Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Puppet Master 4




 *½


Jeff Burr, the sequel directing machine, stepped up to the plate to direct a couple films for Charles Band’s Full Moon and the Puppet Master franchise. Gordon Currie is robotics genius trying to figure out artificial intelligence, his work connected to Biotech company where two brilliant scientists (played by wasted Felton Perry and Stacie Randall, both of whom deserved to be stars in Full Moon pictures if anything) are visited upon by elaborate creature figures called totems (their murderous path possessed by demons in this underworld where the secret of life animation originates). Currie is, Rick Myers, caretaker of the Cliffside resort, Bodega Bay (I was glad to see the franchise return to this location, although its presence isn’t as pronounced as the first or second films in the series), and uses the space (which just seems limited unlike the first two films where you felt the killer puppets had so much room to go about their devilish business) to conduct his laser games with robots he keeps hoping will act on their own and unpredictably defeat him for once. 

Rick Myers’ girlfriend, Susie (played by Chandra West and her knockout smile), brings along friends, Cameron (Ash Adams) and Lauren (Teresa Hill) for a night of wine and conversation. Cameron is a selfish prick and envious of Rick’s success and brilliance, while Lauren claims to psychic channel, a sensitive who realizes something’s not quite right about Bodega Bay. Rick happens upon Blade, the doll with the Jack the Ripper threads, knife hand, needle eyes, and white complexion, and soon learns that he is alive and can move on his own. Eventually the four find a case containing, Pinhead (the doll with the small, pointy head attached to a stout, bouncer-body), Six-shooter (the six-armed gunfighting doll that lets off a giggle that is more than a bit unnerving, as his face is fixed in that wicked grin), Jester (the clownish doll who has that face that spins in three pieces and has expressions of either sinister or worried), and Tunneler (the doll with the drill head). In the case (which is the exact case Toulon had when battling Richard Lynch and the Nazis in Puppet Master III) along with the puppets is a type of Ouija board, reanimation fluid (funnily enough, green…not inspired by Re-Animator, is it???), and Toulon’s notes. Cameron sees all of this as his meal ticket, persuading Lauren (they seem to be an item) to help conjure up Toulon and learn of the power of the reanimation fluid. Instead, all the two do is conjure a portal opened to release more totems to roam free in the resort to try and kill them all.



So Cam heads for the car, with Lauren following behind. But he wants her to “get out and push” because the car won’t start. Yeah, this guy is a piece of work. It is raining and he even locks the doors…well, this fucker has a totem in the car with him that tears right into him. Lauren soon joins back up with Rick and Susie but those nasty totems are on the prowl, ready to sprint/strike.
The bloated plot fits within 75 minutes and even includes the ghost of Toulon haunting the grounds of Bodega Bay, a new puppet revealed named Decapitron (its face is unformed and head can be detached if needed for a laser shooting contraption) with Toulon’s face often appearing to talk with Rick, and a head demon of the underworld, Sutekh, vowing to kill anyone who knows of the reanimation secret. It seems the Egyptian sorcerers Toulon learned the secret from stole it from Sutekh. Sutekh isn’t happy. He gets even angrier when his demons start to drop dead when the totems fall prey to the heroes.



In wrestling terms, the Toulon puppets were turned babyface, probably due to how well received they were in the previous film killing off Nazis. I prefer them as heels, scurrying about causing horror to innocents. The Bodega Bay was the perfect hunting ground for them in the first two films. The totems are cool but only growl and have little personality besides their intimidating features. There is one neat scene where Tunneler drills a hole into one of the totems while it is being held by Blade and Pinhead. Jester has little facetime, presented in more of a cameo…not a lot of love shown to it. Susie tosses acid on one of the totems, but it returns to kick Blade’s ass, soon exploded by the lasers from the machinehead attached to Decapitron. The scene where Cameron is attacked by one of the totems is rather hilarious because Ash had to pull a Jeffrey Combs (the attack of the fur doll cat he had to make real  in Re-Animator) in the front seat of the locked car. Burr had to be inventive with the camera (basically move it frenetically) to truly sell the totem attacks on humans as the actors had to imitate a itty bitty doll going for their jugular. The “soul sucking”, where the totems hold their clawed hands over the faces of subdued (much larger) humans as their lifeforce is drained from them, is laughable. In fact, Rick’s laser combat with the robots and Pinhead and Tunneler further lames up the film. All that said, you get a lot of puppet action with them in total movement often. David Allen was a master and truly lent some great talent to Band’s productions. Even the totems move at times. Sure Burr has to use the camera and cheat due to the time constraints of a low budget by shooting the puppets in ways that would save on constant stop motion, but I think Part 4 does include them a lot more than I remember in previous films. 








