Archive for May, 2012

Suburban Grindhouse Memories: BEYOND EVIL (1980)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2012, 80s Horror, Bad Acting, Grindhouse, Haunted Houses, Nick Cato Reviews, Possession, Suburban Grindhouse Memories, Witches with tags , , , , on May 31, 2012 by knifefighter

SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE MEMORIES
This Finger Possessed!
By Nick Cato

While it’s a routine, by-the-numbers haunted house/possession film, 1980’s BEYOND EVIL holds a special place in my film-going life as it was the FIRST R-rated film I managed to get into on my own!   Thanks to my Sicilian genes, I actually had a moustache in the 6th grade that (I like to believe) helped me get into many films I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.  The fine folks at the (now defunct) Amboy Twin didn’t even blink as I handed them my ticket fee and waltzed to the concession stand for some Saturday afternoon snacks.  I can recall about twenty people in attendance, not bad for an early show, and a few of them had no problem letting their opinions be heard as the film unreeled.

BEYOND EVIL opens on an isolated island, where a native couple has just been hitched.  They run off into the woods and prepare to do the nasty, when the woman discovers a mansion in the middle of nowhere.  Before you can say BOO! a woman’s face appears in one of the windows, just as one of the mansion’s support columns happens to detach itself from the place and crush the poor bride’s arm.  The scene is darkly-shot and in the theater was hard to see (I have no idea if the VHS or DVD editions cleared this up), but either way, the film quickly had everyone’s attention.

The next thing I know John Saxon and his wife (played by Lynda Day George) arrive on the island, and I was as happy as a Sasquatch in the woods.  Why?  Because Saxon had co-starred on a couple of episodes of the 70s TV series, THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, a few years earlier during the classic “bigfoot” episodes, so I was a fan.  (Of course Saxon and George would sort-of RULE early-80s horror and exploitation cinema, starring in such classics as CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE (1980), BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980), PIECES (1982), TENEBRE (1982), and MORTUARY (1983), to name just a few).  Saxon has arrived on the island to oversee some construction job (I believe he was an architect) and one of his wife’s ex-boyfriends was supposed to get them an apartment.  BUT guess where they wind up?  Yep–at the aforementioned mansion, which we eventually learn was once the home of a crazed witch.  The audience howled in laughter when George said she wanted to know who any ghosts living in her house were!

(PAUSE: I usually write this column STRICTLY from memory, but this time I simply had to peek at a few reviews to spark my brain into action: one thing most reviews raved over was how good the acting was.  I’m sorry, folks, but the acting and dialogue is what most people made fun of at the screening I attended.  I believe a DVD viewing is in order here.  NOW BACK TO OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED COLUMN…)

In a flashback sequence, we learn the woman who had lived in the mansion began to practice witchcraft to get back at her abusive husband.  When he discovered what she was up to, he poisoned her.  NOT bothered by the mansion’s history, Saxon and George settle in and it doesn’t take long for typical haunted house happiness to begin.

More laughable than some of the acting here are the low-grade special FX.  In one sequence, Saxon is startled by a dopey-looking green light and topples down a spiral staircase, then is almost killed by a falling devil statue.  I remember someone yelling “Take the hint!” when Saxon basically brushed himself off and went back to his regular routine.  I don’t know about you, but if I heard my new home was once owned by a murdered witch, then saw a devil statue at the top of the staircase, I’d either change the décor or high-tail it back to the city.

The insanity clicks into high gear when Saxon meets his neighbors out front; it’s at this same time the ghost-witch decides to strike, causing George to stab herself, leaving an occultism mark that looks like the one the witch had.  While I found the scene a tad disturbing (remember I was a sixth grader at the time), most of the crowd laughed at George’s facial expressions as she jabbed away.  I bet I would have, too, had I been a bit older and more experienced with bad acting…

My favorite scene features Saxon kicking ass at the hospital when an orderly or nurse admits to losing his wife’s test results.  I was hoping bigfoot would make an appearance at this point, but no such luck.  Saxon’s doctor/neighbor soon advises them to leave the house (DUH!) but, of course, they don’t, and more terribly choreographed attacks go down and the FX get worse.  One ridiculous scene has George’s ring finger all puffed up.  Saxon’s neighbor claims this is a sign she is becoming possessed so he attempts to heal her.  Of course he takes her to the hospital to do this and when he removes her wedding ring, things get chaotic, although not in an exciting way.

For some reason that’s never explained, those possessed by the ghost-witch gain the ability to shoot green laser beams from their eyes in embarrassingly bad FX.  Each time this happened people screamed X-MEN! or some other dumb comment that really didn’t enhance the viewing experience.  Not all grindhouse commentary is witty!

Saxon and George eventually blow up the crypt that holds the ghost-witch’s body, but it only causes her spirit to become more powerful (WHYYOU tell me!).  Realizing they can’t fight her anymore, Saxon shoves his wife’s ring back on her inflamed finger, which somehow slows the witch down, then they jump in their car and floor it, leaving the mansion and the witch to wait for the next couple of suckers.

My biggest problem with BEYOND EVIL isn’t the shady script, the constant haunted house clichés, the bad FX or the lame acting.  It’s the fact it received an R-rating.  There’s almost no blood, no sex or nudity, and nothing really scary about it.  Thinking back, perhaps my moustache had less to do with me getting in than I like to believe.  This is EASILY a PG-13 film, although at the time a simple PG would’ve sufficed.  It’s a real turkey, but one I at least had fun getting into without adult supervision.

For John Saxon and Lynda Day George completists only.  (Also of note here is director Herb Freed, who went on to make the vastly superior slasher film, GRADUATION DAY, just a year later).

© Copyright 2012 by Nick Cato

Lynda Day George’s wedding-ring finger becomes possessed in BEYOND EVIL. Yeah, this flick goes there!

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Pickin’ the Carcass: THE CALLER (2011)

Posted in 2012, Madness, Michael Arruda Reviews, Murder!, Pickin' the Carcass, Time Travel with tags , , , , , , on May 30, 2012 by knifefighter

PICKIN’ THE CARCASS: THE CALLER (2011)
By Michael Arruda

In THE CALLER (2011), a recently divorced woman is terrorized by strange phone calls. No, it’s not a telemarketer on the line. It’s a crazed woman who’s somehow calling from a different decade.

