Thursday, December 31, 2009

Watch this film, you'll feel like YOU'RE cursed!

Death Curse of Tartu (1966)
Starring: Fred Pinero, Babbette Sherrill, Myara Christine and Gary Holtz
Director: William Grefe
Rating: Two of Ten Stars
An undead, shapeshifting Indian shaman takes gory revenge on a group of researchers that has disturbed his underground tomb (located deep in the Everglades swamp).

If you're looking for a movie that gets virtually nothing right, "Death Curse of Tartu" is the film for you. It's got bad actors delivering badly written lines, it's got bland cinematography, pathetic gore effects, some of the worst Foley work you'll see this side of silent movies, and so much inappropriate sound track music that you'll grow numb to it. (The director of the film apparently thought that dramatic music during scenes where nothing happens--such as shots of characters trekking through the bushes or someone making coffee at the campfire--would make the film more exciting). To perfect the awfulness of the film, every character is too dumb to ive, including the survivors of Tartu's wrath and even Tartu himself. There are few films that rely more on "Stupid Character Syndrome" to drag itself to its non-thrilling conclusion this one.

And then there's the fact that Tartu is buried in a bone-dry, sandstone cave that looks like it belongs in the American Southwest rather than a Florida swamp. It makes absolutely no sense and it destroys what little credibility the film had. (Even if such dry caves are possibly in a goopy swamp, it doesn't feel realistic... a thing that's important to achieve in films like this.)

The movie is also deadly dull for the first 35 or so minutes--as it's 12-15 minutes of real material padded with useless film of characters meandering about the swamp--but it picks up a bit when the main group of characters gets to the Everglades. Unfortunately, the padding problem only becomes slightly less severe, causing interesting and even borderline suspenseful parts of the movie to be separated with some of the most boring bits of film you'll ever sit through.

The 2 rating I'm giving "Death Curse of Tartu" is perhaps too generous, but there were glimmers of life in the last 45 minutes of so. If the director and producer had been disciplined enough to make a film 68 minutes instead of 84 minutes, maybe the 2 would be fully deserved. Perhaps this might even be a 3.

"Death Curse of Tartu" is available for the first time on DVD via a "Something Weird Video" Floria-themed double feature extravaganza. The second half of the double-bill isn't all that good either, but it looks like a masterpiece next to this one.

'Blood Tide' is a washout

Blood Tide (1982)
Starring: Martin Kove, Mary Louise Weller, James Earl Jones, Jose Ferrer, Lydia Cornell, and Lila Kedrova
Director: Richard Jeffries
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

American newly-weds (Kove and Weller) looking for a lost relative find themselves trapped on an island where a treasure hunter (Jones) has released an ancient monster that is demanding virgin sacrifices.

I think I know how "Blood Tide" was sold to its backers. The high concept pitch probably went something like this: "It's modern-day, but one of those monsters that the heroes were fighting all those Italian sword-and-sandal films has awakened and its once again demanding virgin blood. The main characters will have to become like Hercules and defeat this ancient menace or end up as sacrifices themselves."

If I were looking to make a cheap horror movie using a Greek island as the backdrop, I would have invested in that movie. Heck, I'd love to SEE that movie, so it's too bad that "Blood Tide" could have been the movie described above, but isn't.

"Blood Tide" has slivers of the modern-day monster/fantasy movie described above, but it barely teases the viewers with its potential. It's a suspense film without any suspense; it is one of the most boring movies I've ever dozed off during. It is a monser movie without a monster; it's presence is barely felt, and the human monster that SHOULD be in the film--the guy who because of his greed is letting the horror happen--is ultimately too wishy-washy a character to inspire anything but a yawn from viewers. It's a film that's shot adequately and that features a decent cast that all do admirably in their parts, but they are working with a script so bad there was nothing they could do to save this movie.

There is really no reason for anyone to waste their time on "Blood Tide" unless it's being used as a cure for insomnia.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

No meat at all on 'Skeleton Man'

Skeleton Man (2004)
Starring: Michael Rooker
Director: Johnny Martin
Rating: One of Ten Stars

Michael Rooker leads a team of military specialists into the forests of the Northwest to hunt a killer who has already taken out some of best the US military has to offer, not to mention some civilians. Unfortunately, the adversary is awakened spirit of a homicidal maniac who is bent on killing everything and anything he comes across.

"Skeleton Man" is an excessively muddled, tepid slasher flick where elements seem to be tossed in at random and nothing really gets resolved or explained. It's another one of those films where it seems like no one bothered to check the script for coherence or internal logic before, during, or after shooting. (Why is Skeleton Man killing and why is his spirit roaming? I counted three possibilites, but none seem to connect with anything in particular that was otherwise presented.)

It does manage to conjure up some mildly creepy moments, but those are mostly cancelled out by something nonsensical or just plain bad following immediately there after. The air of cheapness that surrounds the creature--with a cape that seems to change design at random, a hodge-podge of weaponry (some of which seems like it came off the rack at the local Sears store, despite the supposedly centuries-old nature of Skeleton Man), and a badly done skull mask--probably does as much to kill this film as anything else.

And the ending? Probably the worst I've seen, period. Like I said, nothing gets resolved, nothing gets tied up, and there's no reason to assume Skeleton Man's rampage of death is over other than the star of the film declares it to be. (In fact, theere is every reason to believe the opposite, based on what little information the film provides about the Skeleton Man entity.)

Trivia: The German edition of the DVD was actually marketed as a crappy movie, with a tagline on the cover that translates to "Here lives the spirit of Ed Wood."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Don't bother cutting in line for 'Hatchetman'

Hatchetman (2003)
Starring: Cheryl Burns
Director: Robert Tiffi
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

Strippers who live in the same apartment building and dance at the same club are targeted by a masked serial killer. Is the murderer really the recently released violent felon they all testified against, or is there something else behind the killings?

Although not as bad as some other slasher flicks--most of the girls in this one are decent actors--this is still not something you'd want to go out of your way for. The script is weak, there's entirely too many characters being dumb to keep the story moving (although the characters who behave stupidly ARE portrayed as stupid even before they run into dark alleys so they can be killed in private), and the killer and what motivates him are also lame.

The most amazing thing about this movie is that it was produced and aired by a major cable network, Showtime.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

No need for you to answer this call

Night Caller (aka "South Beach") (1993)

Starring: Fred Williamson, Peter Fonda, Gary Busey, Robert Forster, and Vanity
Directors: Fred Williamson and Alain Zaloum
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

Three retired football players (Busey, Fonda and Williamson) are living the good life in Florida while dabbling at being private detectives when they're bored. When the ex-wife of Williamson's character (Vanity) is threatened by a stalker who murders one of her co-workers, the fun and games become deadly serious for everyone.

"Night Caller" suffers from a severe case of attention deficit disorder. We have the stalker, we have gangsters wanting protection money from local merchants, we have gangsters trying to protect their girlfriends from being shamed over nude photos taken of them (yeah, I wondered about that one, too), we have obscene phone-calls being made to a phone-sex worker (yeah, I too thought that went with the territory)... and then we have our main characters wandering blithely from situation to situation and getting by on script fiat and luck more than detective work or anything resembling common sense or decent story logic. This movie tries to be a buddy picture, a sexual thriller, and a detective story and if fails miserably at being all three.

If you add to the fact that everyone in the film--even Fred Williamson who is usually fairly bad--gives performances far below their usual standards to the pathetic script, as well as the appearance that several actors seem drunk in more than a few scenes (although I suppose they could just be trying to play "jovial"), I think it's a safe bet that everyone in this picture is there more for the Florida vacation than actual work.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

'Cemetary High' does not meet Dept of Edu standards

Cemetery High (aka "Scumbusters") (1989)
Starring: Debi Theibeault, Karen Nielsen, Ruth Collins, Lisa Schmidt, Simone, Frank Stewart, Tony Cruck and David Coughlin
Rating: One of Ten Stars

A group of young rape victims go on a murderous rampage, killing scummy men whereever they can find them.

