Saturday, July 21, 2007

13th Child: Legend of the Jersey Devil (2002)

The district attorney asks Kat to investigate the mutilation murder of an escaped convict found in the Pine Barrens, an area which the Jersey Devil is supposed to inhabit. The DA even goes so far as to suggest Kat keep her mind open because maybe the Jersey Devil is not just a local legend.

The film takes liberties with the actual legend, which will confuse anyone who has previously heard of it, and mislead those who haven't. It's like making a Bigfoot movie and portraying Bigfoot as a serial killer who rips the spine out of anyone who ventures into the woods - it's unnecessary, doesn't add to the story, and the actual legend can provide enough fodder for a good movie without changing the details. Also no one likes it when their local legends are changed, which immediately alienates a large portion of your built-in audience.

Kat, teams up with policemen Ron and Mitch, to investigate the killing and retrieve the mutilated torso. Near the scene, they find a giant "talon" - which in reality resembles a rock, or an indian arrow head, or a piece of coal, but definitely NOT a talon.

The three head over to the Shroud Mansion to visit Mr. Shroud, a strange and brilliant man, who spends his life studying reptiles, but apparently isn't much of a scholar as he tells Kat that the cobra is charmed by the clarinet!? Kat ends up staying overnight at Shroud's mansion, which seems like a really odd thing for an investigator from the DA's office to do, especially in the home of a very strange man.

In a parallel plot, former policeman Riley is locked in an old 1920s looking asylum due to his belief that the Jersey Devil is real and killed his partner. Riley keeps saying he's seen the Devil and claims that it's out to kill him also. The two plot lines conveniently converge near the end of the movie, although otherwise, they don't seem to have anything to do with each other.

The acting in this film is not good. Kat has no facial expressions and no emotion in her voice. It's like she's studied method acting from Steven Seagal. Even Lesley-Anne Down, who plays the DA, delivers her lines as if she's been forced to do the scene at gunpoint. Poor Robert Guillaume, another legitimate actor, gets some of the scripts real klinkers in his role as Riley.

I barely dare to mention the script, but there are scenes that go nowhere, numerous things that make no sense, and the monster's name is Bruno. The last scene with Mr. Shroud - in the foggiest basement ever - is utterly confusing and not clear as to what exactly is happening. Also, Kat is not a good investigator and doesn't seem too bright.

But perhaps the most confusing part is the chronology. The movie starts out in the woods, then cuts to "Present Day, October 31." Shortly after that we are treated to "three days earlier, Oct 28." What another flashback? Then to make things even trickier, we get "two days earlier, Oct 29". Huh?? It was just Oct 28, so...wouldn't two days earlier be Oct 26? Yes, of course it would, but this movie has decided to count everything from Oct 31, just to make it even more confusing. Quite frankly, they could have just gone in chronological order and not done this flashback stuff, but then it might make some sense.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Specters (1987)

Donald Pleasence is Professor Lasky who is in Italy exploring the catacombs that run beneath the city. When subway excavations reveal a hidden chamber, an inscription in it warns of the danger to come to anyone who reads it.

A tour group goes into the catacombs and a couple go off by themselves and get trapped by a cave-in. When the two get seperated the woman screams annoyingly about all the rats trapped with her.

Then in one of the most stupifying moves ever seen, she gets down on the ground and crawls into a burial area with a skeleton. I would think when terrified by a mass of vermin running all over the floor, the last thing one would want to do is lay down on the ground. It gives the rodents access to your entire body rather than just your feet.

It also makes the woman screech ever louder as she is afraid of the skeleton she is spooning up to, as well as the rats crawling all over the place. Not to mention it's just plain dumb to crawl into a hole where you can't be seen while screaming for help.

After finding the inscription, people die, someone gets sucked down into a bed, and lots of strange things happen. Unfortunately I can't tell you much about them as the movie put me into a stupor and by the time the night was over, my memory of what happened was fuzzy indeed. So that ought to tell you all you need to know about this film.

The only thing I was left with when this movie was over was wondering what would have happened if Lasky was the LOL Donald Pleasence.

Cemetery Gates (2006)

Animal liberators steal a massive crate from a scientists laboratory, randomly unleashing a murderous mutant tasmanian devil near an old cemetery. By no coincedence it just happens to be the cemetery that the scientist's son Hunter has rented for the weekend.

Hunter is filming a zombie movie with his friends. While he has big plans for the film, the cast consists of two girls and two zombies. An even bigger problem is that the zombies only have makeup on their faces, not their arms or exposed torsos.

It seems to be common knowledge that the cemetery has a series of old tunnels running under it. This is where Precious (the mutant tasmanian devil) chooses to hide. Yet when Scientist Belmont finds that Precious was released two miles from the cemetery, he wonders where she might be hiding. Belmont is so perplexed, it's almost impossible not to grab your head while screaming, "The tunnels!?!"