Upon the heels of a messy divorce, Mary Kee (Rachelle Lefevre) moves into a new apartment where she receives a phone call from a woman asking to speak to a man who supposedly lives there. Mary assumes it’s the wrong number, but when the woman, who says her name is Rose, identifies the number and the address of the apartment, Mary tells her that obviously the guy has moved out. The woman insists however that she’s right, that she just saw the man there that very day. At this point, Mary figures the woman is crazy and hangs up.

But the woman continues to call. For a while, Mary is sympathetic towards her, as Rose is sad and depressed, because the man she claims lives in the apartment had promised to marry her. But when she says she’s living in 1979, Mary again figures the woman has flipped her lid.

But then strange things begin to happen. Things Rose does in the past begin to affect things in the present, and it reaches the point where Mary can’t ignore the possibility that something bizarre is going on. She turns to her boyfriend John (Stephen Moyer) for help, and he thinks it might be her creepy ex-husband Steven (Ed Quinn) playing tricks on her, and Steven is creepy, and then some. He’s a big-time jerk and a creep who regularly ignores the restraining order against him and taunts and threatens Mary at his leisure.

Sure, it could be Steven, but when Rose goes “psycho” on Mary and threatens Mary’s friends, carrying out these threats in 1979, it changes Mary’s present. Mary realizes Rose and her threats are the real deal and suddenly she finds herself fighting for her life.

Yep, it’s SINGLE WHITE FEMALE (1992) meets THE TIME MACHINE (1960), and sadly, it sounds much better than it actually is, because in reality, THE CALLER isn’t a very good movie.

I had trouble with THE CALLER from the get-go. Its initial image is that of a big, black rotary phone, which in itself is a good thing because it immediately brought to mind Alfred Hitchcock’s DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954). When the movie opens and Mary has an old-fashioned rotary phone in her apartment, I’m thinking, this is a period piece, but it’s not. It takes place in the present. I found this strange, and I couldn’t get past the fact that in this story, Mary hardly uses her cell phone, which raises several interesting questions.

For example, when things start to go wrong with Rose, why doesn’t Mary just disconnect her phone? She has a cell phone! Use it! Why doesn’t she use the cell phone when she’s in her apartment? We see her use it elsewhere. And who uses rotary phones anymore? Even if you have a land line, it’s not a rotary phone with a dial, but the one in this movie is, and there’s no mention that it’s some neat antique. It’s just there, in the apartment. This bugged me throughout the whole movie.

Also, even if Mary wanted to keep a land line, why doesn’t she just change her phone number? Or, here’s a concept: call the police!! Mary does none of these things, which seems like just an excuse to keep the story going. There were plenty of ways Mary could have gotten rid of Rose before all the SINGLE WHITE FEMALE psycho stuff started happening. There was some lazy writing in this one.

At first, I was intrigued by the concept of Mary receiving phone calls from someone living in 1979. I was eager to learn where this was going to go.

However, as the movie moves along, the explanations falter because there are a lot of holes in the plot. When Rose takes action in 1979, it affects Mary in 2011, but these actions and results don’t always make sense. If Rose were to murder someone in 1979, someone who Mary had already met in 2011, would they suddenly be dead in 2011 after Rose murdered them? I’m not sure if that’s how it would work, and this happens several times. It’s all so neat and convenient, it didn’t really ring true for me.

Plus, how is it that Rose can find these people who Mary knows now in 2011 so easily back in 1979? They’re still all living in the same area? Really?

Also, Rose’s voice on the phone sounds like she’s an old lady, like someone in her 70s. She’s supposed to be 41. This would make sense if Mary is speaking to Rose in 2011 because that’s the age she would be now, but initially, Rose says it’s 1979. Why would Rose lie? Again, lazy writing. I mean, at times, THE CALLER is on the verge of being a very clever movie, but each chance it gets at accomplishing this feat, it drops the ball.

The cast isn’t bad. I enjoyed Rachelle Lefevre in the lead role as Mary Kee. She had a very likeable personality, and she’s good-looking to boot! She would have been good enough to carry this movie had the story been better. One drawback to her performance is, for someone who’s being threatened, she makes Mary awfully passive.

The same can be said for the whole movie. There’s something very passive about it. It definitely lacks intensity.

Stephen Moyer is okay as John, Mary’s boyfriend, but he’s another passive, rather dull character. Ed Quinn does a nice job making Mary’s ex-husband Steven a complete creep and a jerk, but ultimately he’s stuck in a wasted subplot. Lorna Raver plays Rose, and we don’t get to see her until the end of the movie. She’s okay, but she’s certainly not a good enough villainess to carry this movie, so ultimately, she’s a disappointment.

The same can be said for both the directing and writing for this one. THE CALLER was directed by Matthew Parkhill, and although there are some nicely shot scenes, the movie as a whole lacks pacing and urgency. For a thriller, it’s awfully mild.

The screenplay by Sergio Casci has a lot of problems, mostly associated with its time shift/alternate universe plot, which really needs to make more sense. The threat against Mary also needs to be greater and more detailed. The story and the writing as a whole need to be much tighter.

I was interested in the premise of THE CALLER, and for most of the first half of this movie I was into it, but I expected better explanations and resolutions, and some thrills and chills along the way would have been most welcome. The ending is also a disappointment, as things wrap up way too easily.

As it stands, THE CALLER is a mediocre thriller that never gets into a groove or hits its stride. This is one call you’d best hang up on.

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda


GOD BLESS AMERICA (2011)

Posted in 2012, Dark Comedies, LL Soares Reviews, Murder!, Satire, Twisted, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , , on May 29, 2012 by knifefighter

GOD BLESS AMERICA (2011)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

Bobcat Goldthwait started out as a comedian, transitioning from stand-up to movie roles in stuff  like the POLICE ACADEMY films in the 80s (he played “Zed” in numbers 2 – 5), ONE CRAZY SUMMER (1986) and the talking horse comedy, HOT TO TROT (1988). His characters were odd, and he often made loud, phlegmy noises when he spoke. In other words, he wasn’t for everybody. Some people thought he was funny. I’m sure plenty of others thought he was annoying. As for me, I was on the fence. He was unusual enough to get my attention, but he was in a lot of movies that weren’t very good.

He began his directing career in 1991, with a strange and dark comedy called SHAKES THE CLOWN, which gave us a look into the personal lives of some very unhappy clowns. The movie opens with Shakes (yes, his name refers to the fact that he’s also an alcoholic) waking up after having spent the night with Florence Henderson (Mrs. Brady herself!). The movie got mixed to negative reviews when it came out, but I kinda liked it.

