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Who Killed Captain Alex? (2010)
"Remember your training and don't shoot each other".
Who Killed Captain Alex? sounded like it might be fun... and after checking out a few clips - it was a no-brainer. Well, let's just say it lives up to its reputation. Made in Uganda, the country's first action film, on a supposedly $200 budget. This DIY action film is a real hot mess with state of art special fx that only $200 or less could buy. Just wait and see.... you're in for a good time; green screen computer generated PS1 blood splatter, explosions, machine gun fire and choppers. Right on! Still the production's enthusiasm beats out the low-end technical restraints.
The plot goes something like this; "Commandos", "Tiger Mafia", brotherly love, revenge and diarrhoea squirt. No, no, not literally, the latter was the pinnacle in some heated exchange. I know, I would be upset too being labelled a diarrhoea squirt. So it can be confusing trying to follow what's going on, so much so, the bad guys begin shooting each other for whatever reason. Everyone breaks out the kung-fu (sound effects included), jarring musical choices creep up like an instrumental version of Seal's "Kiss of a Rose" looping in some (real time action) scenes and to top it off, the film has its own running commentary, yep, quite random at times, with some guy detailing plot points, blurting out film advertisements or simply taking the piss while laughing like woody the woodpecker, but this adds to the charm and hilarity. Now as for who killed Captain Alex... hell, should I know... because we don't?! That's how they do action in Uganda.
"Press the bomb, over. Drop the bomb, man".
Out for a Kill (2003)
Not worth the effort.
So I finally got around to watching my copy of Out for a Kill (2003) and ugh! I didn't realise this was seen as one of Steven Seagal's worst films. So after watching it, I can see why. I was so bored, that it eventually became background noise as I did other tasks while tuning in and out. The premise was fine, but the execution falls flat. Seagal being half-ass mumbling, or preaching his lines of wisdom, providing the same nothing impression (looking constipated) every scene (be it from discovering priceless artifices to the sudden death of loved ones) and then when it came to the action he magically appears out of thin air, swipes around his arms real fast to look like his giving it his all, but as usual the stuntmen along with the film editor are doing overtime to make "him" look good. Also some of the CGI was god awful... oh man, that bullet sequence!? Actually the whole archeology scenes at the beginning where Segeal's professor (mmm I know) character is framed, comes off laughably dumb in its set-up. However the stupidity of it all quickly turns into tedium.
L'ultimo squalo (1981)
"Look at the size of that mother"?!
I used to think the helicopter sequence in Jaws 2 was great, and suspenseful... well that all changed when I laid my eyes on the Italian 1981 cash-in (or in other words blatant rip-off) "The Last Shark". Amazing, yeah, I was in awe of the scene! Awkward stock footage (and I forgot just how frequently it was spliced in), mechanical effects and miniature models ridiculously rolled into one. What occurs is outrageous, yet at same time jolting. You might be afraid to go in the water, but hovering above was just as disastrous. All these ideas they stormed up to kill the great white, really showed how much thought went into them due to the fatal results. Shotgun?! But what do you expect from clueless teens. Oh, and the slap to the face was well-deserved. However the out-of-left-field big game fishing plan with the helicopter really takes the cake. Now only if they had shark repellent spray on board, honestly wouldn't be out-of-place because of how daft everything becomes, it could've been a different story?
Also good to see Robert Shaw reprise his role... oh that's right. I mean Vic Morrow channelling a grizzled sea captain/shark hunter persona with accent and all. He even gets his own rousing monologue moment, but it comes and goes with little attention. Now the mechanical shark (obviously one of Bruce's relations) looks fairly decent, but its limitations in how they used it is where the chuckles arise. Nothing subtle about it, every now and again its head popping above the water for a quick peak to show off its pearly whites. And the impact alone of this shark is enough to cause an underwater explosion that sees everything (boats, wind gliders) leaping out of the water?! It shouldn't be surprising with director Enzo G. Castellari at the helm. Crazy stuff, but it does take awhile before getting into a groove (albeit some nicely shot slow-mo scenes) and delivering carnage. You know, the carnage of limbs being chewed off and toys being blown up. And what an ending, well maybe a touch sudden, but the floating pier and tug of war lead up doesn't disappoint if you fancy some stunt dummy trauma! And why Franciscus leaps out of the way of an underwater explosion that's no where near him as he presses the detonator is beyond me. I guess anything for drama.
"The bad seed returns".
