Archive for the Just Plain Weird Category

Suburban Grindhouse Memories: XTRO (1983)

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2013, Aliens, B-Movies, Cult Movies, Just Plain Weird, Nick Cato Reviews, Science Fiction, Suburban Grindhouse Memories, UFOs with tags , , , , , on May 16, 2013 by knifefighter

Suburban Grindhouse Memories No. 63:
Not all E.T.’s are Friendly…
By Nick Cato

XTROposter 

 Released less than a year after the success of Steven Spielberg’s E.T., low budget British sleaze-fest XTRO (1983) exists basically to support its infamous tag line, “Some extra-terrestrials aren’t friendly.” And in the case of XTRO, not all E.T.’s make much sense, either.

A father (Sam) and son (Tony) are playing around on their isolated farm when the son witnesses his father being abducted by a UFO. Three years go by and the poor kid is still having nightmares, and worse, no one believes his story, figuring his old man took off on them. His mother, convinced her hubby has met another woman, grows tired of waiting for him to return and gets involved with another man, leaving young Tony not too happy.

From here on out, XTRO is a bit difficult to follow because it truly doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense.

A space craft crashes in a wooded area, setting most of the place on fire. We see a humanoid/spider-like alien emerge from the wreckage and examine its new surroundings and it’s eventually hit by a car (apparently these XTRO’s aren’t only unfriendly, but are rather stupid considering they’ve traveled from space to get here). The alien doesn’t die, and manages to make it to a small house where it rapes a woman, which leads to one of the most absurd sequences I’ve ever seen on the big screen: the woman gives birth to a full-grown Sam, apparently now returned to earth in a most strange manner (don’t bother to ask why…it’s just not worth it). The scene is truly gross and still sticks with me thirty years later.

Sam is now on a mission to find his son, who is living in an apartment with his mother Rachel and new boyfriend Joe. He starts to pick Tony up from school, pissing off Joe and causing Rachel concern. Sam claims he can’t remember a thing that’s happened in the past three years (where he has been, his former job, etc), so against the Joe’s wishes, Rachel allows him to move in with them for the time being.

One night, Tony catches his father eating his pet snake’s eggs, and high-tails it out until his old man catches him and bites into his shoulder (we later learn he’s planting alien seed in his son).

And the film gets even more asinine: Tony discovers he has gained a bunch of new powers, including the ability to make his toys come alive. He puts this skill to use when one of his neighbors kills his pet snake. He makes one of his toys turn into a midget (dressed as a clown) and it attacks people with a lethal yo-yo-type of weapon. He also sends a toy soldier after his neighbor for some snake-revenge.

If the theater I saw XTRO in (the now defunct Fox Twin Cinema) had a bar, I would have definitely pounded down a few shots at this point.

For some reason Sam and his wife (ex-wife?) decide to visit the farm they used to live on and leave Tony home with a gorgeous nanny (played by Maryam D’Abo of the 1987 007 film THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS), who of course has her boyfriend come over for a shag session (and Bond fans might want to note Miss D’Abo does a generous nude scene here).  Tony keeps bugging them to play hide and seek, and they eventually do, but during the game the nanny is knocked out by the aforementioned midget clown and impregnated with alien eggs (remember, I told you this thing makes little sense) while Tony sends one of his toy army tanks to deep-six her boyfriend.

Meanwhile, back at Sam’s old farmhouse, he manages to have sex with his wife (ex-wife?) but during the act his body starts to bleed profusely and transform.  Joe shows up with Tony looking for Rachel, and this is when total chaos ensues: Sam and Tony follow the light from a UFO, and Sam turns into an alien, who manages to kill Joe with his ear-shattering screams.  The alien Sam then takes Tony and heads toward the space craft as a confused Rachel goes back to her apartment … and is raped by the same alien who raped the poor woman earlier in the film.

The more you consider XTRO, the more you’ll be convinced the makers of it were determined to create the exact opposite of E.T.: where Spielberg’s film was family friendly and featured a positive, wholesome ending, XTRO is a mess of gore, splatter, alien slime, and one of the most nihilistic, depressing endings to ever grace a sci-fi/horror film.  All the strangeness with the toys still baffles me, but it did provide some laughs for the grossed-out audience.

I recently watched this film for the first time since seeing it theatrically upon its release, and found it even more confusing than I had remembered. I’m surprised this one has such a healthy cult following, especially since stretches are a bit slow and the acting stiff, with the exception of Rachel (played by Bernice Stagers, of Fellini’s 1980 CITY OF WOMEN), who most of the film revolves around, despite an ad campaign that would let you believe Tony was the focus.

XTRO is a real mess. It’s gross, nasty, and ends on such a low note some might consider the director to have been a manic depressive. Yet at the same time, lovers of B-movie schlock should enjoy it well enough. This here’s one father/son relationship tale I doubt any parent would approve of. I still haven’t seen the sequel.

Live long and SUFFER!

© Copyright 2013 by Nick Cato

 

Ever see a woman give birth to a full grown man? Yeah, XTRO goes there!

Ever see a woman give birth to a full grown man? Yeah, XTRO goes there!

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Transmissions to Earth: THE ABCs OF DEATH (2012)

Posted in 2013, Anthology Films, Asian Horror, Body Horror, Controverisal Films, Dystopian Futures, Just Plain Weird, LL Soares Reviews, Murder!, Surgical Horror, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2013 by knifefighter

TRANSMISSIONS TO EARTH

zontar_sage_2

presents

THE ABCs of DEATH
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

The-ABCs-of-Death-Poster

The concept is in an interesting one, give 26 filmmakers $5,000 each to make a short film, roughly about five minutes long (some more, some less). The only caveat being that it has to be about death in some way. So we’ve got maybe the most ambitious horror anthology film so far, on the heels of some good ones like THE THEATRE BIZARRE (2011) and V/H/S (2012). But with 26 shorts, it’s not the easiest film to review, so a critic inevitably has to stick to the highlights.