Along with movies, his directing career has also gotten him work on television shows like THE MAN SHOW (2000 – 2003), CRANK YANKERS (2002) and CHAPELLE’S SHOW (2003).

He’s been focusing more and more on movies for the last few years, and has had some success with independent comedies like SLEEPING DOGS LIE (2006), about a woman with a very embarrassing secret that ruins all the relationships in her life; WORLD’S GREATEST DAD (2009), where Robin Williams plays the father of a really annoying kid, who turns his son into a legend by writing a poignant and fake “diary” for the kid after he accidentally kills himself in a very embarrassing way; and now GOD BLESS AMERICA. Goldthwait has become one of our best directors of dark satire.

In GOD BLESS AMERICA, which has been making the rounds of some theaters in limited release recently, Frank (Joel Murray) is a lonely, divorced guy who just lost his job, and is on the fast track to losing his life as well—when his doctor tells him about an inoperable brain tumor he found. With everything falling apart around him, Frank gets out his gun, puts it in his mouth, and decides to end it all.

But the television is on (it seems like his television is always on), and there’s a reality show on about a horrible girl celebrating her 16th birthday, belittling her rich parents into spending as much money on the event as possible, and Frank suddenly finds a reason to live. Why just kill himself, after all, when he can take some of the world’s more loathsome people with him?

So he steals his idiot neighbor’s sports car, and tracks the girl down. Figuring he is going to die anyway, Frank isn’t concerned about breaking the law or its repercussions. He finds the girl, Chloe, in the parking lot of her high school (in one of the rare instances when she isn’t being filmed for her reality show), getting into the car that her parents just bought her (that she complained about, screeching, on television), and offs her. One of the witnesses is another girl, named Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr) who, instead of being horrified by the act of violence, thinks it’s terrific, because she hates the self-involved reality TV star, too.

Roxy tracks Frank down to a motel room afterwards (where again, he’s about to blow his brains out) and convinces him that he’s onto something here. Why just stop at one horrible reality star, when there are so many more who deserve to die? Not only does she save Frank from killing himself, she gives him a final mission in life. And she wants to be his sidekick in his killing spree.

So they go around killing more despicable people, including that girl Chloe’s mealy-mouthed parents (Larry Miller and Dorie Barton), and a bullying, Bill O’Reilly-type political pundit, and as the bodies pile up, so does their glee at what they’re doing. Strangely, while the media covers the murders on the nightly news, no cops seem to be on their trail, and not until the end, in a scene on the set of an “American Idol”-type talent show, do they seem to be in danger of being arrested for their crimes at all.

As the movie goes on, their criteria for who deserves killing grows more and more trivial, as even talking in a movie theater becomes an execution-worthy offense. And what about when Frank finds out that he might have been misdiagnosed?

The acting here is top-notch. Joel Murray is one of those actors who you’ve seen in tons of things, but might not know his name. Most recently he had major roles in the Showtime series SHAMELESS, where he played another sad sack named Eddie Jackson,  and the AMC series MAD MEN, where he played ad man Fred Rumsen. But you might have also seen him on network shows like DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES and TWO AND A HALF MEN. While I was watching the movie, I kept thinking that he looked a lot like Brian Doyle Murray, who also has a huge list of television credits. When I looked him up, I found up that Joel and Brian are brothers, which means that Joel also has another, slightly more famous brother, named Bill! To think I’ve been a fan of Joel’s for all this time without realizing he was Bill Murray’s brother! Joel specializes in playing down-on-their-luck guys, and he’s perfectly cast in GOD BLESS AMERICA.

Tara Lynne Barr holds her own in the movie as Frank’s only friend and “sidekick” Roxy. Her acting resume isn’t quite as extensive as Murray’s, but she had roles on TV shows like CROSSING JORDAN (2005) and The Disney Channel’s THE SUITE LIFE OF ZACK AND CODY. Based on her performance here, I wouldn’t be surprised if she started getting a lot more movie roles. She’s that good.

Obviously, with this very dark storyline, GOD BLESS AMERICA is not going to appeal to everyone. Some people are just not going to ever find murder funny. But for those of us who have watched reality TV and totally despised the shrill, self-obsessed idiots who populate too much of  our “popular entertainment,” this movie has the potential to be a very wicked guilty pleasure.

GOD BLESS AMERICA is not perfect, however. The fact that nobody tries to stop them for weeks struck me as completely unrealistic, which just emphasizes the fantasy elements here. This is not the real world. And there are times when Frank and Roxy’s agenda (especially Roxy’s list of the kinds of people she hates) seems rather elitist, but I guess that’s the point, since, by the time they’re killing people for just being rude, things have reached an absurd level. There are, though, moments in the film when it just seems to be preaching at us, about what’s wrong with our society and popular culture, and it’s those moments that are the movie’s weakest. As a viewer, I don’t want to be preached to. Luckily there are only a few missteps in that direction. Not enough to ruin what’s good about the film.

Despite its flaws, I found GOD BLESS AMERICA to be pretty entertaining. And there are some very funny moments here. There’s a lot to like about this movie if your sense of humor tends to be dark. I give it three out of five knives.

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

(Note: If GOD BLESS AMERICA isn’t playing in limited release in a city near you, you might also be able to catch it on Cable OnDemand)

LL Soares gives GOD BLESS AMERICA ~three  knives.

CHERNOBYL DIARIES (2012)

Posted in 2012, Animals Attack, Cannibals, Cinema Knife Fights, Doomed Tourists, Mutants! with tags , , , , , , , on May 28, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: CHERNOBYL DIARIES (2012)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: A spooky, abandoned building at night. MICHAEL ARRUDA and L.L. SOARES explore, waving flashlights)

MA: And to think, I could be sitting at home, watching TV.

LS: Oh, come on. This is fun. Exploring abandoned cities.

(Suddenly, there’s a loud clicking)

MA: What’s that?

LS: Our Geiger counter! The radioactivity here is going through the roof!

MA: You still think this is fun?

LS: Sure I do!

MA: Well, I think we should get out of here. Those radiation levels are dangerous.

LS: But we’ve got a movie to review.

MA: And we couldn’t have done it somewhere safe?

LS: Of course not! We’re Cinema Knife Fighters. We don’t play it safe!

(There is a loud howl coming from one of the floors above them)

LS: What was that?

MA: I don’t want to find out. Why don’t you start our review, so we can get out of here.

LS: Okie doke.