"Cemetery High" is a badly mounted attempt at spoofing revenge flicks like "Death Wish" and any crime drama you care to mention. However, it's badly written, even worse acted, and the best of the gags will tease only the mildest of chuckles out of even the drunkest viewers.

Toss this film on the pile of movies that never should have made the transition to DVD and start the incinerator. But don't waste your time watching it.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas movie to curdle your eggnog

Deck the Halls (2006)
Starring: Matthew Broderick, Danny DeVito, Kristen Davis, and Kristen Chenoweth
Director: John Whitesell
Rating: One of Ten Stars

"Deck the Halls" revolves around a pair of fathers feuding over who's going to have the best Christmas decorations in town... and the supposed hilariaty that ensues when the feud gets out of hand. I say "supposed" because this film is over-long, unfunny--even the slapstick is more groan-inducing than chuckle-inspiring--and populated by characters that are so badly written that, struggle as they may, the actors simply can't imbue them with life, let along the Christmas Spirit.

Oh... and you can add to the fact that most of what happes in the movie feels like it was cribbed from "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." So, if you want to see a whacky, somewhat uncouth Christmas comedy, why not stick with the film "Deck the Halls" was copied from?

(All that said, it's been pointed out to me that the movie did redeem itself ever-so-slightly at the end. But, as nice an ending as it is, with a little bit of good cheer creeping in, it is far too little to make up for the rest of the film.)

If anyone starts a class-action suit so the poor souls who saw this film on its opening day, please keep me in the loop. I want my money back AND something for my pain and suffering. Meanwhile, though, you out there who are reading this should take my warning and NOT see this movie. (Although recommending it to relatives you'd rather not have to spend the Holidays with would be a sure-fire way to get out of it. It'll be Guy Faulkes Day (or later) before they'll be wiling to speak to you again.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tomie: Great comic book, crappy movie

Tomie (1999)
Starring: Yoriko Douguchi, Miho Kanno and Mami Nakamura
Director: Ataru Oikawa
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

Junji Ito created one of the only truly scary comic book series I've read--"Uzemaki." His other famous series Tomie is almost as creepy, although you'd never know it from this astoundingly boring movie adaptation.

"Tomie" is the tale of a teen girl who is the center of violent love triangles where everyone involved ends up dead, including her. And, yes, it's plural, because Tomie is so evil that even death cannot stop her--her body always regrows, even from dismemberment, into an exact replica of when she was at her most beautiful... and then she goes looking for more victims to seduce and lead to destruction.

"Tomie" is an awful movie in every sense of the word. The only reason I suffered through it until the end was because I wanted to review it for here and because I kept thinking it HAD to get better.

"Tomie" fails to take advantage of nearly everything that was truly creepy in the original source material, so it starts boring and it stays there; is filled with drab characters having inane conversations; spends too much time with characters talking about how horrific things are instead of showing the viewer the horror; and has special and gore effects so awful that Ed Wood is embarrassed on the filmmakers' behalf. Finally, the film seems to assume that the viewer is familiar with the Ito comics series, which is an unforgivable sin in my opinion.

"Tomie" would have been a One Star movie, except the actors seem to be doing as good a job as can be expected with the awful script they're working with. I still recommend that you avoid this one.

There are at least six other Tomie movies that have been made since the release of this one, and this is one series where the films get better as they go. This is the only Tomie film bad enough so far to end up here. The rest will be reviewed here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

'Horrors of Spider Island' is absolutely horrible

Horrors of Spider Island (aka "The Spider's Web", "It's Hot in Paradise", and "Girls of Spider Island" (1962)
Starring: Alex D'Arcy, Helga Franck, and a bunch of washed-up dancers and wanna-be porn actresses.
Director: Fritz Boettger
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

An impresario (D'Arcy) and his Girl Friday (Franck) are on their way to Singapore with a recently hired troupe of obnoxious, bitchy strippers and chorus girls when their plan crashes. They take refuge on a desolate south sea isand, where the heat makes the girls strip down to bare essentials, where they are menaced by a goofy-looking spider puppet, and where their fearless leader (who's named Gary) is soon transformed into a hideous half-man, half-spider creature. And that's when things get REALLY boring.

I understand there's an "adults only" version of this film that was released, That's not the version I saw. Maybe nudity makes it more interesting, although I sincerely doubt that. Aside from being boring and full of unsexy sexiness, this film features such slipshod use of stock footage that even Edward D. Wood, Jr would grab director Fritz Boettger by the lapels and scream, "What in God's name were you doing man?!" For example, the doomed plane that carries Gary and the babes to Spider Island starts as a two-engine jet, becomes a four-engine plane while in the air, and transforms into a completely different kind of plane (a bomber, I think) as it crashes.

The only horror you'll find in this film is the realization you will never get the 80 minutes you spend watcing it back.

My Ten Most Despised Films of
the Past Decade

In the past ten years, I've watched somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 movies. It was my way of celebrating the fact I survived the End of Civilization that was Y2K. I suspect I'll watch somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 more movies, many of them to celebrate my survival of the End of Civilization that is 2012. Along the way, I'll probably also add another 2,500 brief movies reviews to the realm of cyberspace and print, which is roughly the number I wrote from 2000 to the present day.

My guess is that the worst of those movies were so lame that I couldn't even muster the energy to write a paragraph about them and that they have long since faded in my mind. However, the movies I hated can still very easily be recalled, as I did write reviews for most of them.

Just to show I'm a real serious-like movie reviewer... here's my list of the Ten Movies I Despised the Most from the past ten years, arranged in chronological order. And every film on this list truly is a movie to die before seeing.

My evaluation of the decade gone is that film historians will describe it as the "rise of torture porn and fall of comedy."

Assuming there's anyone left to write film history after 12/21/2012, 12:21 ZULU)

The Bare Wench Project (2000)
Starring: The Eight Artificially Enhanced Boobs of Four Bad Actresses
Director: Jim Wynorski
Rating: Zero of Ten Stars

Four college girls go into the woods in search of the truth behind the Bare Wench legend (or is that the truth of the Bare Wench's legendary behind?). Unfunny, unsexy, and unwatchable. Click here to read the review.

Carnage Road (aka "Carnage: The Legend of Quiltface")(2000)
Steve's Rating: 1 of 10 Stars
Starring: Dean Paul and Molinee Dawn
Director: Massimiliano Cerchi
Rating: One of Ten Stars

Four photography students are stalked by a machete-weiding killer who wears a mask fashioned from the faces of his victims. This is quite possibly one of the worst slasher movies ever made. Click here to read the review.

Shriek if You Know What I Did
Last Friday the 13th (2000)

Starring: Majandra Delfino and Harley Cross
Director: John Blanchard
Rating: 1 of 10 Stars

A knife-weilding killer stalks targets a group of students from Bulemia Falls High School, and TV reporter Hagitha Utslay (Thiessen) for death. Unfunny, boring, and a film for the scrapheap. Click here to read the review.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001)
Starring: Tom Green
Director: Tom Green
Rating: One of Ten Stars

Shock-comedian Tom Green spends about an hour and a half being gross and obnoxious while other actors struggle to keep their dignity. You can read review and a plot summary by clicking here, but you should spare yourself from watching this movie.

Kill the Scream Queen (2004)
Starring: Bill Zebub and Deborah Dutch
Director: Bill Zebub
Rating: One of Ten Stars

A sexual psychopath and serial killer turned movie-maker rapes and murders actresses and that's just about all there is to this movie. Click here to read the review.

Alone in the Dark (2005)
Starring: Christian Slater and Tara Reid
Director: Uwe Boll
Rating: One of Ten Stars

Christian Slater boinks Tara Reid while feuding with the worst-equipped secret government agency ever established. There's also some stuff with insivible monsters. A low point of Uwe Boll's ongoing effort to be named the Worst Filmmaker Ever. Click here to read the review.

See No Evil (2006)

Starring: Glen "Kane" Jacobs and Samantha Noble
Director: Gregory Dark
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

Obnoxious, stupid teens are butchered in sadistic ways by an insane killer with a love for plucking out his victims' eyes. There really is nothing else to this film, except some nice sets. Click here to read the review.