The structure is as follows: a short film plays, followed by the screen going to red, and the name of the film (and the director’s name) spelled out in children’s blocks. While trying to guess who did what is part of the fun (unfortunately, I haven’t heard of a lot of the directors here, so I guess it wasn’t that much fun), I would have preferred if the film names and directors had appeared before each film, but C’est la vie.

The movie begins with Nacho Vigalonodo’s “A for Apocalypse,” where a woman attempts to kill her bedridden husband for past sins, first by stabbing him, then throwing hot grease in his face and bonking him on the head several times with the oversized frying pan. Unfortunately, he won’t die, and just stares at her, while we hear the sounds of cars crashing outside their apartment window. It’s an interesting enough start.

As the movie unfolds we’ll be treated to everything from disturbing films to dark comedies, from traditional animation to Claymation, from Japanese surrealism to South American grit. The list of directors includes people from all over the world, and it’s interesting to see what each of them comes up with. The other thing about anthology films is that, if you don’t like what you’re watching, there will always be a new one starting soon enough.

As for highlights, the more squirm-inducing entries come to mind first. These include Timo Tjahjanto’s “L for Libido,” which involves men being forced to partake in a kind of “circle jerk to the death,” where what they have to watch (and get aroused by) gets more and more disturbing. This one, which comes right about at the middle of the overall movie, might just be the roughest of the bunch. Close contenders include Marcel Sarmiento’s “D is for Dogfight,” where a boxer fights it out with a vicious dog, while spectators shout and gamble on the outcome (all in slow motion), and Xavier Gens’s “X is for XXL,” where an unattractive, overweight woman who yearns to be like the pretty girl on the TV commercials she keeps seeing, subjects herself to a very radical diet involving an electric carving knife. Ti West’s “M is for Miscarriage” is another one with a killer last scene that will leave an impression.

A scene from the intense "D is for Dogfight."

A scene from the intense “D is for Dogfight.”

I also liked Ernesto Diaz Espinoza’s twisted “C is for Cycle,” Bruno Forazni’s self-explanatory “O is for Orgasm,” and Jake West’s hi-octane entry,“S is for Speed.”

More light-hearted and/or stranger fare includes: “H is for Hydraulic Emulsifier,” by Thomas Cappelen Malling, a fun, live-action cartoon where an anthropomorphic dog (dressed like a British aviator) sits at a table next to the stage at a strip club, while an enemy (Nazi) cat woman’s act gets more and more lethal; Noboru Iguchi’s installment, “F is for Fart,” where a Japanese girl’s crush on her teacher leads to an odd exploration of bodily gases that come in various colors; the final short, Yoshihiro Nishimura’s “Z is for Zetsumetsu,” which involves naked Japanese people eating sushi and shouting as the world comes to an end; and “T is for Toilet,” by Lee Hardcastle, where Claymation parents who are trying to get their young son to use the toilet for the first time are in for a nightmare.

A scene from the twisted live-action cartoon "H is for Hydraulic Emulsifier."

A scene from the twisted live-action cartoon “H is for Hydraulic Emulsifier.”

One of the more visually impressive entries is “V for Vagitus,” by Kaare Andrews, taking place in a dystopian future where procreation is against the law, but you can earn “special privlidges” if you join the police force.

Some disappointments include Ben Wheatley’s “U is for Unearthed” shown from the point of view of a monster (vampire?) – it had the distinctive look of Wheatley movies like the brilliant THE KILL LIST (2011), and I guessed who it was immediately, but the short itself was pretty much a throwaway and I wanted something more ambitious from such a talented director. Also, with “R is for Removed” by Srdjan Spasojevic (who also directed 2010’s controversial A SERBIAN FILM), I was expecting something with a real wallop, instead getting something more surreal and strange – a burn victim’s skin is peeled off by doctors section by section, and immersed in fluid that reveals the skin is really strips of celluloid from a movie reel. And “B for Bigfoot,” by Adrian Garcia Bogliano, doesn’t even really have a Bigfoot in it (it should have been called “B for Boogieman,” instead).

"T is for Toilet"

“T is for Toilet”

I hate to jump around so much, but that’s the way you remember these films: some are instantly memorable while others you might forgot soon after watching the movie. For the most part, there aren’t many total duds here. There are exceptional installments, and then ones that are just okay (even the “disappointments” I listed above weren’t completely awful). And I liked the way that there were so many tones and styles and flavors, like visiting a visual Baskin Robbins.

If you’re a fan of anthology horror films, there’s a lot to like about THE ABCs OF DEATH, and you should check it out. You’re bound to find several installments that you really like.

It would just be too difficult to list every single short and rate it individually, but overall, I give the movie three knives.

(This movie is currently in very limited theatrical release and is also available on cable OnDemand in some markets.)

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives THE ABCs OF DEATH  ~three knives.

