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Archive for the ‘Monster’ Category

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…)

Psycho Goreman

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2021

As you may know, I can sometimes be a grump about horror comedies, because I’d rather be watching a horror movie that’s funny than a funny movie that references horror. But here’s a movie that’s on Shudder and has gore in it that is a straight up comedy and I kinda loved it.

The closest I can come to succinctly describing the vibe of PSYCHO GOREMAN is “that movie STAR KID combined with THE TOXIC AVENGER.” Or “WISHMASTER meets POWER RANGERS but a comedy.” Or “THE GUYVER meets SATAN’S LITTLE HELPER.” It’s about two little kids who find an alien artifact called “The Gem of Praxidike” buried in their backyard and then learn that it gives them power over a murderous alien supervillain the opening narration describes as “a nameless evil” and “ruthless being” that “had amassed power beyond measure, and was preparing to strike down all that was good and just in the universe.” He says he’s called “The Arch-Duke of Nightmares,” but Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) and Luke (Owen Myre) think that’s stupid, so they rename him Psycho Goreman, or P.G. for short. And Mimi treats this hateful monster as her personal play thing, making him do silly things and not really caring when he uses his powers to turn people into goo. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mothra vs. Godzilla

Tuesday, April 13th, 2021

Godzilla picture #3, KING KONG VS. GODZILLA, was such a hit in 1963 that Toho realized their boy really should have an ongoing series where he battles other behemoths, so director Ishiro Honda, composer Akira Ifukube and effects genius Eiji Tsuburaya (plus Haruo Nakajima redonning the Godzilla suit) immediately got to work on the next one.

Getting the rights to another studio’s characters every time wasn’t gonna be sustainable (too bad – GODZILLA VS. CAT PEOPLE would’ve been cool), so this time they decided to pit the big guy against Mothra, the giant moth goddess from Honda’s own 1961 film. I’ve always associated Mothra with Godzilla, so it’s interesting to realize that they weren’t originally intended to cross paths or exist in the same world. In a way, MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA is like if M. Night Shyamalan had made SPLIT unconnected to UNBREAKABLE and then decided to combine them in GLASS. Or if James Cameron made AVATAR VS. THE ABYSS.

Another thing it’s easy to forget is that there was an entire decade where Godzilla was always the bad guy. Here he’s in his fourth movie and the guy is just a total dick still. Only in movie #2 could you argue he was kind of good, because the other guy was so aggressive. Otherwise he’s just causing problems for everybody. For this one he doesn’t show up until a half hour in (such a diva) so Mothra gets top billing. (read the rest of this shit…)

King Kong Escapes

Monday, April 5th, 2021

Since I dug revisiting the original 1963 version of KING KONG VS. GODZILLA I decided to watch the one other time Toho used King Kong, which I don’t think I’d ever seen before. I consider this to be Godzilla stepping aside to let his co-lead take the spotlight, but I suppose it’s possible that he just didn’t want to do another one and this is like Paul Walker doing 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS without Vin Diesel.

Like the original GOJIRA, plus KING KONG VS. GODZILLA and many other kaiju classics, KING KONG ESCAPES is directed by Ishiro Honda, with music by Akira Ifukube and effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. But it has a little different vibe, seemingly influenced by spy movies. Tsuburaya’s great model work is used to create lots of cool helicopters, hovercrafts, a submarine, and a structure to house a giant robot. There’s a colorful villain named Dr. Who (Hideyo Amamoto, YOJIMBO, THE SWORD OF DOOM) who wears a cape with a Dracula/Dr. Strange collar and he has a base at the North Pole and an army of employees in nehru suits, white Mickey Mouse gloves and construction helmets. In the American dub he’s voiced by Paul Frees, so you keep expecting him to ask “is this room actually stretching?” (read the rest of this shit…)

Godzilla vs. Kong

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

GODZILLA VS. KONG follows GODZILLA, KONG: SKULL ISLAND and GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS as the fourth movie in the 21st Century American kaiju series known as The MonsterVerse. When it comes to the giant monsters, as I’ve told you before, I’m a Gamera guy. I’m not trying to be a hipster and choose the less popular thing to show off, it’s just a fact – he’s the Guardian of the Universe. But setting him aside, Godzilla and his Monster Island pals have always interested me more than the King Kong movies, as great as some of those are.

So hopefully that puts some weight behind me saying that this crossover – which stacks the cards for Kong by starting with him, spending much of the movie with him and treating him as the underdog hero – is easily the best of the series.

It got me instantly. Opening with Kong waking up to a perfect needle drop and a sunny day on Skull Island, he scratches his ass as he groggily stumbles to the waterfall for a shower. It’s just a great example of those times I love when monsters just get to live a normal life instead of always leaping through the air and roaring at the camera. (read the rest of this shit…)

King Kong vs. Godzilla

Wednesday, March 31st, 2021

I can’t see the new GODZILLA VS. KONG in a theater, because we still have the pandemic here (and apparently slower vaccine distribution than some other states). But I’m excited to at least get to watch it on TV tonight. I don’t know if it will live up to my hopes, but I’m glad it inspired me to rewatch the original East-meets-West giant monster mashup, 1963’s KING KONG VS. GODZILLA.