Our movie this week is CHERNOBYL DIARIES, brought to us by director Bradley Parker. This is his first movie as director. Previously, Parker made his name as a visual effects guy on a variety of films including FIGHT CLUB (1999), the Vin Diesel action film xXx (2002) and LET ME IN (2010). And it shows. CHERNOBYL is visually interesting. But the person who is getting a lot of credit in the marketing campaign for this one is Oren Peli. He’s the guy behind the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies and also was one of the creators of the recent ABC series THE RIVER (which, unfortunately, didn’t last beyond its first, short season). Peli wrote the screenplay for CHERNOBYL DIAIRIES, based on a story idea by himself, Carey Van Dyke and Shane Van Dyke. Peli is also one of the producers. And, to be honest, this movie looks a lot like an Oren Peli movie, even though Parker directed.

MA: And it’s a neat idea for a horror movie. The story grabbed me right away, and I was more than willing to go along for the ride. I just wish it had been more thrilling.

LS: Like a lot of these kinds of movies, the story is pretty simple. A guy named Chris (Jesse McCartney), his girlfriend, Natalie (Olivia Dudley) and their good friend Amanda (Devin Kelley) are traveling around Europe and decide to pop in on Chris’s older brother, Paul (Jonathan Sadowski), who now lives in Kiev. The plan is that they will be going to Moscow to check out the sights, with Paul as their guide. But, Paul gets other ideas. After talking with his friend Uri (Dimitri Daitchenko), an ex-Russian military guy who now runs an “Extreme Tourism” travel agency, Paul suggests that instead of going to Moscow, they take a trip to Chernobyl instead.

For those who don’t know, Chernobyl was the site of a nuclear accident twenty five years ago, and the facility, as well as the nearby town, Pripyat, which was where the Chernobyl workers lived, have been abandoned since the incident. Uri offers them a chance to explore the deserted landscape, something he claims to only offer to special travelers. Of course, when the group agrees to it, they find out that they’re not so special, because another couple, Australian Michael (Nathan Phillips) and his new Norwegian wife, Zoe (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) is tagging along as well.

Uri takes the group of them into the heart of Pripyat, now a ghost town, after sneaking past some military check points. Pripyat has a very eerie quality to it as the young tourists explore its buildings. Uri tells them as long as they are not there for more than a few hours, they won’t be affected by the radiation (which has gone down to manageable levels over the years). And everything seems to go well, until they attempt to leave, and find out that someone or something has tampered with the van’s engine, and they are stuck here, in the middle of nowhere.

As the night goes on, things get more and more dangerous as animals, and other more formidable predators, come out when it’s dark, and the kids find themselves under attack.

(There is a loud crash.)

MA: What was that?

LS: How should I know? What am I, a mind reader?

(The door crashes open, and a large WINNIE THE POOH bear runs through the doorway.)

POOH: Oh, bother. I’m all out of radioactive honey, today. Where did I put my honey? Think, think, think.

LS: Can you think somewhere else? We’re reviewing a movie here.

POOH: I do believe I placed it next to Rabbit’s 8 foot long radioactive carrot. Yes, that’s where it is. (POOH skips by them right through a wall, leaving a huge Pooh-shaped hole in his wake.)

MA: Eight foot carrots? Oversized Pooh bears? We’ve got to get out of here!

LS: Keep your shirt on. We won’t be here long enough for any of this radiation to do any damage.

Where was I?

MA: The folks in the movie were under attack.

LS: Yes, but just who or what is this threat to their lives? And, with no way to contact the outside the world (cell phones don’t work, no one answers Uri’s walkie-talkie, and the nearest checkpoint is over 12 miles away—and, worst of all, NO ONE KNOWS THEY’RE THERE!), will they be able to get out of this place with their lives?

(A door crashes open again, and this time YOGI BEAR and BOO-BOO enter.)

YOGI: Okay, Boo-Boo, we’re almost there.

BOO-BOO: Yogi, I don’ t think we’re anywhere near Jellystone Park.

YOGI: The power of positive thinking, Boo-Boo. Follow me! (They exit through the Pooh shaped hole.)

LS: What’s with all the bears anyway?

MA: I guess bears live around here.  Don’t you remember the huge bear that nearly mauled the folks in the movie?

LS (whispers): Shhhh, I was playing dumb on purpose. I was hoping they’d be surprised.

MA: It’s so noisy here. Maybe we should go to another floor to continue this review? Or better yet, why not go outside?

(They enter another room.)

LS: Like Peli’s other films, I thought CHERNOBYL DIAIRIES did a good job of ratcheting up the suspense through most of the movie.

MA: Really? I thought the suspense was lacking in this one. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of suspenseful moments in CHERNOBYL DIARIES, but they weren’t as intense or as disturbing as I expected them to be.

LS: I like that just about anyone can die at any time. And even though Parker is directing, he uses a lot of Peli’s tricks, like having us focus on the main characters as they talk or argue, while strange things are sometimes happening in the background. With these movies, you have to pay attention to the background as well.

MA: Yes, be on the lookout for strange things happening in the background!

LS: The cast is pretty good. While no one here is a movie star, a couple of the cast members may be familiar to you, like Olivia Dudley, who recently appeared in the horror anthology film CHILLERAMA (2011); Nathan Phillips, who was backpacker Ben in the 2005 horror flick WOLF CREEK—another tale of tourism gone bad, and a favorite of mine—and SNAKES ON A PLANE (2006); and especially Jonathan Sadowski, who looked very familiar to me right away, and who was in the 2009 remake of FRIDAY THE 13th, but who was also the lead in the TV series $#*! MY DAD SAYS, with William Shatner.

MA: Yep, I liked the cast too, and that was one of the reasons this story worked so well for me, in spite of the fact that I didn’t find it as scary as I hoped. The characters in this movie are likeable. There wasn’t anyone I wanted to see become food for the pack of wild dogs that kept hounding them. Or the worse dangers…

I enjoyed Jonathan Sadowski a lot as Paul. I liked his take-charge on-the-edge personality, and I was grateful that he didn’t come off as a jerk, which I think is a testament both to Sadowski’s performance and Peli’s writing.

I also enjoyed Devin Kelley as a Amanda, and she made for a strong female lead. And I thought Nathan Phillips did a standout job as Michael, the Australian traveler. There was something very sincere and genuine about his performance, and I think the same can be said for all the actors in this movie. They come off as real people.

Again, a lot of the credit here for these characters should go to Oren Peli’s screenplay. The dialogue is excellent.

LS: Despite the fact that I thought the movie was effective and had a few nail-biting moments—

MA: Too few.