UPSTREAM COLOR (2013)

Posted in 2013, Art Movies, Bizarro Movies, Enigmatic Films, Experimental Films, Independent Cinema, Just Plain Weird, LL Soares Reviews, Low Budget Movies, Mind Experiments!, Something Different, Weird Movies with tags , , , , on April 16, 2013 by knifefighter

UPSTREAM COLOR
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

upstream_color_xlgBack in 2004, director Shane Carruth made his debut feature, PRIMER. It was a little indie film about four guys trying to start their own computer company in a garage, and mysterious storage lockers, and time travel. The movie is told in such a way that you only figure it out a little at a time, but it was a terrific first film, and it made Carruth a director to look for. Unfortunately, it took him until 2013 to release his second film, UPSTREAM COLOR, and it is in very limited release in just a few cities. I hope it’s not as long a wait for his next one.

For some reason, I just like the title itself. UPSTREAM COLOR. Just a really cool name for a movie. So what is it actually about? Well, that’s a little tougher to explain. But I’ll try.

Carruth has a talent for enigmatic films that you need to really think about. In this vein, he’s a lot like David Lynch or David Cronenberg, although Carruth’s films are nothing like theirs. How much you’ll enjoy UPSTREAM COLOR depends on how strongly you feel you have to have all the answers, and how open you are to new experiences.

UPSTREAM COLOR begins with some kids drinking some weird concoction made from little grubs harvested from plants by a mysterious guy. Is he some kind of mad scientist, or something else entirely? When the kids drink the liquid, they are able to read each other’s minds – or it looks that way. When one kid tries to hit another, the other one is able to know exactly how to deflect the blow. Two other kids close their eyes and do the exact same hand movements in synch. What exactly are these grubs?

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The guy then kidnaps a woman at a bar named Kris (Amy Seimetz, who is actually quite striking in some scenes), using a Taser. He makes her ingest one of the grub/worms and then brings her back to a house where he proceeds to brainwash her. He convinces her that ice water is most wonderful reward she can get, simply by telling her it is so. He tells her she cannot look into his face, because it is made of the same material that makes up the sun, and it is too bright to look at. He makes her copy out long passages from Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden”  and fold the papers into links to a giant paper chain. He also gets her to take out a loan on her house and withdraw all of her money from the bank and give it to him.

At one point, when she’s in bed, she sees worms running under her skin, and tries to remove them with a kitchen knife.

We are then introduced to another odd gentleman, called simply The Sampler (Andrew Sensenig) in the credits. He performs an odd operation on Kris involving her and a small pig, the grafting of some of the pig’s flesh onto Kris’s body, and what looks like a blood transfusion between them. The Sampler also runs a pig farm, presumably stocked with pigs that have been used in similar operations. The Sampler gets his name because when he isn’t tending to his pig farm, he is wandering around the woods with a microphone and a synthesizer, recording all kinds of strange noises and sampling them to play back later.

After her bank account is drained, Kris gets away and tries to adjust to normal life again, but it’s hard to go back. She loses her job, and her personality becomes almost robotic. It is then that she meets Jeff (director Carruth) on a commuter train and they begin having conversations that eventually lead to a romantic relationship. And then she begins to realize that maybe Jeff has experienced a similar abduction in his past, because he has the same kind of knife marks on his leg that she does…

So what do Thoreau, pigs and the ingesting of strange worms have to do with each other? You’ll have to see UPSTREAM COLOR for yourself, and it may take some work to figure it out. UPSTREAM COLOR is the kind of movie that does not provide ready answers, but that’s okay. There are so many movies that try to explain every little detail of what’s going on, that it’s a relief sometimes to find a movie like this, that refuses to make it easy. I’m still not one hundred percent sure about every aspect of the movie, but I do know that I found the film to be very compelling, and I’m sure I’ll see it again at some point.

Kris (Amy Seimetz) undergoes a strange abduction in Shane Carruth's UPSTREAM COLOR.

Kris (Amy Seimetz) experiences a strange abduction in Shane Carruth’s UPSTREAM COLOR.

The direction by Carruth (who also wrote the script) is quite good, as is the cinematography (which, it turns out, is also by Carruth). It’s a visually interesting film, with minimal dialogue in its first half, and yet it might just captivate you from the moment it begins. Just go in expecting something completely different, and you won’t be disappointed. This is not like the typical Hollywood film. It’s another animal entirely.

And for that reason, because it plays by its own rules, I give UPSTREAM COLOR three and a half knives.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives UPSTREAM COLOR ~three and a half knives.

JOHN DIES AT THE END (2013)

Posted in 2013, Apocalyptic Films, Bizarro Movies, CGI, Cinema Knife Fights, Dark Comedies, ESP, Fun Stuff!, Heightened Abilities, Highly Stylized Films, Just Plain Fun, Just Plain Weird, LL Soares Reviews, Monsters, Plot Twists, Psychic Powers, Something Different, Twisted, Unusual Films with tags , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: JOHN DIES AT THE END (2013)
By L.L. Soares (with a guest appearance by Michael Arruda)

John-Dies-at-the-End-poster

(THE SCENE: An all-night Chinese restaurant at midnight. DAVID WONG —looking a lot like actor Chase Williamson—sits in a booth. MICHAEL ARRUDA and LL SOARES enter and sit down across from him)

WONG: I didn’t think you’d make it.

LS: We’re professionals. Of course we made it.

WONG: Did anyone follow you?

MA: No, I made sure to drive erratically to throw anyone off our trail.

LS: You drove like that on purpose?

MA: Of course I did.

LS: Yeah, sure.

WONG: Enough of your bickering. I only have a limited time to tell you all about the soy sauce and the creatures from another dimension and the remarkable Dr. Albert Marconi.

LS: No need. We just saw the movie. We’re all up to date.

WONG: Are you sure? Did you watch the right movie?

LS: Of course we did!

MA: Calm down. Why don’t you tell him what you saw?