What we do get is the final chapter. That's the final chapter of one story, and probably the beginning of another. No surprises. The story sees Alice returning to where it all began; The Hive at Raccoon City to retrieve the anti-virus. One thing straight-up, it does change the mythology continuity from the earlier films leading to a clumsy twist, religious pandering and an unintentionally humorous climax. Before that happens, it's the same-old heroics, but lazily told, looking cheap and less amusing. This is because of the quick-cutting editing and strained lighting, especially during the cluttered sped-up first half, making it for me a frustrating watch. Paul W.S. Anderson is doing everything possible to make it look exciting, with showy self-indulgent techniques, than actually executing. I got to say it's disappointing, as some of its horror roots show in its best moments, where the always solid Milla Jovovich takes on a few bio-weapon beasties. Also rejoining her again is Ali Carter, as they prepare to take on Iain Glen's egotistical umbrella corporation boss. It does become a little more bearable in the second half. And Anderson does however get the grungy apocalyptic vibe to a tee. I find the franchise to be disposable entertainment at best and "THE FINAL CHAPTER" to be the worst of the series. Continuing the trend of me not thinking much of Anderson's latter contributions.
Il plenilunio delle vergini (1973)
Don't forget your RSVP.
The invitation is there, but I don't know if many would be returning their RSVPs for "THE DEVIL'S WEDDING NIGHT"? The devil sure did not. Nothing really sets this apart from the cheap, sleazy and rough looking euro gothic horrors exploiting clichéd elements of sex and violence. In a way it's uneventful, lumpy and nonsensical. Twin brothers head to Transylvania and Castle Dracula in search of a mythical ring, but encounter the castle's current residents; a countess (Rosalba Neri) and her dead servant. She plans to use one of the brothers to house the spirit of her former lover - Count Dracula.
It doesn't really come into its own in delivering compulsive theatrics until the third act, when the black mass wedding / ritualistic resurrection gets under way throughout an earsplitting thunderstorm. Before then, there are few random atmospheric images (open graves, crypts and a blood bathing countess engulfed by mist), sound effects (bats squealing and heartbeats), and lustful or supernatural actions (floating vampires and an aggressive bald vampire with uneven fangs), but for most part it's drab, and fairly talky --- emphasizing the words; Transylvania, or vampire, or Dracula and constant zooms of people cackling, or staring straight at the camera in trying to set-up its nightmarish awe. The slow nature and disorienting camera angles are used to evoke superstition and mystery, but the plot comes off convoluted and it's hard to connect with Mark Damon's dual performance. Rosalba Neri on the other hand makes those dull moments bearable.
The climax of good vs. evil, amulet vs. ring transpires into what looks like a slow-mo (no effects though) dance off, or someone demonstrating their martial arts because of a lack of visual effects. Although there's a sequence involving a projected stuffed bat that needs to be seen to be believed. Anyhow think of kids playing with their toys using their imagination and making sounds, well that's how this climatic standoff plays out between the sharp-shooting brother and the delectable countess, where it's the music and psychical acting implying the powers of the mythical jewelry. At least the encounter's finale provides a nasty looking practical effect, cheap, yet, a well done throwaway.
The Ritual (2017)
Engaging horror that plays to its strengths.
I was going to let this pass me by, but the more I read about it - kind of had me wanting to check it out. Quite assertive, and well-done for what it wants to be; A leisured atmospheric rural creature-feature horror with a mysteriously eerie occult framework using simple, if cookie-cutter mechanics to invoke growing unease and instinctive terror.
The acting is solid, and the script holds tight. It does enough with the character dramas to keep the lost-in-the-woods story dynamics moving forward, even throwing psychological shade over fractured mindsets when the good-hearted bickering turns harmfully personal. I didn't think it always worked, but it gave the story an extra dimension to squeeze out the emotional tension, provide motivations and the ability to show this creature can mentally manipulate the minds of those it stalks.
Another element working to its favour was the dark, sprawling mountainous forest becoming a character in itself. The way the camera captures the surroundings and how the audio picks up on the creature moving through the lush vegetation (branches snapping to the off-screen growling) gives off a spooky ambiance that at anytime can swallow you up, or inflict a gruesome surprise. As for the monster (an ancient evil), I actually liked the Norse old-world folklore and unique camouflage design whenever we got the chance to see it. This does come to fruition in the outlandish descent of its third act, where I think it loses a bit something when it breaks out. The creature is mainly brought across in CGI, and done so perfectly, although there were practical prosthetics when it got up, close and personal, and the latter when used I found downright effective.
Who would've thought?
Horror and Western; are they two peas in a pod? Something about gelling two genres of this ilk feels unique, but also patchwork. That's the feeling I got when watching the cheap-jack drive-in monster mash-up JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER. The adventures of the infamous Jesse James cross paths with the determined, ghoulish experiments of the Frankenstein family.