In my mind it seems like this current GODZILLA series rushed to the KING KONG crossover pretty fast, but not really. KING KONG VS. GODZILLA was only the third film in the GODZILLA series (though it also followed the American productions KING KONG and SON OF KONG, both from 1933). As discussed in yesterday’s review, the series started with GOJIRA in 1954, and GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN six months later. It wasn’t exactly a smash, so seven years passed before they brought the big guy back. Think about that – seven years is almost as long as the gap between BATMAN & ROBIN and BATMAN BEGINS. Or FRIDAY THE 13TH and FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII. About the same as the gaps between A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE, or FREDDY VS. JASON and the ELM STREET remake.

So after that wait Toho brought back original director Ishiro Honda, composer Akira Ifukube and effects director Eiji Tsuburaya (who held KING KONG dear since it had inspired his interest in effects) to revive Godzilla in this big crossover event that marked both monsters’ first appearances in color and in widescreen. Also their first movie that opens with a quote from Hamlet (at least in the American version, which I watched because I didn’t realize the original was hidden in the supplements of the Criterion box set). (read the rest of this shit…)

Godzilla Raids Again

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021

GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN seems like an important movie to me because I think it’s the first GODZILLA sequel. GOJIRA was made in response to the popularity of KING KONG and THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, but it was a very somber and elegiac disaster movie intentionally using its monster attacks to mirror the bombing of Hiroshima (as well as an incident less known in the U.S. in which a Japanese fishing vessel was radiated by U.S. atomic bomb tests). Its hero was a scientist who sacrifices himself to stop Godzilla without letting his bomb technology to be replicated, and it climaxes with a choir of 200 women singing sadly over long shots of the ruins of Tokyo.

The sequel came out only six months later and is the only other GODZILLA movie in black and white, but it’s the first one where Godzilla fights another monster, so it’s the first to resemble the specific type of fun we’re generally thinking of when we say we liked GODZILLA movies or kaiju movies.

Here’s one way it’s similar to FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2: it’s not the same killer as in part 1. The first Godzilla was definitively killed by the oxygen destroyer, and when what appears to be the same creature is spotted, Dr. Kyohei Yamane (Takashi Shimura, returning from the first film) is sure it’s not a resurrection, but another monster of the same species. Everybody still call him Godzilla like it’s his name, though. (read the rest of this shit…)

Beowulf

Thursday, March 18th, 2021

“The only thing that stops me from becoming evil, is fighting evil.”

You know how in HIGHLANDER Christopher Lambert said he had “a kind of magic” because he was an immortal? Well, being in that movie made him a kind of movie icon and imbued him with his own kind of magic. It’s the kind of magic where he can come into MORTAL KOMBAT wearing a robe, act mystical and say “I don’t THEENK so” and somehow seem more cool than laughable. It’s also the kind of magic where he can reunite with the producer of MORTAL KOMBAT and say “why don’t we do another one like that but instead of basing it on a popular video game we’ll use a thousand year old epic poem?”

So here we have a movie that has a KOMBAT-esque logo, a techno and industrial soundtrack (Front 242, Juno Reactor, KMFDM, Junkie XL, also Anthrax), a big climactic fight with a crude CGI monster, and yes, it is also a recognizable adaptation of the story of Beowulf (Lambert), the monster Grendel (uncredited Vincent Hammond, also a suit performer in FULL ECLIPSE, THE RELIC and SPECIES II) and the king Hrothgar (Oliver Cotton, FIREFOX, WONDER WOMAN 1984). (read the rest of this shit…)

Monster Hunter

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

As someone who finally got into Paul Wesley Snipes Anderson’s RESIDENT EVIL series pretty close to when it was finally wrapping up, I was thrilled to hear that the director and his wife/star Milla Jovovich (HELLBOY, not the Ron Perlman one) had purchased the film rights to a fresh new video game franchise copyright property trademark. Without any judgment on (or implied knowledge of) the respective video games, I feel that there is potential for a series called MONSTER HUNTER about monsters and hunters who hunt monsters to be better than one about zombies and umbrellas or whatever. And I loved that one!

So I had planned to see this Toho co-production based on the works of Capcom in the biggest, if emptiest theater in Seattle, until shit (the pandemic) happened and that was not possible for me. But as soon as they made it available for digital “purchase” I paid the four-or-five-dollars-more-than-the-movie-ticket-would’ve-cost and now that file access is MINE.

It begins in a world of fantasy. Pirate ships are sailing through sand. Ron Perlman (HELLBOY, the Ron Perlman one) is there. Tony Jaa (KILL ZONE 2) is there. Monsters attack. Tony gets knocked off the boat. It is sand, so he doesn’t drown, but he’s left behind.

Then we switch to a different desert, the type in our world, in our time. It even has latitude and longitude listed on screen. I think they might mention directions and clicks at some point if you want to check your map and follow along at home. (read the rest of this shit…)