Back in the late ’90s, being a superfan of the SHRUNKEN HEADS mythos, I was excited for a new Richard Elfman/Matthew Bright joint called MODERN VAMPIRES. I found it disappointing at the time – decadent L.A. vampires are not nearly as weird as flying severed head super heroes, so it didn’t make much of an impression. But since I revisited FORBIDDEN ZONE and SHRUNKEN HEADS in close succession this week I decided to also do this one. Now that it’s old I think it plays a little better as a b-movie piss take on the vampire movies that were being made at the time.
Or is that even what it is? When MODERN VAMPIRES went straight to video in the U.S. it was October of ’99 and the cover had a design style and not-screen-accurate fashion flagrantly copying BLADE, but it had actually premiered before both BLADE and John Carpenter’s VAMPIRES. FROM DUSK TILL DAWN and Buffy the Vampire Slayer had already reclaimed bloodsuckers from Anne Rice, though, so I suppose that’s what they’re playing off of, if anything. Or maybe it’s just West Coast elite NEAR DARK. (read the rest of this shit…)
I haven’t watched a PUPPET MASTER picture since the early ’90s, so congratulations to this marketing that got me excited to watch the new PUPPET MASTER presented by the new Fangoria.
PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH is sort of a start-over made with the blessing but not direct participation of Charles Band. I don’t think I can technically call it a reboot, though, because it’s not supposed to end or replace the still ongoing original series. It’s an alternate universe version where the titelistical ruler of evil puppets, Andre Toulon, is a totally different character. Instead of a victim of the Nazis he’s a French-German Nazi sympathizer played by Udo Kier (BLADE, BARB WIRE) in nasty burn makeup. The screenwriter is S. Craig Zahler, and though it does not feel anything like BONE TOMAHAWK or BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 it does continue his tradition of pushing the discomfort buttons and making me wonder “Should I be concerned about these racial themes?”
The main story takes place in the present, when artist and comic book store employee Edgar (Thomas Lennon, MEMENTO, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES) has to bite the bullet and go stay with his parents while getting back on his feet after a divorce. Desperate for money, he decides to take his dead brother’s rare hand-made puppet to Dallas to try to sell at a convention for the 30th anniversary of “The Toulon Murders.” But there are a bunch of other people there with their own original Toulon puppets, which all come to life (through goofy hand puppeting, not stop motion) and gorily murder Jewish, gay and black people. Puppetry and bigotry become one. (read the rest of this shit…)
When we last left novelist and heavy metal drummer turned filmatist S. Craig Zahler, he had made a distinctive directorial debut with BONE TOMAHAWK, a nice western with great characters and dialogue and that turns into a little bit of a gory cannibal movie by the end. I liked that one quite a bit but I think film #2, the crime movie BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 (which is coming to video on the 26th but I splurged for VOD) is a huge leap ahead for him.
Vince Vaughn (PSYCHO) stars as Bradley Thomas, a burly tow truck driver who, after a really bad day, decides to go back to the drug business for a while. Cut to 18 months later, when his bedroom is almost as big as the whole house we just saw him in, and his wife Lauren (Jennifer Carpenter, BATTLE IN SEATTLE) is pregnant. Their dreams are finally coming true, but some things go wrong at work (as they do) and he ends up in prison, where he must protect himself on the inside and his family on the outside from the enemies he’s made. (read the rest of this shit…)
I think it’s important to be honest, so here it is: I saw BARB WIRE years before I ever saw CASABLANCA. So now that I’ve finally seen the Humphrey Bogart one I thought I should rewatch to find out if the Pamela Anderson one really is loosely based on it.
Actually, not that loosely! It’s kind of a sci-fi world, based on a little known comic book, and it’s gender-swapped: Barb Wire (Pamela Anderson, BORAT) is the Rick character, the supposedly not-taking-sides military veteran running a club where dangerous people congregate. Curly (Udo Kier, BLADE) is the waiter guy. Police Chief Willis (Xander Berkeley, WALKER) is the pain in the ass but sort of sympathetic cop raiding the club and kissing the ass of the visiting assholes. Instead of Nazis those guys are “Congressionals” from Washington DC. But their uniforms look like the Gestapo and their leader, Colonel Pryzer (Steve Railsback, LIFEFORCE) likes to torture people. (read the rest of this shit…)
Before there was such a thing as Marvel Comics movies, there was BLADE.
Technically it wasn’t the first Marvel movie. It was the fourth. But nobody would’ve expected Marvel Comics to take over the movie business the way they have now. There had been the infamous flop HOWARD THE DUCK in 1986, and a few low rent b-action movies: THE PUNISHER starring Dolph Lundgren in 1989, then Albert Pyun’s DTV movie of CAPTAIN AMERICA in 1990. A Roger Corman production of FANTASTIC FOUR had been made in 1994 merely to extend the movie rights to the characters; it was never released, and the negatives have since been destroyed. I still kinda like THE PUNISHER, but until BLADE came along in 1998 none of these really connected with audiences, and there was no reason to think they would. James Cameron and Golan & Globus had an equal amount of success in trying to make a Spider-man movie, and Marvel had gone bankrupt.