Frankenstein's daughter (although I could've sworn I heard her mentioned grandfather, not father), Maria, finds herself in Mexico with her brother, after fleeing Europe for continuing her family's ungodly work with some eye-catching headwear. Her choice of residence, a beautiful matte painting of a monastery on the hills is perfect for her work with a neighboring superstitious Mexican village to make her fit right at home, but there's also a bonus as it's a frequent hotbed for electrical storms. So she scored big right there, no waiting around and marking dates on the calendar for the next lightning strike. But now she's running out of experimental guinea pigs, as the nearby village is eventually deserted. Now cue in the outlaw Jesse James' side of the story. James along with his hunky, dim-witted sidekick Hank tag along on a heist that goes wrong and Hank is fatally shot. On the run from a sheriff, he comes across a Mexican family camping out in the woods and the daughter takes them back to Frankenstein's lodge. Maria sees potential in Hank, as the perfect specimen for her secret experiments and finding some common ground, and hopefully love from another outlaw James.
Almost half of the film passes by before the film's title is finally stamped. So before the successful experiment is delivered, Jesse James shares some good times with Hank, cowboy brawling on empty stomachs, running afoul of a jealous cowboy, the law is hot on his heels, takes on some native Indians and falls in love with a peasant Mexican girl Juanita. Morals are questioned, while love and friendship does go on to conquer all that is wrong in this screwy plot. Its ham-fisted schlock that doesn't live up to its title, till Hank gets a brain transplant (one that beats while being kept in a jar) becoming the monstrous Igor and begins to choke people to death. Probably comes a bit too late, but Narda Onyx's wickedly manipulative performance, and sometimes expressive facials, especially when in the laboratory gives it some added life.
Australia's answer to the first two POLTERGEIST films with a couple teaspoons of NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Now give it a stir. You get the same sort of supernatural story, pinching plot details here and there (damn those greedy building developers), as the outskirts of suburbia meets Indigenous dreamtime horror. A group teenagers living on the same street in a suburban housing development find themselves haunted by the spirit of a Kadaicha Man (an elder aboriginal witchdoctor) through their dreams, which when they awake, they are in possession of an ancient crystal stone. This souvenir symbolizes that they are targeted for death.
To begin teenagers are killed off one by one in what looks like freak accidents caused by dangerous wildlife (and the body count is very small), while minimalistic in execution with its tame use of cutaways and aftermath mutilation; there's a charm to these coarse attacks and decent effects. Outside the slightly eerie first death, I thought remaining lot were silly. Still the natural sound design along with the piercing didgeridoo / synth score do a better job implementing the uneasy atmospherics around the thrills.
Obvious plot tropes are used to advance the story, engineer the threat and to keep you invested, yet for the majority of the time these docile characters seem less concern in trying to figure out how not to become the next victim. Some of their actions are questionable, even their own state of mind when they begin dropping like flies. Then at the backend the material rushes through and decides to throw out the overt shocks, changing its M.O to ghostly apparitions, poltergeist activity and possession leading to a flimsy power play over the life of the final girl. It's everything, but the kitchen sink... done on the cheap. Stereotypical performances don't hurt and the script might not be the greatest, but you get amusing lines like this;
"A dog savage enough to kill a teenage girl. A spider with the fasted venom in history and now a giant eel that thinks it's a boa constrictor. What... the hell... is going... on?????"
The delivery of the line was just priceless. Actually a lot of the choice dialogues, and sincere banter, especially between the coppers got a laugh from me.
Not the best Ozploitation had to offer, quite clunky, but you could do a lot worse.
Good fun in spite of the familiarity.
It's not hard to see that this film gathered ideas from prominent cult, or classic action / sci-fi joints from the last three decades to ensemble a very familiar, but still entertaining b-exercise of well engineered tropes and confined set-pieces. Action comes and goes, high stakes and plenty to play for in a rescue plan involving the US president's daughter trapped on MS One an experimental prison in space, which is now overrun by the inmates. Although most of the credit for it being watchable should go to Guy Pearce's laconic style, and wisecracking performance as the lucky one-man show hand-picked (with no real choice) for the job. That much so, and I'm not fuss... I would have watched him again in a new bunch (or quite possibly rip-off) adventures as he was that convincing in the role.
Slender Man (2018)
I thought it was watchable.
All the hate surrounding it kind of got me curious, along with the creepypasta backstory. Since I had time to kill, and a cinema nearby. I decided I would check it out. While you could say it's past its used by date, a good 5 years or so, when this titular being was the talk of the net. And the stigma of a true-to-life attempted murder in the name of the slender man means unwanted negative attention. Still the story could be effective if in the right hands, but 'Slender Man' mostly drops the ball with something rather superficial, and quickly produced with the feeling of wanting to forget and move on.