Disaster Movie (2008)
Starring: Matt Lanter and Nicole Parker
Directors: Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer
Rating: One of Ten Stars

"Disaster Movie" tries to poke fun at a dozen or so movies from the late 2000s. It does lots of poking, but there isn't much fun here. Click here to read the review.

An American Carol (2008)
Starring: Kevin Farley and Robert Davi
Director: David Zucker
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

A corpulant and self-absorbed leftist filmmaker becomes the pawn of a terrorist (Davi) and is visited by the three ghosts of great American leaders to make him change his destructive ways. This film ia almost like a comedy, but they forgot to include jokes. Click here to read my review.

Transylmania (2009)
Starring: Oren Skoog and Jennifer Lyons
Directors: David Hillenbrand and Scott Hillenbrand
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

Sex- and drug-crazed American college students stumble their way through fights with vampires and a mad scientist while in Transylvania. An unfunny spoof of the current vampire craze and classic horror films. Click here to read the review.

Also among the many runner-ups for the "honor" of being among the films I disliked the most over the past decade were: "An Inconvenient Truth," "Birth," "Boogeyman," "The Love Guru," "Silver City," "Sleep Disorder," and "The Spirit."

Friday, December 18, 2009

'Shredder' gives snowboarding mass-murderers
a bad name

Shredder (2003)
Steve's Rating: 1 of 10 Stars
Starring: Scott Weinger, Lindsey McKeon, and Juleah Weikel
Director: Greg Huson
Rating: One of Ten Stars

Seven college-aged Beautiful People head to a bankrupt, closed ski resort for a weekend of illicit snowboarding, skiing, and fun. However, they find that they are not alone, but that an axe- and icicle-wielding maniac is killing them one by one.

"Shredder" is a movie that I'm sad is such an awful piece of trash. It could have been a really good film, as it's got a cast with more acting talent than I expected, and the set-up has lots of potential. But the raw material was squandered on a monumentally bad script and a weakly directed film.

The problems with "Shredder" are too numerous to mention, but the biggest are these:

Numerous plot-holes so large that the massive snowplow that the killer menaces the snowbunnies with could easily pass through them with room to spare; characters that behave in such a nonsensical a fashion in context of what unfolds on the screen that not only will you be scratching your head more than hiding your eyes, but you'll be wondering if anyone bothered to read the entire script before the film was released to the public; a cast of snowboarding jackasses so unlikeable that you'll WANT the masked killer to murder them all, and a film so boring and lacking in suspense that you desperately want him to kill them all faster; and camera work so pedestrian that it makes snowboarding and skiing look dull. (And, dammit, someone keep the idiot who who thought it was a neat effect to drop a few dozen frames in long shots of snowboarders and skiiers from ever getting into the editing room again. The first few times they did that, I thought my dvd player was acting up.)

Perhaps the only interesting thing about "Shredder" (aside from the decent actors trapped in an awful movie) is that it reaches Ed-Woodian levels of badness, but also grants Ed-Woodian levels of insight into the psyche of the writers. It's apparent that what passes for the script here was created by someone who hates snowboarders and ski bums as much as the story's insane killer: Virtually all the girls are sluts, while most of the guys are dope-smoking idiots who wouldn't know what do to with a woman if she begged them to hop in the sack with her. (The only two exceptions to this characterization of snowboarders are a pair who are outsiders, even as they are part of the clique.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

'The Killer Eye' isn't worth looking into

The Killer Eye (1998)
Starring: Jonathan Norman, Jacqueline Lovell, Costas Koromilas, Blake Bailey, Dave Oren Ward and Nanette Bianchi
Director: Richard Chasen (aka David DeCoteau)
Producer: Robert Talbot (aka Charles Band)
Rating: Zero of Ten Stars

Dr. Grady (Norman) has discovered a way to look into the 8th Dimension using eye drops and a special inter-dimensional microscope. Unfortunately, a creature from that nightmarish realm has used his mehtod to cross into our world, possess the eyeball of a male prostitute and grow it to giant size, bursting free of his skull... and it is now roaming the building where Dr. Grady has his lab, seeking women to hypnotize and fondle with its tentacles.

"The Killer Eye" sounded like it might be a fun spoof a Lovecraft-style tale where scientists unleash horrors from distant dimensions. It is not. It is a film that fails on every level, and the only kind things I can say about is that the camera is never out of focus, the soundtrack is audible, and none of the actors are awful... but none are particularly good, either. (Blake Bailey, who plays an attic-dwelling weirdo, is the best of the bunch and the only player here who manages to deliver laugh lines in a way that actually manages to make viewers smile. Even Jacqueline Lovell, who plays Dr. Grady's slutty wife and the Killer Eye's favorite fondle target, gave a barely passable performance. This was surprising to me, because she was so great in "Head of the Family" and "Hideous!"... but I suppose this is just further proof that many actors are only as good as the material they have to work with.)

"The Killer Eye" fails as a comedy, because it's not funny. It fails as a horror movie, because nothing in it is scary. It even fails as a softcore-porn flick with live tentacle-monster action, because the sex and nudity scenes are shot in a timid, almost prudish fashion and are overly long and boring. It even fails completely as a movie, because, even with its scant running time of just over an hour, it's obvious that there's about 25-30 minutes of actual material here that's been stretched longer than the groping tentacle of a monster from the 8th Dimension.

If the comments above haven't warned you off "The Killer Eye", consider this: The director, David DeCoteau, is hiding behind the psuedonym of Richard Chasen; and producer Charles Band is hiding behind the pseudonym of Robert Talbot. So, if people like DeCoteau and Band, whose names have appeared on some real stinkers, didn't even want the Full Moon label associated with it, it should be clear that this film (hopefully!) marks the fetid bottom to which the quality-level of a Charles Band production can sink.

Monday, December 14, 2009

'Hell Born' should have been aborted

Asylum of the Damned (aka "Hell Born") (2003)
Starring: Matt Stasi, Bruce Payne, Tom Lister, Gregory Wagrowski, and Tracy Scoggins
Director: Phil Jones
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

When James Bishop (Stasi) goes from run-of-the-mill resident to supervisor of a ward at St. Andrews' State Mental Hospital straight ouf of medical school, he thinks his career is off to a rocketing start. However, he soon discovers this mental hospital is a little more hellish than most... and that a demonic cult is feeding the patients to a demon in the hospital's basement.

"Asylum of the Damned" features a lazily written, badly researched script--from presenting a plot that only works because our hero behaves stupidly from the outset, to presenting us with a hospital so badly run that even the demon in the basement wouldn't be able to save its director (Payne) from being investigated by any number of regulatory commissions--that features dialogue that's so tortured at times that the writer must have been emulating Ed Wood.

The film also fails utterly to do what a horror film set against a modern backdrop absolutely must to in order to work: The film never bothers to ground itself in anything that resembles normality. It is groan-inducingly unbelievable from the outset. The creepy way the hospital is presented as soon as our hero arrives, and the behavior of the staff--from the security guard to the head doctor--is so rude and unprofessional from their first appearances that it's plain the viewer is in for something very awful... and it guarantees the film's failure. The overblown attempts at establishing a menacing air IMMEDIATELY in the film means that no true menace is ever really felt--even the hackneyed "gotcha!" scares fail to work, because the film's beginning is so badly botched.

It's a shame the direction and scripting of this movie was so severely botched, because the cast actually did a fairly good decent job. If these actors were assembled for a film with a script that was perhaps taken through a second draft before filming started, and if they were in a film that actually had a first act, I think they might be able to impress. The creature design was also excellent--the soul-eating demon in the hospital's basement is far better looking than I would have expected in a rancid turkey like this. It's the one thing in the film that will make you sit up and go "wow!'

