"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Archive for the ‘Monster’ Category

Nope

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2022

I think the first time I noticed Jordan Peele was in the 2012 movie WANDERLUST. I thought he was really funny in that and then his Comedy Central show Key & Peele started and there were those Liam Neesons sketches and all that. Somehow 10 years later we mainly think of him as one of the most exciting working horror directors – he was even name dropped in the most recent SCREAM movie. Strange world we’re living in.

For me Jordan Peele film #3, NOPE, was one of the most anticipated movies of the summer, and not just because it would put an end to its trailer playing on every god damn movie I went to for several months. It’s pretty impressive that I was able to go see it and be surprised to find out what the overall story was and that some of the shots I had seen seemingly hundreds of time were not what I thought they were. To preserve that for you if you haven’t seen it I’ll talk about my general feelings about the movie and then I’ll warn you when I’m gonna get into it in more detail.

I love the first two Jordan Peele movies. Here’s my theory on them. Both have really original concepts and worlds, great acting performances, characters that are entertaining to watch, well executed ratcheting of tension and release, and elements of allegory that are fun to think about while watching and even moreso afterwards. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Mummy (1999)

Thursday, June 16th, 2022

I have a well-earned reputation for being easy on movies. My friends will see some highly anticipated movie at a critic’s screening and be grumbling about how much they hated it, and then they’ll turn to me and say, “You’ll probly like it though.” My list of movies everybody says sucks that I enjoy is way longer than most people’s. My wife seems to think I’m some kind of bad movie Jesus being kind to the cinematic lepers. Especially with new releases people often accuse me of having low or no standards.

But there are a handful of popular blockbusters from the ‘90s that I hated at the time and have not turned around on. Most of them were big hits, then fell out of favor for years so I could breathe a sigh of relief, but then when the people who were kids when they came out grew nostalgic suddenly they were claimed as classics again. Of those, Stephen Sommers’ THE MUMMY is the one I get the most shit about any time I mention it. It comes up on Twitter every once in a while and I get a wave of people not believing their eyes. It doesn’t compute for them that someone doesn’t think that movie is one of the greats. More than once I’ve made the mistake of trying to go a little Rowdy Roddy Piper and lean into shit talking about it. People start to seem genuinely mad, so sometimes I back down and admit that I haven’t seen it since opening day and even though I think Sommers has continued to be a director of lunkheaded, formless movies with terrible visual design and seemingly unfinished digital effects despite enormous budgets, I did get a kick out of all that in VAN HELSING and G.I. JOE: RISE OF COBRA. So maybe I could soften to him.

Now I have a new problem, though. I finally did it. I went and watched the movie again, in the modern year of 2022. I tried to like it. I might be able to say there’s more of it I like than the other ‘90s blockbusters I hate. But I can’t say I turned around on it. So welcome, Mummy fans, to the latest annoying chapter of what I suppose I should start calling Vern Never Learns.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Morbius

Thursday, April 7th, 2022

MORBIUS is a movie I have been semi-anticipating. Not because I expected it to be particularly good, but because I have an interest in these sort of misbegotten wannabe blockbusters that seem already rejected by the public by the time it’s too late for the studio to turn back. I’m talking about movies that are the kind of pulpy lowbrow crap I enjoy, but seem somewhat misguided or clueless about what the public wants in such a movie, and therefore might do something kind of interesting. I think of them as big budget b-movies, as discussed in my review for SNAKE EYES: G.I. JOE ORIGINS. Although I waited for video on that one I tend to see them at sparsely attended matinees – that’s what I did for STEALTH, KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD, HERCULES, ROBIN HOOD and THE LAST WITCH HUNTER.

I did kind of enjoy this thing, but I think I got more out of all of the above mentioned movies. This one’s officially a part of Sony’s In Association With Marvel Cinematic Universe with VENOM and VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE, and I think it’s a little less clunky than those on a narrative level, but not as good because it lacks the magic of Tom Hardy having a blast playing two bickering characters inhabiting one shapeshifting body. It does have the novelty of an Academy Award winning weirdo serious actor (Jared Leto, URBAN LEGEND) who’s usually in a supporting role trying to carry a questionable mainstream franchise on his shoulders. (read the rest of this shit…)

Gamera, the Giant Monster

Monday, March 28th, 2022

In 1965, when King of the Monsters Godzilla had already starred in five movies and battled Anguirus, King Kong, Mothra, King Ghidorah and Rodan, a new kaiju hit the scene, a fella by the name of GAMERA, THE GIANT MONSTER. I respect Godzilla, and I concede that he beat Gamera to waking up in the 20th century, and to starring in movies. But we’re told in this movie that Gamera is from Atlantis, and though I’m no historian I’m pretty sure that means he was around before whichever dinosaur era the puny pre-radiation Godzilla came up in. Gamera is the O.G. He’s just a late bloomer.