LS: Okay, sure. The movie JOHN DIES AT THE END is the tale of David Wong, who looked just like you…

(WONG nods)

LS: Wong is in a restaurant, just like this one, telling his tale to a reporter named Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti). It’s about how he was pulled into a secret plan to save the Earth, along with his friend John (Rob Mayes), who sings in a punk rock band called Three Armed Sally.

Wong’s story begins with a chance meeting with a Jamaican guy at a party named Robert Marley, who tells David several things he should not know. Later that night, or rather the next morning at 3am, David is awoken by a call from his friend John, begging for help. He goes to help John battle some supernatural baddies and then ends up in a police station where a detective tells him that the night before, a bunch of people went to the trailer of a certain Robert Marley after a party and four are missing, the rest are dead, and John is a suspect. David has no clue what is going on, but a phone call from John (that was made the night before but just reaches him now) tells him he needs to get out of there. But he has to fight a man who appears to be a cop (but isn’t) first.

To explain beyond this (early) point would be kind of pointless. JOHN DIES AT THE END isn’t that kind of linear, straight-forward movie that caters to an easy synopsis. Suffice to say that David Wong goes on an adventure that involves a girl named Amy (Fabianne Therese) who has one prosthetic hand, her dog Bark Lee, Dave’s friend Fred (Jimmy Wong), a white rapper wannabe named Justin White (Jonny Weston), the world-famous magician Dr. Marconi (Clancy Brown), and John, who dies early on in the movie, but doesn’t exactly stay dead.

The catalyst for all this is a drug called “soy sauce” (because that’s what it looks like). When you take it, either it creates vivid hallucinations or opens your mind to realities we aren’t normally aware of. I’m not saying which. It’s also alive and when ingested it either kills you, or uses you for its own purposes. And those purposes ultimately involve a plot by people in an alternate world who worship a living machine called Korrok (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson), and their desire to enter our plane of existence and make our world like theirs—a horrible place that lives only to serve Korrok.

The movie was based on the novel by David Wong…

(WONG nods)

LS: …this is getting a little confusing.

The movie is pretty good. mainly because you’re never sure what is going to happen next. I liked the fast, witty repartee in this one, and the rapid-fire pacing. A lot of times critics compare certain movies to amusement park rides, like roller coasters, but this movie lives up to the comparison.

It was directed by the great Don Coscarelli, who also gave us the classic PHANTASM (1979), THE BEASTMASTER (1982) and BUBBA HO-TEP (2002), and he does another cracker jack job here, bringing the novel to life.

The cast is pretty solid. I liked Chase Williamson as Wong a lot, he was a strong central character here…

(WONG nods)

LS: And the great Paul Giamatti rarely gives a bad performance. He’s good here, too, but his character is mostly around so Wong can tell him his story (and in the process, tell us). Rob Mayes, who plays John, might be familiar to some people from TV shows like the new version of 90210 and THE CLIENT LIST. And Clancy Brown, as the all-powerful Marconi, has been in tons of stuff from THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BONZAI ACROSS THE 8TH DIMENSION (1984) to THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994) to STARSHIP TROOPERS (1997) and lots of television shows. I thought he was especially good in the sadly short-lived HBO series CARNIVALE (2003 – 2005), where he played Brother Justin Crowe.

Other recognizable faces include Angus Scrimm (the “Tall Man” from the PHANTASM movies) as a priest named Father Shellnut. And Doug Jones—mostly known for roles where he’s not so recognizable, including Abe Sapien in the HELLBOY movies, the Faun and the Pale Man from PAN’S LABYRINTH, 2006, and the Silver Surfer in FANTASTIC 4: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER, 2007—plays a strange alien being named Roger North.

The cast is really good and the story gives us a good mix of thrills and laughs. The sheer unpredictable nature of the movie is what makes it so unique and enjoyable. Not everything is perfect—but for the most part I thought it worked really well. I give it three knives. People should check this one out.

WONG: Just three, huh?

LS: Errr…Tell him what you thought of it, Michael?

MA: I didn’t see it.

LS: What are you talking about? Of course you saw it. You were telling me all about it in the ride up here.

MA: Sorry. You must be mistaken.

(MA begins to make strange noises)

WONG: I think there’s something wrong with your friend.

(MA suddenly turns into a gooey monster with writhing tentacles)

LS: That wasn’t Michael at all! I’ve been tricked!

(WONG pulls out a gun and blasts the creature, which disintegrates.)

LS: Whew. That was a close call.

WONG: Your mission has been compromised. They’re on to us.

LS: I guess that means I better leave, huh?

WONG: Do what you want, but I’m out of here.

(WONG disappears)

LS: Wow. Neat trick.

(LS waves waitress over and lifts a menu)

LS: I’ll have number 4 and number 15 to go, and make it quick. Okay?

WAITRESS: Right away, sir.

LS (to audience): Well, at least this wasn’t a total loss.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives JOHN DIES AT THE END ~three knives.

Meals for Monsters Presents: THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES (1964)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1960s Horror, 2013, B-Movies, Bad Acting, Carnival Chills, Cult Movies, Drive-in Movies, Gypsy Curses, Hypnotic Horror, Jenny Orosel Columns, Just Plain Weird, Meals for Monsters, Ray Dennis Steckler, Zombies with tags , , , , , on February 6, 2013 by knifefighter

MEALS FOR MONSTERS: THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES (1964)
Review and Recipes by Jenny Orosel

poster

It could be argued that the best part of THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES (1964) is the title. It wouldn’t be hard to argue that, because it is a bad movie. Ninety five percent of this movie is plain awful. But that five percent that isn’t is such pure awesomeness that it makes up for the rest and does make it a fun flick for a movie night.

