"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Archive for the ‘Monster’ Category

Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

As much as I enjoyed the first two Detective Dee pictures (MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME and RISE OF THE SEA DRAGON), the third one, DETECTIVE DEE: THE FOUR HEAVENLY KINGS, far surpasses them. It has the same kind of fun characters and storytelling, but the FX and design are much improved, it has more action and spectacle, and it’s more packed full of weird factions and creatures with cool costumes and gimmicky weapons, often elegantly gliding around on wires. It’s a total blast.

They’ve dropped the “Young” from the title, even though it’s continuing the prequel story starring Mark Chao. I guess the moment he gets his rank and trademark weapon he becomes a man. That’s where it starts: the end of RISE OF THE SEA DRAGON, with our hero receiving the Dragon-Taming Mace and the duty to keep the imperial court in check, at which point Empress Wu (Carina Lau, PROJECT A PART II, the only actor in all three movies) conspires to have the mace stolen from him. This is one thing I love in period martial arts movies: when a specific weapon is treated with reverence, even though it’s just a piece of metal, not some doomsday device. There turns out to be a really good explanation for why she needs to get it away from him, but it wouldn’t matter to me if there wasn’t. All I need is that it’s a legendary badass weapon like the Green Destiny Sword, so they can’t let him have it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon

Monday, September 16th, 2019

Before Regular Age Detective Dee, it only stands to reason, there was Young Detective Dee. Three years after Tsui Hark’s crowd-pleasing supernatural action mystery blockbuster DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME he recast with Mark Chao (THE WARRIOR’S GATE) in place of Andy Lau and gave us a case from early in his career: YOUNG DETECTIVE DEE: RISE OF THE SEA DRAGON.

As the title implies, it starts with some kinda kraken. I have too much respect for you to make a pun out of that. But you can imagine one. Something attacks the Chinese navy, they think it’s a sea monster, so obviously

1) they’re gonna sacrifice Yin Ruiji (Angelababy, INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE) to the monster and

2) Empress Wu (returning Carina Lau, SHE SHOOTS STRAIGHT) threatens to execute Yuchi (Feng Shaofeng, THE MONKEY KING 2 and 3) if he doesn’t figure out who attacked the fleet in ten days. Kind of a tough boss. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mothra

Thursday, August 8th, 2019

After this summer’s fun-if-flawed GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS I must’ve been in need of some spiritual guidance because I was thinking I should look into worshipping Mothra. See what that whole thing was all about. And then, as if by divine intervention, a slick piece of Mothran propaganda – a nice new steelbook Blu-Ray of the original MOTHRA film from 1961- caught my eye. It’s an old school Toho kaiju movie with lots of goofy human shenanigans holding off the good stuff until later, but its imagery and strangeness warm my soul a little.

The structure seems lifted from KING KONG. An expedition to a mysterious island inhabited by strange creatures and primitive, drum-thumping natives brings something exotic back to the city to be exploited in a heavily hyped stage show, but these forces can’t (and shouldn’t) be contained, so this all leads to a giant creature attack on a city. (read the rest of this shit…)

Crawl

Monday, July 29th, 2019

Both the weakness and the strength of CRAWL is how simple and slight it is. On one hand, I felt like it was already dissipating from my brain by the time I got home. On the other hand it’s refreshing to see something that just gets in there and gets it done and says “okay, bye.” It’s a monster movie meets disaster movie – alligators attack a house during a hurricane – but it doesn’t fuck around with any before and after or unneeded explanations.

When Haley (Kaya Scodelario, CLASH OF THE TITANS) gets out of the opening credits swimming practice, the hurricane is already approaching. When she tracks down her not-answering-his-phone dad (Barry Pepper, THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA) in the crawlspace under her childhood home, he has already been bitten by a huge alligator. I think only one sentence of dialogue is spent on speculating how the gators got in there (later confirmed visually), and not one word on why they’re so big. It takes place over one day, it’s all over in 87 minutes and it concludes with a freeze frame. No wind-down, epilogue or sequel tease. That’ll do, pig. (read the rest of this shit…)

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Monday, June 10th, 2019

GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS is not the perfect American Godzilla movie of our dreams, nor is it one that takes a thrillingly new angle on giant monsters, like SHIN GODZILLA did in 2016. Honestly I expected to like it more than I did, being a devotee of director Michael Dougherty’s previous movie, KRAMPUS. (He’s also the guy who wrote X-MEN 2, URBAN LEGENDS: BLOOD MARY and SUPERMAN RETURNS, and then wrote and directed TRICK ‘R TREAT) But this is the first time an American version feels to me like it’s completely in the spirit of the Japanese films from Toho Studios, particularly the “Heisei period” from GODZILLA 1985 to GODZILLA VS. DESTOROYAH (1995), so we’re getting there. As a monster fan apparently more forgiving than some of my friends, I found plenty to love about it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Kung Fu Rascals

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

Hello, friends. This week I’m focusing on a pretty obscure topic: the films of Steve Wang. He’s a Taiwanese-American FX artist who worked on movies like PREDATOR, MONSTER SQUAD and GREMLINS 2, and in the ’90s he directed a few martial arts related b-movies. That makes him relevant to my interests. I remember Film Threat Magazine making a big deal about him back in the day, and writing about ’90s comic book movies inspired me to revisit his work. Yesterday we looked at GUYVER (1991), the manga-based monsterfest he co-directed with fellow makeup genius Screaming Mad George.

