Sharknado – The Spinning Terror

Brendan tried to avoid the treacherous waters, but no luck, they came to land to find him.  

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Jaws is correctly revered as a classic of the disaster/horror movie genre and rightly credited as the first high concept blockbuster movie. Jaws’ singular premise – a giant monster shark – that neatly translated into one single marketing image, and transformed the way in which films were made and sold in Hollywood to this day.

No one who was certifiably sane would say that Sharknado is destined to have the same homunculus impact on the world of modern filmmaking. However, it is undoubtedly a high concept project (sharks meet tornadoes), it is undoubtedly a disaster film and it has undoubtedly achieved a new and very modern type of success with contemporary audiences.

After amassing several million views on YouTube for it’s trailer, Sharknado’s premier on the Syfy channel accomplished something unprecedented for a made for TV movie by becoming a trending topic on Twitter. Websites and blogs have since collated the best and most amusing of Sharknado’s tweets, while the wave of social media interest in the film secured a limited US theatrical run, again another first for a “Syfy original film”.

Sharknado is a slick example of how low budget filmmaking can leverage social media platforms to generate positive word of mouth and reach new, incremental audiences. The problem for some critics with Sharknado, however, is the nature of the film itself.

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The premise of Sharknado doesn’t require much in the way of thought or explanation. A waterspout brings all manner of man eating sharks in-land to downtown LA, where they wreak all kind of havoc on an assorted cast of b-movie actors. Interestingly this ensemble includes the semi-credible presence of John Heard, he of The Sopranos (Ed: or for our purposes – Cutter’s Way, CHUD and Cat People etc)  and other far more legitimate screen roles. One can only assume John badly needs a paycheck right now.

It is willfully silly, escapist nonsense that pays homage to a host of cheesy pop culture references. The issue and where Sharknado proves to be so divisive, is that it is a project that is designed to be mocked. Unlike say the efforts of Ed Wood or Tommy Wiseau or even some of the movies distributed by Lloyd Kaufman, the makers of Sharknado certainly have no artistic hubris about the highfalutin merit of their work.

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That’s not to say Sharknado is a bad film as such. For my sins I actually enjoyed it. Honest. Production values are better than expected, pacing and narrative move quickly enough and among its truly memorable sequences is the sight of Ian Ziering first being swallowed whole by a badly rendered, flying CGI shark only to then see him cut himself out with a chainsaw and simultaneously rescue his love interest (Cassie Scerbo) from inside the same creature! Wow. Intense.

Sharknado is terrible, self consciously cheesy, deliberately camp fun brought to life purely for the commercial gain of the backers and producers at the Syfi channel. It’s safe to say that with Sharknado, the sharks of this film are not just limited to those in front of the camera lens.

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Sharknado is out on 7th October

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Are we there yet…? The Last Exorcism: Part II

The ever daring Brendan Patterson, once again dives into the unknown, braving the twisted demons of The Last Exorcism: Part II.  

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I’ve not seen the original Last Exorcism but in the research that I conducted before settling down to watch its absurdly entitled sequel, I learned that it took a “new” spin on the now hackneyed exorcism sub-genre by using the now hackneyed “found footage” approach to filmmaking.

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Audiences expecting the same for Part 2 are going to be disappointed. The sequel abandons any such similar aesthetic traits, opting for a far more conventional, classic narrative setting and structure. Opening credits notwithstanding, which are melange of home movies, news reports and other gumpf which allude to the first entry in this ongoing movie franchise.

It’s not just the same stylistic composition that the Last Exorcism Part II ejects, however, as for the next 90 minutes any sense of continuity from the original film are gone too. Instead we pick up with sole survivor Nell (Ashley Bell) trying to remember just what in the name of Lord Satan happened in the first film while putting her life back together in some hick town in the US.

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The really bad news for Nell is that Beelzebub (aka Abalam) is back and has all manner of horrid back bending, spine cracking contortionism and general evil soul-sucking possession in mind for her all over again. Plus a few new tricks up his old demonic sleeve.

The interminably dull build up to the satanic denouement of the Last Exorcism Part II includes some especially below par PG13 related scares, even in what is billed as its “uncut extended edition” on home dvd and bluray.

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Obviously I’m taking these out of context but they include: the terror of a talking vacuum cleaner, the sight of Nell being harassed by a living statue performer during a costume ball (yikes!), a trip to the zoo where an irate gorilla flings a tyre in her general direction and a nuisance dog that woofs loudly on her way to work as a chambermaid. Yes things really get that “scaremongus”.