LS: —it’s also true that there were parts of this movie that reminded me a lot of the remake of THE HILLS HAVE EYES (2006), especially the scenes in that movie that took place in a strange, abandoned town that had been once been the site of nuclear tests.

MA: Oh, absolutely! It’s THE HILLS HAVE EYES IN RUSSIA for sure.

(There is a knock at the door. A HILLS HAVE EYES mutant enters.)

MUTANT: Are you guys looking to rent an apartment here too?

LS: No! We’re trying to review a damn movie. Go away!

MUTANT (wanders back out into the hall): I hear the rates are very reasonable!

LS: Scram!

CHERNOBYL moves at a brisk pace, the characters seem to be constantly moving, and , as I said before, you can never be sure who will live, and who will die. And I liked the ending a lot. Yet, I did find myself feeling a little disappointed as the mysterious threat revealed itself.

MA: Same here.

LS: I was hoping for something a little more..well…surprising. In some ways, CHERNOBYL DIAIRIES really isn’t offering us anything we haven’t seen before, but it does it in a visually suspenseful, tension-filled way, that worked for me. And the location is great. I just wish there were a few more surprises. That said, I give it three out of five knives.

MA: I agree with everything you said, except I was a little more disappointed than you in both the ending and the intensity of the scares in this one.

I definitely liked the beginning of this movie. The premise caught my interest immediately, and you can’t go wrong with the setting, Chernobyl. I mean, this part of the film is extremely refreshing.

I liked the characters’ trek into Chernobyl, or Pripyat I guess, since that’s the actual town they travel to, and at this point the film has done an excellent job of setting the stage for the scary things to come.

When they find themselves stranded there overnight because their van won’t start, because it appears someone tampered with it, which in itself is creepy because no one else is supposed to be there, the suspense grows and at this point I was really enjoying this one.

But a funny thing happened along the way. I realized the thrills and chills here weren’t all that thrilling and chilling. Oh, they were okay, and some of the scenes were fun, but I didn’t exactly find them nail biters.

For example, at one point they’re searching the abandoned city when they come across a pack of very scary looking wild dogs, and these dogs start chasing them, and the folks run away. I’m thinking, “Don’t run!  You can’t outrun dogs! Hide or something!” But they run, and then I’m thinking, this isn’t going to turn out well. Someone’s going to become wild dog food in a few seconds. Brace yourself.

LS: I was thinking the same thing. You can’t outrun dogs, especially over a long expanse of woods like that…

MA: Now, I’m not going to give anything away, but this scene doesn’t exactly end in a flurry of nail biting seat squirming sequences. Again, the scene is okay, but there’s no need to look away, and there certainly weren’t any loud screams in the theater at this point.

LS: And I wish they’d shown us more about those cool mutant fish!

(A giant version of the three-eyed MUTANT FISH from the beginning credits of THE SIMPSONS pops up, standing upright on its tail fin)

MUTANT FISH: Me, too. Those fish were cool!

(MA and LS scream, and the MUTANT FISH scuttles away)

MA: The same can be said for several scenes when Paul and the others are searching through abandoned buildings. There is plenty of mild suspense here, but very few of these scenes jumped out at me as being masterful.

LS: And there were the usual scenes where characters go in to certain rooms and you’re like “Don’t go in there!” But in this case, it makes sense. They’re not just going into dangerous situations out of curiosity or because they’re dummies. They’re going to save members of their group who have been kidnapped. Although I don’t know if so many people would be this brave in real life!

MA: I did like the one sequence where Amanda gets separated momentarily from Paul and Michael, when they’re searching a building, and she’s trapped, hiding on her hands and knees from an unknown threat that is there in the room with her. I have to admit I was getting ready to nibble a nail during this scene.

I also didn’t like the ending. Compared to the rest of the movie, the ending isn’t anywhere near as creative. It wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before, and I think the writers dropped the ball here. It seemed a convenient simple way to wrap up an otherwise inspired storyline.

LS: I liked the ending. I admit, it’s not totally original, but it worked for me. It just seemed like the logical conclusion, after all that came before it.

MA: Logical, but a letdown.  This is definitely a case where the threat is more interesting when it’s unknown than at the end when it’s known.

CHERNOBYL DIARIES is a great concept, it takes full advantage of its excellent location, and it gives us likeable characters in a well-written storyline. However, it suffers from a mediocre execution and a disappointing resolution. After a refreshing set-up, it needed to have a much wilder, scarier, and intense second half, or at the very least something creative, but we get neither. Instead, CHERNOBYL DIARIES takes a path we’ve all seen before and doesn’t do anything new with it.

I enjoyed this one, but I didn’t love it. I give it two and a half knives.

So, now that we’re done, can we go home before I become a walking slab of radioactive bacon?

(There’s a loud SIZZLING noise)

LS: You do like to exaggerate. Radioactive bacon! And here I was thinking that for our next review we’d take an extreme tour to chase down tornadoes.

MA: Ha, ha! Good one! You can do that one solo!

(Suddenly, HOMER SIMPSON appears from out of the shadows, the guys scream!)

HOMER: D’oh! I didn’t mean to scare you guys. I just thought I should say something, since I’m a nuclear expert. You  two are completely safe here. So don’t worry at all. You will not get contaminated!

LS: Then why is the skin on your face sizzling?

HOMER: Ha ha! So’s yours! You two should look in a mirror. This is so funny! Hee hee.

MA:  Um, I’m not laughing!

(HOMER notices something in the corner)

HOMER: Is that a donut? (he wanders away from the guys)

LS: I admit, it looks grim, but we’ll find our way out of here.

(There is a howl and a loud crash from the floor above them.)

MA: All right, for one last time. What is that?

(Suddenly, the ceiling is ripped away, and a huge, radioactive PORKY PIG peers down menacingly at them.)

MA: Whoa! How’s that for some radioactive bacon?

LS: I guess you weren’t exaggerating after all!

MA: Let’s get out of here!

LS: I think I see the exit. Quick, run this way!!

(MA & LS flee, as PORKY PIG looks at the camera and shrugs.)

PORKY PIG: I was only going to say, “Th-th-th-that’s all, folks!”

(HOMER SIMPSON comes up from behind PORKY)

HOMER: Would you like to share a donut? (sniffs) Someone’s cooking bacon! Yummy.

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives CHERNOBYL DIAIRIES ~ two and a half knives!

LL Soares gives CHERNOBYL DIAIRIES~three knives.

Quick Cuts: ATTACK OF THE BOARD GAMES!!