The emphasis on Toulon can be kind of cheesy, truth be told. His face forming on the Decapitron is especially corny. The film even goes Frankenstein with Blade, Pinhead, and Tunneler using lightning and wire to give Decapitron life (along with green fluid, of course)…not before hooking up one of the totems to blow up. Toulon tells Rick he’ll always be around and that he is now the Puppet Master. The film ends with us seeing that the series wants to follow a different leader of the puppets. It basically links to Part 5 which Burr also directed. You can kind of connect the third, forth, and fifth parts as a type of trilogy.

Currie has energy to him but he's a bit of a kid. It is hard to take him seriously as a leader against evil. Especially when he is playing laser tag with toys. He even shoots a fake laser at one of the totems which does nothing but make him look foolish. When he rushes the ladies away from danger, he expects Blade to do the dirty work! When a totem explodes, Rick and the ladies fall backward as if hit by a shockwave! So ending with him given the keys by Toulon does seem temporary. He'd return for one more film, as would West who defense herself quite well in comparison to her beau.

I do think you can see the franchise waning by this point. It would continue to deteriorate in terms of quality as sequel after sequel was made. Band loves his Puppet Master movies.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Leprechaun (1993)


*
Warwick Davis was well known to me prior to this awful series of killer Lep films as Willow and as an Ewok. Later he returned to quality films in the Harry Potter series. Under heavy makeup and in a green costume, Davis offers cringe-worthy quips and might call to mind Chucky, the killer doll, considering this was around the time Child's Play was on the mind of slasher fans.

Jennifer Aniston (obviously) has disowned the film. I reckon all actors of some considerable stature have that early film best not to mentioned when looking back over their career. Aniston would move on to far better things than Leprechaun. All in all, though, she’s not too bad in the film. She is the damsel in distress always trying to stay one step away from annihilation as Lep pursues her with bad intentions. Lep has lost his crock of gold and is freed from a case holding him. Meanwhile Aniston, Ken Olandt (Amy Steel’s beau in “April Fool’s Day” (1986)), Mark Holton (of “Teen Wolf” and “Gacy” notoriety), and Robert Gorman (as the kid) try and keep Lep from visiting violence upon them. They are fixing up a farmhouse and Lep was released from his prison not far from them. Holton (as a simple-minded child-adult) and Gorman (the mischievous kid who knows how to talk him into stuff) find the gold in the wreckage of a rusting, gutted old car leaning against a tree. Holton swallows one of the coins (which becomes a significant threat towards the end when Lep realizes he’s missing one coin) while Gorman hides the rest of them in a well for safe keeping. Visiting a pawn shop owner, Holton and Gorman look to see if one of their coins has any value to it. Holding on to the coin for research, he becomes an unsuspecting victim-in-waiting as Lep identifies him as one of the culprits who stole what belongs to him. Then ole Lep heads back to the farmhouse where Aniston and company are to find the rest of cache. Aniston’s father, played by John Sanderford, reaches in the hole of a tree to try and rescue what he thinks is a cat as her and Olandt look on. Lep bites him on the hand and he’s taken to a hospital. Returning to the property, Lep reveals himself and starts his pursuit. I think at one point he pogo stick tramples one victim while reaching into the face of another before snapping his neck. He drives a little car and is pulled over by a police officer he eventually kills. He goes after Holton with plans to open his tummy and get his coin, just ripping away at his torso and face.

Some quips:

“Try as they will, and try as they might, who steals me gold won't live through the night.”

“Curse this well that me soul shall dwell, till I find me magic that breaks me spell.”

“I got you in a bear trap / That'll make you shut your yap / I got you in a bear trap / You look like a stupid sap.”


Lep gets even with the man who held him captive and informs Aniston that to take him down she would need a four leaf clover. Of course, there is a four leaf clover not far from the well holding Lep’s gold. Lep can mimic people and disappear/reappear wherever he so chooses. He basically toys with them. Hiding in a truck or the house does very little to keep him at bay. He wants his gold and will do what he can to get it back.

Aniston, much to her regret I guess, will bring curious eyes to this first film in the franchise. This is before her nose job and stardom in the revered ensemble of Friends. She has spunk and her reaction to Olandt eating meat (she admonishes him as he offers her some beef) in a diner is priceless. In this film's ensemble, fascinatingly, they aren't the kind of slasher cast that would be part of the body count formula. Holton is the closest victim to depart on a tragic note, and is more than a little worse for wear until a four leaf clover is introduced to Lep when he least expects it.