Overall, LEP2 feels distinctly less like The Exorcist or any of the slew of imitators and is more reminiscent of Carnival of Souls where poor, doomed Candace Hilligoss wanders seemingly out of step with the world around her while menaced by sinister dark forces. But whereas Herk Harvey’s 1962 masterpiece had atmosphere in abundance, Last Exorcism Part II feels bland, contrived and ultimately does little to create any emotional empathy for its tortured female protagonist.

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The two things I dislike most about this movie are:

1) It might actually play quite well to some God fearing Americans, somewhere in the Bible Belt who may or may not believe in the efficacy of exorcisms and their own ability and need to perform one on a family member, friend or pet animal

2) The anti-climactic finale where Nell is transmogrified into a possessed Carrie clone while simultaneously paving the way presumably for The Last Exorcism Part 3. Yet another sequel in this franchise? Now that is a truly ridiculous and actually quite frightening proposition.

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Last Exorcism: Part II is out on Monday, 30th September

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Creepozoids – A terror of apocalyptic proportions

 

 

 

 

Brendan Patterson has been condemned to life on Earth, taken away and  force fed video disasters. I’m not sure he’s liked anything he’s been given to watch, but his take downs are always amusing and once again he’s not disappointed. 

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Back in the olden days, in a time called the 1980’s, the then modern phenomena of direct to video movies and pre-Perestroika Cold War paranoia, resulted in some remarkably terrible films. Cheap and cheerful, post-nuclear dystopian hell flicks were plentiful for home rental fun and one of the very worst examples of the genre, as according to me, is Creepozoids – a film of truly staggering awfulness.

The decision to re-release Creepozoids on DVD in the 21st century is a curious decision at best. This particular effort ‘plopped out’ the creative crevice of Charles Band‘s Full Moon Productions in 1987, a movie house not exactly renowned for it’s consistent commitment to quality. Creepozoids intentionally does nothing to alter that reputation, cheerfully regurgitating as it does, most of what’s cliched and really horrid of its particular type and form.

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The classic VHS cover

Cue near apocalyptic future setting following East-West nuclear holocaust. Check!

Cue unlikely, ragtag gang of survivors. Check!

Cue discovery of a spooky, abandoned military complex. Check!

Cue contrived decision to set-up home there despite the presence of horribly mutilated corpses. Check!

Cue discovery of a secret military conspiracy. Check!

Cue cast being killed by genetically mutated but unconvincing creatures. Check!

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Ahhhhh! Terrifying!!!

For the sake of balance, it is worth mentioning that Creepozoids does bring its own creative flourishes to the threadbare narrative. Typically these include: a man in a large rubber alien suit with wobbly tusks, large rodent puppets, a character who spews black goo over the breakfast table while simultaneously wiggling a weird prosthetic hand and an unforgettable animatronic slimy mutant baby that goes toe to toe with fully grown man in the film’s finale. That’s not to suggest that any of this is actually any good though.

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Unquestionably the marketing hook of Creepozoids and dare I say it, realistically its only real reason to exist is the presence of scream queen Linnea Quigley‘s breasts. For connoisseurs of their work it must be said, however, that Creepozoids does not represent their greatest performance on the silver screen. In my book their career highlight is their unforgettable jiggling antics in Return of the Living Dead. Closely followed by their bravura, against type surrealist lipstick absorbing turn in Night of the Demons.

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The original VHS packaging of Creepozoids relied heavily on the presence of Ms Quigley and her exposed assists. In the film they’re on screen for approximately 54 seconds by my stopwatch (yes I timed it!) and are crowbarred into proceedings by the presence of a fully operational shower (surely a must for any spooky military complex), a love interest / fuck buddy with an Elvis quiff and the unforgettable line “you’re going to come and lather up my backside!”.

Creepozoids is intensely crusty entertainment. The latest release from 88 Films does a good job as far as is possible with the source material, reissuing it in a neatly presented package. In fact, I’d go so far to say that it’s probably the best ever version of Creepozoids that’s likely to ever have reason to exist. There’s also a fun trailer on the disk, which features an incredible and completely nonsensical boast: Creepozoids! Even if you kill them, they’re still deadly!

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You will not win!