The Gamera movies were created by Daiei, the studio founded in 1942 that produced Akira Kurosawa’s RASHOMON, Kenji Mizoguchi’s UGETSU and SANSHO THE BAILIFF, and also the Zatoichi, Yokai Monsters and Daimajin series. This one was clearly made to compete with or cash in on Toho’s popular Godzilla series, but that’s odd because it’s a black and white movie where one monster is awakened and attacks Tokyo, not another monster. By this point Godzilla had done three color films and had been fighting other monsters for a decade. And it wasn’t as if most films were black and white then – Daiei’s own Zatoichi movies had switched to color. Was this made for people nostalgic for the original GOJIRA (which was eleven years in the past at that point)? Were they trying to make sure the world had a movie like GOJIRA but not a total bummer inspired by the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima? And is doing that kind of like how KONG: SKULL ISLAND mimics all your favorite Vietnam War movies without all the horrors-of-the-Vietnam-War darkness? Uh, not really. They were just trying to save money. More on that later. (read the rest of this shit…)

Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV

Wednesday, March 9th, 2022

After the one-two punch of THE TOXIC AVENGER PART II and THE TOXIC AVENGER PART III: THE LAST TEMPTATION OF TOXIE in 1989, the live action Toxic Avenger sat out the entire 1990s. He missed grunge, the rise and fall of Death Row Records, Hypercolor shirts, everything. During that time Lloyd Kaufman oversaw The Toxic Crusaders cartoon, went to court with New Line Cinema, and directed three non-Toxic movies: SGT. KABUKIMAN N.Y.P.D. (1990), TROMEO AND JULIET (1996) and TERROR FIRMER (1998).

By now Troma had become some sort of institution, with a younger generation working for them for little or no pay because they grew up on the movies. It was also a harder time to create humor more tasteless than what was popular. Kids had seen Tom Green pretend to hump a dead moose on cable, the whole world had been charmed by Cameron Diaz with semen in her hair, and Jackass started airing a month before CITIZEN TOXIE came out. In 1996 Troma had given a limited release to a 1993 indie called ALFRED PACKER: THE MUSICAL (retitled CANNIBAL! THE MUSICAL) by young filmmakers Trey Parker & Matt Stone. The following year, Parker & Stone’s South Park started on Comedy Central and became a pop culture phenomenon. It was during South Park season 4, while the two Troma-boys-made-big were being canonized as the edgy provocateurs and envelope-pushing satirists of their era, that the fourth TOXIC AVENGER movie finally hit the screen. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2022

“I don’t have a life. I have a half life!”


I’ve discussed in the previous TOXIC AVENGER reviews how I watched THE TOXIC AVENGER and THE TOXIC AVENGER PART II over and over again in my teenage years and that they helped form my weirdo sensibilities. I remember that all very vividly. The part I did not remember is that THE TOXIC AVENGER PART III: THE LAST TEMPTATION OF TOXIE came out the same year as part II! It doesn’t seem that close together in my memories. I guess time passes slower in the mind of a high schooler.

I did not like this one as much, so I didn’t watch it as many times, and all I remembered was thinking it was funny that he gets to fight and kill the Devil. Many of our great franchises such as ROCKY and THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS have not yet been able to face off with Satan. Toxie already got to do it in part III. Good for him. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Toxic Avenger Part II

Monday, February 28th, 2022

THE TOXIC AVENGER didn’t catch on right away. Troma had trouble finding many takers, but the Bleecker Street Cinema in Greenwich Village showed it as a midnight movie and it was so successful they ran it for more than a year. This secured a cult reputation that helped it become an actual hit on video. But according to the book All I Need To Know About FILMMAKING I Learned From THE TOXIC AVENGER by Lloyd Kaufman and James Gunn, Kaufman never really considered a sequel until a misinformed buyer approached him at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival to secure the German rights to the sequel and he just went along with it.

(Like most of that book I suspect that story is exaggerated, but we know at least that they didn’t rush one into production. In Prince terms, part I is the year of PURPLE RAIN, part II the year of BATMAN. Entirely different eras.)

THE TOXIC AVENGER PART II (1989) picks up where THE TOXIC AVENGER left off, sort of, with the city of Tromaville now peaceful and happy thanks to the Toxic Avenger’s crime fighting. Melvin now has the last name Junko instead of Ferd (no explanation), is nicknamed “Toxie,” and is both played and voiced by Ron Fazio (BASKET CASE 2), except in some scenes where he’s played by John Altamura (“Muscle Man,” YOUNG NURSES IN LOVE) before he was fired for allegedly being a pain in the ass. Toxie’s blind girlfriend Sara is now named Claire (also no explanation) and is played by another musician, Phoebe Legere (MONDO NEW YORK, KING OF NEW YORK). In narration, Toxie explains how he became a “hideously deformed monster hero of super human size and strength” and that the people of Tromaville now enjoy “dancing in the streets, tattooing, manufacturing orange juice, exterminating vermin (this is literally referring to cockroaches and stuff, not Toxie stuffing mops in people’s faces), and watching excellent movies,” which of course is illustrated by a marquee saying “TROMA FILM FESTIVAL,” even though they presumably live in a world where Troma’s best movie does not exist. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Toxic Avenger