I found it simply mediocre... dreary, yet glossed up horror with plenty of blank stares... well, outside a nervy Joey King performance. There are terrible elements sure (e.g the dialogues and pacing), but i didn't hate myself for seeing it. Some slick atmospheric visuals (in spite of all the dark shadowy cinematography), effective sound design (snapping branches & trees rustling in the wind) and a chopped up feel to the narrative's structure (despite not purposely doing it thanks to studio interference in the editing room) kind of gave off a disorienting dreamscape logic blurring time and space of random scene transitions and incomplete character arcs that "for me" kinda worked. It had a "feel in the blanks'' structure with a lot of foreshadowing. A real mess of sorts and little in the way of Slender Man frights, but those few moments, especially involving King showed promise. It actually had me thinking of Wes Craven's 'My Soul to Take', especially the dreamlike air playing around with the character's gradual loss of reality, and the encroaching fear that sees them caught up in a nightmare of no escape. Once he comes calling, there's no going back.
I would be interested in seeing the full uncut version though. Would it make it any better, I don't know (...plot coherence probably), but I have a feeling the tone would be different especially those cut scenes which were in the first trailer.
The Meg (2018)
An A-grade backed production of b-grade material and a mentality somewhere in between. Big ambitions... just don't translate here. Sort of just sits there treading water, never really going full tilt with its prehistoric shark. It should have made for silly, in a way over-the-top fodder, but it felt half-baked. Caught between wanting to have fun at its own expense, yet undermining the threat of the ordeal when it tries to go serious. Which isn't too often.
Instead the Meg can feel secondary to the light-weight, and awkwardly blunt character dramas and banter, especially early on, but when they decide to deliver what everybody came for. All I got was the same repetitive pattern occurring on a loop; a dangerous predicament, close call rescue, self-sacrifice and a lot splashing about (or better put constantly falling from boats into) the ocean. Now repeat. Sadly I found little tension, or excitement derived from these set-pieces, which would cut-away when you think it was going to deliver something big and causing everything to come to a grinding halt. However Jason Statham throws himself into the role (quite literally) making for a likeable, if brazen heroine which this toothless premise and execution sorely lacked.
"Typecast?! He's a dog!"
My friend knew I was a fan of Michael Winner, as previously I lent him a copy of "SCREAM FOR HELP". So he returned the favor with the polar opposite "WON TON TON THE DOG WHO SAVED HOLLYWOOD". This was one of those films I heard of, but never went out of my way to see. Watching it was eye-boggling, as I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It's the "Where's Wally" of Hollywood filmmaking, as star after star after star of golden age cinema show up in small and at times, unimportant roles. Just looking at that cast listing, is a curiosity, but what a waste. Still all of this does become a distraction, with it simply being a hyperbolic hodgepodge of situational humor done at a frenetic pace. It's obviously trying for that charming old-school slapstick comedy of errors and mischief, yet the scatterbrain energy, comic interplay and running gags begin to wear out its welcome. When you think it can't get any more ridiculous, it does, but that's when it kind shows up the shortcomings and lack of variety. It's very shallow, but I could be possibly missing something? A social commentary of the infatuating highs and devastating lows that makes Hollywood what it is? Nah, it's just an aspiring showbiz tale of a gal (Madeline Kahn), a guy (Bruce Dern) and a dog in twenties Hollywood consisting of numerous in-jokes and animated performances. The amusingly gleeful Madeline Kahn and an exaggerated Ron Leibman do steal most of the scenes. Well that's when Won Ton Ton is not doing his thing. It might be a train wreck, but it had its moments. Or you'll be pondering what were they thinking?
Kung Fu: The Movie (1986)
Going through the motions.
You are on the right path young grasshopper, but still much to learn if you want to hear the grasshopper at your feet. David Carradine a decade later returns to the role of the fugitive Shaolin priest Kwai Chang Caine made famous in the mid 1970's American TV series "Kung Fu". Bringing the ways of ancient east to the old Wild West, his past transgressions comes back to put him a dangerous predicament. He becomes a prime suspect of a murder, which he believes a vindictive Chinese warlord (Mako) is behind. His now-grown up son he left behind years ago (Brandon Lee in his debut) is after his blood, as an assassin under the mysterious trance of this warlord.
This made-for-TV film tries to rekindle the spirit of the TV series (that I saw bits and pieces in reruns), but comes off being a sloppy, and at times dull extended episode. Western and Eastern cultures clash, where it's not only the bounty hunters Caine must confront on his inner quest, but also themes of racism and prejudice. The story is plot focus, a murder mystery with dilemma solving, set-ups, opium smuggling and a few moments of sudden, cheesy kung-fu. Although nothing to write home about. The fun comes from the philosophy laced dialogues of wisdom, footage of Keye Luje as Master Po the venerable blind teacher, window-dressing visual mystic tricks of mind over matter, Mako's flame throwing rifle(?!) and Carradine in slow-motion effortlessly throwing people through glass windows making it into an art-form. Lalo Schifrin's majestic score probably deserved better and Kerrie Kean, Benson Fong, Luke Askew and Martin Landau also appear.
