Archive for the Cannibals Category

The Distracted Critic: SCARCE (2008)

Posted in 2013, Cannibalism, Cannibals, Distracted Critic, Horror, Paul McMahon Columns with tags , , , on July 24, 2013 by knifefighter

SCARCE (2008)
A review by Paul McMahon– the Distracted Critic

S-POSTERSCARCE (2008) was written by Jesse T. Cook, who brought us MONSTER BRAWL in 2011, and John Geddes, who brought us EXIT HUMANITY, which I reviewed a few weeks ago. SCARCE has been in my queue for a while, and I had no idea the brains behind EXIT HUMANITY had such a big hand in this one. It looked like a cool “chased by monsters through the snowy woods” movie, and I’m always good for a monster movie. Turns out, though, that SCARCE is a story about cannibal rednecks. It’s written by-the-numbers, incorporating all the “cannibal redneck rules” during its running time.

“How will anyone find you when you have been eaten?” asks the tagline, and it seems like there’s a pretty straightforward answer to that if you’re not too… rhypophobic. Rule Eight: Cannibal rednecks love referring to their own poop.

The first thing we see in this movie is a naked bloodied man running through the woods. It catches our attention right quick. Within a few moments, he runs out of sight and screams, and we know he came to a bad end. Rule Thirteen: With cannibal rednecks, everyone comes to a bad end.

Next up, we meet three snowboarding buddies. (Aside: They’re in their cabin watching a horror movie called EXIT HUMANITY. One of them shuts it off and says “Who watches this shit?” To which I am forced to respond: “Me. Me is who watches this shit.”) The buddies go to a party where they indulge in gallons of alcohol and pages of stilted dialogue. The next morning they leave Colorado to drive home to New Jersey. They are forced off the interstate in Pennsylvania due to a snowstorm. A greasy fat guy in a huge neck brace gives them directions back to the highway. Rule One: One Cannibal redneck always waits a few miles from the property to give the lost and confused bogus directions.

Trevor, Dustin and Owen are the secret ingredients in SCARCE.

Trevor, Dustin and Owen are the secret ingredients in SCARCE.

In no time the three friends get lost and crash. Trevor suffers a compound fracture of the shin that tears his jeans. Owen and Dustin leave him and walk for help. They see a cabin up on a hill and veer toward the front door. When no one answers, they walk around the house. Dustin gets interested in all the weird redneck paraphernalia in the back yard, while Owen is surprised that the back door of the house is open. Predictably, they walk inside. Rule Three: The cannibal redneck diet consists of idiots who make idiotic decisions.

The owner of the house finds them inside, but– surprise, surprise– he’s a nice guy and drives them back to the wreck, where they find that Trevor is gone. Ivan thinks it was Wade, who’s “always been the helping kind.” With no other options, Dustin and Owen agree to spend the night with Ivan, who will drive them to town in the morning, after the storm runs its course. Rule Six: Cannibal rednecks can be nice, until it’s time to not be nice.

Ivan has only meat for supper, and offers them some. Dustin is a vegetarian, but he tries some so he doesn’t offend Ivan. Rule Seven: Cannibal rednecks will always feed your friends to you.

The next morning, Owen wakes alone. He starts to panic, but then Dustin shows up with Ivan and a list of chores. The snow has tapered off, but Ivan insists they can’t leave because the storm isn’t finished. Dustin wants to help Ivan out instead of sitting around worrying. Owen wanders off to search for cell phone reception. Rule Four: Cannibal rednecks always live where there’s no cell service.

Owen returns from his fruitless trek to find the cabin empty. He wanders upstairs and finds a cassette tape of the blizzard report they’ve been hearing. Then someone in a huge black mask is behind him. Rule Eleven: Cannibal rednecks wear masks to look scary.

Ivan and Wade play their own version of Iron Chef in SCARCE.

Ivan and Wade play their own version of Iron Chef in SCARCE.

Owen wakes bound and gagged in a dark cellar next to Dustin and in plain view of Trevor, who’s being held upright in a medieval crow’s cage. Owen now has time to ponder more of the cannibal redneck rules, such as:

  • Rule Five: Cannibal rednecks have unsettling facial deformities
  • Rule Nine: Cannibal rednecks are constantly sharpening meat cleavers
  • Rule Two: Cannibal rednecks have already eaten their wives and daughters
  • Rule Twelve: Cannibal rednecks will set their victims free and hunt them down because it makes them “taste better”
  • And we can’t forget Rule Ten: Cannibal rednecks lack table manners, chew with their mouths open, and never, under any circumstances, use napkins.

Aside from acting and directing, Jesse T. Cook plays Trevor and John Geddes plays Owen. Most of the other actors have only this movie on their resumes, except for Steve Warren, who plays Ivan. You might have seen him in 2007’s THE SIGNAL.

It doesn’t take long for this movie to fall apart completely. There are lapses of logic that would make even Ed Wood Jr. contemplate a re-shoot. The holes of ridicule include people running through three feet of snow on various leg injuries (yes, even a compound fracture), a job two men can barely succeed at is later accomplished six-times-over by one man who’s too fat to put his own socks on, and there are a handful of injuries that were apparently applied with disappearing/ reappearing latex. There was also a handgun that fired sixteen rounds (I went back and counted), but upon further research I learned that there is at least one handgun that can hold a sixteen-clip magazine. Whether the weapon in the movie was one of these, I can’t verify, but I suspect it’s possible since they listed Chris Warrilow, who had a role in the movie as a “gun wrangler,” in the credits.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything to make me want to recommend this picture. They got the sound of snow squeaking in sub-zero temperatures exactly right. They got the random scatter of lightweight snow whipping around exactly right, which is impressive because I think it was CGI’ed, since not a single flake ever landed on anyone’s black jacket.

