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….

Excision – Like John Hughes, but with added blood and sex

Excision has been getting a fair bit of buzz lately, even opening Film4 Fright Fest’s upcoming Halloween all nighter. But, is this just another whiny teenager? Or a genuinely twisted kid, the kid we all like… 

I have an increasingly short tolerance with teen angst movies. The all too familiar genre conventions like first love, rebellion,alienation and conflict with non-understanding but ultimately sympathetic parental figures are just too, well, too damned familiar for a 35 year-old curmudgeon such as myself.

For the record, my facial hair is turning grey, my eyebrows are becoming absurd and what I now laughingly refer to as my hair pattern,is hell bent on outlining the shape of a baboon’s anus on the back of my dome. Life gets even tougher kids. Try that for angst. I’ve got plenty.

Fortunately, Richard Bates Jnr’s debut movie, Excision, mines a far darker vein of American teenage life than the safe adolescent anxieties of your average John Hughes (RIP) Breakfast Club type-picture.

Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord) is a teenage outcast somewhere in the ultra-conservative, ultra-white, middle class suburbs. But Pauline is no ordinary teenage misfit. No. Pauline has a morbid interest in surgery, she likes dissecting road kill and is prone to occasional, high-resolution, torture porn infused fantasies involving copious blood letting and necrophilia.

By my estimation Pauline is basically a sadistic little pervert, but she is also a compelling, funny and sympathetic female lead (who just happens to be a depraved pervert). That’s not a contradiction readers.

Well it is sort of.

Enter Pauline’s sister and closest friend: Grace (Ariel Winter). She has cystic fibrosis and isn’t long for this Earth. Through a misguided desire to help Grace and no less misguided belief in her own talents for surgery, Pauline hatches a plan to reconcile herself with her estranged mother Phylis (Traci Lords), albeit with suitably apocalyptic consequences.

If you’ve seen Todd Solondz’s Happiness or Welcome to the Dollhouse then the milieu of Excision will be a familiar one. It delivers the same sort of punishing take on suburban dysfunction, sinister human neurosis and psychopathology with blacker than pitch humour.

Casting former teenage porn legend Traci Lords as the domineering, Bible-thumping matriarch is, however, a subversive master stroke. Excision also further underlines its seditious agenda with a cameo from John Waters as William the church counsellor and pillar of the local community.

The closing act of Excision makes for some pretty tough viewing and from the extensive research I conducted online before writing this, seemingly its gruesome nature had some weaker souls cowering beneath their seats at its Sundance film festival premier.

Given that a happy ending is not to be expected (sorry), the climax of Excision still delivers a genuine revelation and arguably lifts the movie above expectations or comparisons with directors of a similar ilk. I’m not (totally) giving the plot away but a scene, which is horrific, really, really horrible in fact, suddenly shifts into a starling moment of emotional acceptance and closure, but to the sounds of full blooded screams.

Excision receives its London preview screenings at Film4 Fright Fest’s Halloween All nighter tour with a theatrical release at the Prince Charles Cinema from October 28th with DVD and Blu-ray releases slated for later in November. I’d recommend that you don’t wait for it to hit the shops but go see it on the big screen if and while you can. I guarantee that Excision will not give you reason to leave the cinema with a smile on your face, but it packs an undeniable punch and ups the ante in a way that Sixteen Candles never did.

Tangled in the tentacles of Monstro!

Grumpy Mr. Patterson has a wander along the beach with the rock n roll wenches from hell who take on the mythical Kraken in Monstro, but do the tentacles grab him?

Monster Pictures – DVD Release Date October 22nd

It’s just a shame that acclaimed French cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard is dead. I’ve got a feeling that he would have enjoyed Monstro! That’s not to say that it is an astounding film, or exhibits any special, highfalutin qualities as a work of art or anything. Come to think of it, I have no idea what JB’s taste in entertainment was during his lifetime. It could have been anything for all I know.

But regardless, Stuart Simpson’s debut indie horror flick is so heavy on the pastiche, so deliberately engaged in over the top campiness and hyper-real caricatures, that I like to imagine that everyone’s favourite Gallic poststructuralist would have had a thing or two to say about it.

Monstro!’s grindhouse influences are written large from the outset, when we are introduced to three buxom femme fatales: Beretta, Blondie and Snowball. As it transpires they like nothing more than “jiggling about” and “whooping it up” to rockabilly music, killing dimwitted men and going to the seaside in their classic roadster.

They do like to be beside the seaside, they do like to be beside the sea, as here they can play rounds of Gin Rummy with beers and fags and jump in the sea for a paddle and more bouts of “whooping it up”.

Unfortunately, splashing around in shallow water is a plot contrivance that inevitably triggers the interest of that multi tentacled, murderous sea beast: the Kraken. Obvious comparisons to 50’s creature features are invited at this juncture, as are references to Jaws and any number of its imitators.

I don’t think it was a conscious decision in Stuart Simpson’s semi logical interplay of movie references (how’s that for pretentious? I bet you enjoyed it!) but for me the strongest moment of intertextuality (there I go again) in Monstro! was delivered by the presence of one Norman Yemm.

Here he plays a grizzled, wheelchair bound sea dog called Joseph, but to anyone familiar with 1980’s UK terrestrial TV scheduling, Norman is the unforgettable face of “Norman Baker” from the Sullivans.