Ice Spiders (2007)
"Come on Doc. Tell me I'm hallucinating"?!
Patrick Muldoon is no stranger to what awaits, as he took on intergalactic space bugs at one stage of his career, now in this lame-brain Syfy enterprise, he finds himself facing a much different type of creepy crawly; genetically altered gigantic arachnids on the ski slopes courtesy of government secret experimenting going on in nearby labs. "ICE SPIDERS" does exactly what it says on the tin, and much more. Overdone, streamlined CGI spiders run rampant, causing bloody carnage, jumping on and cocooning government employees and skiers at the remote Lost Mountain ski resort. It's up to Muldoon (retired Olympic skier), Vanessa Williams (doctor working at the lab) and Stephen J. Cannell (resort owner) to put a stop on these spiders killing the remaining survivors. The genuine combination between the three, keeps it perky and on the move. Everything sticks to clichés and thrills are cheesy, yet mostly played straight with moments of outrageous blood splatter and spider POV vision, where you can't help but chuckle. Sure it won't win any awards, but it's okay time-waster, even if only for background noise.
Riaru onigokko (2008)
"No one can catch me".
Before Sion Sono's "TAG" (2015), it was "THE CHASING WORLD" in what is a fast-tempo, straight-forward chase sci-fi thriller compared to the surreal horror absurdity of Sono's most recent adaptation of the same novel source. Both might share a similar concept, and shades of "ALICE", but still, are totally different beasts.
Here the story follows teenager, Tsubasa Sata, flung into an alternative universe, ruled by a masked tyrannical emperor, yet this parallel world is linked to his own. There he discovers that anyone with the last name "Sato" is hunted-down in some sort game (known as Death Chase) by hunters dressed in black with electronic smiling masks. Rules do apply, as the siren blares to start it and finish off.
Obviously a low-budget enterprise, as you can see its limitations from its scaled-down approach, a confined journey, but it remains durably suspenseful and dangerous, in spite of the primitive action of constant foot chases, and the odd psychical combat and outrageous death caused by the hunter's lethal weapon of choice; steel wire. It's exhausting, just watching these characters putting in the big ones, as they huff, and puff with sweat rolling off their faces. It's well-shot, suitably paced with a fluid story centered on philosophy and imperial themes, while foreseeable, the mystery of the circumstances interestingly opens up piece by piece. Nothing particularly complicated about it, as it's full of concise exposition and character arches in presenting the rippling consequences of one dimension affecting another. It finishes on an ending that leaves you wondering just how far they can go with the idea... going by its sequels, real far.
"Parrall worlds exist indefinitely".
A Shock to the System (1990)
Climbing to the top... by any means.
All that hard work, dreaming of that well-deserved promotion, by putting in everyday. Starting from scratch working your way to the top. Just one step to go. One step up that ladder. However sometimes dreams aren't meant to be, no matter the effort you put in and the confidence you bestow. Someone else comes in and snatches it right under your nose. You were that sure of yourself, focused right in, everyone talking you up, even your wife. It was yours. Eyes on the prize, but you didn't realize what was happening around you. There was unknown competition from within. Someone you trusted. Now that high hits rock bottom. Your pride is shot. Until you realise it's all clockwork in this dog eat dog world. No sitting back. Make it happen... by any means.
"A SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM" feeds off it, by presenting a dry, biting drama with a violent twist. Filled with dark understated humor, personal psychosis and merciless corporate satire a seasoned New York marketing executive turns to murder, after an incident in the subway to resolve those "difficulties". So he goes about setting up one fatal accident after another, in the process of making his life easier and to get that position... he deserved. But one little slip-up could see it all come crashing down.
Directed with style, cinematography showed elasticity and a score vigorously on key. However the thing that stood out was Michael Caine... pretty much doing his usual Michael Caine shtick. He's the life of the party here, pitch-perfect in delivery. His likable, laidback persona gets used, and downtrodden on. The anger is released with some venomous sprays. Knowing now, getting what he wants he needs to be coldly calculative, sly, string people along and thinking outside the box (possibly murder) to make it happen. His interactions with Swoosie Krutz (playing his materialistic wife) were some of the best moments. Sometimes the plot can be a little too elaborate in the consequences and suspicions (prying detective), but it did catch me off guard. I didn't expect the finale to go down the path it did. Fortune favors the brave in this heartless, controlled corporate world.
Maximum Overdrive (1986)
Who made who?
This was one of those films I would always pass up, showing little interest until today. And what did I just watch?! The opening half-hour is insane... entertainingly insane. All coked-up, and on the fly.. all these ideas come together in a stupid collection of out-there, and homicidal set-pieces. As every bit of machinery becomes demonically possessed, after a comet passes through the Earth's atmosphere. So no one is safe from the onslaught when the machines start a global crisis for blood.