As far as I’m concerned, this movie is strike two for John Geddes. His next film, HELLMOUTH, is based on Tony Burgess novel THE HELLMOUTHS OF BEWDLEY (Mr. Burgess also wrote PONTYPOOL CHANGES EVERYTHING, on which the movie PONTYPOOL, 2009 was based). I’ll check HELLMOUTH out when it’s released later this year.

For now, I am forced to give SCARCE half a star, with two time-outs.

© Copyright 2013 by Paul McMahon

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FRESH MEAT (2012)

Posted in 2013, Cannibals, Crime Films, Dark Comedies, Family Secrets, Film Festival Movies, Fugitives, Horror, LL Soares Reviews, New Zealand Horror with tags , , , , , , , on June 4, 2013 by knifefighter

FRESH MEAT (2012)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

Fresh-MeatAfter recently getting some buzz at the Tribeca Film Festival (I didn’t think they even showed horror movies there), the New Zealand film FRESH MEAT (2012) got a small theatrical run and popped up on cable OnDemand. So I wanted to check it out for CinemaKnifeFight.com.

The basic plot, of criminals on the lam ending up in a house where things go from desperate to worse, has been done several times before, in movies such as Xavier Gens’ above-average scare flick FRONTIER(S) in 2007. Unfortunately, right off the bat, we get some comedic elements, as each member of the family which will later be taken hostage by criminals is introduced with “witty” comments onscreen, like the fact that over-achieving college student Rena Crane (Hanna Tevita)’s main interest in “Girls.” Or that her dad, Hemi (Temuera Morrison) is a college professor and author of several books, all of which are sadly unpublished. Are you laughing yet?

The onscreen words get even more clever when the bad guys are introduced. This begins with a prison truck carrying some dangerous criminals, including Ritchie Tan (Leand Macadaan) whose crimes include not just murder but “selling fruit without a license.” His rescue team, including his girlfriend Gigi (Kate Elliott), brother Paulie (Ralph Hilaga) and hired gun Johnny (Jack Sergeant-Shadbolt), shows up at a gas station where the prison van has stopped. After Johnny completely screws up with some dynamite trying to blow the truck’s doors open, and almost kills everyone involved, we learn via his onscreen intro that he is the “explosives expert.”

Escaped convict Richie is injured and has a broken/bleeding hand after Johnny’s attempt to “rescue” him, and his gang brings him to their car and takes off after a shootout with the prison guards. They then tear up the asphalt as they are part of a high-speed chase, being pursued by a police helicopter.

The fleeing criminals end up in a densely populated neighborhood and when they see the door to the Crane family’s garage is open, they drive in, to avoid being detected by the helicopter, and then proceed to take the family members inside hostage.

Meanwhile, Rena is home for school vacation and learns the troubling news that her dad and famous cooking show host mom Margaret (Nicola Kawana) have had a major epiphany and now are part of a cannibal cult that worships a boy prophet named Solomon Smith. Well, Dad seems obsessed with Smith and his teachings (that eating human flesh makes you immortal) and Mom just seems to find the meat especially delicious, and a key ingredient for some great recipes she’s trying out. They have also indoctrinated Rena’s brother Glenn (Kahn West) into their new lifestyle.

So it’s the criminals versus the cannibals. But where a movie like FRONTIER(S) took this subject matter into some pretty dark territory, FRESH MEAT can’t seem to decide whether it wants to have fun with it all, or take it seriously, which results in an uneven tone throughout. Some directors are great at combining comedy and horror, but for people who think it’s an easy trick to master, you could not be more wrong. Most people who attempt it, mess it up. And the director here, Danny Mulheron, gives us a mixed bag of presents – some we want, and some we could do without. Mulheron’s previous directing work was mostly in television, but one of his bigger credits was for being one of the writers and stars of Peter Jackson’s MEET THE FEEBLES (1989).

Let’s look at the pluses first. The cast for this one is pretty good. I especially liked college girl Rena and badass girl with a shotgun, Gigi, who slowly start to fall for one another (Gigi has a great look, with shorts and especially sexy stockings to match that pump-action shotgun of hers). Gigi might just be my favorite character here, and actress Kate Elliot previously had roles in XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS (which was shot in New Zealand), as well as several New Zealand television series. In fact, most of the cast come from New Zealand TV (and it’s amazing how many of them had roles in one of the many POWER RANGERS franchises, which I’m guessing were also shot on location there).

Badass criminal Gigi (Kate Elliott) just might be my favorite character in FRESH MEAT (2012).

Badass criminal Gigi (Kate Elliott) just might be my favorite character in FRESH MEAT (2012).

Maori actor Temuera Morrison, who plays Rena’s increasingly insane father, is kind of New Zealand acting royalty, having previous starred in the amazing 1994 drama ONCE WERE WARRIORS (which I suggest you seek out instead). He may be more recognizable to American audiences as the cloned warrior who became Boba Fett in the most recent STAR WARS movies EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002) and EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005). Morrison is a plus in FRESH MEAT, until his character gets more and more over-the-top in his behavior, becoming so unbearably unbelievable in the final act of the film, when he completely loses his mind, as to border on irritating.

There’s little suspense as the criminals invade the house and think they have the upper hand. We know it’s only a matter a time before the flesh-hungry family turns the tables on them. By the time geeky next door neighbor Shaun (Will Robertson) pops in, because he has a thing for Rena, and is invited to share the family dinner by Hemi, and then the cops show up, things degenerate from clever and well-acted to chaotic and just plain silly.

