural faction has shotguns and beatup old cars with no hoods and missing doors.

The towns inhabitants are decent citizens, except for the local gang of annoying twenty somethings who appear to be trying to terrorize people, but mostly seem to annoy them. The only person afraid of them is our scientist friend Paul, who tells them he doesn't want any trouble and begs them to let him go. Well, as everyone knows, that is a sure way to keep being harrassed by a bully. The gang drag Paul and his parasite cylander to their hangout in an old garage, and even though Paul warns them not to open the tube, they do, unleashing the parasitic horror that awaits within.

Within this frame work there is also: Demi Moore, the lemon grove girl, who provides fresh lemons to the bar owner; the Merchant, a city dweller who works for the same company Paul did and is trying to track down Paul and his parasites; and old Ms. Daly, the hotel owner, who looks like an olde tyme movie star, what with the makeup, 8x10 glossys on the wall, and the star painted on her door.

If this movie had been like "Piranha", it would have been fantastic. Unfortunately it appears that the emphasis was on the 3D aspect rather than excitement. The pacing of the story is very slow, especially when you're expecting to see something - anything - happen relating to parasites and carnage.

School of Death (1975)

aka El Colegio de la Muerte.

Matrons at a girls orphanage send girls to a melty-faced scientist's mansion where he straps them down and pokes a sharp object into their brain. Obviously this does not have a positive outcome, and the girls die. I'm confused as to what he was hoping to accomplish since he did the same thing to each girl. You'd think he'd try something different if his objective was something other than rendering them dead.

The film takes place in London in the 1800s, and has a feel very much like the Hammer films. It has no blood, guts, or nudity.