The film does enjoy spending time with Holton and Gorman as essentially they are two kids off from the young adults who are painting and doing renovations on their fixer-upper. Olandt gets his foot caught in a bear trap which wounds him enough he’s injured and in need of help. Packing a shotgun, the motley group basically just has it as a weapon to hold off Lep. He is never down or away too long before returning in anticipation of getting his gold.

The gold, while a point of emphasis in that Lep sold his soul for it and covets it dearly, is a Macguffen in that it serves only a purpose in bringing the villain and group of actors we follow together. As the series continued, the gold would be less a factor (for instance, Leprechaun 2 has Warwick Davis looking for a new bride) as just having the evil, giggling Lep making the lives of innocents totally miserable.

Admittedly, while I think Leprechaun (1993) is quite wretched and wholly undeserving of a mess of sequels, it wasn’t boring which I guess is something of a positive. Davis is imminently watchable even if the humor, which plays off the character (Lucky Charms cereal is featured in the comedy some), can be [well often is] quite lame. Series to series, Leprechaun can’t hold its own against Child’s Play as the direction and set pieces favor the latter significantly. When the franchise went “to the hood” and “into space”, it just derailed into sheer inanity. But that was the intention…to go the route of the absurd. Davis just heartily followed that signature character off the deep end, thankfully allowed to regain his credibility. 



As you can see, Anniston is pimped later on so that her participation and likeness are attached to the first Leprechaun with the two movie posters.

There are fans of the franchise, though. I found myself inexplicably almost picking up the Lep set not too long ago just to review them for the blog. I had the dvd set in my hands and decided, when my wits returned to me, to set it back down. Watching them on syfy or AMC or premium channels (I watched Leprechaun (1993) on Starz-Encore) late at night after renting them on VHS in the 90s is probably for the best. Well, not watching them at all is for the best, but I digress…

Monday, November 28, 2016


Oh, yeah, and December is right around the corner. Honestly my two favorite months are October and December. Lots of horror should show up on the blog this year once December rolls around. I really like November, too, but after Thanksgiving the remaining days kind of get in the way. I'm ready for my many versions of A Christmas Carol and Black Christmas. Many don the Santa suit, as well, with ax in hand. I'm debating when exactly to watch BC and the Silent Night Deadly Night this year. I've been all over the place with these movies during the month in years past. This year I plan to finally review a film i think is quite great, Christmas Evil. Good times ahead!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Witches of Breastwick

Caution: Erotic content
**1/2
Admittedly a **1/2 might seem a bit high for some low budget Wynorski smut, but I was a bit taken with a few minor moments in what was just Joe Souza playing a lucky guy who happens upon a cabin in the mountains where fake-breasted porn stars reside as the witches of the title. Souza brings along his squeeze, Monique Parent, and the two are participants in a host of seductive shenanigans, not as much besought or besieged by as voluntarily involved with them.

Mainly seeing my favorite softcore star, Parent, involved in two major scenes one of which is outdoors with Joe, as he adds a bit by undoing her clothes methodically, using his teeth on her panties. He was a pro at showing how to handle the ladies, smooth and aware of working their bodies and his expressions. He makes you envy his situation by showing you how swell his character has it with the bevy of wanton witches offering their bodies to him.

I know the stance many of my internet friends feel about silicone breasts, but for whatever reason, Julie K's don't bother me at all while Glori-Anne Gilbert's are right the opposite. I think something about Julie K and her approach in front of the camera--as they sometimes say, "make love with the audience in front of the camera"--is what seizes me. The fireside nude dance with her fellow witches just grabbed by eyes and I followed her implicitly.

Taimie Hannim has a scene where she emerges in the bedroom of Joe and Monique to warn him of the potential danger. While his woman dozes, Matt is *convinced* to engage in carnal action with Tamie. It plays on that fantasy of a spouse enjoying adultery with their partner in the room asleep. Joe cautiously bangs away while Monique sleeps. Tamie is totally alright with this bit of naughty risk taking.














Saturday, November 26, 2016

Intruders (2015)

Also known as "Shut In"
**
Woman with agoraphobia, losing ailing brother to pancreatic cancer, is unable to leave her home, having to deal with intruding hoods looking for loot willed to her. The film eventually reveals that she and her brother were behind something quite unsavory, tied to their father. The home invaders soon realize that Anne isn't a feeble and easy mark to undo (she was expected to be at her brother, Conrad's funeral.) 