In FRESH MEAT, the family taken hostage is more dangerous than the criminals. (from left to right, Nicola Kawana, Temuera Morrison and Kahn West)

In FRESH MEAT, the family taken hostage is more dangerous than the criminals (from left to right, Nicola Kawana, Temuera Morrison and Kahn West)

With a more assured hand to keep things sharp and smart until the end, FRESH MEAT could have been a tasty morsel for those who enjoy cannibal movies (there sure seem to have been a lot of them in recent years). As it is, it’s a clever, fun movie that runs out of ideas in the final act, and goes for complete anarchy instead of a satisfying conclusion.

I’m not really sure how this one got selected for the Tribeca Film Festival, but its festival pedigree made me expect something a lot better, and I was pretty disappointed with this one.

Not a complete loss, but not a complete success, either. I give this one two and a half knives.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives FRESH MEAT ~ two and a half knives!

TRIBESMEN by Adam Cesare

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2013, Books About Movies, Cannibals, Evil Spirits, Italian Horror, LL Soares Reviews with tags , , , , on January 19, 2013 by knifefighter

TRIBESMEN BY ADAM CESARE
A Book Review by L.L. Soares

tribesmen-coverWe don’t often review books here at Cinema Knife Fight, unless they have something to do with horror movies, so I thought I’d shine a spotlight on a novella that gives us a pretty interesting take on the Italian cannibal movies of the 1980s. You know the kind, the ones that played in grindhouses in Times Square at the time, with titles like CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980, directed by Ruggero Deodato) and CANNIBAL FEROX (aka MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY, 1981, directed by Umberto Lenzi). Precursors to the “found footage” horror movies that are so popular today, these flicks usually involved journalists or filmmakers going into jungles or rainforests to find primitive tribes long hidden from civilization, with gruesome results.

Adam Cesare’s TRIBESMEN is about a film crew traveling to a Caribbean island to make one of these movies, and the characters include archetypes like the sleazy Italian director (who churns these things out in a week), the hulking Italian movie star who can’t speak English, the American starlet who thinks this will advance her acting career, the heroin-addict cameraman and the hero, an African-American writer who is working on the script even as production is about to start. When they get to the island, things don’t go according to plan (or schedule), as spirits that haunt the island start possessing them and make them do awful things. A movie shoot turns into a fight for survival for everyone involved.

Cesare does a good job fleshing out the characters and making them sympathetic (for the most part; some of these characters are purposely unsympathetic), and knows how to ratchet up the scares. For fans of the original exploitation films, this book will take you back to those days of grindhouse goodies. Recommended.

TRIBESMEN was published by Ravenous Shadows and is available on Amazon, and the usual places.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D (2013)

Posted in 2013, 3-D, 70s Horror, Cannibals, Chainsaws!, Cinema Knife Fights, Gore!, Indie Horror, Sequels, Serial Killer flicks, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D (2013)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

chainsaw3d

(THE SCENE: a meat packaging plant. MICHAEL ARRUDA and L.L. SOARES are seated at a table.  LEATHERFACE slams a slab of meat onto the table in front of them and promptly slices into it with his chainsaw, spraying both LS and MA with blood.  He places dripping chunks of meat onto two plates and slides them in front of LS and MA.)

LS (grinning):  Oh boy!  (begins to eat raw meat.)

MA (frowning at plate in front of him):  I’ll pass, thank you.

(LEATHERFACE grunts and points towards plate.)

MA: Nothing against your cooking—(aside) what cooking?—but I ate before we got here.  Anyway, we’re here to review your new movie, so why don’t you let us do that, and maybe I’ll work up an appetite.  (LEATHERFACE nods).  Since L.L. is busy filling his face, I’ll start things off.

LS (wipes blood of his chin): Gee, thanks, buddy!

MA: TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D (2013) is the latest movie in the TEXAS CHAINSAW franchise, a series that started with Tobe Hooper’s original THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974), a classic of the horror genre, but a movie that I just have never been able to get into or appreciate.  In short, I’ve just never liked it.

LS (spits out his food in shock):  What kind of a horror fan are you?  How can you not like THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE? It might just be the best horror movie of all time.

MA:  If we were reviewing that one, I’d tell you, but right now we’re reviewing TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D.  Anyway, along the way, there’s been various remakes and sequels, including THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2003) and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE:  THE BEGINNING (2006).  None of these movies did anything for me, but if you’d care to comment more on them, to give the folks a little history, be my guest.

LS:  Not really. As is usual with these kinds of things, the various sequels and remakes run the gamut of various levels of bad (or at least inferiority) compared to the original film. I thought the recent remake and its sequel were incredibly bland and sterile compared to the visceral power of the original film. The nominal sequels have been a mixed bag of wasted celluloid, with only the sequel Hooper made himself, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (1986) worth checking out at all, and that one is a train wreck of another kind, which is sad, considering the great cast involved. I think the one I hate most is TEXAS CHAINSAW: THE NEXT GENERATION (1994) which is like a really wimpy retelling of the original film with a younger cast that includes Matthew McConaughey and Rene Zellweger in early roles (let’s just say, they’re wasted) and a skinny Leatherface! Just pathetic! Nope, there’s not much to recommend about the franchise aside from the first movie. Unfortunately, Tobe Hooper’s career hasn’t been especially awe-inspiring since his first film either, he never did recapture the pure gut-punching adrenaline of TCM ever again, although he’s made a few okay films. I wish he had something to do with this new one, other than a “Characters created by” credit, though.

MA:  Which brings us to today’s movie, TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D.

The film opens with events from the original film

LS: In 3D no less! Looked….kinda goofy.

MA: …and then adds new footage showing the locals forming a lynch mob, surrounding the home of Leatherface and his family, and burning it to the ground, killing everyone inside.  Well, almost everybody.  A couple rescues a baby from the home, although you wouldn’t want these folks working as your local paramedics, as the man, once he takes the baby from its mom’s arms, kicks the mom in the head, killing her.  And of course, we never do see Leatherface perish in the fire.