As for our monster, Precious digs perfectly round holes in the ground, which no one notices unless they fall into them. While Precious is a fairly stupid looking monster, I'm certainly thankful that this is a real monster suit rather than the crappy CGI that is in way too many movies these days.

The film's main characters are stereotypical horror movie college students with their smoking, drinking, and sexing. There is also a good girl and bad girl, sex starved irresponsible guys and a responsible guy.

While the film isn't great by any means, I really did enjoy how Precious killed as it was so different from what I expected. Precious jumps on the victim and her paws/claws move really fast as tons and tons of blood flies. The dead looked as if buckets of blood were dumped on them. It was so over the top that it was not grotesque.

As for the zombie aspect of the film, it was sadly lacking as the only zombies were the two college students in makeup, and no real zombies ever appear.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Satanic (2006)

After surviving a car crash, Michelle wakes up in the hospital with her head wrapped in gauze and a brain full of amnesia. She has nightmares about the crash, and doesn't recognize herself.

Dr. Barbary, played by the fantastic Angus Scrimm, tells her that she is being transferred to a place called Harmony House, where she will be with kids her own age, which should help in her recovery.

Harmony House is run by the super creepy Bisson and his horrible wife Jackie. Bisson is a little too interested in the young girls, and Jackie accuses poor amnesia-addled Michelle of being interested in her gross husband. Bisson, who packed Michelle's clothes, included lacey nightware, but Jackie blames Michelle. She confiscates Michelle's belongings and as punishment, refuses to give her dinner. Jackie also calls both girls sluts and whores, and has an extremely distasteful disposition.

It is a mystery as to how these two can get kids into Harmony House. It is literally a regular family home, not a group home, and the two don't seem to know anything about helping kids. Bisson makes an attempt at a group session, but he regularly insults the kids and calls them jerks. Jackie is even worse as she takes all the kids belongings and sells them on ebay. The two also make money by selling prescription narcotics that are supposedly going to the kids, and get money from the state for taking care of the kids.

It isn't clear as to why Michelle has been put in a home with juvenile delinquents. Amnesia is her problem, not delinquency. Bisson and Jackie seem incapable of helping messed up kids, let alone one with trauma to the brain. Is it normal for teenage amnesia victims to be released into the care of group homes rather than some sort of psychiatric facility or hospital equipped to deal with this problem?

In Michelle's possession is an elaborate oujia board, and a diary with a pentagram. The diary talks about killing her father and needing his blood for a ritual, but Michelle has no recollection of any of it. Her roommate Dahlia convinces her to have a seance as it is "a form of therapy." Never heard that one before, but I guess since Michelle has amnesia she buys it.

Everyone at Harmony House starts thinking Michelle is dangerous, except for Larry who believes she is sweet and kind. But as the killings start, the question becomes is Michelle the killer and what really happened on the night of the car crash?

While the name of the movie suggests a high satan content, it doesn't come into play for the most part. This movie is another in which there is too much dialogue that isn't very interesting. The twist ending seemed contrived, and has been done better in other movies, but will probably work for some viewers.

One thing that eventually drove me nuts was the repeated footage of Michelle driving up in a van next to a person in a hood and asking them if they wanted a ride. I'm not sure how many times this was repeated in the film, but it happened far too often, and the payoff wasn't worth it.

Demon Hunter (2005)

When an exorcism fails, Jake Greyman is called in to take care of the possessed girl by beating her senseless and stabbing her with his pointy cross. Jake, who is working for the church, is teamed up with a young nun named Sister Sarah to fight the forces of evil. The church's goal is to stop the demon Asmodeus from impregnating Los Angeles prostitutes, in an attempt to birth an evil demon. Yup, that's going to be one classy demon.

While Jake and Sister Sarah, who wears street clothes rather than a nun's habit, run around town trying to track down where Asmodeus will strike next, they argue about good and evil, demons and humans, kindness and killing, etc. It is the classic retelling of the story of Dirty Harry being paired with the new young female cop who can't quite get up the nerve to fire her gun.

At one point a policeman finds Jake and Sarah in someone elses home. Jake immediately grabs the cop around the throat, but Sarah begs Jake not to hurt him as he's just doing his job. Eventually Jake releases the poor cop, who falls to the floor, immobile. And when Jake speaks to the Cardinal, he states that he has left the cop incapacitated. Oddly enough the Cardinal is okay with incapacitating others.

While not a horrible film, it's also not a particularly interesting one either. There is far too much dialogue, which wouldn't be a problem if it were relevant but its not. Or when Asmodeus states "I take what's not given to me", all I could think of was, does that mean he does not take what is given to him?

The demon horns and hands weren't very inspiring either. Rather than the demon hands inspiring fear, all I could think was that they were little piggly wiggly hands, which isn't scary at all.

