Friday, May 31, 2013

Cutting Class [1989]


A series of murders around a high school has two basic suspects: two childhood friends now rivals for a girl's affections. But who is the killer?


Thursday, May 30, 2013


The final slasher of May 2013 set around a school and students is Cutting Class (1989), notorious for being that film Pitt hocks a golf-ball sized loogie at when asked what his worst film is. I have seen it twice, the latest time didn't leave a good impression. I've never really wrote extensively about it so this will be the chance to detail what I don't like and perhaps a few small things that might work, if anything did. Jill Schoelen's presence in the film did help, I will say. After this, the Darkside Blog will head into the woods with two upcoming slashers, The Forest (1982) & Don't Go into the Woods (1981).

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Return of the Dragon





 A young man from Hong Kong must outwit and take down a crime syndicate threatening his friend's niece who operates a floundering Rome, Italy restaurant. When a special American fighter is called in to take him out, this Hong Kong fighter will have to use all his arsenal in order to protect his friends from the syndicate's numerous henchmen
****

Silent Rage [1982]



A sheriff must contend with a genetically enhanced man who is a mentally unstable psychopath killing everyone that threatens his existence.
***½





 Mitogen-35 is an experimental drug with the potential for keeping the body from dying and enhancing body strength, the breakthrough in genetic engineering. The problem in this film is that the scientists behind it decide to use it on the mentally unstable giant, Brian Libby. “What did they have to lose?”one of the scientists asks. Yeah, just your lives…for someone with great intelligence, his common sense was lacking. What a dillweed. I think when it comes down to it, that’s the major logical problem with this film. It is hard not to shake your head in bewilderment at such a stupid decision. Using this on someone with a brain that was no longer healthy, and giving him the ability to unleash his raging madness on the unsuspected; these scientists just go ahead and allow this maniac with superior strength the benefits of regenerating cells and the ability to sustain heavy damage only to survive. Real smart. Sheesh.

While this is head-scratching and seems bonkers to an average mind like mine, the plot does give Chuck Norris a formidable opponent, someone that he cannot just vanquish easily. That was the whole point, really. The ending even leaves a frightening open ending that didn’t allow Chuck to ultimately destroy his adversary, just momentarily detain him. Chuck does constantly kick his ass; that I can give him. He’s supposed to, though, right?

Phil’s the nimrod who resurrects Libby from death with the drug as Tom (an advocate for Libby’s resting in peace) believes they will let their “test subject” die because of the brain inactivity, walking away and having no idea what his colleagues are about to do. I think the Frankenstein influence is obvious; Phil is Dr. Frankenstein and Libby’s John Kirby is the Monster. The Monster’s brain is damaged beyond repair, but the body is destructive and powerful. The Monster will protect itself, and with Frankenstein as motivation, it is set to destroy anyone who might threaten it. Tom is the major threat, and Tom’s wife is collateral damage (she’s at the wrong place at the wrong time; I though Kirby basically kills her for fun). Tom knows too much and would ruin Phil’s eyes on total success and prestige for his life’s work. The work is what matters to Phil; like scientists often in science fiction, Phil highly favors his Monster compared to Tom. Humans are simply inferior.

The slasher part of Silent Rage comes and goes. While the science of this hybrid of genres comes in the Frankenstein of the plot, John Kirby’s ax murder of the woman letting him a room at the beginning (we see a brief glimpse of who he was prior to the total breakdown when he drops his pills while on the phone with Tom), the two murders to Tom and Tom’s wife in the middle, and those who stand in his way at the institute/hospital that allowed him not only to live but gain his molecular/cellular/genetic abilities at the end all carry the earmarks of the slasher film. In particular, the ghoulish murder of Tom’s wife seemingly for kicks (there’s no reason for Kirby to kill her; she arrived after her husband had been disposed of and didn’t see him; he just can’t help himself, I guess) is slasher thru and thru. Kirby even carries the intimidating look and soulless absence of humanity (no expression on his face, he just goes after those he wants to kill and does so) that is the norm of the slasher psycho. When Kirby is outside Tom’s house, the director even mirrors the opening child Myers kill at the beginning of Halloween (1978), also utilizing first person perspective when he enters the kitchen and snatches up a large cutting blade (Tom used to cut away some bologna from a log of meat) with a savage intent momentarily avoided by gun shots that only halt the inevitable. Of course Chuck seems to be the only man who can put him in his place, using his fighting skills to ward off the fierce power and forward aggression of Kirby.