LS: This first scene really set the wrong mood right from the start for me. The first film is so dark, almost subterranean in its spookiness, that a shootout in broad daylight seemed like a real letdown. This holed-up-in-a-house-with-the-police-outside scene also reminded me of a similar scene that started off another, much superior horror film – Rob Zombie’s classic, THE DEVIL’S REJECTS (2005)– which makes this one look pretty awful in comparison.

And we don’t really get to see any of the original characters in the shootout scene– Chop Top (Edwin Neal in the original and Bill Moseley in Hooper’s 1986 sequel) was hit by a truck before this, Leatherface is in hiding, and the Cook, maybe my favorite character in the original, isn’t shown at all (actor Jim Siedow died in 2003, but they couldn’t have had someone else play his character?). The only character from the original movie we see in the shootout scene is old, zombie-like Grandpa, sitting in a chair with his deathly white face (anyone could be behind that old man makeup). It turns out a bunch of relatives showed up at the house before the police, to defend their kin (including Drayton Sawyer, played by the previously mentioned Bill Moseley in a different role here). There are so many new faces, it doesn’t even seem like the same family or the same story, although it was cool to see Gunnar Hansen (the original Leatherface) as “Boss Sawyer.” But something about this whole opening shootout seemed too normal, too bland right from the start. The original cast and house made us feel like we were traveling through Hell itself. Here, it’s just another shootout with the police…

(A man holding a chainsaw and wearing a severed pig’s head over his own head enters the room)

LS: It’s Farmer Vincent from the movie MOTEL HELL (1980)

FARMER VINCENT: That’s right, boys. I’m here to make sure old leatherbutt here made the meat correctly. Did you use my special recipe?

(LEATHERFACE grunts and nods his head no)

FARMER VINCENT: The hell you say! How could you prepare these people a decent meal of meat and not prepare it correctly! DAMN YOU!

(FARMER VINCENT revs up his chainsaw, and LEATHERFACE revs his up in turn)

MA: Now gentlemen, there’s no reason for violence here.

FARMER VINCENT: Like hell there’s not!

LS (grin): Let ‘em fight, this might be fun.

(Suddenly the Sawyer family member known as THE COOK enters the room, flapping his arms)

COOK: Dang nab it! Don’t go making a mess in here.

FARMER VINCENT: I thought you was dead!

COOK: Well, I ain’t. And I prepared the meat. So you bet damn well it’s done right.

(FARMER VINCENT grabs a chunk, lifts his pig mask and tries it)

FARMER VINCENT: Mmmm. Pretty good.

COOK: Now get yer ass out of here before I kick it across the state of Texas!

FARMER VINCENT: I’m going, I’m going.

COOK: Now look what you done! (he slaps LEATHERFACE). Causing all this commotion. And me in the middle of my cooking! (LEATHERFACE cowers before him)

(COOK stops and turns to LS and MA)

COOK: Sorry, gents. I didn’t mean no harm here. Just go about enjoyin’ your meals.

(COOK goes back to the kitchen. LEATHERFACE is still whimpering in a corner)

Texas-Chainsaw-3D-2012-Movie-Poster

LS: That was fun! It’s like dinner theater!

MA: Can we get back to our review…finally?

LS: Sure!

MA: After the shoot-out, where the Sawyer home gets burned to the ground, the story then jumps ahead to present day where beautiful young Heather Miller (Alexandra Daddario) receives a letter informing her that her grandmother has died, and that the woman left a home in Texas for Heather in her will.  Now, Heather wasn’t even aware that this grandmother existed, and so she also learns at this point that she was adopted, and that her true blood line lived in Texas.  Yep, Heather’s the grown up baby that was rescued from Leatherface’s home, making her Leatherface’s cousin.

LS: Woo-hoo! That sure is some looker, you’ve got for a cousin, Leatherboy!

(LEATHERFACE grins and nods his head)

MA: Heather and her hip friends decide to take a road trip to Texas to check out the new home.  Along the way they pick up a hitchhiker (an event which mirrors the original story) and once in Texas, they find that the home left for Heather is an elegant mansion.

The twentysomethings prepare to celebrate, but their plans are short-lived when it turns out that Leatherface still lives in the basement, and he’s none too happy about new folks moving into his home.

Further complicating matters is that the mayor of the town, Burt Hartman (Paul Rae), is the leader of the lynch mob who burned Leatherface’s home to the ground.  He hates Leatherface’s family, and he’s not above lynching Leatherface a second time, or his young cousin Heather.

It seems lovely Heather has more to worry about than just Leatherface.  In fact, Leatherface might even become her ally.  Aww, a kinder gentler Leatherface!  Just what we need.

(LEATHERFACE nods at first, then pauses as if thinking, then vigorously shakes his head “no.”)

MA:  I didn’t think so.  Honestly, I’ve seen worst movies than TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D, and I didn’t hate this one by any means, but that being said, boy, what a lame movie!  In short, this one’s awful.

The worst part of TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D, and why I called this one lame, is its story.  Its premise generates absolutely no suspense—Heather and her friends arrive at her new home—does anyone in the theater (and there were three other people there besides me, by the way) not expect Leatherface to be living somewhere inside that mansion?  A creative story would have taken us in a different direction, one that we didn’t expect.  Not so here.  You can see every move happening long before it does.  It’s standard horror storytelling all the way.

LS: Unfortunately, yes.

MA: And nice job, Grandma!  Way to go, caring for your long lost granddaughter by giving her a house with a homicidal maniac living in the basement!  Yup, as they say in the movie, blood is thicker than water.  What a boneheaded move!  I’m supposed to believe that a woman who cares for her family would bequeath a home with Leatherface living in it to her unsuspecting granddaughter?

LS: Yeah, Leatherface almost kills her a bunch of times, until he realizes who she is. But you can’t completely blame Grandma! She did leave Heather a letter.