Of course, I don't recommend you ever take the opportunity to view that demon, because "Asylum of the Damned" isn't worth whatever time you devote to it.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Scream for help if anyone forces you
to watch 'Scream and Scream Again'

Scream and Scream Again (1970)
Starring: Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Marshall Jones, Peter Cushing and Christopher Matthews
Director: Gordon Hessler
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

One day, during the Swingin' Sixties, three clerks collided in the hall of American International Productions. Each and been carrying a film script--one was a supernatural/political thriller set within a fictitious East bloc country, the other was a modern-day psycho-vampire flick set in London, and the third was a mad doctor/Frankenstein flick--and the pages went everywhere. They tried their best to sort them out properly, but in the end the three scripts were hopelessly jumbled together. In the hopes of covering their sloppiness, they simply put the three mish-mash "scripts" in for review. One ended up being green-lighted by an indifferent executive. A shooting script was then approved by a drunk producer. Stoned and tripping directors then went about finding actors, and soon principle photography on "Scream and Scream Again" was underway.

I don't know if that story accurately describes how "Scream and Scream Again" came to be produced, but it's a more generous explanation than one that assumes this incoherent and disjointed movie was intended to be this way.

For more than 3/4ths of the picture there is barely a connection between the various plots, except for a single actor who crosses over between the two. And when they do come together, it's only barely and it's not in any way that seems terribly well thought out. (A sign of the complete confusion that reins in this film is even evident in the theatrical preview where the actor who is identified as Peter Cushing is actually Marshall Jones.)

The story, such as it is, starts with a series of "vampire murders" in London. It turns out that these are being perpetrated by the creation of a mad scientist (Vincent Price) who is working as part of a global secret scientific society to create a superior human race through surgery. When the police refuse to investigate due to political pressure a young coroner (Christopher Matthews) starts doing his own investigation. He is soon in over his head and that's when things get really stupid.

Although Cushing, Lee, and Price get top billing, Cushing is only in one scene (and it's a pointless one at that) and Lee's presence isn't much more than Cushing's. Price's role is larger and very important to the story, but his screen time is still very limited and he doesn't have much to do. His presence is almost as big a waste as that of Cushing and Lee.

And the score, the easy-listening rock/jazz fusion score, is almost too painful for words!

All in all, this film should go on the "must-miss" list, except for those who might be looking for the worst "day-for-night" shots since Ed Wood stopped making Z-grade thrillers and turned to Z-grade pornos. It makes the worst of the Hammer Film efforts look like the work of Orson Wells. What's even more embarrassing for this film is that it looks like it probably had a bigger budget than several Hammer Films combined, based on the number of locations and aerial shots featured.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

'The She-Beast' should be avoided like other she-beasts, be they mother-in-laws or

The She-Beast (aka "Satan's Sister" and "Revenge of the Blood Beast") (1966)
Starring: Ian Ogilvy, John Karlsen, and Barbara Steele
Director: Michael Reeves
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

Young newlyweds Phillip and Veronica (Ogilvy and Steele) are honeymooning in Transylvania (their first mistake) when they suffer a car accident. The injured Veronica is possessed by the spirit of a long-dead witch who uses Veronica's body as a vehicle for her revenge against the modern-day descendents of the peope who executed her. Will Phillip reclaim his beloved with the help of eccentric occultist Count Van Helsing (Karlsen) or will she remain the she-beast?

"The She-Beast" is bad on just about every level. It's attempts at comedy are not particularly funny, it's horror elements aren't terribly scary, the characters range from unlikable to annoying, and every technical aspects exudes cheapness. And what passes for a script is muddled and confused almost beyond comprehension.

Barbara Steele brightens every scene she is in with her exotic looks, but she's not in the film enough to make it worth your while to sit through it.

(Trivia: Barbara Steele was so contempteous of this film that even while working on it she tried to dissassociate herself from it by wearing a large hat and sunglasses in most scenes.)

'Get Rich or Die Tryin'' is worth about
as much as its star's stage name: Fiddy Cent.

Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2005)
Starring: 50 Cent and Benz Antoinee
Director: Jim Sheridan
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

"Get Rich or Die Tryin'" is the film debut of fourth-rate gangster rapper 50 Cent. His no-talent crap makes me long for the day when I was panning 2Live Crew as a music reviewer, and his awful acting makes me want to host a Will Smith and Ice-T film festival, just to remind myself that there are talented rap/hiphop musicans who turn into talented actors.

The plot of "Get Rich or Die Trying" chronicles the rise of of a poor black child, as he struggles to escape a life of crime in pursuit of wealth as a rapper. Or something like that. 50 Cent's character (Maurice or Marcus or Muppet or something--I've forgotten the character's name, because my mind was numbed by the crappy plot) doesn't seem to be driven to create art as Eminem's character in "8 Mile"... hell, it's unclear WHAT he is driven by, other than the urge to escape having to be seen in any more unintentionally funny prison shower fight scenes. (And I'm sure the giggles the shower fight scene inspired in me were NOT what the filmmakers intended, because one of the more remarkable features of "Get Rich" is its near-total humorlessness.)

"Get Rich or Die Trying" is every bad gangster movie, and every bad blacksploitation movie (with a dash of bad prison movies included for additional suckage) rolled into one. It contains countless textbook examples of how not to use cameras and lighting; is full of badly written dialogue, trite characters and situations; has a ludicrous and badly conceived storyline that can't even seem to get basic historical facts of its own backdrop straight (the most glaring of these is the "invention of crack" which, based on the age of the characters, was invented long before they took up the street thug mantle); and it doesn't matter how much certain cast members may appear to struggle to rise above the shoddy material they are working with, they are dragged down by the man who is so bad an actor that he can't even play himself in a film that's supposedly a "75% true" bio-pic--the man whose talent can't even buy him a dollar worth of name, 50 Cent!

Hell, just considdering the rap performances in the film--with the exception of the one at the very end--50 Cent's nickname might also be a description of what his musical talent might go for if put up for auction on eBay. I kept expecting a Wayans brother to show up, because at more than one time, I felt like I MUST have stumbled into an unfunny sequel named "I'm Gonna Git You in a Scary Movie, Sucker!: Part 4'

'Blake of Scotland Yard' should stay lost in the fog

Blake of Scotland Yard (1937)
Starring: Ralph Byrd, Herbert Rawlinson, and Joan Barclay
Director: Robert F. Hill
Rating: One of Ten Stars

Sir James Blake (Rawlinson) retires from Scotland Yard so he can help a pair of young inventors (Byrd and Barlcay) complete their death-ray machine and get it safely to the League of Nations so they can use it to end all wars. But spies opposed to world-peace are lurking in every shadow....

"Blake of Scotland Yard" is a movie that was created by editing down a serial... and it shows. Basically, it consists of a lot of characters running around and throwing punches at each other for unclear reasons, repeated establishing shots of the same strange Frech dive-bar, and sequences with a hunchbacked villain and his minions who seem to constantly change their minds about what their plans are in midstream.

This show was made in the late 1930s as a kids' program. I wonder how much kids liked it back in those days, but I'm certain they wouldn't like it today. Adults might get the occassional chuckle from some of the unintended comedy in the show, as well as some of the "topical references" which are just plain funny with 70 years of history between when they were made and now, but even they should be able to find better ways to spend their time... or at least something better to watch.

'Evil Clutch' will have you clutching the remote and stop button

Evil Clutch (aka Horror Queen) (1992)
Starring: Coralina Tassoni and Diego Ribon
Director: Andreas Marfon
Rating: One of Ten Stars

The story in "Evil Clutch" (such as it is) is about a young couple who leave the city behind for a quiet vacation in the Italian Alps. After an encounter with a mysterious young woman who claims to have been attacked and a self-described writer of 'supernatural stories,' they go camping in the woods. Naturally, they end up being stalked by monsters.

A staple of craptacular movies are filler shots of people walking along with spooky music playing for no reason, storylines devoid of any logic, characters devoid of any common sense or personality, and actors so bad that it makes one consider a career in the movies. "Evil Clutch" has all these in spades. Additionally, in this film we've to clumsy attempts at foreshadowing and even clumsier attempts at copying scenes that have already been done many times in much better in other films.