Let’s be honest, most of us never heard of a Blade before the movie. He came from the ’70s series Tomb of Dracula, part of a team of Dracula-hunters made up of descendants of Mina Harker, Abraham Van Helsing and Dracula himself. He wore a red leather jacket and green pants and spoke what creator Marv Wolfman later admitted was “cliche ‘Marvel Black’ dialogue.” But screenwriter David S. Goyer was a fan of the character when New Line Cinema, inspired by the success of FRIDAY, wanted to do a black super hero movie.
At the time it was easier to compare to other vampire movies. Anne Rice style romantic bloodsuckers had dominated the image of the subgenre since at least the movie version of INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE in 1994, and BLADE was part of a pushback that included FROM DUSK TILL DAWN two years before and John Carpenter’s VAMPIRES two months after, all reminding audiences how much fun these creatures could be as vicious monsters that need to be exterminated. Each has their own version of the rules and their own leather-clad hunters with weapons made from silver, garlic, holy water or wood, but only BLADE (and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then two seasons in) treated it as an opportunity for martial arts. (read the rest of this shit…)
When we talk about JOHNNY MNEMONIC now it’s usually with a smirk. Rapid advances in the technology that it speculated about have made some of its vision of 2021 goofily dated. Star Keanu Reeves (BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA) was still solidifying as an action star and brought a funny surfer dude lilt to his slick underworld messenger character Johnny. And even at the time it was considered a failed moviefication of William Gibson’s “cyberpunk” style of sci-fi, which had a strong reputation as a cool, edgy type of literature as opposed to the old timey painted cover fantasies of previous eras. But they turned it into what was seen as some cheesy Hollywood bullshit.
Since the mid ’80s, tales have been told of the brave souls trying to adapt Gibson’s debut novel Neuromancer into a major motion picture (directors attached have included Chuck Russell, Chris Cunningham, Joseph Kahn and Vincenzo Natali). But this short story adaptation, directed by installation artist/occasional music video director Robert Longo and written by Gibson himself, beat it to the screen by 20 years and counting. They just had to replace the mirror-eyed “razor girl” character Molly Millions in the story with the regular-eyed Jane, because Molly was tied up with the rights for Neuromancer, since she’s in that too.
Gibson and Longo originally set out to make a $1.5 million black and white sci-fi noir, but couldn’t get the funding, so they agreed to a $20 million version with TriStar Pictures, whose other productions that year were THE QUICK AND THE DEAD, HIDEAWAY, 3 NINJAS KNUCKLE UP, JURY DUTY, MAGIC IN THE WATER, DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS, NEVER TALK TO STRANGERS and JUMANJI. As artistic types and Hollywood rookies they may have been out of their depth trying to make a summer blockbuster with the star of SPEED, and Longo didn’t get his cut anyway. It turned out undeniably messy. (read the rest of this shit…)
MOTHER OF TEARS was Dario Argento’s backburner project for years. I never really watched them close enough together to pick up on it, but SUSPIRIA and INFERNO were supposed to be about sister witches, and he always meant to make one about the third sister. Unfortunately he didn’t get it made until 2007, long after he stopped being a reliable filmatist, so most people were not impressed.
Argento’s daughter Asia (xXx) plays Sarah Mandy, an assistant at some museum who is there when her boss unseals and accidentally bleeds on (you know how it is) an ancient artifact, summoning witches who horribly murder the boss. This is a creepy scene because of the way Sarah just sort of glimpses a feeding frenzy from outside of the room, and because she gets pursued through the empty museum by an evil monkey that tries to keep up with her and keeps hissing to notify the others of her location. (read the rest of this shit…)
For my Countdown to The Expendables I probly should’ve watched RED SONJA, since they put Schwarzenegger on the cover but I don’t think he has a big role. For THE EXPENDABLES they can’t use his name in the advertising but they sure love plastering his cameo all over the ads. So don’t get the wrong idea here, he’s not a true Expendable. He’s just a bit player.
Oh well. Today I’m trying out one of his movies from the precarious late ’90s, when they weren’t really doing as well so he was forced to quit acting and switch to his backup plan of being Governor of Caleefornia.
END OF DAYS is one I had previously skipped, in which Schwarzenegger has to save the world from The Devil. I guess I just figured somebody would’ve said something if this one was any fun at all. I don’t care if the Toxic Avenger already did it, I think anybody would enjoy seeing Arnold defeat the Prince of Darkness using his fists. Or even some guns. Or he could blow him up and have to jump away from the explosion, like in PREDATOR. The fact that nobody’s ever told me much about this movie is a good hint that it’s not something crazy, it’s just some more gloomy, mediocre, pre-millennial, digital era demonic bullshit like other less musclebound stars were doing. (read the rest of this shit…)