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Archive for the ‘Monster’ Category

The Munsters’ Scary Little Christmas

Thursday, December 22nd, 2022

I really enjoyed Rob Zombie’s love letter to THE MUNSTERS earlier this year, and it even got me to check out the o.g. Munsters movie MUNSTER GO HOME!. But Zombie’s movie did not go over well with or cause much of a splash among the general public, and now there’s this Netflix show Wednesday, based on Munsters rival The Addams Family, which is actually a huge streaming hit (and which I have to admit I like even more than THE MUNSTERS). So it kinda looks like a Photon Warrior to Lazer Tag situation for ol’ Herman and Lily. Or Gobots to Transformers. Or IRON EAGLE to TOP GUN.

Still, I am making this The Year of the Munsters by watching a Munsters Christmas special as part of my holiday festivities. THE MUNSTERS’ SCARY LITTLE CHRISTMAS (not to be confused with the weird New Zealand Christmas special THE MONSTER’S CHRISTMAS) is a 1996 Fox TV movie. The Munsters are entirely recast from the 1995 Fox movie HERE COME THE MUNSTERS, but they carried over an uptight neighbor character named Edna Dimwitty, played by Mary Woronov (DEATH RACE 2000), so I guess they’re connected. (read the rest of this shit…)

Double feature: Piranha (1995) / Deadly Spawn (1983)

Wednesday, October 26th, 2022

I haven’t seen Joe Dante’s PIRANHA in many, many years, but here I am reviewing the remake. No, not Alexandre Aja’s Dimension Films version PIRANHA 3D (which I did review when it came out in 2010), but the 1995 Corman production directed by Scott P. Levy (MIDNIGHT TEASE, THE ALIEN WITHIN).

This thing was made for Showtime, and I never got Showtime, but the reason I remembered it existed was because I knew Punky Brewster herself, Soleil Moon Frye (KID 90) was in it. That was enough to lure me in. (Get it?) I guess she was in a couple horror movies (INVITATION TO HELL, PUMPKINHEAD II) but I’m actually kinda surprised they didn’t resurrect her in the post-SCREAM era! Maybe they tried but she was happy just doing cartoon voices.

I have to admit I didn’t remember the original enough to realize until reading the Wikipedia summary that this remake barely alters its script. Alex Simon (BLOODFIST VIII: TRAINED TO KILL) is credited as the writer, but it’s so close original writers Richard Robinson and John Sayles get both “based on the screenplay by” and “story by” credits. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Munsters (2022)

Monday, October 3rd, 2022

Well whaddya know, Rob Zombie made a PG-rated movie version of The Munsters. It’s a Universal direct-to-DVD-and-blu-ray movie, also released to Netflix on the same day, and to be honest the trailer looked pretty cheesy to me. Pre-release word I’d seen had been dire, and a pretty dull opening stretch had me worried, despite it immediately capturing a strong classic horror look.

But hot damn, by the end I really liked this one. In fact I might’ve loved it. It has that thing I always respect in a movie: it’s something that no other director would’ve thought to make, or would’ve wanted to make, or would’ve known how to make. This is an idiosyncratic horror auteur reviving his childhood favorite sitcom in defiance of the fact that it’s a style of show and humor that are completely out of fashion. He doesn’t feel the need to turn it into something hipper or grittier or more modern. It’s just shameless cornball humor. But also he doesn’t tone down anything about his cinematic style (other than excluding the foul-mouthed redneck stereotypes talking about skull fucking or whatever). It’s very much the same The Munsters we know but also it’s also the Rob Zombiest Rob Zombie movie possible – a beautiful two-headed beast of a thing. (read the rest of this shit…)

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…)