For the record and in the interests of at least trying to do a good job, I watched Creepozoids three times in order to write this. Once sober. Again while drunk and then again while sober. I may have watched Creepozoids more times than anyone in London, possibly even the world and I can say hand on heart, it’s total shit.

In conclusion then, Creepozoids, a film so bad it’s very, very bad. I mean it’s really bad. Yes it’s really, really that awful. My recommendation? Go watch instead at least that has Klaus Kinksi in it for about five minutes sleepwalking his way to collecting a paycheck and despite him being a very evil man indeed. But that’s another story….

His Puppet Master’s Voice


Lets get one thing straight. If you’ve been waiting for the definitive version of Puppet Master; if you’ve had periods in life, or sleepless nights where you’ve asked yourself: “When will an improved version of the first instalment in the Puppet Master franchise be made publicly available? In high definition and struck from the original 35mm print with DTS HD master audio?” then your wait is over.

For regular folk, or those who were born after 1990 and are perhaps unfamiliar with the early work of Charles Band, then the materialization of a new Puppet Master Blu-ray from 88 Films may not exactly set the pulse racing. Simply put, it’s the best ever version of a not exactly great film.

The plot synopsis can be summarized as follows: a group of psychics gather in an abandoned hotel where they are executed, one by one, by supernaturally possessed puppets.

Said psychics include Paul Le Mat – he has big 80’s hair, a chubby face with slightly confused expression and reoccurring nightmares of slugs appearing on his guts and eating him.

Irene Miracle is a fairground fortune teller with the unwavering knack of foreseeing violent death (Nb. she tells the fortune of Barbara Crampton who does not for once expose her considerable assets in this film).

And then there’s Matt Roe and Kathryn O’Reilly;two sexy scientists who do – ahem – psychic sex research experiments. Worth mentioning is that Matt Roe has a balding head and a ponytail and still this does not seem to put his missus off when it comes to the sex research stuff. Interesting …

All four are friends and are reunited when a mutual acquaintance invites them to traipse over to the Bodega Bay Inn to be slaughtered by marionettes, who as you might guess, are the real stars of a movie called “Puppet Master”.

Each puppet has a different special attribute, deployed with varying degrees of aplombwhen it comes to bumping off the largely unsympathetic cast. Ms. Leech regurgitates leeches, Blade has blades on his hands, Tunneler has a revolving drill-bit on the top of his head, Pin Head endowed with disproportionately big fists and finally, Jester has a sinister, revolving face and is arguably a bit shit.

What is striking about watching Puppet Master today, some twenty years plus since it fist arrived on VHS under the Full Moon label, is just how slow placed the bloody thing is. It takes an eternity to get going. There are endless dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream sequences that cripple the film’s pacing.

Also there’s the gore. It now looks terribly restrained and not very well executed, despite what other reviewers claim on the interweb and elsewhere.

This seems all the more surprising considering Charles Band’s (Puppet Master’s producer, co-writer etc. etc. etc.) former association with Empire Movies and the no-holds barred, Grand Guignol of ReAnimator and From Beyond.

But then again, thinking about it, maybeit’s not entirely unsurprising considering the flood of sewage Charles would release unbidden on home VHS throughout the 90s and beyond (Meridian anyone?) courtesy of Full Moon Entertainment.

To my jaded eyes Puppet Master isn’t all bad news though. What I did rate was Sergio Salvati’s cinematography, which holds up remarkably well, channeling the best of his collaboration with Lucio Fulci and some of the baroque “dreamy” stuff he created in those films, in amongst characters having their brains drilled out and what not.

Also, the puppet Blade looks like Klaus Kinski, who I like. I really like in fact.

And there’s also a high content of sex in Puppet Master (which I don’t mind), to be expected perhaps considering the presence of the aforementioned sex scientist characters. Examples include some heaving breasts on display along with a soft core, non-erotic bondage sex scene, and a random moment where a woman pleasures herself in the bath and so on.

Overall, if you’ve an interest in puppets and/or dolls of any description you may like this film. Also, Puppet Master does hold a place in the pantheon of 80’s slasher movies, albeit a minor one. For my money though, the best of all scary puppet movies remains Dead of Night, even though it contains nothing as disturbing as Matt Roe’s ponytail.

Editor: This arrived in the in box with the following disclaimer – despite what I’ve written I did actually enjoy catching up with it again (probably for all the wrong reasons) – One, which, I happen to totally agree with.

Puppet Master is available now from 88Films, who are currently working their way through Full Moon’s catalogue.