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2022

THE TOXIC AVENGER (1984) is a classic of ‘80s smartass b-movies – the ones that carried the drive-in exploitation model of boobs and blood into the VHS era, but did it with a wink. It was directed by Michael Herz & Lloyd Kaufman, founders of Troma Entertainment. Kaufman had been peripherally involved with respected ‘70s classics including ROCKY, SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and MY DINNER WITH ANDRE, but as a filmmaker and distributor he specialized in sex comedies (SQUEEZE PLAY, STUCK ON YOU!, THE FIRST TURN-ON!!) with the occasional horror movie (SILENT NIGHT BLOODY NIGHT, MOTHER’S DAY). But when he combined a little bit of those genres with super hero action he came up with a cult classic, a video hit, a figurehead for the studio, and a house style that he and other low budget smartasses would try to duplicate for decades with – according to my calculations – mostly poor results.

It’s a movie that’s crude in every meaning of the word, it’s in very poor taste, it also makes me laugh quite a bit, and it’s so dorky it feels kind of sweet and well-meaning, despite all kinds of ignorant jokes and requiring a “WARNING: THE TOXIC AVENGER CONTAINS SCENES OF EXTREME VIOLENCE” disclaimer at the beginning. Or maybe that’s all nostalgia because I loved this movie so much growing up, after me and my friends somehow managed to rent a copy while we were in middle school. (I seem to remember it being in an adults only section.) We’d never seen DEATH RACE 2000 and didn’t have driver’s licenses, so we thought the bad guys purposely running over people for “points” was one of the funniest things we’d ever seen. (read the rest of this shit…)

Alligator II: The Mutation

Friday, July 16th, 2021

July 5, 1991

ALLIGATOR II: THE MUTATION is a surprisingly decent sequel – especially considering it was made for TV! It didn’t register as that when I was watching it (and there does seem to have been some sort of limited theatrical release), but an article that I found in my Fangoria collection while researching T2 quotes director Jon Hess (THE LAWLESS LAND, WATCHERS) as saying “more or less, it was made for ABC-TV.” Fangoria’s David Szulkin speculates that may be because “despite its nonperformance at the boxoffice, ALLIGATOR placed in the top 20 for network airings of theatrical films the year it first aired, outdoing such broadcast premieres as CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND.” But Hess maintained that returning producer Brandon Chase (THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER) was “a really strong independent producer, so ABC wasn’t looking over our shoulder, examining all the dailes. We shot on a very tight schedule with a feature sensibility, but at the same time, we knew we were going to hand the film in to ABC.”

Now that I think about it there’s not as much gore or especially sex as you would normally get in a ‘90s horror sequel, but like SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK earlier in the summer it has enough severed limbs to throw you off the TV movie scent. More importantly it has a real Larry Cohen sort of indie horror feel to the type of actors and characters that show up, giving it a personality that’s at least in the spirit of the original. (read the rest of this shit…)

Alligator

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

ALLIGATOR (1980) may not have knocked the world on its ass the way THE TERMINATOR did, but it’s another genre movie made by Roger Corman veterans in the ‘80s that holds up today. People often credit that to an allegedly satirical screenplay by John Sayles, who had already written the Corman classics PIRANHA and BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS and begun his indie auteur career with RETURN OF THE SEACAUCUS SEVEN. (He completely rewrote an earlier script by Frank Ray Perilli [THE DOBERMAN GANG, DRACULA’S DOG, LASERBLAST], who gets a story credit). But let’s not overlook the serious skills of director Lewis Teague. His NYU classmate Martin Scorsese had reportedly recommended him for the job at New World Pictures, where he’d edited COCKFIGHTER and done some second unit and editing on DEATH RACE 2000 and AVALANCHE. ALLIGATOR was his third time directing a feature, after DIRTY O’NEIL and THE LADY IN RED. He was also directing second unit for Sam Fuller’s THE BIG RED ONE around this same time, but I’m not sure if that was right before or right after the gator picture, so I can’t speculate how one gig might’ve informed the other.

ALLIGATOR opens with a teenage girl (Leslie Brown) on a family vacation to Florida watching a guy get mauled at a gator wrestling show. Despite this potentially traumatizing experience she buys a baby gator from the farm and names it Ramon. But when she’s back at home somewhere in Missouri her drunk dad flushes the poor thing down the toilet. Then we cut to 12 years later when Ramon is still alive in the sewer system, and has grown to unusual size and hunger from munching on the clandestinely dumped victims of illegal animal experiments, and is destined to bump heads with police detective David Madison (Robert Forster in his follow up to THE BLACK HOLE).

I would like to note that a news report on the radio places the toilet flushing during the ’68 Democratic National Convention, i.e. the time and place when in real life Forster was filming MEDIUM COOL. (read the rest of this shit…)