After all that negativity, I suppose I should point out the two things that recommend this video. First, it has a nice score consisting of electronic music. It's just too bad that said music plays at times that seem as unmotivated and inexplicable as the actions of our heroes. Spend your money and time on something else. You'll regret the loss of both if any is wasted on watching "Evil Clutch."

'Submerged': It's both the title of the film and what should be done with it

Submerged (2005)
Starring: Steven Seagal and Christine Adams
Director: Anthony Hickox
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

Commander Cody (Seagal) and his misfit Special Forces submarine crew are released from a Navy brig so they can assault the stronghold of an international criminal who has somehow managed to assassinate a U.S. ambassador. Treachery is piled upon treachery, and Cody and his crew find themselves fighting against a foe who can turn even the firmest friend into an enemy through a flawless brainwashing technique.

There are some movies that are just plain bad, and "Submerged" is one of them. It's got a nonsensical script that is so badly paced and so flimsy in its motivations that it manages to sap even unintentional humor from the notion of a collection of action movie stock characters who conduct secret missions that rely on stealing submarines to be successfully concluded. The most remarkable thing about the movie is how pathetic the submarine sets are, given how central the submarine is to the first half of the movie (which, by the way, has virtually nothing to do with the second half). I would very much like to have the hour-and-a-half I wasted on thismovie back.

On the other hand, I should have realized that any film we're expected to take seriously by writers with so little self-respect and producers and directors so dumb that they'd let the main character be named Commander Cody couldn't possibly be any good. It's too bad really. There was a time when Seagal starred in fun cheesy movies instead of awful ones.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christopher Lee may look like Holmes,
but the rest of the movie is a misfire

Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962)

Starring: Christopher Lee, Thorley Walters and Hans Söhnker
Director: Terence Fisher
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

Sherlock Holmes (Lee) and his arch-nemisis Professor Moriarity (Söhnker) matching wits over an Egyptian necklace owned by Cleopatra, as it is stolen, recovered, and restolen.

This 1962 German film, with its two British stars and a British director, has surprisingly little to recommend it. The script is like a reject from the Universal Pictures series starring Basil Rathbone (with everything I don't like about the weaker efforts among those amplified ten-fold here, most notably Watson being portrayed as a bumbling, retarded simpleton), with an unbearably bad score.

It's amazing that a film with so much potential--Christopher Lee as Holmes and Terence Fisher directing... should be a sure winner!--could go so wrong. While Christopher Lee is absolutely right in his opinion that he and Thorley Walters more closely resemble the literary Holmes and Watson than any other on-screen pair, and there's no question that Lee gives a good performance as Holmes, there is very little else that works in this movie.

There are a couple of interesting moments between Holmes and Moriarity (who is played by the appropriately sinister German actor Hans Söhnker), but the downside is that they feel like they belong more in a hard-boiled, pulp fiction detective novel than a Holmes adventure.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Promising title for a dissapointing movie

Slash Dance (1989)
Starring: Cindy Maranne
Director: James Shyman
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

A beautiful homicide dective (Maranne) goes undercover as a chorus dancer to solve the mysterious disappearances of young dancers.

"Slash Dance" has a promising title that it completely fails to deliever on The direction and editing in this misbegotten movie is clumsy, the acting is amateurish, and the script is so badly done that we're left with a movie that can't seem to decide if it's a comedy or a thriller... and isn't a very good example of either. (The only thing in this movie worse than the acting is the dancing; I've seen grade school pagents with better choreography than this movie.)

This is one of those films that is should have been left to rot away on disused VHS tape instead of making the jump to DVD. Aside from some VERY mild chuckles, there is absolutely no entertainment value to this film.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The 'Wild Women of Wongo' are mostly tame

Wild Women of Wongo (1959)
Starring: Jean Hawkshaw, Mary Ann Webb, Johnny Walsh, Cande Gerrard, Adrienne Bourbeau, Rex Richards, Zuni Dyer and Ed Fury
Director: James L. Wolcott
Rating: One of Ten Stars

In a time before time, sexy women and homely men live together on the fertile island of Wongo, while handsome men and unattractive women reside on the nearby island of Goona. When attacks from mysterious sea-faring ape men bring the two civilizations into contact with one another, lust and hormones run rampant and hijinx ensue. Hijinx ensue.

"Wild Women of Wongo" is a movie that sucks on every level. It's a sex comedy that's not funny and doesn't have any sex (or even nudity), it's got some of the worst catfights ever caught on film, a torturous amount of random shots of a Florida park that's passing for an ancient jungle used to pad the running-time, and a cast of "actors" who would embarrass the directors of grade school plays with their lack of talent. The same goes for the casting director, who has an eye for ugly women, but didn't seem to be able to find similarly ugly men for the Wongo village.

The only good things there are about this film is that lead Wild Woman Jean Hawkshaw is cute and the underwater photography is clear. (Of course, the underwater photography is mostly used to show Hawkshaw wrestling with a baby alligator in a very long, very boring sequence.)

A remake of "Wild Women of Wongo" from the people and actresses involved in Seduction Cinema releases might be worth checking out (for the added nudity and sex, if nothing else)... but this film should be avoided.

'Lust for Dracula' isn't very desirable

Lust for Dracula (2002)
Starring: Darian Cain, Misty Mundae, and Julian Wells
Director: Tony Marsiglia
Rating: Zero of Ten Stars

Misty Mundae stars as Mina Harker. Darian Cain is featured as a female vampire named Dracula who likes to stand around naked and spout nonsense. There are also a pair of lesbian vampires who wander in and out of the film at random, occassionally masturbating as they do. Oh, and then there's Jonathan Harker, Mina's transsexual shemale husband. Plot? Storyline? This movie contains no such trivialities!

I suppose I should have known what I was getting into, but the plot on the back of the DVD case sounded interesting... and the promise of boobies is always alluring. But "Lust for Dracula" bears very little resemblence to what is described on the back, and the procedings are far too boring to even be remotely sexy.

(Trivia: This film was my first exposure to Misty Mundae and the Seduction Cinema crew. It was acquired at the closing sale of a DVD/music store going out of business in 2003.)

Friday, December 4, 2009

'Frankenstein Island' is a land of missed opportunity

Frankenstein Island (1981)
Starring: Robert Clarke, Steve Brodie, Robert Christopher, Tain Bodkin, Kathrine Victor, Cameron Mitchell, George Mitchell and John Carradine
Director: Jerry Warren
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

Hot air balloonists crashland on an uncharted island where they discover primitive bikini babes descended from alien visitors, stranded pirates, Kung Fu zombies, and Shiela Frankenstein (Victor) continuing the experiments of her famous relative.

Despite a crazy mix of elements--any one of which could have brought some excitement to this film--"Frankenstein Island" is a crushing bore from beginning to end. The dull 'heroes' wander around not doing much of anything--even the Kung Fu fight versus the zombies who all look like they just walked out of a beatnik cafe is boring--and the villains aren't much more active or effective.

The biggest shame of the movie is how badly everything is executed. The writer/director was clearly going for a cross between a "Lost World" film and a "Mad Scientist on a Rampage" movie, but he was not competent enough to capture the feel of either genre, and he botches even the simplist elements. (Worst offense: He doesn't make full use of the bikini babes... one should have developed a romance/association with one of the heroes early on and then should have been following the around. At the very least, we would have had something nice to look at while struggling to stay awake.)

Another missed opportunity was the identity of Sheila Frankenstein's husband. When he was first brought up in an ominous way, I was hoping he would be revealed as as the Frankenstein Monster. Alas, this was not to be. Sheila's mysterious husband turns out to be one of the more boring elements of the film.

"Frankenstein Island" is not a place worth visiting.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Boring sex and lousy mummy costume
makes this a must-ignore

Mummy Raider (2002)
Starring: Misty Mundae, Darian Caine and Ruby Larocca
Director: Brian Paulin
Rating: Zero of Ten Stars

When Kristen (Caine) is abducted by a Neo-Nazi scientist (Larocca), it's up to adventuress Misty (Mundae) to save her before an ancient evil mummy is resurrected. Will even Misty's considerable skills at shooting, Kung Fu fighting, and lesbian seduction save the day?!