Director Stephen King (who also makes an amusing cameo at the beginning) lines it up with dark humour, ripe performances and outrageous stunts. It's pure chaotic madness! I admit, I didn't find the second half to be as impressive when the action comes to a standstill at an isolated truck stop, but still, there are enough silly, bug-eyed decisions in the latter half to get your rocks off with the likes of Emilio Estevez and a rocket launcher packing Pat Hingle heading a motley crew against circling trucks led by a green goblin rig. Not to forget either the brutal encounters with a machine gun mounted mule and an electric knife. After such a cracking set-up, it's just too bad the film's final payoff isn't much of one. Also you can't go wrong with an electrifying AC/DC soundtrack, which doesn't wait around to kick in, by opening with the killer track "Who Made Who"? blaring away.
La nuit de la mort! (1980)
This French horror film took me by surprise, and I loved every tasty, off-kilter minute of it
As a viewer, we know from the get-go what's going on in Night of Death! Or we like to think we do. The mystery is not much of a mystery because it's revealed early; even then its intentions are sprinkled throughout, where the horrifying visceral shake-up implodes at the end of the first act. So now we wait for the naive protagonist to catch on to what's going on behind the scenes, as she goes about her everyday work chores. The cannibalsitic elderly of a nursing home kills their newly appointed carer after every two months to feed upon their flesh and internal organs to stop the rot of aging. After the sudden disappearance of the previous employee, newly arrived nurse Martine begins her fateful two month countdown... the next cadaver on the chopping block!
Occasionally going down this path where you are leaps and bounds ahead of the situation can harm the suspense and intrigue, but here, the genuinely weird and creepy atmosphere of the secluded retirement home and its residents keeps you enthralled. Sometimes done in a darkly humorous manner of unscripted macabre heightened by the eeriely persistent music score. You won't be forgetting that score! Also helping out is having a very affable Isabella Goguey caught in the middle of this unaware nightmare. She's so well-grounded and likeable you feel every anxious step brought upon by her unusual interactions through to the growing suspicions towards the residents' unhinged actions that can cut to images of them reaching into a corpse pulling out internal organs to munch on like at an all you can eat buffet.
Then there's the lingering side-story of a deranged serial killer plaguing the nearby town, which latter on seems to be more so on her mind when she begins picking up on the clues of something shady going on around Michel Flavius' character. He really nails the role, from his mousy appearance to the intensity he brings. You begin to ride it out --- hoping she catches on sooner rather than later. The slow, and tranquil progression of genre tropes (including the frequent tap on the shoulder jump fright) hits feverish levels at the protagonist's bewildering climatic discovery of the Deadlock house's gruesome secret. What once was foreseeable, suddenly gets twisted around. The nasty practical gore hits home, everybody begins showing their true colours while openely licking their chops and it finishes on a jarring final twist. Quite unexpected, yet effectively idyllic killer blow. The shock didn't surprise, but the reveal of who's behind it did.
Psycho Diver: Masei Rakuryu (1997)
How do you grab somebody's attention... start off with some guy screaming at the top of his lungs before completely losing their head... splat!!! It worked for Psycho Diver: Soul Siren, so I hope it worked for me.
Yuki, a young pop-star is haunted by memories of her past, and is discovering she possesses psycho-kinetic powers she cannot control. Appearing on the scene, Bosujima, a class one psycho diver, which through advance technology and psychic abilities, dives into the minds of trouble souls for a clean-out. He takes Yuki's job on the side, a dangerous one because of her powers. Entering her soul he learns there are others who'll stop at nothing to control her fate.
Playing out like a moody, slightly techno sci-fi thriller garnished in strong noir atmospherics of dark shades and dingy silhouettes. It's one of those fuzzy, elaborate plots, where things are not quite what they seem, leading to murder and a deadly power struggle between two very dominant figures fighting for control of the girl. Caught in the middle is the sleuth-like Bosujima, who's chauvinistic to the core. A smooth talker when he wants to be, but more often fairly salty and getting into pyshical altercations. His career looks like it's weighing on his mind, but this latest one might just change his mindset for the better? The visuals can have a disturbing kick, as the intensity and emotions of certain scenes derives from its direction, even the score's mind field of soulful blues to industrial drones than anything to do with the plotting. The way it was edited, and how the dressed up images flashed across the screen (like the music video clip sequence) - I could see a De Palma influence in few scenes. While the concept of the psycho diver does play second fiddle to reality-based investigative groundwork and the behind-the-scenes manipulation of this job. I would've loved to see a surreal approach, especially the dreamscape trips. I was more interested in that element of the story then where it actually headed.