The title sums up only a portion of INCREDIBLY STRAGE CREATURES. The movie opens with a carnival fortune teller turning a drunk into one of those mixed-up zombies after he spurns her advances. Flash-forward to three not-so-young young people (can’t any low-budget directors find anyone under the age of thirty to play a teenager?) looking for kicks at the local carnival. Jerry and his friends go in for a psychic reading with Madame Estrella from the prologue. She is not appreciative of their silly manner, especially the obnoxious Jerry. So she enlists the help of her sister, a stripper, in bewitching the juvenile delinquent. Soon he abandons his buddy and his girlfriend and only wants to watch Carmelita take it off. She, Madame Estrella and her henchman Ortega turn Jerry into a hypnotized assassin. Can they be stopped before Jerry goes full-blown into mixed-up-zombiness?

I’ve seen some great movies made on a near nonexistent budget. This is not one of them. The acting is horrible (the director cast himself in the lead, presumably to save a few bucks). The story seemed like an afterthought and the pacing was lousy (after the prologue there was barely any reference to the mixed-up zombies until near the end). The tagline for INREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES was “The First Monster Musical”. Reading that, I was expecting…well, a musical. Not so here. Instead, we had a movie with song and dance numbers by the strippers and showgirls thrown in whenever they couldn’t think of anything else to do with that time slot. And I use the term “dance” loosely; it was more like walking around in sync.

So why am I recommending INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES?  Because it’s fun. It’s so far from being politically correct (Estrella and Ortega are a mishmash of the worst stereotypes for Hispanic, Gypsy and Jewish combined) that you feel almost naughty just for watching it. Plus, there are parts of the flick that just straight up look awesome. The dream sequences alone were stunning (it’s worth mentioning that, in the midst of this film involving mostly non-professionals, cameraman Vilmos Zsigmond went on to win a cinematography Oscar for CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977)).

When coming up with cocktails for these movies, I try to avoid really bad puns. But I don’t always try very hard. Hence, I bring you the:

MIXED-UP ZOMBIEdrink

Ingredients:
1 shot rum
1 shot peach schnapps
1 shot apple schnapps
8 ounces fruit punch

Directions: Take the four ingredients and, well, mix them up.

Seeing as most of the movie takes place at a carnival, it would be fitting to make carnival food. My personal favorite is the corn dog. However, if you don’t have a deep fryer big enough to make Paula Deen weep, it can get very messy very fast. And baked corn dogs resemble their carnival counterparts the way a pug resembles a guard dog. So instead I bring you the best of the corn dog flavors, but in a less messy vehicle:

CORN DOG CAKE dinner

Ingredients:
1 package corn bread mix
½ cup milk
4 hot dogs, cubed
2 miniature pickles, cubed

Directions:Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 9 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray. In a bowl, mix the first three ingredients, then fold in the last two. Bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on how hot your oven runs (mine took 22 minutes). Invert onto a plate, slice and serve with mustard/ketchup sauce and a salad (so you can claim something resembling nutritious for dinner).

MUSTARD/KETCHUP SAUCE:
Ingredients:
¼ cup mustard
3 tbsp. ketchup
3 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Directions: Combine in saucepan and heat on low until warmed and mixed well together. Serve over Corn Dog Cake

Candy apples come with similar problems to corn dogs. To get that good, hard, bright red cinnamon exterior you need to deal with melted sugar at insanely high and precise temperatures. Ten degrees too hot or too cold can completely ruin it. Then there’s the problem of spillage—on kitchen equipment, it’s a bitch to clean off and spilled on flesh is really not something you ever want to experience. So, again like dinner, dessert captures all the flavors of the candy apple, but in a much easier way:

CANDY APPLE PIE

dessert

Ingredients:
1 pre-made refrigerated 2 part pie crust
5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced.
½ cup sugar
3 tbsps. cornstarch
1 2oz bottle Red Hot cake decorations (or equivalent bulk candy)
1/3 cup butter, cut in cubes

Directions: Preheat oven to 425. Place first crust layer inside a 9 inch pie plate. Mix the apples, sugar, cornstarch and candies in a bowl. Pour into the crust, and scatter the butter cubes around the filling. Top with second crust dough, seal the edges and do NOT forget to poke air holes in the top crust (yes, this was learned the hard way). Put the pie plate on a cookie sheet to catch any drips or overflow. Bake 50 minutes, or until crust is nicely browned. Serve with whipped cream, ice cream, or the souls of your enemies.

The director, Ray Dennis Steckler, is responsible for some of the greatest titles in drive-in history: RAT PFINK A BOO BOO (1966), THE MAD LOVE LIFE OF A HOT VAMPIRE (1971) and THE HOLLYWOOD STRANGLER MEETS THE SKID ROW SLASHER. Whether these movies live up to the promise of those titles has been debated by film fans worldwide. But after giving THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES a try, I suggest exploring some of his other titles. I’m willing to bet you’ll have more fun than an evening of toenail clipping. And, if you need help enjoying them, go ahead and add an extra shot or two to your Mixed-Up Zombie.

© Copyright 2013 by Jenny Orosel

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou: SCORPION THUNDERBOLT (1988)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1980s Movies, 2012, Action Movies, B-Movies, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Campy Movies, Exotic Locales, Just Plain Fun, Just Plain Weird, Kung Fu!, Monsters, William Carl Articles, Witches with tags , , , , , , , on November 22, 2012 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou
By William D. Carl
This week’s feature presentation:
SCORPION THUNDERBOLT (1988)

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.