This "movie" clocks in at about 45 minutes, and even that's too long. It doesn't work as a spoof (it's not funny), it doesn't work as an action film (the fight scenes are so very, very lame), it doesn't work as thriller (bad acting and an even worse plot), it doesn't work as a horror film (horrible though it may be), and it doesn't even work as a soft-core porn flick (yeah, Misty wanders around topless for most of the flick, but so what?!).

Zita Johann was sexier in the 1932 Universal film "The Mummy" fully clothed than any of the ladies are in this flick. Yes, the girls here are very attractive and the casting appears to have been done so there's a breast-size to meet your oogling preference... but you've got to be REALLY hungry for naked flesh to sit through this one.

Add to the drawbacks what is one of the very worst mummy costumes that has ever been put on a film that people were expected to pay money to see, and you've got something that's not even worth the time it'll take you put the disc in your DVD player.

'End of the World' shouldn't be seen until
after the end of the world

End of the World (1977)
Starring: Kirk Scott, Sue Lyon, Christopher Lee, Liz Ross, and Dean Jagger
Director: John Hayes
Rating: One of Ten Stars

Take my advice: If you fully expect the world to end on 12/21/2012, then you want to wait to see this movie until 12/22/2012. You wouldn't want to waste your precious few remaining moments on this Earth with a film as awful as this.

In "End of the World", a young scientist (Scott) receives transmissions from space that warn of impending doom. He and his very gorgeous wife (Lyon) start to investigate... um... something. They eventually run into some aliens who want to return to their utopian homeworld, but who want to destroy the Earth before they do. And what does this have to do with the priest who causes coffeemakers to explode (Lee) and the nun he lives with at an isolated hacienda? Sit through all the padding and you'll find out.

The film unfolds as if someone took what was a script for a 30-minute "Outer Limits" episode and stretched it to 88 minutes with with establishing shots that go on forever, and scene after scene after scene of the main characters wandering about, driving around, or sitting around not doing much of anything. The end result is so mindnumblingly boring that if there even is a point to the film, you'll be in too deep a stupor to care.

There are three worthwhile moments in this film: The first scene of the movie, the sequence where the aliens are revealed, and the movie's eerie climax where our scientist heroes watch the world come to an end on dozens of TV monitors. However, these moments are nowhere near exciting enough to warrant sitting through the boring, badly acted crap that separates them.

Unless you've dedicated yourself to seeing every movie Christopher Lee has appeared in, or you want to see what Lolita looked like 15 years later and without a lollipop, you'll do yourself a favor by skipping "End of the World". Even if you decide you MUST see this misbegotten excuse for a movie, make sure you get it in the 50-movie collection "Nightmare Worlds." At least that way, you'll get your money's worth via the other films the set.

Oh the other hand, maybe this is THE film to watch as the world ends. If you time it just right, when the exact moment the world ends rolls around--12:21 (AM? PM?) or 20:12 (if the genius Mayans operated on Zulu time)--you will be bored into a coma when the end comes so you won't suffer. Although... there are 24 time zones. Which ones did the genius Mayans use? And did they take Daylight Savings Time into account? How is a body to prepare when these questions remain unanswered?!

'Ring of Terror' has nothing to recommend it

Ring of Terror (1963)
Starring: George E. Mather, Esther Furst, Norman Ollsted, Lomax Study and Austin Green
Director: Clark L. Paylow
Rating: 0 of Ten Stars

A dippy graveyard caretaker (Green) relates a deadly dull tale of a medical student (Mather) who experiences the ultimate terror... and offers the viewers the experience of ultimate boredom.

"Ring of Terror" is a film with NOTHING to recommend it. From its cast of "college students" (who are being played by actors in their late 30s or early 40s, yet who are talking and acting as though they are in the late teens or early 20s, and thus making the viewer feel deeply embarrassed on their behalf... the lover's lane make-out scene is particuarly painful) to the utter lack of talent shown by anyone in the film's cast or crew, there is simply nothing good here. It's as if a group of actors whose career pinnacle had been roles in those lame public health/educational films from the 50s wrote a script outline on a napkin from the strip-club they were working at, rented a camera, and ad-libbed an atrocity of movie-making.

I've seen better acting at the first rehearsals for high school plays, and I've written better stories on a moment's notice. Don't waste your time with this one.

If you want to check out this movie just to verify I'm not exaggerating, I suggest you get the DVD multipack I've linked to below. That way, you're not out much cash AND you've gotten yourself a couple of decent films at the same time.

Trivia: Director Clark Paylow was an associate producer on Steven Spielberg's hit sci-fi film "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

'Hobgoblins'... words can't describe the crapitude

Hobgoblins (1987)
Starring: Tom Bartlett
Director: Rick Sloane
Rating: 0 Stars

When the world's most incompetent night watchman allows a group of diminutive, furry aliens to escape from the film vault of a bankrupt studio, it's up to security-guard trainee Kevin (Bartlett) to capture or kill the creatures before the sun rises and they kill everyone in the city.

"Hobgoblins" is perhaps the very worst of the wave of "small killer creatures" movies that began with "Gremlins" (and included much better examples of the sub-genre than this one, which even makes "Ghoulies" look like a cinematic masterpiece).

There is absolutely nothing to recommend this movie--the creatures are badly done, the actors are are so bad that even the lame creature puppets are better performers, the "sets" are pathetic, and the script is so bad that if it wasn't for the creature puppets and some extremely badly used stock footage, I'd suspect it was ad-libbed as the cameras were rolling.

Whether intended as a spoof of the "small killer creatures" genre, or an honest attempt at a humorous horror movie, "Hobgoblins" fails utterly.

(Oh, and if you're a T&A kinda guy, don't get fooled by the DVD edition with a busty babe on the cover. No one in the movie ever appears dressed like that. And the hobgoblins here are most definitely NOT party animals.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

'Project Vampire' is a failure

Project Vampire (1993)
Starring: Brian Knudson, Mary-Louise Gemmill and Myron Natwick
Director: Peter Flynn
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

A mad scientist, Dr. Klaus (Natwick), is perfecting a longevity serum that turns those who use it into vampires. A brave intern from the univsersity hospital (Knudson), a kind-hearted nurse (Gemmill), and a Chinese genius (Cho) join forces to save themselves from the effects of the serum and to stop Klaus's convoluted schemes from coming to fruition.

At the center of "Project Vampire" is a neat idea--I like the notion of the vampire serum--but that idea is brutally strangled by a script so badly structured I doubt the writer/director has even heard the term "three-act structure", and then dumped in a shallow grave by a cast of actors who have almost certainly heard the phrase "don't quit your dayjob" many times. To make matters worse, the film is a mixture of a chase story and a race-against-time story, but both of these normally dramatic plot-types are made deadly dull by chase scenes that have all the excitement of my daily commute to work.

"Project Vampire" is yet another badly executed low-budget film where a good idea falls victim to a shortage of talent. (It's also the only film of recent vintage that features a Chinese character that brought to mind Lionel Twain's rant at Inspector Wang in "Murder By Death" about geniuses being unable to grasp the use of preposition, articles, and pronouns when speaking.)

Nothing to sing about in 'Rockabilly Vampire'

Rockabilly Vampire (1997)
Starring: Stephen Blackehart, Margaret Lancaster, Wendy Walker, and Dennis Davis
Director: Lee Bennett Sobel
Rating: One of Ten Stars

A struggling, Elvis-obsessed writer (Lancaster) falls in love with a vampire who bears a passing resemblence to The King when he was young (Blackehart). Boredom ensues.

"Rockabilly Vampire" is an unfunny, badly executed comedy with pathetically weak horror overtones. There isn't a scene in the film that doesn't go on for at least four mintues too long and that doesn't feel like it was ad-libbed and then not edited down. There isn't anything scary (or tragic or particularly sexy) about any of the vampires, including the one our heroine falls in love with; he doesn't even do a good Elvis impression.