Posted in 2012, Based on a Board Game, Fun Stuff!, Quick Cuts with tags , , on May 25, 2012 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS:  BATTLESHIP AND ATTACK OF THE BOARD GAMES!
With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Garrett Cook, Daniel Keohane, Paul McMahon and Mark Onspaugh

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  First, an apology.  I know everyone and their grandmother are spouting their takes on the games-into-movies bit, since the new movie BATTLESHIP is being released this weekend with no apparent connection to the famous board game which shares its name.

That being said, remember, we’re Cinema Knife Fighters.  We’re guaranteed to come at you from angles not seen anywhere else.

So, ready for QUICK CUTS?

We asked our panel of Cinema Knife Fighters to choose another famous board game and then come up with a pitch/synopsis for a movie sharing the same name.  The catch is, like BATTLESHIP, it should have nothing to do with the game.

This is what our panel came up with:

*****

MARK ONSPAUGH:  The signals came from space – meaningless letters in a jumble – but

then, our top scientists decoded the message… S.C.R.A.B.B.L.E.!!!

Savage

Crab-like and

Repulsive

Alien

Beings

Barbecue the

Living on

Earth

Tonight, Terror gets a Triple-Word Score!!!

*****

GARRETT COOK:  OPERATION:  THE MOVIE: A man, a woman and her son are abducted by a mysterious lunatic and given shock collars. They are forced to extract a series of objects from dead clowns. If they fail or make a misstep in their surgeries, electric shocks are administered. Can these innocent people escape this madman’s clown torture dungeon or will the butterflies in their stomach lead to the worst malady of all: DEATH????

OPERATION!

 

*****

 PAUL MCMAHON:  I came up with three.

SCRABBLE

A terrorist virus is unleashed on the streets of America which causes hallucinations and violent behavior. Army scientist Belle Delarosa (Reese Witherspoon) discovers the virus is spread when victims see the capital letter “E.” Can she and the reporter ensconced with her (Nick Cage) remove the letter from existence in time? Don’t miss M. Night Shyamalan’s newest thriller!

ANTS IN THE PANTS

Seth Rogan stars as Donny Quixotic, an unemployed loser who inherits his dad’s popular “Pants Pocket Diner.” Being the owner gives him a chance with the hot hostess Aldonza (Jennifer Esposito), but puts him at odds with the kitchen boss, Sam Carras (Sean Ashmore). Donny’s increasingly desperate attempts to gain Aldonza’s affection are interrupted when swarms of mechanical ants stream out of the sink drains and begin to devour everyone in sight.

TWISTER

A disgruntled contortionist and magician gets tired of rude people and starts casting them into a magical blob-like world where they must live out their days with bones of jelly. A mixture of CGI animation and real-life action, written and directed by Zack Snyder!

*****

MICHAEL ARRUDA: Here’s mine

BATTLING TOPS – two Hooters’ waitresses fight over the same man in this raunchy comedy.

ROCK ‘EM SOCK ‘EM ROBOTS – a documentary of the presidential primary campaign.

LIFE – Six friends pile into a car and hit the road, carefree and full of possibilities, on a journey to see where life takes them.  Some go to college, others go into business, all of them remain unemployed.

*****

L.L. SOARES: And now it’s time for a special “Animals Attack” all-night grindhouse movie marathon, brought to you by Hasbro!

COOTIES

They start out living in your hair, but this mutant strain of head lice begins to grow out of control! No longer content with feeding off follicles, they begin to chew off entire human heads! WATCH as the disgusting beasts gobble up human brains and skeletons! SEE children fleeing their schools in abject horror. Will they be able to come up with bottles of RID big enough to handle these humungous parasites!!! Filmed in horrifying Cootie Color.

HUNGRY, HUNGRY HIPPOS

A new virus, created in a lab in deepest Africa, is accidentally released on the outside world. The nearby animals are affected, but none so much as the hippos, who suddenly become very aggressive, and acquire unquenchable appetites for human flesh! SEE what happens to a group of poachers out on an ivory expedition, as giant, unstoppable hippo jaws clamp down on them!! WATCH as unsuspecting tourists out on safari wriggle in agony as they’re gulped down by vicious hippopotami!!  HEAR the screams of those doomed to an unnatural death!

ANTS IN THE PANTS

A new sexually transmitted disease involves the transmission of vicious fire ants that burrow beneath the skin around the groin! As immoral teens have sex at sleepaway camps, the ants are spread from camper to camper with horrifying results. Soon, everyone is scratching themselves in the most embarrassing of places. SEE fleshy boils erupting with hordes of death-dealing ants! WATCH as camp counselors scream and flail their limbs in agony!!

BARREL OF MONKEYS

A crusty old sea captain opens a barrel of grog, but instead of ale, the barrel is full of killer monkeys who take over his ship and kill everyone on board! As the death ship travels across the sea, it attacks all other ships it comes into contact with, as the monkeys loop arms to create a simian bridge between their ship and their victims! The apes reproduce at an alarming rate, with super intelligence and a taste for human blood. SEE the ships arrive at ports, where dockworkers have no clue what horrors await them, as the monkeys take over the earth! Whatever you do…..DON’T OPEN THAT BARREL!

*****

DANIEL KEOHANE:  The scene: four red cars screeching around a turn, pursued relentlessly by two green vans. On the next turn, one van sideswipes a car which careens off the road, tumbles down a convenient grassy hill and comes to rest at the edge of a large precipice, rocking back and forth precariously. The driver slowly turns to climb into the back seat to see Arnold Schwarzenegger walking from the van. Arnold stares through the back window at the hapless driver and says, “Sorry…” before kicking the car over the edge.

Cue explosion, then the words

SORRY! 

explodes onto the screen.

“From the epic board game loved by generations. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hillary Swank, and Joe Pesci as the Yellow Player.”

Close up of Arnold’s face, removing his sunglasses. He smirks and says, “Apology accepted.”

This film has not yet been rated.

*****

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  And there you have it folks, our take on board games turned into movies.  That’s it for now.  On behalf of Mark Onspaugh, Garrett Cook, Paul McMahon, L.L. Soares and Daniel Keohane, I’m Michael Arruda.  Thanks for joining us!

Good night everybody!

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Mark Onspaugh, Garrett Cook, Paul McMahon and Daniel G. Keohane

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou Stands in THE SHADOW OF THE CAT (1961)

Posted in 1960s Horror, 2012, Animals Attack, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, British Horror, Family Secrets, Hammer Films, Inheritance!, Revenge!, William Carl Articles with tags , , , , , on May 24, 2012 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

By William D. Carl

This Week’s Feature Presentation:

SHADOW OF THE CAT (1961)

Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made. If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it. Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open. Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes!