MA: Yeah, she says in her letter to Heather that all Leatherface needs is a little loving and caring, and he’ll protect her.  How sweet.  Leatherface is a regular hero.  I don’t think Heather’s friends, all butchered by Leatherface, would agree.

LS: This is one major plot point that bothered me. Leatherface kills some of her friends (I’m not saying who) and suddenly it’s like it never happened and Heather has to make some choices about who she’s going to stand by and who’s the enemy. And suddenly, she’s able to forgive the murders of people she cares about without a second thought. It didn’t seem genuine to me.

MA:  I agree.

LS:  Although, they’re not the best friends. Her boyfriend Ryan (Trey Songz, who is okay here, but not very developed as a character) is cheating on her with her best friend, Nikki. (Tania Raymonde).  But Heather doesn’t know that.

MA: Adam Marcus, Debra Sullivan, and Kirsten Elms wrote the screenplay for this one. You’d think three writers would have come up with a better story.

LS: Maybe they should have gone with Arruda and Soares instead?

MA: I like the sound of that!

LS: Seriously, they have some good ideas. The script just wasn’t good about following through with them.

MA: Director John Luessenhop does an okay job at the helm.  The film looks fine and includes the expected gore, which I found both tasteless and fake-looking, not a good combination.  One guy gets his body sawed in half by a chainsaw, grisly and pointless, but expected, and yet it didn’t disturb all that much because it looked fake.  That CGI culprit again!

LS: I didn’t mind the stuff you’re calling tasteless. But some of the fake-looking stuff I could do without.

MA: But anything resembling genuine suspense is absent here, as are any real shocks.  And as you already know by its title, it’s in 3D, and no, I wasn’t impressed.

LS: I don’t know. It wasn’t worth the extra price, I’ll give you that. But there were some cool moments where chainsaws come right out of the screen at you, that I enjoyed. But it was just a gimmick. Over all, it wasn’t really worth seeing it in 3D.

MA: I did like Leatherface’s mask, as it was sufficiently gruesome.  But that being said, Leatherface himself didn’t make for the scariest villain.  I mean, he comes off as this overweight lump of a man barely able to run—I was half surprised he didn’t keel over and die from a heart attack.  His cholesterol level must be off the charts!

LS: Another big problem I have with the movie is that you’re right, Leatherface isn’t scary here. In the original, he was this big killing machine. Intimidatingly huge, and vicious. Here, he’s kind of like the smaller, less scary version. Sure, he’s supposed to be 20 years older, but not once did I feel like he was a force to be reckoned with. Not once did I think he could scare the hell out of anyone. The chainsaw—sure, that’s scary. Leatherface here, not so much. Gunnar Hansen in the original movie was SCARY AS HELL.

MA: For the most part, the acting was okay.  Alexandra Daddario holds her own in the lead role as Heather Miller.  She’s beautiful and she can act, so that’s nice combination to have.

LS: You’re right. She’s very stunning. Between those eyes of hers, and everything else (she wears shirts exposing her belly in almost every scene of the movie), my eyes were just drawn to her like a magnet. And she’s okay here as an actress. Nothing amazing, but she pulls it off.

MA: Her friends were fine, but reminded me of the same types of characters I’ve seen in countless other horror movies of this type.  I recognized Tania Raymonde from LOST, as Heather’s friend Nikki, who likes to flaunt lots of skin and cleavage in this one.

Also in the cast as a young police officer is Scott Eastwood, Clint Eastwood’s son.  He’s okay.

LS: Scott Eastwood as Carl is really wasted here. He’s actually really good in every scene he’s in. But then, toward the end, once the action shifts to the inside of a slaughterhouse, he is completely forgotten and we don’t see him again, which doesn’t make a lot of sense.

MA: Paul Rae as Burt Hartman makes a nice villain, and he’s actually the main baddie in this one, as he’s one big pain in the ass.  He seems to want to lynch everyone he meets. One other thing I’ll say is that this movie doesn’t paint a very nice picture of small town Texas either.  These folks aren’t friendly.

LS: Hartman is good, even if he never does seem like that big of a threat. He’s the leader of a lynch mob who became a crooked mayor in a small town. Somehow it seems like the enemy here should have been more formidable.

MA: And of course there’s Dan Yeager as Leatherface, wowing us with his multidimensional performance.  Yeah, right.  Sorry, Leatherface, but you’re about as multidimensional as a loaf of white bread.  In fact, at times in this movie, you resemble a loaf of bread.  A big fat loaf.

LS: He’s supposed to be Leatherface as an old man, so sometimes it worked for me. But as I stated before, he’s simply not intimidating or scary. They needed to get a bigger, scarier actor in this role. Yeager just seems like a mini version of the real thing.

MA: Sorry TEXAS CHAINSAW fans, but I can’t really find anything good to say about this movie, the latest silly chapter in a series that I just can’t warm up to.

I give it one knife.

LS: I actually liked this one more than you. But in the end, it is a disappointment. First off, I think the people who made this film had their hearts in the right place. You could tell they really wanted to pay respect to the original film. TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D states its goal early on with the footage from the original film. It’s meant to be a direct sequel to the 1974 movie. It simply dismisses all those bad sequels and boring remakes. In the remakes, by the way, the family’s name was changed to Hewitt for some inexplicable reason. Here, in this movie, we are told right off the bat that the murderers are the Sawyer family—the correct name—and that immediately got points from me early on.

I really think the people who made this film liked the original and wanted to do it justice, but  they just didn’t have the imagination to do it well. That said, there were scenes I liked, and things about the movie that worked for me. I just didn’t think it was scary, and I don’t think it’s very logical (especially toward the end). The fact that Leatherface is able to walk away without being arrested, after killing Heather’s friends, other people, and running through a local carnival with a chainsaw, completely puzzled me. It just wasn’t believable.