Flesh for the Beast (2003)
"I have to warn you folks. This place makes Amityville look like a spinning tea cup ride".
Sex and gore, but not much else inbetween when team of student parapsychologists investigate a rundown manor for sign of restless spirits. Supposedly the history of the building was the owner was an occultist who summoned ravenous demons in the form of beautiful women who must feed on human flesh. A bunch of mostly horny guys are picked off one by one as they are first seduced and then literally torn apart; spilted intestines, rotting flesh and a lot gushing red blood. Expects stains galore. The imagery can be jarring with its nauseating make-up FX, rubbery demon masks and screeching heavy metal cues. So at times it can be in-your-face, however other times a little on the dry side, thanks largely to its plain locations and (mostly male) performances. The women playing the succubus' seemed to be having a great time, especially when stirring up a feeding frenzy.
Flesh for the Beast in the end doesn't add up to much, other than to wallow in it own nastiness, sleaze and to spring up a final twist that comes from nowhere, yet this element adds to its cheap, hallucinogenic vibe from its ominous get-go. In all, it's a poor film with a flimsy structure focused on greed and lust, but it kind of lulled me in nonetheless.
No Place to Hide (1973)
Nothing more than a Stallone curiosity.
REBEL" (aka "NO PLACE TO HIDE") is mostly like an independent film that when it came out had little to no interest, but as decades passed it somewhat caught the eye of a ''few'' for the casting of its upcoming star. Still I wouldn't bother with it, unless you're a fan of Sylvester Stallone and want to see everything he's done. Outside of that, there's not much to recommend. The story follows a college dropout Jerry Savage, turned homegrown terrorist involved in an underground movement wanting to take down the corporate war machine while the FBI closes in.
This clunky low-budgeter is very much a product of its era. The movement of the late 1960s shines through and the backdrop of New York City is authentically brought across. Be it through stock footage, or gritty location shooting with its documentary-like style. Being made during the Vietnam era the political tailoring is at the forefront, yet the narrative is pretty long on its build-up consisting of numerous exchanges (capitalism, propaganda, spiritualism & etc) and tactical scheming of what needs to be done for this group to get their point across. Also the FBI is in the same boat in trying to weed out these organized bombers. Editing between scenes can be ragged and the script is more talk and ideas, than anything of action. So tension, or its attempts of it stems mainly from the character interactions. In spite of one or two minor visual moments towards the end. Even so there's a lot of sitting around and trivial waxing, causing it drag at times. Strangely though, the presence of Stallone keeps you watching. It's a raw, yet affecting performance of confliction that you can see why he went onto bigger, better things.
There's not much to 'Mamba'
It's a concise, yet mildly exciting close quarters psychological/deadly animal-on-the-loose thriller that puts to good use its short running time. After the humid, nihilistic set-up involving Bill Moseley (snake handler) and a domineering Gregg Henry in seamy, heartless mode collecting/and testing out his newly acquired mamba. There it moves onto young headstrong sculptress Eva (performed with ticker by Trudie Styler) soon to be ex-wife to Gene (Gregg Henry). She wants to break away from his emotional abuse, but he wants to finish things off on his terms... revenge. His plan is to seal off her windowless loft and unknowingly to her release a steroid-injected mamba, as he sits outside in his car getting his rocks off watching the mamba hunt its prey on a tracking device from his lap-top monitor. The lengths this vindictive man would go to can be seen as a power trip showing that his strike is just as lethal, if not deadlier than the snake.
A very elaborate, although not foolproof get-up... I guess cheaper, and less humiliating than a divorce? Styler's character escapes a trapped relationship thinking that it's all behind her, but finds herself literally caught in another enclosed battle. This time survival against a killer she can't see, let alone catch without thinking of the life threatening dangers. In a way it's a waiting game as she spends a good amount of time unaware of the threat, poking and prodding about, leading to set-piece after set-piece of close shave encounters. Plenty of POV shots, low angles, high angles and tracking shots. It's sleekly executed. An outstanding music score seperates itself from the norm giving out an uncanny jungle vibe with the squealing monkey sounds when the snake is on the move. Once she finds out she's not alone in the apartment is when it really clicks into gear. The fear, panic and alertness is amplified, as the snake could be lurking around every shadow and round every corner. One strike and you're done. The space seems to close in even more, claustrophobic suspense arises as she must fight back, not knowing there's a time limit to this madness. All she knows is that she's a target and there's no escaping it.
The idea is frightening, but I don't think the (stretched out) premise fully tapped into the situational suspense and adrenaline boost consistently enough. You just know how it's going to end, poetic justice is oh so sweet.
Doggu soruja (1989)
Rambo? I think not.