The Sullivans was the lens through which I first observed and came to understand antipodean culture. That it was all set in “olden days”, lacking as they did modern technology or consumer items. A really miserable place in fact, that induced feelings of depression, due in no short part to the fact that they were locked forever in an eternal conflict with the Axis-powers. A bit like a Mobius loop or something. But I digress …

Norman and his granddaughter, Hannah, are forced into an unlikely alliance with our all girl gang when collectively they are forced to do battle with the Kraken.While more exciting than an episode of the Sullivans, the denouement (another one for you) of Monstro! is not completely satisfying to a miserable “genre enthusiast” such as myself.

It seems churlish to criticize a micro-budget movie for it’s lack of technical excellence, but the mise-en-scene (yeah, you heard) doesn’t look good. The monster effects are extremely hokey, the coastal setting looks blustery, dark and cold and putting on my misogynist hat for a second, the female cast when bikini clad are equally unappetizing.

By my estimations though, why Monstro! doesn’t quite deliver against the very best of Oz-sploitation movies is that it’s too derivative of it’s source materials. It’s too self-conscious in doffing its cap and delivering a deferential nod to the ghost of Russ Meyer or the influence of the despicable Death Proof. Overall, think less Bad Taste or Evil Dead and more a Dead Next Door as the caliber of this new entry in the horror canon.

It’s not all bad news, however, Monstro! punches well above its weight for a film shot in roughly 15 days. Stuart Simpson and co.’s love for their genre landmarks is palpable and the treatment of this release from Monster Pictures is best in class.

Jean Baudrillard never went on record on whether or not he liked monster movies or burlesque, psychotic lesbians in his choice of DVDs. Sadly, whether Monstro! Would be at the top of his rental list or not, is something we will simply never know the answer to. But I think there’s a fair chance it would be.

The charming Monstro is out on the 22nd of October and you can pick it up here

The Day Time Ended, is around the corner.

CB hero, Brendan Patterson is back with a look at The Day Time Ended from 88 Films‘ Grindhouse Collection.

The Future is bleak

Have you ever wondered where would you go and what would you do if you could travel through the space-time continuum?

I have.

I like to imagine that I would travel from Finsbury Park area of London to the Mojave Desert, California in the year 1979 and stop the production of The Day Time Ended.

The mind boggles at what consequences this could reap on our present day reality. In Ray Bradbury’s short story, A Sound of Thunder, a time traveller only very accidentally treads on a twig or something and ends up coming back to a modern day world that is well and truly fucked.

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A move as ballsy as putting a B picture out of commission could only have even greater, more calamitous repercussions, but somehow in the case of The Day Time Ended, I can’t help but feel it would be worth the risk.

This bargain basement Sci-Fi opus was an early production by one Charles Band (uh oh) and gives proof positive to the fact that you can’t re-create Close Encounters of the Third Kind without either a serviceable script or substantial effects budget.

In a nutshell the wafer thin plot is as follows:

Opening scene and we are somewhere in the depths of the cosmos. Out of nowhere a disembodied voice, that we will later learn belongs to Grant Williams (Jim Davis), blurts out that time as we know and understand it is non-sequential (!). In fact everything exists in a continuum and just to put the tin hat on it, he doesn’t know where he is or what century it is any more. Blah, blah, blah (hope you’re still with me).

From there we backtrack to the Williams family’s beige, solar powered ranch in the middle of the desert circa 1979. Their domestic idyll is inexplicably shattered one evening when Grant and his aged but MILF-like wife Ana (Dorothy Malone) witness a low flying UFO during their night time walk (in dressing gowns).

This is an early sign that their home is in the process of being sucked into a space/time vortex (!) and for the next 80 minutes or so the Williams clan will be subjected to all manner of “weird shit”.

At first this is all relatively low key i.e. flashing lights in the sky and mysterious green gas that wafts under the bedroom door of their granddaughter, leading to the appearance of a miniature, cavorting gremloid (my terminology). Like I said low key.

By the 60-minute mark, however, the proverbial shit has well and truly hit the space-time continuum fan as giant stop-motion monsters do battle in the Williams’ front yard. Later, Grant wanders out to see what’s going on and observes that the place has now been covered in cheap matte shots of dune buggies and other futuristic tat, etc., etc.

Watching, let alone trying to write something coherent about this movie is tough. The Day Time Ended basically makes little or no sense whatsoever and the closing act is almost as if the filmmakers said “well sod it then”.

Maybe, just maybe you could say that its open-ended narrative prefigures Prometheus by leaving so much unanswered and inviting viewers to ruminate on the bigger questions of existence. A more honest assessment would be that it’s nothing of the sort. Rather the last of the budget had been spunked on some special effect shots of futuristic bio-domes and it was time to call it a day – The Day the Budget Ended if you will.

What is most interesting about The Day Time Ended and the best reason for this new release from 88 Films, are the plentiful stop animation sequences. While not in the same superlative league as Ray Harryhausen, the work on display by Dave Allen, who would later receive some acclaim for Batteries Not Included, is chintzy and fun.

Also The Day Time Ended affords viewers the opportunity to witness the mega acting talents of the former Mrs. Shatner (Marcy Lafferty) and the son of Robert Mitchum, Christopher, who turns up in a pretty superfluous errant father role.

The Day Time Ended is not a film that I’ll be revisiting anytime soon, but maybe, just maybe if Grant Williams was right and we experience everything, past present and future simultaneously, then it’s not something I really have to worry about anyway.
Somewhere out in space-time I am still watching this cheesy film. Forever. For all time. What a frightening thought.

The Day Time Ended is out now – I’ll be honest, it sounds like a fantastic mess to me, not one to be missed.