MA:  Not only that, but in a key scene, the sheriff just stands and watches a main character get murdered in front of his eyes without offering assistance.

LS: Well, he does kind of deserve it! Strangely, I liked this movie. I thought its flaws outweighed what was good about it, but I saw this as kind of a labor of love, and I can appreciate that. The original CHAINSAW deserves to be revered in the horror genre. And for once, this didn’t feel (completely) like a movie that simply wanted to cash in on a name brand and make some quick money.

I give it two and a half knives. Not a great score, but not a dismal one. And it’s at least as good as some of the movies I’ve given that score to in the past. This one has its problems, but it has just enough heart to come close to winning me over.

(LEATHERFACE pushes plate of meat back in front of MA and grunts.)

LS:  That’s right.  You said you’d build up an appetite.

MA:  I meant, like next week.

LS:  I think he wants you to eat it.

MA:  Oh well.  (grabs a fork and digs in).  (chewing).  Not bad. Rather spicy.  What kind of flavoring did you use?

(LEATHERFACE reaches into his pocket and removes what looks like squished guts and organs.  MA stops chewing.)

LS (laughs):  Sorry you asked?

MA:  I was thinking steak sauce and paprika.  Anyway, isn’t it time we move on?

LS:  What?  And skip dessert? He made us blood pudding!

(LEATHERFACE nods eagerly)

MA:  Well, folks, at least you get to leave now.  Thanks for joining us, and we’ll see you next time.

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D ~one knife!

LL Soares gives TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D~ two and a half knives!

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou Experiences TERROR IN THE JUNGLE (1968)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2012, 60s Movies, Animals Attack, Bad Acting, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Campy Movies, Cannibals, Drive-in Movies, William Carl Articles with tags , , , , , , on June 7, 2012 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

William D. Carl

This Week’s Feature Presentation:

TERROR IN THE JUNGLE (1968)

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!

PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1959), THE CREEPING TERROR (1964), EEGAH! (1962), and SHOWGIRLS (1995) are all laugh-filled, so-bad-they’re-good films that entertain even as they astound us with their ineptitude.  Allow me to introduce you to TERROR IN THE JUNGLE (1968), a practically home-made tale of schlocky adventure and horror in which every scene contains multiple mistakes, atrocious acting, inept editing and directing, and the funniest script that a group of hacks ever thrust in front of an unbelieving audience.  You think I’m kidding?  Let’s get to the plot.

We begin our story on a beach front, split level home where the worst child actor ever (Jimmy Angle, who thankfully never worked again) portrays Henry Clayton Jr.  The tow-headed tyke, barely four years old, is about to embark upon his first airplane ride ever to see his mother.  Clutching his stuffed lion, Henry gets on the plane along with dozens of hilarious stock characters.  There’s Mrs. Sherman, draped in furs, who is attacked by reporters asking if she really killed her husband and hid the bank robbery money.  There are two nuns, accompanying their dead Mother Superior in a wooden coffin.  There’s a bombshell actress, Marion, played by Fawn Silver (ORGY OF THE DEAD-1965!).  She is heading for Rio to film a musical, and she’s played by a gushing brunette who tries unsuccessfully to fill her lines with Jayne Mansfield-esque sexual innuendo.  There’s a trio of musicians in terrible wigs followed by screaming teenage girl fans.  They take their instruments on the plane with them.  Something tells me the guitars wouldn’t fit in the overhead compartments!  Henry Jr., meanwhile weeps and cries incessantly, “Daddy.  Daddy.  Daddy.”

Suddenly, a card pops up over the action stating that this picture was filmed on location in Peru, and the producers would like to thank the wonderful people of Peru for their hospitality.  Now, back to our story.

During the flight, we get to know our stock characters better.  The actress slinks up to Mr. Keyes, a millionaire who flirts with her in a smarmy manner.

“I hope I’m not disturbing you,” she says.

“No more than any other attractive young lady disturbs me,” he says, showing her a magazine.  “Your presence is much better than this.  If there’s anything worse than pornography, it’s badly written pornography.”

As a come on line, it works!

Little Henry is still crying, and his stuffed lion has miraculously turned into a stuffed tiger.  One of the nuns gives her newspaper to Mrs. Sherman, who is greeted with the trumpeting headline “Ruth Sherman Set Free!  Money Still Missing!”  Mrs. Sherman then yells at the nun in fury, “I expected this from the others, but not from a nun!”  An older red-headed woman talks about the lost Incas in Peru and the Jivaros who live as cannibals.  The band immediately pulls out their guitars and plays a request for their song, “Soft Lips:”

“You’ve got what I want, babe.
You got what turns me on.
Soft lips, soft lips, really really really really  soft lips,
I really want you!”

Women dance in the aisles, the nuns rock out, and the plane enters a storm, I think (it’s hard to tell, because the picture goes to a blue screen every time we see the exterior of the plane.)    The pilots struggle with the controls and decide to crash land in the jungle, near the Amazon River.  They first try to get rid of any excess weight, so everyone gives up their suitcases or their instruments.  In the process, Mrs. Sherman’s case flies open and money swirls all around the cabin, while she has a nervous breakdown.  One of the nuns gets sucked out of a door in the clumsiest fall out of a cardboard hatch ever.  As the plane approaches the ground, everyone seriously puts on their life jackets, and the plane crashes, I think.  It’s still hard to see anything other than that darn blue screen and some wispy clouds.  Meanwhile, annoying little Henry’s toy tiger is once again a toy lion!  It’s good to focus on the toy, since the kid can’t even remember his lines.