The inspiration drawn from Rambo can't be questioned, as I couldn't shake the feeling from just staring at poster artwork, and whenever the protagonist ex-Green beret John Kyosuke all decked out in military gear along with the red headband shows up on screen. But then all that would be spoiled by awful voice acting and some minor tonal shifts of goofy animated grimaces, which took me right out of it.
Dog Soldier: Shadow of the Past is a crudely animated, flatly projected and intricately plotted OVA, which seems to be all about the pedestrian character beats and conspiracy twists. There's nothing wrong in trying to humanise the story, yet it's too contrived and tediously put together. Deep rooted in inner turmoil and at every chance rushing through background exposition only disrupt the rhythm, as the action scenes in between were far from memorable and had little to no impact due to how quickly it moved through each set-up. Only one moment stood out - a scarring death sequence leading to the finale's theatrical knife fight (yep, it included the iconic survival knife) between foes, who once were brothers, in a literal sense as they depended on each other growing up on the streets. I guess the conflictive family angle is suppose to come as a surprise, but really the twists are thrown out there without any sort of lead up to them. It's rather sudden, and confounded. So chuck in the drama intertwined with the usual devious military/government plotting and you get an overly padded out plot of cliched scenarios.
Honestly, watch the Saturday morning cartoon;Rambo: The Force of Freedom if you want to be entertained, as Dog Soldier falls way short with its stale, convoluted story threads and limp action.
Rupan sansei: Walther P38 (1997)
"There's one too many Walthers in this world".
Somewhat a change of pace and tone, even in its animation, when compared to the first few bright and lively TV specials. Lupin the Third: Island of Assassins, which I much prefer original title Lupin the Third: Walther P38, had rather a distinctively punchy, somber and violent approach. Sort of mixing together an intriguing whodunnit angle with a ludicrous conspiracy laced adventure sub-plot like out of a James Bond film. The story delves into a past incident of a mysterious figure shooting a familiar looking Walther P38 at Lupin falling out of a plane, well, it's déjà vu, as during a heist, in what looks like a set-up, Lupin's arch nemesis Interpol inspector Zenigata is shot by the same mysterious figure and elegant pistol from Lupin's past. Being framed for the shooting, this leads Lupin to the island of the Tarantula assassins, where he and co go about trying to uncover this shooter from his past, while also stealing the Tarantula's massive gold fortune.
The game plan is set, but it doesn't go so smoothly, as chaos erupts and the revelation to who set it all in motion shows their true self. Action, when it occurs, hits hard and fast with few bang-up scenes in the opening and closing sequences. Once the story hits the island, the operation rarely leaves and it can hit a bit of a bump as it slowly chugs along. In doing so, it felt like it could've been tighter and a little less self-contained, but this opened up a relationship struck between Lupin and one of the assassins, Ellen. The script gave it an opportunity to dig a little deeper into Lupin's psyche, and background showing a serious side whenever he's not being coy. This is powerfully projected in its final melancholy scenes of self-sacrifice and pure reflection - finishing on a beautiful end credits song "Don't Forget My Eyes" by Emi Shinohara, the Japanese voice actress of Ellen and who also did voice work for Sailor Moon and Project A-Ko.
Shadow of the Hawk (1976)
Silly, yet enjoyable mystic horror.
We get Jan-Michael Vincent encountering some bad juju, nice. It doesn't surprise me to see something this audaciously unusual and spectral coming from the 1970s. In spite of some out-there moments (phantom car & at times an obvious bear costume in a one-on-one), you can still count on "SHADOW OF THE HAWK" to deliver the premise with such a slight, straight-face. And it pays dividends, as this helps achieve such an underlining eeriness to its atmospherics (accompanied by a spookily experimental natural sounding FX) of a young man accepting his Native American ancestral fate.
Old Man Hawk (Chief Dan George) is the native shaman of his tribe, but he finds himself at the mercy of a spirit of an ancient sorceress (Marianne Jones). The only way he can defeat her, is for his grandson Mike (a steadfast Jan-Michael Vincent) who lives and works in the city, to return back to the village to harness his power as the heir of the shaman. Hesitant at first, he has a change of heart and is persuaded by a freelance reporter (a sympathetic Marilyn Hassett) who tags along.
The superstitious framework is your typical black and white power struggle between two forces; good versus evil. It's literally a journey, both physical and spiritual, in what plays out like a mind over matter initiation of one's identity. Sometimes ponderous and Hassett's character felt like nothing more than a pawn, yet the mystical intrigue and stout performances help its momentum. Throughout danger is always felt, as the sorceress watches, animating objects and animals, causing strange, lethal accidents. The dangling rope bridge was a neat touch. Her disciples also get into the act too. I found the most effective scenes revolved around the sorceress' spirit donning a creepy white mask while terrorizing Jan-Michael Vincent's character. This is even before the trek hits the forlorn wilderness. George McCowan's low-key direction is competent without doing anything truly special.