Spend the time you would have wasted on this film reorganizing your underwear drawer. Even Troma should feel embarrassed over picking this one for distribution.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Eight boobs on four bad actresses is what this movie's about

The Bare Wench Project (2000)
Starring: Nikki Fritz, Julie K. Smith, Lorissa McComas, Antonia Dorian and Julie Strain
Director: Jim Wynorski
Rating: Zero of Ten Stars

Four college girls go into the woods in search of the truth behind the Bare Wench legend (or is that the truth of the Bare Wench's legendary behind?)

This film made me think perhaps I was a bit too harsh in my review of "Satan's School for Lust". Unless you're really, REALLY hard up and any film with naked boobs and lame lesbian scenes will please you, you probably will be hitting the fast-forward button too much to figure out what exactly they find.

"The Bare Witch Project" is unfunny, unsexy, and unwatchable. In fact, it's so bad I can't even force myself to spend any more time writing about it. Let's just end by saying that what little promise there is in the box copy and concept of the film is never realized on the screen.

Absolutely nothing to get in the way of violence

Kill the Scream Queen (2004)
Starring: Bill Zebub, Deborah Dutch, Debbie D, and Isabelle Stephen
Director: Bill Zebub
Rating: One of Ten Stars

A sexual psychopath and serial killer turned movie-maker (or movie-maker turned sexual psychopath and serial killer) (Zebub) lures wanna-be actresses to an abandoned bar with the promise of being in his horror movie/snuff-film. He then tortures and rapes them.

That is not only a summary of "Kill the Scream Queen", it is the entire content of the film. There is virtually nothing worthwhile here, unless you want your "torture porn" almost completely free of plot and character development, and with a little more actual porn that you find in the "Hostel" and "Saw" movies.

The very low One Star-rating I'm giving this pointless piece of "filmmaking" is based on the one victim that fights back in a big way. Otherwise, most of the girls here are just so much meat--only two show even the slightest glimmer of acting talent--and the filmmaking and effects are pedestrian in the extreme.

Worse, the film is such an amateur effort that the director can't even keep his continuity straight. In one scene, he rips a girl's panties off so he can rape her, yet when he dumps the body, they're back on and they're intact.

(The only positive things I can say is that the "writer and director" of the film didn't attempt to overreach his $1.25 budget. There's also the "message" that gets delivered via film-maker's monologues directed at his victims... that an emphasis on sex and gore over acting and story is ruining the horror genre.)

I like the high concept of the movie... but I just wish a movie had actually been made with it, instead of a collection of clips with girls taking their clothes off and being menaced and killed with nothing else going on.

'Transylmania' should have had a stake through its heart

Transylmania (2009)
Starring: Oren Skoog, Jennifer Lyons, Tony Denman, Patrick Cavanaugh, Paul H. Kim, Musetta Vander, Natalie Garza, Nicole Garza, David Steinberg, James DeBello and Irena A. Hoffman
Directors: David Hillenbrand and Scott Hillenbrand
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

A group of American college students travel to a remote Transylvanian university for a semester of studying and partying abroad. Will the partying or the vampires kill them first?

I need to learn the lesson that the smart choice is to go home if I arrive at the theater too late to see the movie I had planned on. But, as I was stood at the box office, I noticed "Transylmania" was about to start. And, seeing that I love old monster movies and this was part college stoner comedy and part spoof of the classic monster-in-the-creepy-castle films, I thought it might be fun. "How bad can it be?" I asked myself.

Well, it was pretty bad. The humor is more stupidly offensive than funny, the acting universally weak--especially when it comes to the comedic timing of the cast, which is surprising given the long resumes of everyone appearing in the film--and the story features numerous characters that do nothing except serve the purpose of a single joke and otherwise just clutter up the film and story.

It's too bad, becuase in the hands of competent writers who understood how to streamline a story (not to mention write funny jokes) and with some better actors, this could have been a really funny movie with roots in classic films from Universal and Full Moon. The vampire/college student look-alike and the midget mad scientist had all sorts of potential, potential that we can see shining through at the film's best moments, but which remains tragicaly unspent or even wasted.

I really wish this film had been better and that it had done well at the box office. I applaud the filmmakers for writing a spoof that actually has an original story instead of just a cobbled together string of lame references to recent movies and current news events and pop culture. Maybe (God willing!) this film is a sign that story will be returning to the spoof film... or maybe the failure of this film will mean the genre will go dormant for a while because the business people and creatives STILL won't get the message that quality is what sells a movie.

Do as the title suggests...
leave this film alone in the dark

A revised version of this review appears in my forthcoming book 150 Movies You Should (Die Before You) See. The write-up in the book includes, among other things, trivia about the production.

Alone in the Dark (2005)
Starring: Christian Slater, Stephen Dorff and Tara Reid
Director: Uwe Boll
Rating: One of Ten Stars

Edward Carnby (Christian Slater) is a paranormal investigator who has spent the last several years trying to unlock a mystery in his past that is somehow tied to a mysterious prehistoric culture. He is on the verge of finding his answers when a series of nonsensical events surrounding invisible monsters, a girlfriend played by an apparently bored actress (Tara Reid), symbiot-infected government agents, and a for-no-apparent-reason-bitter co-worker from the government's paranormal research branch Dept. 713 (Stephen Dorff) erupt.

This movie stars with a rather dull bit of exposition and it doesn't get much better. It's a mish-mash of half-developed story elements and non-developed characters played by actors who in most cases seem like they know they're in an awful film so they're not even trying. The monstrous threat is self-contradictory (the critters are loose in the world, yet they're not... the critters are stopped from invading the world, yet they've depopulated it by the end). The super-secret, heavily armed government agency set up to deal with supernatural threats have been fighting the growing monster menace for years, yet they go to face it repeatedly in the film without the fairly simple, easy-to-come-by methods to weaken it. (The creatures are vulnerable to light. Private citizens can rent light towers with gas or battery powered generators, yet the hi-tech, paramilitary Dept. 713 can't lay their hands on any.)

Maybe the problem is that the three writers on "Alone in the Dark" never showed each others pages to one another before rehearsal and filming started?

There is nothing nice to say about this film, except maybe that it moves fast enough to not get boring. For that, it gets a very generous One Star. I knew I was watching garbage, but it kept me mildly entertained. I still wish I had the time back I spent watching it, and I don't recommend you waste yours on this film.

'See No Evil' is a film you should avoid as if it was evil

See No Evil (2006)

Starring: Glen "Kane" Jacobs, Samantha Noble, Christina Vidal, Luke Pegler, and Steven Vidler
Director: Gregory Dark
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

Eight convicted juvenile offenders trade a weekend of cleaning up at a historical landmark for a month off their sentence. Unfortunately, an insane killer with a love for plucking his victims' eyes out (Jacobs) his hiding inside the landmark, and he starts killing them, one by one.

While watching "See No Evil", I alternated between rolling my eyes at the utter stupidity of it all, and cringing at the gory violence--and, yes, even looking away at times. I think the creators of this film were so enamoured with the idea of grossing out the audience that they didn't bother hiring decent actors, nor even bother commisioning a decent script.

The girls in the film seem to have been hired first and foremost for their abilities to scream, while the guys were hired for... hmmm... I'm not sure what talents they may have been hired for. It cetainly wasn't their good looks or their acting abilities.

As for the script, it's little more than a string of slasher-movie cliches that are used to loosely tie together the violent set-piece death scenes--only one of which is truly surprising and shocking. They're all gory and brutal, but only one will take the most naive viewers by surprise. In fact, the only thing the filmmakers seemed to be focused on was sadistic violence. The plotlessness of the script is probably why it's virtually devoid of suspense; with no story surrounding the characters, we never come to care about them, so there's no excitement or thrill experienced as the film unfolds.

Unless you demand nothing more from your films than gory death scenes, "See No Evil" is not worth seeing.