Of course, this wouldn’t be a Chuck Norris film without a bar fight and as expected he just massacres them with an accompaniment of properly choreographed ducks and follow-up blows that come when you are the star ass-kicker of the film. Tables are broken with bodies crashing through them. A motorcycle goes through the bar window (it is one of those cafĂ©/bar deals). Pool sticks are snapped and used as weapons. Beer bottles fly and shatter. A chair or two fly across the room. But, most importantly, bodies are laid waste with Chuck brushing off his cowboy hat and walking out a little bruised but still quite mobile considering someone who just had to duke it out with a large number of big, nasty guys.

Stephen Furst is used as a comedic lift because a huge chunk of this film is dark. The ass-kicking Chuck part is also, to me, a relief as the use of Libby as the quiet homicidal maniac can be quite the blunt force trauma. Like when he killed Tom’s wife, slamming her head with one sharp jolt into a wall, leaving a blood streak and lifelessness. When Chuck’s love interest finds her brother’s strangled body (his mouth open, eyes stuck in terror) after discovering his wife’s bloody body, another instance. Furst is a kind simpleton, what one might consider the village idiot who can be easily taken advantage of. He means well, is honest even though he doesn’t realize what he says makes him look a bit foolish sometimes, and could be seen as a liability if needed by Chuck during a crisis. But he’s honorable and loyal to Chuck, looks up to him, and feels important in his deputy role thanks to the sheriff’s dependence on him (a trust, if you will, between brothers). Furst is ace at endearing himself to our good graces because he often gives his characters an amiable likability. But if Tom’s wife didn’t make it out of the film alive, what’s to believe Furst will either? He keeps Chuck’s girl (Toni Kalem; who, surprisingly, shows a lot of tits in the film when rolling around under the sheets with Chuck) from falling instantly victim to Libby, but Furst gets trapped in a bear hug and doesn’t fare well. Chuck holds Furst in his lap and realizes that his deputy and buddy will not make it (“He hurt me.”). I guess these are the moments when you watch an action film or slasher movie where you kind of just sigh and accept the demise because it is there on screen regardless if wanted or warranted or not.




The ending sequence where John Kirby cleans up the mess that created him shouldn’t come as any surprise. After Tom and his wife are murdered, Paul and Phil discuss their deaths as if it was all a “oops”. That is when, with Phil still not altogether pleased (even though a brilliant scientist under his employ was killed by this abomination of science), the two of them decide to destroy their genetically altered psychopath. Obviously he just doesn’t go quietly even after Paul injected sulfuric acid inside Kirby. Kirby just gets right back up, with Paul so stunned he doesn’t run like hell. Instead Paul tries to inject him again, this time Kirby just stabs the hypodermic in his neck. Phil just gets up from his office chair, coddles Kirby’s face in his hands as a father would his newborn child, with his creation snapping his neck and walking away. By this point, the body count has climbed, and Kirby is simply an inhuman monster whose sole purpose is to kill. Chuck is responsible for Kirby being heavily burned (Kirby had forced his way into the Bronco with Chuck and Alison having to flee, a cliff crash a result), but the maniac finds water, recovers quickly, and there’s a scuffle near an abandoned well. Like any heavy Chuck’s ever engaged in battle, Kirby is able to receive his fair share of body shots and continue to get back up (this time, though, Kirby has a reason for being seemingly superhuman; it is because he is.). But, as always, Norris betters him almost the fight. This film, though, indicates Kirby is the boogeyman Chuck couldn’t vanquish. It says that, like Michael Myers, Kirby could’ve had 24 sequels, if the film had been a huge hit, that is.








































































I do think Silent Rage is unique within the Chuck Norris canon and perhaps an interesting curio for slasher fans to see him in a film dealing with a psychopath in the Michael Myers vein. It doesn't invent the wheel--far from it--but the killer is sure cold-blooded and undeterred in destroying whatever human seems to be in his line of sight. It has an amusing supporting part for Furst as Norris' deputy pal, and allows the film's hero to one again become the human demolition machine he always is in his 80s films.



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The Boogens - Intro

While I must admit that as a monster movie, The Boogens (1981) doesn’t quite measure up (its monsters aren’t particularly menacing ...