IMDb lists KUNG FU RASCALS as Wang’s second directorial work. According to this old interview, it was filmed right before GUYVER, mostly on weekends, over a period of about ten months, from fall of ’89 to the next summer. But post-production took place after GUYVER, thus the later video release as THE ADVENTURES OF THE KUNG FU RASCALS. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot

Monday, April 8th, 2019

THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT is not the wacky SHARKNADO type bullshit that the title may bring to mind, but instead an odd, humble little character piece about aging, regret, loneliness and sacrifice. Its greatest strength is that it stars Sam Elliott (or as I call him, The Man Who Mentored Dalton and then Fought The Hulk). He plays Calvin Barr, who many decades ago gave up the love of his life (Caitlin FitzGerald, Rectify) for an important WWII tracking, infiltration and assassination mission that he could never tell anyone about, and in his old age has failed to either feel good about what he did or find another purpose for his life. Its second greatest strength is that it attempts the daredevil feat of telling us that outlandish alternate history tale, following it with his being recruited to save the world by finding and killing a sasquatch, and not treating any of it as something to laugh at.

Who does that? And who pulls it off? In this case it’s a first time feature writer/director named Robert D. Krzykowski.  (read the rest of this shit…)

The Brain

Monday, December 24th, 2018

A Very Tape Raider Christmas

THE BRAIN is a 1988 sci-fi horror movie that takes place around Christmas time. That’s not an important part of the plot, but there are Christmas decorations at the beginning, “Jingle Bells” plays (and then ominously slows down) on a car radio, a pot of poinsettias gets shot by police during a chase scene, I noticed a sign in the school for a dance or something with the theme “Cosmic Christmas,” and there’s some snow on the ground. Also the movie itself is kind of a Christmas gift to me because it’s pretty good and its weird vibe and gooey special effects warmed my heart like I imagine a yule log would if I had ever experienced a yule log in person.

First and most important order of business is to assure you that the title and cover art are not misleading. Though it was made during the height of slasher sequels and shows a strong A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET influence, it is indeed a movie about, as the hero calls it, “that brain monster thing that’s killing everyone.” And they show it right at the beginning – a big slimy pulsating brain with a tentacle/spine hanging out like a tail, hooked up to some machines in a lab at the Psychological Research Institute (PRI). I think it was wise to establish that we’re dealing with arguably a goofy ’50s drive-in movie throwback before the first big scare sequence and not after. Pull that Band-Aid right off. (read the rest of this shit…)

Monsters: “Glim-Glim” and “A New Woman”

Thursday, December 20th, 2018

Do you remember the syndicated TV show Monsters that ran in the late ’80s? I don’t really either, but I do remember seeing commercials for it. It was a horror anthology series produced by Richard P. Rubinstein, the guy who co-founded Laurel Entertainment with George Romero and produced MARTIN, DAWN OF THE DEAD, KNIGHTRIDERS, CREEPSHOW and DAY OF THE DEAD. They also produced Tales From the Darkside together, and this was Rubinstein’s followup series minus Romero. As you can probly guess, the episodes center around different monsters. The credits boast having the legendary Dick Smith as a makeup consultant.

The show didn’t have any kind of host or wraparound at all, but the introduction shows a family of monsters watching TV together.

“Oh great, it’s Monsters! Our favorite show!” one of them says.

By human standards it would be pretty weird to have not seen a show you liked better than Monsters, but I can appreciate that there are many cultural differences and things that the monster community might pick up on in these stories that go right over my head.

Anyway, there were two Christmas-themed episodes. Glim-Glim, the 13th episode of the first season, was directed by Peter Stein (director of photography for FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2, C.H.U.D., PET SEMATARY and BRENDA STARR) and written by F. Paul Wilson (author of the novel that THE KEEP is based on). (read the rest of this shit…)

The Monster’s Christmas

Monday, December 17th, 2018

THE MONSTER’S CHRISTMAS is a holiday special that aired on New Zealand television in 1981. I’m going to be up front and admit that I don’t have a whole lot of insightful things to say about this one, but it’s so charmingly weird that I felt like I owed it to the world to write it up and share some screengrabs so more people can know it exists.

It opens with a slasher-style P.O.V. into a window, but otherwise it’s only scary in an accidental sort of way. An unnamed little girl (Lucy McGrath, whose only other credit is NEARLY NO CHRISTMAS, a 1983 special from the same director) reads a picture book to her teddy bear. It’s “The Monster’s Christmas by Burton Silver,” which is not a real book, but that is the name of the screenwriter.

Then she hears a clatter so she goes to the living room where the Christmas tree is and spots a big rubber blob monster guy. Smoke billows from a hole in his head. He has one wiggling antenna and one eye. Rings of weird Koosh-ball-like tendrils pulsate around the eye as tears or something drip out.

“Hey, you’re not Father Christmas!” the girl says.

(read the rest of this shit…)