The crash is actually brutal and swift, with people’s heads bashing into windows and blood flying everywhere.  One woman’s gilded canary cage is thrust into and through her face.  The actress dies in the millionaire’s arms.  “No more promises.  No more … argh.”  Only a few people are left alive, and they jump out of the sinking plane into a river, where alligators immediately attack them.  The remaining cast is devoured in front of the screaming little boy’s eyes!  One at a time, every character that’s been introduced is eaten alive.

The terrible plane crash in TERROR IN THE JUNGLE!

But, poor little Henry Jr.!  He can’t swim.  Luckily, the stewardess and pilot spot the nun’s coffin.  They dump the sister’s body out, put the kid in the coffin, and send him down the river just as the plane explodes killing the last of the survivors.  The entire cast is dead except for the little boy with the magical morphing stuffed toy, who floats on the river while alligators hiss at him from the shores and bump into his boat.  In fact, he floats for what seems like seven hours while sobbing, “Daddy!  Daddy!” and more alligators go after him.

Meanwhile, back in the states, Henry Sr. gets the news that he put his son on a doomed flight, and he heads for Rio to find out more about the missing boy.  Henry Jr. eventually gets out of the water and has the time of his life playing with monkeys.  A Peruvian rescue flight spots his red jacket, and the toy becomes a tiger again.  The stupid rescuers are attacked by Jivaros Indians (remember that mention on the plane?) with blow guns, and abandon the kid.  One pilot is hit by a dart, and his buddy gets him to the safety of a mission, headed by a Peruvian priest who has lost his faith.  Despite his ministrations, the pilot dies.

Luckily, the natives believe Henry Jr. is some sort of god because he has blond hair.  They take the weeping wonder to their village and set him up on a throne.  “Daddy!  Daddy!”  They believe he is the son of their god, Inti.  We know this because the missionary priest can interpret their drums and conch shell calls.

On an impressive Incan Temple set, Henry Jr. is treated to a big dance production number performed to Les Baxter’s jazzy music (didn’t know they had saxophones and xylophones in the jungle.)  Dozens of native women perform a ballet in colorful headdresses and costumes, Martha Graham-style.  Hey, what’s a jungle picture without a perfectly choreographed native-girl dance number?  The music is pretty cool, and … yes, the damn toy has now turned into a spotted leopard.

Henry Sr. arrives in Peru.  After a bit of sight-seeing, he visits a monastery, where he is informed that the red jacket was seen, and he is given the address of a Father Bates who will take him to the mission in the jungle.  So much work to find a kid any parent would be happy to ditch in the wilderness!  That’s probably why he takes time out from his search to watch an entire festival parade go by, and he even tours the local architecture before bothering to get to Father Bates.

Meanwhile, back in the jungle, the Jivaros witch doctor is jealous of the attention Henry Jr. is getting, and he tells the tribe that the boy is the reason the sun has been hidden behind clouds for a week.  Plans are hatched to kill the little boy, all in subtitles with a fake Indian language that sounds exactly like “Ungu bungu banga bunga.”  Thank goodness, the missionary priest overhears the plot, and he sets off to free the little brat.  Henry Sr. arrives just in time to join him on the rescue of his son.

Henry Jr. is tied to an altar made of green bananas, clutching his tiger and, of course, crying his eyes out.  It makes you wonder how they got this little punk to cry so much.  Were they constantly pinching him?  Taking his toy away?  Forcing him to watch the dailies?  In any case, a rival tribe sets the village huts on fire, everyone stabs everyone with long spears and knives in bloody fights, the sun comes out, and Henry Jr.’s stuffed animal turns into a real live leopard that saves him from the evil witch doctor.  Yes, you read that right.  The toy saves the kid, and not even in its lion or tiger form, but in the handy stock footage that was available at the time and a real stuffed immobile leopard.  Deus ex machine, my ass!

Henry Jr. doing what he does best – CRYING!

Then comes the giant snake.  Then, the quicksand.  Then, the piranha attack.  This kid just can’t get a break.

The film is aided by good, if hysterically inappropriate, music by Les Baxter, including “Peru, I miss you, I miss you, I miss you, you’re calling, calling, calling, my Peru.” a Tom Jones-style number.  Baxter wrote music for more than a hundred movies, including gems like BEACH PARTY and BLACK SABBATH (1963), HOUSE OF USHER (1960), and THE BEAST WITHIN (1982).

TERROR IN THE JUNGLE’s plane sequences were directed (Ha!) by Tom DeSimone, who began his career editing children’s matinee movies and instructional films.  This was his first feature.  In two years, he would adopt the moniker Lancer Brooks and direct and produce dozens of X-rated gay films like CONFESSIONS OF A MALE GROUPIE (1971), SWAP MEAT (1973), and THE HARDER THEY FALL (1977).  That year, he moved into more straight-forward exploitation drive-in hits, like the hilarious talking vajayjay movie CHATTERBOX (1977), the Linda Blair slasher flick HELL NIGHT (1981), ANGEL III (1988), and REFORM SCHOOL GIRLS (1986), with the great Wendy O’Williams.  He later moved to television, where he directed many episodes of FREDDY’S NIGHTMARES, SWAMP THING, and SUPER FORCE.  Hey, I guess he was always working.

The jungle scenes were directed by Andrew Janzack, who was the cinematographer on such baddies as THE CREEPING TERROR (1964) and THE UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS (1966).  Meanwhile, Alex Graton helmed the spectacular dance sequence at the Incan Temple.  Interestingly, Graton was the producer of UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS, under the name Alejandro Gratton.

How these three men met and made this film will probably forever remain a mystery.

If you love terrible movies, and I mean movies so bad they’ve gone around the curve and emerged as superbly entertaining, then you simply must see TERROR IN THE JUNGLE.  It’s crammed with laughable dialog, atrocious acting, long stretches of Peruvian tourism, bad special effects, stock footage, continuity errors, swinging Sixties fashions, crazy scenes that just seem randomly strung together, the song “Soft Lips,” and the funniest plane crash ever.  All this plus a kid yelling for his Daddy several thousand times.  TERROR IN THE JUNGLE is easily one of the worst/best movies ever made.