Instead she aims to flee but her agoraphobia halts her safe passage out of the front door. The trio of intruders are expectedly despicable and wholly unappealing so any actions against them would be most welcome and rewarding. The film tries to throw the monkey wrench into what looked like your garden variety home invasion / fight for survival flick, with resilient and resourceful agoraphobic persistently avoiding doom by outsmarting and outwitting those needing to silence her due to seeing their faces and knowing their profiles. The film follows that formula up to a point then uses a plot twist regarding Anne's troubled psyche and horrible abuse, as well as, her partnership with her brother in the past before cancer took him out of her life. 

Dan, commonly delivering food to Anne's home, is sympathetic to her situation, including the loss of her brother. She offers him money for his efforts to bring her supplies and offer support. Since Dan is best buds with Vance, he seemed to have mentioned the money conversation and this works as a catalyst involving Vance's brother and another friend, seeing easy green as a prize for the taking. JP is the ring leader, Vance's totally in charge and calling the shots brother. Perry is the unstable asshole friend who enjoys tormenting Anne, going so far as to toss her outside to "cure" her of her phobia. 






The film has a basement with retractable stairs. And trap doors. A hidden room which works like a control center. Anne can watch from behind a glass into her childhood room for reasons later to be expounded upon by JP in a ludicrous exposition he just drums up through conclusions based on assumptions made. It is put here to clue us in on everything and JP is the mouthpiece of all people.

Anne is played well by television actress, Beth Reisgraf, who conveys the restlessness and inner struggle. She puts it out there in the way her face is rattled and anxiety presents itself, with survival instincts and her rigged house lending support to what ails her. Rory Culkin, as Dan, is crippled by a bum fall after Anne  pushes him into the basement and spends most of his time injured, while Jack Kesy as JP, tries to upend Anne's efforts to have him perform as her pops and suffer as he did. Martin Starr emboldens his Perry with plenty of rotten attributes suited to the role of a miscreant. Joshua Mikel is not in the film long enough as Vance to make much of an impact but offers a pitiful and desperate character looking for a monetary help that his big brother was more than willing to assist in securing.

I thought the ending, like others critical of it, was a bit tough to swallow. I don't think the symbolic demise of a father, or finding the means to forgive yourself, will just cure you of a deep seeded phobia that literally makes you ill if attempts to leave happen. A symbolic leaving the past behind by burning down the house could so flippantly occur after ten years of being psychologically trapped there was a bit hard for me to buy into.

I guess with all that happens, including her dealing with these trespassers and the loss of her brother, along with being confronted by JP with how fucked up her own situation was, served as a jolt out of her phobic prison. I don't think it works that way, but for dramatic purposes that is where the film wants to go.

Violence is relatively tame in comparison to films of its ilk. A neck is stabbed, a head throttled, a knee dislocation reversed, and a gunshot to the chest, but nothing too blood curdling. Most acts are in self defense and Anne was the one whose house had been invaded. Reactions to the threat and then attending to matters of her tormented soul result from this intrusion. That they would be responsible for her cure...well, that is a bit ironic, isn't it?


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Silent House (2011)





***

  • I haven't watched this actually since it was in the theater. The purposed single take technique got a lot of attention at the time. It was, for the most part, praised by many who watched it in its initial run. I think I took it for granted in the theater. It particularly becomes an inventive technique when the film goes into psychological and hallucinatory territory as the ending draws near and "Sophie" has greater definition.
  •  Elizabeth Olsen was in her early twenties and coming off Martha Marcy May Marlene so she was just tapping into her talents at this point. She's right at that wonderful age of young adulthood beauty and the camera couldn't follow a lovelier face almost exclusively.
  • The repressed memories and daddy's true abhorrent nature certainly turned stomachs. The film finds creative ways to unveil past horrors and work them into Olsen's present. Little legs hanging off a pool table, and daddy's voice talking her into Polaroids certainly prove to be unsettling, emerging details which unearth a history of abuse spilling out of the "lost holes" Olsen speaks about to "Sophie*.
  • Use of light and a house soon to be emptied and abandoned make for quite the aesthetic. Father, uncle and Olsen underway of a major undertaking involving packing and moving halted by the burial of memories emerging like skeletal hands prying open the casket to finally be free. It is the spooky unknown of what appears to be an intruder soon revealed to be closer to Olsen than she could possibly realize.
  • On a premium channel at 9ish at night seems like the perfect home for this movie. It needs to sneak up on you...as repressed memories often unfortunately do.

Blood Freak


*


“Hmmm, well whatever turns you on.”
“Praise the Lord.”

Gotta dig the 70s, man. Quite far out.

Gosh, my internet buddies just love “Blood Freak”. I watched it a few years ago just because it made the rounds as a reputed stinker that needed to be seen to be believed. Every decade has its turkeys. The 70s sure as hell had its share.

