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Archive for the ‘Monster’ Category

Mimic 3: Sentinel

Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

Neither MIMIC or MIMIC 2 seemed to go over all that well, but that didn’t stop Dimension Films from releasing MIMIC 3: SENTINEL in 2003. This is probly my favorite of the three, and at the very least it deserves high marks for taking advantage of the pre-sold nature of the format to take a weird left turn, not at all the lower-budget-rehash approach of so many DTV sequels. It follows a drastically different template: the Hitchcockian voyeur thriller. It even uses a quasi-Saul Bass movie poster font for the title. But it doesn’t feel like they took an old suspense thriller script and grafted a bug man onto it, because it ties into and builds off of the world of MIMIC in smart and interesting ways.

This one is written and directed by J.T. Petty, whose THE BURROWERS I’ve been meaning to check out forever. He also did SOFT FOR DIGGING (a $5,000 student feature that I believe got him this gig), S&MANand HELLBENDERS. Here he’s made a movie that kind of feels like it comes out of the same school as early Soderbergh or Nolan – the hyper-intelligent indie guys that were more into old noirs than drive-in movies. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mimic 2

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

One thing we’ve learned from sci-fi and horror films is that monsters and weird things find ways to survive, to evolve, to adapt, to keep coming back. It was true in the case of the Judas Breed, a bug genetically engineered by Dr. Susan Tyler to be a sellout traitor that kills off the diseased roaches of the Manhattan sewers and then dies out, that instead managed to squirt out tens of thousands of generations in a couple years and evolve into a six foot termite-mantis that can mimic the shape of a human to survive on the streets. It was also the case with the MIMIC movie series itself. Guillermo Del Toro and the Miramax marketing department created an identifiable enough brand, the Weinsteins or somebody okayed a direct-to-video sequel, and with a third of the budget and no need to attract box office I suspect it was able to be hatched with less of their scrutiny and meddling. While MIMIC is an interesting movie that doesn’t entirely deliver as slick mainstream entertainment, its sequels are in a good position to exceed expectations. They’re better than you fear and different than you expect, thus fulfilling the potential of the DTV sequel format. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mimic

Monday, November 23rd, 2020

It really didn’t occur to me, when I decided to finally rewatch MIMIC, that it was a movie about a pandemic. One of the main characters is the deputy director of the CDC! But it’s not at all similar to the pandemic we’re currently in – “Strickler’s Disease” seems to only affect children, putting them in comas. Because it’s spread by cockroaches, aforementioned CDC guy Dr. Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam, THE NET, AMISTAD, THE INVASION) recruits a brilliant entomologist, Dr. Susan Tyler (then-recent Oscar winner Mira Sorvino, between ROMY AND MICHELE’S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION and THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS), who comes up with a novel plan: she genetically engineers a new bug called the “Judas Breed” that infiltrates cockroach colonies and pukes up a bunch of enzymes that increase their metabolism so they starve to death. Give the roaches a disease to stop them from giving us one.

Three years later, Strickler’s disease has been wiped out, the two doctors are married, and everything seems fine, except weird shit is happening under Manhattan. A mysterious vagrant type guy drags a priest underground, and only an autistic kid named Chuy (Alexander Goodwin) witnesses it. Chuy’s guardian Manny (Giancarlo Giannini, BLACK BELLY OF THE TARANTULA) is a shoe shiner, so the kid has become affixed on people’s footwear, and for some reason he calls this attacker “Mr. Funny Shoes.” I don’t know why, but that’s one of my favorite details in the movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

Uncaged

Thursday, October 8th, 2020

My friends, we have not only come to the conclusion of my exploration of the films of Dick Maas, but the culmination. His first film THE LIFT showed me that the Dutch writer/director has a strong shooting style, a taste for deadpan absurdity, and a knack for quirky character detail. AMSTERDAMNED applies that to a more ambitious I-can’t-believe-I’m-seeing-this story (action-packed scuba slasher), and even his 2001 American THE LIFT remake DOWN is trashy, audacious fun. (I also checked out his Halloween episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, which you can read about on Patreon if you’re interested.) Some joy was dampened by the amount of screen time spent on dull procedural business in the ’80s ones, but I liked them all. I’m a fan now.

Let me bring up a completely unrelated director for a second. When I reviewed EXTREME JUSTICE recently I wrote about how Mark L. Lester doesn’t get enough credit for having directed CLASS OF 1984, FIRESTARTER, COMMANDO and SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO. And yet I (rightly or not) have little faith that Lester’s 21st century movies like PTERODACTYL, POSEIDON REX or DRAGONS OF CAMELOT would be worth watching, because I assume they’re not coming from the same place. I had similar feelings when I heard that Maas made a killer lion movie in 2016.

But – holy shit! Maas’ most recent movie – which I found as UNCAGED on Shudder, but it has apparently also been released as PREY – is a new instant favorite. It has most of what I loved about his other films, but way more of it. It’s loaded with quirky characters (both the leads and incidentals) who say and do funny things within the context of a story that is knowingly ridiculous but unashamed to take itself seriously. And unlike those other ones it never slows down for long because it has a high, unforgiving body count and provocatively over-the-top gore to attend to. UNCAGED is a total blast.

(Thank you Martijn for trying to tell me in the comments for THE LIFT. You were right!) (read the rest of this shit…)

Godzilla 1985

Monday, August 31st, 2020

August 23, 1985

“Godzilla. I was hoping I’d never hear that name again.”

Near the conclusion of the Summer of 1985 – a movie season that attempted to bring back James Bond, the Vietnam War, pirates, Dorothy Gale, Clint Eastwood westerns, Mad Max, Walt Disney animation, the Griswolds, Dr. Frankenstein and two different types of Living Dead – America welcomed back a very large visitor from overseas. Godzilla had not had a movie since THE TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA in 1975, so this is about the same as the gap between REVENGE OF THE SITH and THE FORCE AWAKENS, and it was a similar case of a younger generation being entrusted with reinventing and continuing an iconic series for modern audiences. Original producer/creator Tomoyuki Tanaka was still in charge, but director Koji Hashimoto (SAYONARA JUPITER) and writer Shuichi Nagahara (STRAY CAT ROCK: DELINQUENT GIRL BOSS) were both teenagers when the first film came out. (Hashimoto got his start as an assistant director on Toho movies in the ‘60s, including GODZILLA sequels).

This one ignores all the previous sequels. There’s no Mothra, no Minya, no Monster Island, only the events of 1954’s GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS, so in that sense it’s less FORCE AWAKENS and more David Gordon Green’s HALLOWEEN. It was made for the 30th anniversary, so think about the films of 1990. In terms of time, if not cultural relevance, it’s like if this summer had a big new event sequel to TREMORS or DARKMAN, I guess? Or, to put it another way – GODZILLA 1985 is five years older today than the original GODZILLA was at the time. Shit. (read the rest of this shit…)

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…)