Since the beginning of motion pictures, films have attempted to cast average household pets as evil villains, waiting for their owners to forget them for just one moment before they pounce on them and perform various unspeakable acts upon their persons. From Holmes and Watson facing off against the eerily howling THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1939) to the rabid St. Bernard of CUJO (1983) to the human-flesh-addicted felines in THE CORPSE GRINDERS (1971) to the hundreds of starving cats in STRAYS (1991), Hollywood has tried to make man’s best friends into horror movie fodder, with mixed results. For every CUJO, there is a DEVIL DOG, HOUND OF HELL (1978), in which scary music plays over the cutest puppy you’ve ever seen. For every scary cat from PET SEMATARY (1989), we get a killer kitty like the pussycat in THE SHADOW OF THE CAT (1961), which just happens to be on our drive-in screen tonight!

Amidst a furious lightning storm, an old lady, Ella Venable (Catherine Lacey), reads The Raven aloud to her pussycat, Tabitha, who doesn’t seem very interested in the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe. When she glances up, she sees one of her servants, Andrew the butler, with a cudgel, and he promptly bashes her head in while Tabitha watches, unperturbed. The servant drags the old lady outside while the female cook/maid, Clara, watches and the old woman’s husband, Walter (played by Andre’ Morrell of THE GIANT BEHEMOTH, 1959, BEN HUR, 1959, THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, 1965, and BARRY LYNDON, 1975) helps with the corpse. Once in the woods, they quickly bury her in a pre-dug grave. All the while, the cat watches, freaking out the hubbie and the servants to no end. Two days later, Walter calls the police and reports his wife as missing, while the servants try to catch the cat. It seems the animal just keeps staring at them. Clara, the cook, played by the great Freda Jackson (who starred in such fabulous movies as GREAT EXPECTATIONS, 1946, TOM JONES, 1963, and THE VALLEY OF GWANGI, 1969) is especially disturbed by the cat, and she falls into hilarious shrieking fits every time she sees the pussycat. Walter claims the cat “saw everything. It’s a witness, and it needs to be killed.”   Walter and Andrew decide it’s time to send for Ella’s niece, Elizabeth, played by the Queen of British Horror herself, lovely Barbara Shelley (VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, 1960, DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS, 1966, FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH, 1967, and the titular monster of THE GORGON, 1964). Walter wants to “deal with” Elizabeth so that the will isn’t disputed.

Hammer mainstay Barbara Shelley gets cozy with the kitty.

Meanwhile, Tabitha lures the two evil servants and Walter into the cellar, where Walter admits, “I’d like to brain it. I hate it!  Here kitty-kitty!”  Of course, the scene ends with Walter braining Andrew while the cat/witness escapes. Once again, everyone is terrified of this adorable little pussycat. Walter even sees a dead rat on the floor, neatly arranged by Tabitha, and he has a heart attack. Unfortunately, Walter lives, but the family’s friend and Ella’s protégé, Michael Latimer (played by Conrad Phillips of CIRCUS OF HORRORS, 1960 and SONS AND LOVERS, 1960) becomes concerned with the missing woman and the unnatural fear of the kitty in the household. When he drives Elizabeth to the spooky mansion, he mentions it, and she asks, “You mean to tell me an ordinary domestic cat is terrorizing three grown-ups?”

Andrew, watching over the sick Walter, is clawed in the face by the cat, but the little beast purrs and loves on Elizabeth. Clara tries to poison the feline eyewitness and Arnold chases it to the swamp. The cat waits till he’s on an unsteady log over quicksand before shaking the log and sending the butler to his doom. Soon after, the cat trips the cook/maid, and Clara tumbles down the stairs, breaking her neck.

Uncle Walter, still obsessing over Tabitha, sends for three cousins. He promises them a cut of his inheritance if they find and kill the cat as well as tracking down a hidden will made by Ella, which gives everything to Elizabeth. This sets them off trying to trap the murderous kitty as well as hunting for the will. The wife of one of the cousins takes to suddenly popping into the disabled old man’s bedroom and shouting “UNCLE!” at the top of her lungs, hoping to instigate another heart attack. Her husband, supposedly watching over the recovering uncle, decides to cut him out of the will entirely, and he leaves the window open, a perfect entryway for Tabitha. Our vengeance-fueled feline promptly enters the room, climbs up on the bed, and scares the old man so much he succumbs to a fit, dying in bed.

I CAN HAZ VENGEANCE!

Will the missing documents be found?  Will the cousins “take care” of Elizabeth?  Will the kitty slaughter off the rest of the cast?  Will justice be served?

THE SHADOW OF THE CAT is purported to be a BHP Production. Upon further inspection, it appears this is a subsidiary of the beloved Hammer Films, which only makes sense when you peruse the production credits. Almost all of the actors had starred in or soon would appear in Hammer productions. The film was stylishly directed by John Gilling, who also helmed THE MUMMY’S SHROUD, 1967, THE REPTILE, 1966, and THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, 1966. The effective, shadowy black and white cinematography is by Arthur Grant, who also shot FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH, 1967, THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, 1968, and TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA, 1970. The gothic drama reeks of fog and atmosphere, aided immensely by the creepy old Bray House (often utilized for exteriors by Hammer) and that creepy old bog of a swamp. It’s a complete Hammer film without the Hammer moniker. The moody music is by Mikis Theodorakis, who would memorably compose the themes for ZORBA THE GREEK (1964) and SERPICO (1973). It’s a quality production all around, and that’s what makes it so confounding.

Is Tabitha really the villain here?  I hope not, because there is literally NOTHING scary about the kitty-cat killing machine. Every time they show its sweet face, scary music plays, and the audience is supposed to be held in suspense. Instead of terror, this inspires fits of giggles, completely defeating the rest of the production. Everything in the flick is great, with the exception of the cat not being scary. It’s just so cute you want to put its picture on a meme and add funny sayings at the bottom. So you have this well-made movie with an ineffective monster.

Or is the monster supposed to be reflected in the servants and the family. They see their guilt and complicity in Tabitha, and they bump themselves off through their self-doubt and the knowledge of their culpability in Ella’s murder. They are being stalked and murdered by their own subconscious guilt. It’s much more interesting than the killer pussycat movie.

Meow!

I give THE SHADOW OF THE CAT two and a half dead butlers in the bog.