I must mention that there was one line in the movie that was so horribly written that it made me laugh out loud. It was uttered by Sister Sarah when she said, "She was an orphan, and her parents were dead." Bwaahahaha.... Yes, I'm glad you let me know that the orphans parents were dead, otherwise I would have tried to call them. Thank you oh so much, Sister Redundant Nun!

Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave (2005)

After Julian's uncle is killed, Julian finds a secret room in his attic which contains two barrels, which are the property of the US army. Julian and his girlfriend Jen decide that it would be a good idea to see what is in the barrel. So they cart it over to his friend Cody, a science major.

Although Cody isolates several elements contained in the liquid siphoned from the container, he can't specify what it is or if its dangerous. This doesn't stop the mentally deficient rave dj Jeremy from dipping his finger in it and tasting it.

Soon after, Jeremy starts hallucinating as well as drooling. When he snaps out of it, he professes the trip was awesome and they can get rich selling it.

Julian wants no part of this as they don't know if it has side effects, or even what is it, and says he'll be back the next day to pick up the barrel. Cody proves to be a poor scientist - as well as a poor friend - when he and Jeremy immediately make the liquid into pill form, and sell it to the college drug dealer. The new drug called Z (because it makes you so high you act like a zombie) is all over campus by the next day.

While Jeremy is setting up for his big rave in the desert, Jen discovers the barrel is now open and whatever was in it has left slime on the floor. Julian and Cody rush to the lab to investigate and all three run into freshly dead zombies, Interpol agents, and the slimey zombie from the barrel.

The barrel zombie manages to escape, and it finally dawns on Cody that it was a really bad idea to sell pills made from the mystery liquid. While Interpol, Julian, Jen, and Cody rush out to Jeremy's rave in an attempt to stop the sale and consumption of Z, the barrel zombie tries to hitch a ride on the freeway.

Anyone who takes three pills of Z at once immediately becomes a zombie. Those who consume one pill at a time take longer to die, first developing a cough and feeling cold. Eventually all the characters end up at Jeremy's big rave, where its a race to see if they can stop the sale of Z to the rave crowd, as well as save Jeremy from the side effects.

The questionable premise of Jeremy tasting the liquid from the barrel isn't believable. Would anyone really be so stupid that they would taste liquid from a mystery barrel with a US Army logo on it? Is the quest for a new high so mind numbing that they would have no concept that this stuff could be toxic waste or have horrendous side effects? What if it was some sort of agent orange rehash?

And as if tasting the liquid wasn't annoying enough, the character of Jeremy appears to be based on the ideas of a forty year old who had watched a ten year old documentary on techno. Jeremy was so annoying, I wanted to smack his hat right off his head and kick him in the hinder.

If you're looking for a good zombie movie, this isn't it. The characters are stupid and annoying, some of the acting is pretty bad, and the plot is too contrived. But if you're interested in seeing a random zombie movie or watching ravers get attacked by zombies, this movie will do.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Caved In: Prehistoric Terror (2005)

Christopher Atkins is John Palmer, a cave guide whose wife, bratty teenage daughter, and trying-to-prove-he's-manly teenage son help out with his tourist day trips. But John is not just any spelunker, he's a reknowned cave guide who is hired by a group of Europeans to travel deep into an old mine where rumors have it there is a cache of emeralds. Unfortunately the rumors forgot to mention that there are also man-sized bugs with giant pincers that will tear a person in half, which is why the mine was abandoned in 1948.

John leads the group into the mine, where they find the electricity still working, as well as the elevator. Honestly, I can't imagine anyone getting into a wooden elevator that hadn't been used in over fifty years, jumping up and down on it, declaring it safe, and loading it with people. There seems to be no concept that after so many years of disuse, especially in a cave, that the pulleys and other mechanisms might not be safe or work properly. There is also no thought of how they might get out of the mine shaft, which is over 300m deep, if the elevator ceases to function, and no thought of the possibility of methane in the long closed mine. Just what sort of reknown does John have anyway?

John's lack of brain power compells him to swing across a gap where the wooden walkway has decayed (but what if the other side can't support his weight?!). He smartly advises the group to stay against the wall due to the possible unstability of the edge of the cliff, and then proceeds to practically step off the edge himself.

In subplots, John's teenage daughter likes the young killer Stephan, and John's son tries to prove he's a man by going down into the mine on his own. Not only does the boy break a rung on the ladder, falling like a sack of potatoes onto the dirt floor, he also rides down into the mine on the old elevator, swings across the fallen walkway, and traipses deeper and deeper into the mine on his own - perhaps he is looking for his brain.

The cgi bugs look really bad. Not that they don't look like human sized bugs, but they appear to be bugs sitting on top of a photo, not actually in the photo. It's very disconcerting in the scenes where the humans are screaming in terror, when it is obvious the bugs are not even on the set.

Not a good movie, although sometimes it's stupid enough to be amusing. To quote from one of the characters who I can't even be bothered to remember, "Are you seeing what I'm seeing?!? Your plan's not just being ripped apart. It's being ripped apart by giant bugs!"