The casting is “Blood Freak” can be summed up in one word: wretched. I’m talking agonizing to the eyes and ears. That alone is something bad movie fans seem to enjoy. That the plot has a lot of preaching from the bible could probably stun many watching all the more. That considering what the film also contains. A biker gives a ride to a lady in hot shorts who takes him to a party where the scene has folks snorting drugs and crouched legs-crossed comfortably on the living room floor. The biker is interested in what the preacher has to say, circumventing her sister’s efforts to fondle and caress him (!), listening to how one cannot hate those he has seen and love a God he hasn’t, along with her response to a question on adultery. It is bizarre to know that this takes place, with a turkey monster going on a rampage not long after.

“How can such a big hunk of man be such a coward?”

God, the sister, always trying to hook up with Herschell (and does have a smokin’ bod) speaks in this consistently whiny, grating voice and is more than a bit “hands on” and desperate (played by Dana Cullivan) grates the nerves something fierce. Thankfully she’s carnally acceptable. Hawkes, as Herschell, the biker, is so dull and sullen, seemingly trapped in such a bad enterprise he literally appears as if he’d rather be anywhere but in “Blood Freak”, I actually feel sorry for him.

So Herschell begins to fall prey to Ann’s temptations. Smoking pot leads to sex in her bed. Ann loves to persist that once he has her, the sister, Angel (Heather Hughes) will be a fading memory. Interludes with the director (Brad Grinter, co-director with Hawkes) serving as a type of moral guide through the film, with bits of sermonizing done after taking drags from his smokes (I swear he even ends one of these with “Right on”!), just adds to the strange of this whole experience.
“Experimental meat” due to scientists using chemicals on the poultry at a farm where Herschell goes to work, dressed as close to Elvis as he possibly can be is how the guy is a victim of genetic engineering, turning him into hybrid poultry-man. Let this absurd plot just wash over you. “Good, tomorrow morning bring your appetite,” says one of the scientists to Herschell!

There is one scene where Herschell lapses into an addiction agony with Ann calling her drug supplier to keep her man at ease. Herschell, being a beefcake, can just wrap his meat-hook grapplers around the supplier’s throat and get immediate promises to maintain his cursed pot addiction. So there’s the peculiar pot and then the tainted poultry he starts to tear into, with the director interspersing shots of feathered gobblers just gobbling away!














So the cast. You can see them reciting the lines in their mind and carefully speaking them out loud, sometimes awkwardly and other times robotically. I felt they were very uncomfortable in front of the camera and couldn’t wait for the “Cut!” The two fellows who play the scientists take home the “thespians” prize. But seeing Hawkes convulse on the ground: that is Oscar worthy. And the potheads Ann appeals to for her man’s sake (continue to deal pot to him although his head is now a turkey while the rest of his body remains human) compete with those who play the scientists in the acting honors.

Then you have Herschell going around snatching up junkies, hanging the girls upside down, slicing their throats open, and cupping squirting blood to quench his thirst! This along with the messages about needing God’s help and the deranged nature of sin, what a path tread at the start of drugs can eventually lead to so much more. It is insanity. Therein lies its appeal to fans of the weird and unusual. It has that in spades. Hawkes in the oversized  turkey head, with the long beak, trying to realistically show him drinking blood is embarrassing. Oh, and the dubbing with all the hollering…just painful. This whole film is amateur hour on steroids.

To rival Fulci’s Gates of Hell, “Blood Freak” has Herschell choke a drug supplier, toss him on a table and lop off his leg with a mechanical saw! As the wound gushes and victim cries out, Herschell, in turkey mask, stumbles away. It is just another HGL gore sequence plopped into the film to shock you. It is totally inappropriate which makes it all the more appropriate for a film such as this!

Something quite amusing results from the director, nearly coughing up a lung while taking extra drags, attempts to proselytize to us about consuming chemicals and drugs into the body. If the movie ever had a more ironic narrative voice going right against what he forewarns it is this guy.

The ending might be considered a cop out. It goes the “what if” route, having Herschell awaken from a collapse, with us realizing it was all a nightmare caused by the unstable cocktail of pot and experimental meat. You even get to see a turkey hopping around after getting beheaded! Followed by Herschell’s own turkey head in a plate next to a cooked bird with its meat pried away by anticipating hands ready to feast! Herschell is shaken out of it all by the poultry farmer, later to be helped out of his addiction, to meet Ann in bikini near a beach’s boardwalk. Happily ever after, this couple can now live in peace. The end.

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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 ...