I give TERROR IN THE JUNGLE four lions, no leopards, and no tigers out of four.  A true classic of bad cinema waiting to be rediscovered!

© Copyright 2012 by William D. Carl

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.

Suburban Grindhouse Memories: CANNIBALS IN THE STREETS (1982)

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2011, Action Movies, Cannibals, Grindhouse, Italian Horror, Nick Cato Reviews, Suburban Grindhouse Memories with tags , , , , , , on December 15, 2011 by knifefighter

SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE MEMORIES
CANNIBALS IN THE STREETS (1982)
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By Nick Cato

Besides an overabundance of slasher films, the early 80s was also a hotbed of DAWN OF THE DEAD and ZOMBIE rip-offs, and if you lived in the right places, these (mainly) euro-schlock offerings seemed to be released every week.

Although zombie-mania is mainstream today, in 1982 it was still cool to be a zombie geek.  And upon seeing the above ad in my local newspaper for something called CANNIBALS IN THE STREETS, my geekdom hit an all-time high.  Here was a film I hadn’t read a thing about in any horror magazine or fanzine, and it starred John Saxon, an actor I had been a fan of since his stint as a robot opposite Lee Majors on the TV show THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN (1974-76 episodes).

Thankfully one of my buddies’ older brothers smuggled us into the Fox Twin Theatre, another defunct twin here on Staten Island that’s now the site of a multiplex.  For a Saturday afternoon, CANNIBALS IN THE STREETS was packed…but by the halfway point the theater had all but emptied.  The fools should have stuck out the slow middle…

I should point out—before I go any further—that I eventually discovered this film was a HEAVILY edited version of a 1980 Italian production released in Europe as CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE, and eventually released on VHS in America, still edited, as INVASION OF THE FLESH HUNTERS (got all that?).  As far as I know, this is the first Italian cannibal film to be shot almost entirely in Atlanta.  I forced myself to watch (okay—SCAN) through Image Entertainment’s uncut DVD version (under the title CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE) back around 2002, and am happy to report that the “uncut” version didn’t enhance or change my opinion of the film.  In fact, anyone seeking a gory cannibal/zombie outing can do themselves a favor and look elsewhere.

BUT: the film still has its moments.

Saxon locates a couple of P.O.W.’s in Vietnam.  To survive, the men resorted to cannibalism, and as Saxon tries to help one soldier out of a prisoner pit, he has a nice chunk taken out of his arm!  The theater DID go nuts over this opening sequence, which quickly ended and brought us back to modern-day Atlanta.  Giovanni Lombardo Radice (who would soon get a power drill through his head in Fulci’s THE GATES OF HELL (1983) ) plays one of Saxon’s ‘Nam buddies—and for some reason they’re both living in Atlanta.  When Saxon refuses to go out with him for a drink (apparently he’s still haunted by being bitten in ‘Nam), Radice heads to a local movie theater where instead of focusing on the feature, he watches some pervert lick his girlfriend’s body.  Radice has a flashback and decides to bite the poor girl’s neck, which causes the place to panic.  He’s chased by a bunch of crazed theater patrons, and a sorry-looking biker gang, into a thrift shop, where he’s eventually apprehended and sent to the hospital for observation.  DURING this fiasco, John Saxon is at home with a babysitter, who keeps giving him flashbacks every time she flirts by showing a little leg.  Knowing his wife is being unfaithful, Saxon gives in and goes down on her without literally eating anything, temporarily sating his cannibalistic urges with some playful nibbling.

At this point in the film, it became clear CANNIBALS IN THE STREETS wasn’t a zombie film, and while it moves well up to this point, the mid-section becomes quite tedious.  Patron after patron began to leave the theater, but my friends and I were confident something titled CANNIBALS IN THE STREETS simply HAD to have a pay off.

It does and it doesn’t.

The action slowly picks back up when Radice and the other rescued P.O.W. escape from a hospital along with a nurse they’ve bitten.  They run into the aforementioned biker gang right outside the hospital and a mini-brawl breaks out.  The trio goes on to infect unlucky citizens with their cannibal virus, and eventually meet up with their former captain, John Saxon.

The rest of the film turns into a violent action flick, complete with a nifty chase sequence through Atlanta’s sewers and a flamethrower battle at the finale.  The gore scenes cut out of this theatrical release (provided by ZOMBIE (1979) and THE BEYOND (1981)-alumni Gianetto De Rossi), which I finally saw on the DVD, include a gruesome close-up of Radice’s stomach after he gets a hole blown in it, a doctor having his tongue bitten off, and some sloppy mechanic having his leg sliced up like cold cuts at a deli.

I have no idea if director Antonio Margheriti was trying to make some kind of non-subtle point regarding the returning Vietnam vet as being the “real” monster, or if he just set out to make some cash by combining APOCALYPSE NOW and DAWN OF THE DEAD (both 1979).  What I came away with was a satisfying exploitation experience, despite the (then) lack of gore, which was made up for with uncomfortable sex scenes, plenty of action (despite the slow middle), and some of the worst left-over disco music ever to appear in a cannibal film (and THAT’S saying something).  I’ve read that John Saxon has publicly denounced the film, and co-star Radice has said Saxon seemed “out there” while the film was being shot.  Either way, CANNIBALS IN THE STREETS is must viewing for Saxon completists and lovers of so-bad-they’re-good grindhouse classics.  All others, stick to RAMBO

© Copyright 2011 by Nick Cato

John Saxon discovers P.O.W.s just before getting bit in CANNIBALS IN THE STREETS!