Godfrey Ho’s name rings out on the landscape of bad cinema like Gabby Hayes’s triangular dinner bell in one of John Ford’s Westerns – loud, annoying, and, when you get closer, stinking to high heaven.  He is a “master” of cinematic mash-ups, where several partially shot movies are combined with newly shot footage, then unleashed on an unsuspecting public.  Al Adamson was the original director who favored this method, giving viewers such gems as HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS (1970), DOCTOR DRACULA (1978), and BLOOD OF GHASTLY HORROR (1972).  In this new era of literary mash-ups, we’ve been offered classics by Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte with new writing featuring SENSE AND SENSIBILITY AND SEA MONSTERS, LITTLE WOMEN WITH WEREWOLVES, and my new favorite, Ayn Rand’s ATLAS SHRUGGED WITH DEMOCRATS.  (Please don’t ask your local bookseller for this made-up title; they will punch you in the neck).  Godfrey Ho made his living off movie mash-ups.  In fact, the writer credited on most of his movies is AAV Creative unit, a conglomeration of Ho and his pals.  I think they had fifty words or so, and they combined them in different ways to get titles.  How else do you explain COBRA VS NINJA (1987), HITMAN THE COBRA (1987), INFERNO THUNDERBOLT (1986), and today’s messed-up, mashed-together SCORPION THUNDERBOLT (1988), which features neither a scorpion nor any kind of thunderbolt.  It does, however have witches, snake men, boobies galore, Richard Harrison as himself, hitchhiking assassins, and more nonsense than you can shake a MAJESTIC THUNDERBOLT (1985) at.

Our story (excuse me while I have a laughing fit) begins in an unknown Asian city where a blind man plays his flute in a creepy way, and a witch with some seriously long fingernails works some sort of spell, and a young woman works in an office.  The young woman is drawn by either the flute player or the witch, who is spanking several slices of bread on a table as someone plays voodoo drums , and she goes outside, where she is promptly assaulted by a man wearing makeup and flowers in his hair.  Then, some kind of snake thing attacks her, and, I guess, kills her, as the police suddenly appear to investigate her gory murder.  A young female reporter/photographer, Helen Hughes, pushes her way into the crime scene and takes pictures of the woman’s wounds, while the blind flute player lurks in the shadows.

The police have a meeting about the fourteen women who have been murdered, and one group decides to show a monster mask they figure will match the teeth marks on the body – a big snake man/sperm cell creature.

Helen Hughes gets a phone call while she’s jazzercising that says they have caught the murderer.  Cut to a crowd attacking a crazy man who acts like Jerry Lewis.  He climbs a tree and throws nuts at the doctors trying to get him to an asylum.  Helen offers him a kitty to eat, and he falls for it.  The docs throw a big net on him and they take him away.  Suddenly, a witch with long silvery fingernails is playing with snakes and eels while weird Theremin music plays (Jean Michel Jarre’s Oxygene!).  She orders her minions to find Richard Harrison and bring her his ring.

A hatchet-faced hitchhiking woman flashes Richard on the freeway, and he picks her up.  She says she’s an actress, and he wants to see her newest movie.  Luckily, the studio is open, and she gets him into a viewing booth where they see her newest opus, which mostly entails her being tied up and body-painted by a tiny Asian man.  “I’ve got to admit,” Richard Harrison says.  “You’ve got f****ing talent!”  Oh, Richard…how you have fallen!  This is even worse than EVIL SPAWN (1987).   Then again, Harrison made more than ten of these Godfrey Ho movies, so he had to know what he was getting into.  Suddenly, the hitcher is stripped naked, and they have sex in front of the movie, which is still playing the same scene, until she vomits orange and dies on top of him.  He screams, “Who sent you?”  She does not answer.  She is dead, Richard.

A young couple, Inspector Lee and his police-woman girlfriend (where did they come from?), are victims of a home invasion of a man Lee put away years ago.  Now, he’s out of jail and tying up the girlfriend and cutting off her clothes while laughing like Dwight Frye.  He injects her with something and the doorbell rings.  Inspector Lee breaks loose and a karate fight ensues while the woman hangs bleeding and naked and tripping like crazy, man.  Helen is at the door (how does she even know these cops?), and she cuts the policewoman down while the blind flute player plays his music outside.  And there goes the witch with her Theremin music again as the karate battle moves outside.

RIchard Harrison – Master of Kung Fu!

Three girls in an apartment are watching it through their window.  When the fighters move away, the girls dance wildly to disco music (which sounds suspiciously like Midnight Starr!) while disco lights throb.  Then, a rubber-suited snake man appears and kills them all.  I think we just moved into a different movie.  One with a particularly awful man in a suit monster, so bad that they had to Vaseline the lens up before showing the creature.

Then, we’re at a totally different place with Helen who has cats thrown at her by  production assistants.  She has a weird friend who has invaded her house.  She throws a birthday cake in his face, and he tries to rape her.  Flashback to the happy(?) couple frolicking on beaches to bad electronic music.  Wait, that friend is Inspector Lee.  How long have they known each other?  What the . . . oh never mind.

And there’s that damn flute player again, playing in a street full of prostitutes.  In a nearby building, more girls are discovered killed by the monster.  When the cops arrive, the hookers scatter like roaches when the light is turned on.  It’s Inspector Lee (I hope his girlfriend’s all right…nobody said anything).  It seems a woman has been tied up spread-eagled on the floor while a drunken ex-boyfriend shoots pool balls into her vajayjay.  Who are these people?  No idea.  But there’s Helen, untying the poor pool table chick.