© Copyright 2012 by William D. Carl

The Geisha of Gore visits GOKE, THE BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL (1968)

Posted in 2012, 60s Movies, Aliens, Classic Films, Colleen Wanglund Reviews, Geisha of Gore Reviews, Japanese Cinema, Science Fiction with tags , , , , , , on May 23, 2012 by knifefighter

GOKE, BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL (1968)
Movie Review by Colleen Wanglund, The Geisha of Gore

Low-budget Japanese science fiction/horror films of the 1960s are familiar to most of us. They were dominated by rubber suited monsters threatening Tokyo with destruction; or in some cases, protecting Tokyo. These films also shared the popular anti-war theme of post-WWII Japanese movies in general. We all know Godzilla, Mothra, Gamera, and Rodan and they are amazing for revolutionizing the art of Special Effects, especially in regard to miniatures. One particular sci-fi/horror film that really stands out is Hajime Sato’s KYUKETSUKI GOKEMIDORO (1968), which translates to “The Gokemidoro Vampire,” but was shown to English-speaking audiences as GOKE, BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL.

A Japan Air flight takes off from Tokyo into a blood red sky. The passengers include Senator Mano (Eizo Kitamura); arms dealer Tokiyasu (Nobuo Kaneko) and his wife Noriko (Yuko Kusunoki); Mrs. Neal (Kathy Horan), an American going to bring the body of her husband home; Momotake (Kazuo Kato), a psychiatrist; Professor Sagai (Masaya Takhashi), who is a space biologist; and an apparent hijacker (Hideo Ko). Not long after take-off, the pilot (Hiroyuki Nishimoto) receives a message that there is a bomb on board and he is instructed to return the plane to the Tokyo airport. The co-pilot, Sugisaka (Teruo Yoshida), informs the passengers that some classified documents were loaded onto the plane by mistake and he must check their baggage. Fearing being caught, the hijacker points a gun at Sugisaka and orders the pilot to fly the plane to Okinawa. He then shoots the radio just as it was announcing a UFO over Japan. The plane is hit by a flock of bloody birds, and then fired on by the UFO, and it crash lands in a desolate area.

Sugisaka and flight attendant Kuzumi (Tomomi Sato) survey the damage and discover that the pilot and the hijacker are dead. When they discover that there isn’t much food or water, the survivors get rowdy. But wait, the hijacker isn’t dead!  He grabs Kuzumi and runs off with her, but he eventually comes upon the mysterious alien spacecraft. Hypnotized, the hijacker leaves Kuzumi and enters the craft. There we meet the evil alien entity—a mercury-like blob of a vampire called Gokemidoro—which enters the man’s head, to take control of his body. Kuzumi is found, unconscious, by Sugisaka who brings her back to the downed plane. The psychiatrist Momotake hypnotizes Kazumi so she can tell the survivors what happened. The alien in its new form makes its way to the crash site where it plans to feed. The survivors are still at each other’s throats, making Gokemidoro’s job that much easier.

So the first thing you’ll notice about GOKE is that it is most definitely low budget. But then you’ll notice all the stuff that makes this flick so cool. While in the air, the plane flies into a bright, blood-red sky—a background that was later recreated by Quentin Tarantino in KILL BILL VOLUME 1 (2003) when the Bride is on the plane flying to Japan. GOKE is saturated in bright primary colors which soon become garish as the film moves along. When the vampire feeds, its victim’s body turns a bright shade of blue; there are other scenes that are bathed in bright yellows and oranges—something ominous on the horizon, perhaps?

The characters are a cross-section of some of the worst personalities found in humanity. They are greedy, arrogant, and self-centered; completely unwilling to help their fellow man in light of their unlucky circumstances. The young hijacker brings a bomb on board the plane for no apparent reason. Momotake the psychiatrist seems to revel in the other passengers’ selfish behavior as they spiral out of control. Senator Mano and the arms dealer Tokiyasu have had illegal dealings, in which Tokiyasu promised to fund Mano’s campaign in exchange for Mano getting the committee to accept Tokiyasu’s weapons bid. True to scumbag form, Mano has no intention of keeping his end of the bargain. At one point in the film, Mano suggests using Mrs. Neal as bait to see if the alien is truly a vampire, and the others are perfectly willing to go along with the idea!  He feels that using a foreigner will cause fewer problems later on, if they survive the alien encounter. Most of the passengers use others to protect themselves from the alien vampire, as opposed to trying to kill it. It’s a disgusting display of the worst traits found in humanity. The only characters we can sympathize with are the co-pilot Sugisaka and flight attendant Kuzumi. They are the only ones who not only attempt to help the crash survivors, but they are the only ones to show any sort of compassion or faith in humanity (although that faith seems to be sorely misplaced).

The anti-war theme of GOKE is glaringly evident. The survivors who turn on each other immediately reflect the Cold War era of countries turning on each other and posturing with nuclear weapons, threatening the end of civilization as we know it. The final scenes of the film only serve to emphasize the anti-war sentiment. And as with the other sci-fi movies coming from Japan at the time, GOKE’s final scenes call to mind the destruction suffered by a country that actually had nuclear warheads used against it, with devastating results. The American passenger, Mrs. Neal is another nod to anti-war sentiment. She is on her way to retrieve her husband’s body. Mr. Neal was a soldier killed in the Vietnam War, which was exploding in living rooms all over the world due to television news broadcasts with graphic images of death and destruction—something which had never been seen on a nightly basis before.

The end of GOKE holds quite a twist, which to me is shocking when you consider the other genre films of the time. Writers Kyuzo Kobayashi and Susumu Takaku and director Hajime Sato leave no doubt as to the hopelessness of the situation their characters find themselves in. GOKE is one of the bleakest films I’ve ever seen, which is something I happen to like in horror films. As much as I love the kaiju films of the same era, they always seemed to end on a positive note….stressing faith in humanity’s compassion and ability to survive. GOKE doesn’t even hint at redemption for the human race, and that is why it is so disturbing. Sato was not afraid to bring the savagery of the human race to the big screen, barely hidden in an alien invasion/vampire metaphor. It is beautifully filmed and the video and audio effects are stunning, as is the movie’s soundtrack which only adds to GOKE’s very cool apocalyptic vibe.

No one is safe from GOKE, THE BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL!

GOKE, BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL is easily in my top ten Asian horror films of all time. It is haunting, somber and considerably gruesome. In my opinion, it is a must-see flick for any serious horror fan and you can see it pretty easily on Netflix and on DVD.

© Copyright 2012 by Colleen Wanglund