Anyone for pool?

And now, we’re in a real disco where lots of people dance, the witch works her spells in her place, and Richard Harrison is attacked by his plumber while he’s doing shirtless push-ups!  Even sweaty, he can karate chop this guy into oblivion.  “Who sent you?  Tell me!”  The guy dies, I guess.

Next, inspector Lee takes Helen out to the woods shooting small adorable animals like bunnies!  They play cute for a while, falling in love in a bad montage of hunting and fishing.  Yep, that’s romance in a Godfrey Ho flick, people.  They are attacked by a ninja (probably from some other movie), but it’s really their criminal who got away going after Lee again.  How did he find them all the way out in the woods?

On their way back to the city, their car fills up with snakes.  They don’t notice at all, even when the little creatures are crawling all over them.  Lee reacts by admitting the snakes killed the car’s brakes and they crash into a culvert.  Luckily, snakes hate upside down cars, and Helen and Lee escape.

The blind flute player is interviewed on TV, and it turns out he is a night watchman (wait a minute!  How good can he be when he can’t even watch at all?)  Lee and Helen go to a sleazy hotel, where she freaks out in the hot springs and the snake monster is back in all his rubbery glory, tearing up the wait staff and other hot springs victims.  Obviously, the witch is controlling the eight foot tall snake man.  And now, Helen has disappeared!  Oh no, there she is on the bed, but she looks totally psychotic.

More assassins attack Richard Harrison for his ring.  He never seems to be wearing a shirt, and he seems to be just extraneous footage, nothing to do with the other plotlines . . . like the snake man and Helen and Lee and the escaped convict or the witch.  How many movies did Ho use in this one?

The cops reveal their model of the snake man!

And we’ve only hit the halfway point, folks!  Before the movie’s over, we’ll get Richard Harrison consulting his kung-fu master, a vampire witch in a red castle who is “thoroughly evil,” a golden sword and a mystical mirror, a fabulous confession scene, the Prince of Snakes vs. a family of redneck snake killers, some revolting mondo footage, some soft core outdoor sex scenes including snake sex, fingernail stabbings at orgies, a blue-haired ninja, and, yes, a kitchen sink scene!  And just what the heck does the blind night watchman have to do with anything and how’d he get up in that tree?

Does any of this make a lick of sense?  Nope.  Is any of it boring for even one second?  Oh, hell no!  This is one of the best flicks I have ever seen to show to a group of drinking buddies to prove how fun a lousy movie can be.  You ain’t seen nothing till you see a breastfeeding baby turn into a snake creature and chow down on Mommy.  Or Richard Harrison snapping thrift store ninja necks to electronic dance music.  Or an eight foot rubber snake monster flying through the tree tops attacking the entire police force.  And the final music during the end battle is stolen from the last scenes of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)!

It seems Godfrey Ho pasted together pieces of a Taiwanese film, GRUDGE OF THE SLEEPWALKING WOMAN (1983) with another kung-fu flick and new scenes with Richard Harrison.  In the process, he created one of the wackiest movies ever to shoot its stain upon a drive-in movie screen.  The tone shifts constantly, from high camp humor to gory killings to sexy rom-com to violent kung-fu chaos, all atrociously dubbed.  Just after his hitchhiking trick pukes orange Julius on him, Richard Harrison asks, “What the hell does it mean?”  I couldn’t agree more!

Now, I need to watch more Godfrey Ho fiascos.  Maybe, ROBO-KICKBOXER (1992) or NINJA DEMON’S MASSACRE (1988) or THUNDER OF GIGANTIC SERPENT (1988) or NINJA THUNDERBOLT (1984).

For normal people, I give SCORPION THUNDERBOLT one snake monster out of four.

For sick souls like us, I give it three and a half shirtless Richard Harrisons out of four.

Unbelievable!

© Copyright 2012 by William D. Carl

RUBIN AND ED (1991)

Posted in 2012, Buddy Movies, Comedies, Cult Movies, Just Plain Weird, LL Soares Reviews, Strange Cinema, Weird Ones with tags , , , , , , on September 14, 2012 by knifefighter

“WEIRD ONES” Presents:
RUBIN AND ED (1991)
Movie Review by L. L. Soares

Back when David Letterman had a show that aired at 12:30 at night on NBC called Late Night with David Letterman (this is before his CBS “Late Show”),  actor Crispin Glover went on the show one night and almost hit Dave with a karate kick. Crispin was dressed in tight pants, had long hair, and wore huge platform shoes. This kick led to Glover being kicked off the show, but he came back the next night to explain that he wasn’t  really a psychopath, he was simply playing a character from his latest movie. That character was Rubin Farr from the 1991 flick, RUBIN AND ED, which he was promoting at the time.

Crispin Glover’s infamous appearance on “Late Night with David Letterman,” where he dressed as his character, Rubin Farr.

I remember that show (back then I used to tape Letterman’s show at night and watch it the next day after work), and Glover was definitely a highlight of Dave’s run on NBC. On his second night, when Crispin “apologized,” they showed a clip of the film, showing Rubin hallucinating that his beloved cat, Simon, was water skiing. The scene ends with Rubin saying, “My cat can eat a whole watermelon.”

For years, that was the only part of RUBIN AND ED that I had ever seen. It is a movie that is notoriously hard to find and has been out of print for decades. The only way I was able to see it was to find an old VHS copy on Ebay. But I wish someone would re-release this on DVD. It’s exceedingly strange, and Crispin fans will definitely get a “kick” out of it.

The story begins with Ed Tuttle (Howard Hesseman, who played DJ “Johnny Fever” on the original WKRP in Cincinnati from 1978 – 1982), a down-on-his-luck schmo, attending a seminar by a motivational speaker named Mr. Busta (Michael Greene). The message is  the “Power of Positive Real Estate.” Ed then goes out on the street, trying to get other people to go to the seminar. Now that he’s on Mr. Busta’s payroll, and even gets to use the company car, Ed calls his ex-wife, Rula (Karen Black) and tries to convince her that he’s finally successful (his lack of cash is why she left), but she doesn’t buy it. In her book, it’s once a loser, always a loser, and she’s not interested in giving Ed a second chance.

Howard Hesseman as loser Ed Tuttle.

Enter Rubin Farr (Glover), an oddball with long hair, tight clothes and very big shoes. He lives in a big brick motel owned by his mother (Anna Louise-Daniels) where he just stays in his room all day, playing Mahler on his turntable and squeaking a rubber mouse that used to belong to his cat, Simon. Rubin’s mother pulls the plug on his record player, saying that he won’t get it back until he goes outside and makes a friend. Just one friend. If he can get this friend to come over the house for dinner (so Mom can see he or she exists), then he can have his music back.

Rubin reluctantly goes out into the world, where he bumps into Ed handing out flyers and trying to get people to attend the motivational seminar. Everyone ignores him and walks past, except for Rubin, who gives Ed odd answers to his questions, but seems like a possible customer. Rubin says he’ll go to the seminar if Ed comes and picks him up at his mother’s motel. Ed, eager to finally make a “sale,” says yes and they arrange to meet at Rubin’s room at 6pm.

Crispin Glover as Rubin.

When Ed gets there, Rubin won’t leave at first (he wants to wait for his mother to get home, so she can see his “friend”), but then Ed finds something odd when he looks in the refrigerator for ice. He finds a dead cat, frozen solid in the freezer. At first Rubin freaks out (“Don’t you dare touch my cat!”) but then realizes that, since Ed has a car, he can give him a ride out to the desert, where he wants to bury his cat. Ed, desperate to show his boss he’s made at least one prospective sale, agrees.

Rubin gets to the car first, gets behind the wheel, and drives. When they get close to the seminar place (Ed is giving him directions), Rubin drives past it and just keeps going, for hours, until they reach the desert.

They keep going until the car breaks down. Then Rubin, who is carrying around his frozen cat Simon in a cooler, can’t decide where he wants to bury his pet. Every time he starts digging a hole in the sand, he changes his mind. Ed, meanwhile, is losing patience as he follows Rubin around the desert. And, since this is the time before cell phones, and they’re in the middle of nowhere, there is a chance they could end up dead.

They both have moments where they hallucinate in the desert (Ed hallucinates about his ex-wife—she’s all he seems to think about, aside from the motivational seminars—imagining her wanting him back. Rubin sees a swimsuit model from his calendar at home (Brittney Lewis), and of course, his cat. In one scene—the one they showed back on Late Night with David Letterman— a hallucination shows Rubin floating on the ocean in a rubber tire watching Simon water-ski (the motor boat is driven by the swimsuit model). There’s also a funny part where Rubin ends up in a cave, and when he hears his voice echo, he thinks it’s the “Echo People” talking to him.

A still from the infamous “Water-Skiing Cat” sequence.

Will they ever get out of the desert? Will Rubin ever find a spot good enough to buy his cat? Will Ed ever get Rubin to attend one of the motivational seminars? Well, you have to see RUBIN AND ED to find out – if you can find a copy.

Some of the movie is funny in the way that will make you laugh. But just as much of it, if not more, is funny strange. I’m not really sure who this movie was made for (it certainly wasn’t a hit back in 1991), it’s too strange to appeal to mainstream audiences, but it will definitely appeal to fans of Glover. It’s just the kind of weirdness you’d expect him to be in. With his long, stringy hair and strange clothes, Rubin is a classic Glover character. Hesseman is also good as Ed, with his giant toupee. I always wondered why Hesseman wasn’t a bigger star, and I guess because he appeared in movies like this one.

Director Trent Harris is also known for another odd cult movie called THE BEAVER TRILOGY (2000). It’s made up of three short films. The first one (from 1979) is a straight-on documentary piece about a kid Harris meets from Beaver, Utah, who does impersonations. The kid, who calls himself “Groovin’ Gary,” begs Harris to come to his hometown talent show and see him perform. He says that one of his impersonations is of Olivia Newton-John. Intrigued, Harris brings his film crew to the talent show, where they watch in horror as Gary comes out onstage in full Olivia drag and performs for an audience of conservative, small-town people. Harris was so enthralled by this kid that he remade the story in a fictional version —sticking pretty closely to the first movie, the short documentary—except this time starring a young Sean Penn as “Groovin’ Larry.” Penn does a good job impersonating the kid. In the third short film that makes up THE BEAVER TRILOGY, Crispin Glover plays “Larry,” and we once again go through the same story, except this time it is called “The Orkly Kid”(from 1985)  and has more of a story to it, including a backstory and some insight into “Larry’s” life outside of the documentary footage. Strange, but strangely fascinating, THE BEAVER TRILOGY is worth checking out as well (and is just as difficult to find).

Whether RUBIN AND ED is worth hunting down depends on how much of a fan of Crispin Glover and/or strange cinema you are. But this one really should be saved from obscurity. It’s an oddball classic.

© Copyright 2012 by L. L. Soares