The most aptly titled film in the history of filmmaking

Disaster Movie (2008)
Starring: Matt Lanter, Nicole Parker, Gary "G-Thang" Johnson, Vanessa Minnillo, Crista Flanagan, Ike Barinholtz and Kimberly Kardashian
Directors: Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer
Rating: One of Ten Stars

Let's the the easy and obvious out of the way: "Disaster Movie" is the most appropriately named film ever. This is a movie that not only should but WILL end careers (unless it's being funded by Germans looking for a tax write-off). However cheap it was to make, there is no way something this utterly devoid of quality, coherence and funny material will come even close to recouping what it made.

This film is almost certainly one of the worst movies ever made. It is, indeed, a disaster movie in every sense.

"Disaster Movie" is a failed comedy that pokes fun at about a dozen movies of all genres and budget levels from the past couple of years. It is such a misffire that its spoof of "The Love Guru" actually makes "The Love Guru" look good. I'm not going to summarize the plot, but there really isn't one... we just have the main characters running from disconnected skit to disconnected skit while the city they live in is being hit by meteors, tornados and mysterious fires.

That said, I did laugh during the spoof of the "Step Up" movies, I was vastly amused by the demon-possessed Alvin and the Chipmunk clones, and I thought that Ike Barinholtz was very funny as Batman and later Beowulf. Also, Nicole Parker was also hilarious as the "Enchanted Princess"... in fact, she stole every scene she was in and she was the only consistently funny thing about the film. At no point did the "Enchanted Princess" character feature in a gag or scene that went on and on and on and on well past the point where it had stopped being funny or even remotely interesting. (Like the songs in the film. Maybe it's because I haven't seen any of the "High School Musical"films, but there's a spoof of them that drags on forever, with a song so lame that only the dance number that goes with it is lamer. Now, you might say that since I haven't seen any of the "High Shool Musical" films, I'm not getting the joke. Well, I've never seen the movie that "Airplane" makes fun of, and I rank that as one of my favorite comedies. Whether a viewer is familiar with the material being spoofed, the writers of the comedy should still put enough thought and craft into their script to make it funny.

Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer have made the worst theatrically released movie of the year with this one. I know it's only August, but I can't imagine anything worse than this could possibly be released. I wouldn't mind seening Nicole Parker or Ike Barinholtz in the futur, as they were very, very funny. Vaneesa Minnillo and Kimberly Kardashian both fill out tight dresses nicely (so I would REALLY like to see more of them in the future). But, while I don't wish poverty or unemployment on anyone, Friedberg and Seltzer really should not be allowed near a director's chair again.

This is not a movie that you should wait to see on DVD. Wait for it to be on Comedy Central if you really have to see it. Because as funny as the "Enchanted Princess" and the Alvin and the Chipmunks bits are, they're not funny enough to make sitting through the rest of this movie worth it.

'An American Carol' is a Hollywood embarrassment

An American Carol (2008)
Starring: Kevin Farley, Kelsey Grammer, Robert Davi, Geoffrey Arend, Serdar Kalsin, Leslie Nielsen, Chriss Anglin, Trace Adkins, Bill O'Reilly and Jon Voigt
Director: David Zucker
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

Left-wing, America-hating, self-absorbed filmmaker Michael Malone (Farrell) stats a movement to outlaw the Fourth of July. This is one insane liberal act too many, and he attracts the attention of Taliban terrorist leader Aziz (Davi) and his sidekicks (Arend and Kalsin), who under the pretense of funding Malone's first feature film use him to stage a massive Fourth of July suicide bombing attack, and of the spirits of great American leaders General George S. Patton (Grammer), George Washington (Voigt) and John F. Kennedy (Anglin) visit him in dreams in an attempt to change his heart toward love of his country.

I try to keep politics out of my reviews, but any regular readers have probably figured out that I lead to the right politically. Long-time readers have been able to discern that I have nothing but contempt for Michael Moore's films, but that I am very fond of some of the movies David Zucker has been involved with and the sort of insane comedy they've featured. It should therefore be obvious that I went in to the theater expecting to like "An American Carol", a movie that was going to mock Michael Moore and other fanatical Hollywood Lefties while also spoofing a great literary work. It seemed like a movie that couldn't go wrong.

Well, it did.

I laughed less during "An American Carol" than I did during "Disaster Movie". This film is more intelligent and better acted than the former, but it's not as funny. It's as if they made a comedy but forgot to include jokes.

They also seemed to forget to take their script past its first draft, or at least make an attempt at making it coherent. The structure of the film has an eccentric old man (played by Leslie Nielsen) at a Fourth of July picnic telling a "Christmas Carol"-type story of an anti-America fllmmaker haunted by both ghosts and terrorists, making it a fiction being spun by an unreliable narrator within a fiction. This makes the points raised by the movie very easy to dismiss, and they become even easier to dismiss because the film can't seem to keep it's narrative straight, nor do the writers manage to bring Michael Malone back to the real world at the end of the story or even properly bookend the film with the old man wrapping up his narrative with the kids.

The final five minutes, which should serve as the reinforcement of the film's message--that it's ignroance at best and insanity at worst, and the height of ingratitude to those who came before us for Americans to tear down America instead of working to support it and make it better--instead see a complete collapse of the film's already flimsy narrative structure.

The flaws in the story flow become fully exposed and the final scene has Michael Malone walking off with the ghost of General Patton while bantering. Unlike Scrooge, who had a change of heart and started using his wealth and power for good once he returned firmly to the real world, Malone instead seems to remain in the dreamworld of truth-revealing ghosts, making his supposed transformation meaningless. (Part of me wonders if the fact the poor story structure undermines the movie is a symptom lack of the filmmakers being a little less "brave" in their bucking of the Hollywood ultra-liberal, fundamentally anti-America culture.)

"An American Carol" is not without its moments, though. The scenes with the Taliban terrorists (both in and out of Afghanistan) are very funny, as is an extended bit with ACLU zombies (although Dennis Hopper playing a gun-toting judge is what truly makes that sequence). Trace Adkins also makes a fine Spirit of Death (and gives Kevin Farley the opportunity to deliver one of his funniest lines in the whole movie).

In fact, everyone appearing in this film does such an excellent job that it's a shame they aren't supported by a better script. Farley is hilarious as a cartoonish version of Michael Moore; Kelsey Grammer is very, very funny as an appropriately violent George S. Patton ("what's with the slapping?" asks Michael Malone after getting clocked for the umpteenth time, "it's my trademark" replies Patton); Robert Davi gives a performance that's perfectly balanced between menance and mirth as the only remotely intelligent person in the Taliban; and even Bill O'Reilly is funny in scenes where he's making fun of himself.

In an article on the "L.A. Times" website the day the film opened, David Zucker was quoted as saying the producers chose not to have the film screened for critics because he felt it wouldn't get a fair shake because of its political message and the targets it lampooned. Some of the early commentary I saw support his claim to a small extent, but, having sat through "An American Carol", I don't think Mr. Zucker was being completely genuine.

The film wasn't screened for critics because it isn't very good. On the Friday following the film's opening, I heard Rush Limbaugh praising the film's script as being very funny and encouraging people to go see it. He wanted the film to be financially successful, so more comedies with a conversative bent would be made. I don't know what script Limbaugh was reading, but it couldn't possibly have been the one for the movie I watched.

(Don't bother PM'ing or emailing me about how it shows that the right-wing pundits can't be trusted (like some folks did when I originally published this review, despite this statement being in it). The Lefties spewed the same sort of lies about John Singleton's failed comedy "Silver City" a few years back, including some supposedly respectable critics. The right and the left are equally guilty about deceiving the public to boost the box office for films they feel are "important.")

"An American Carol" has the same problem that farces of a similar nature have had in recent years... no one bothered to write a decent script for it. Its humor is more intelligent that what you'll find in "Disaster Movie", but there's less of it and the script is just as sloppy and lazily done. Like the writers of "Disaster Movie" (and similar recent efforts) who felt random pop culture references could stand in for craftsmanship in the writing, the filmmakers here assumed the politics on display would be all that would be needed to carry the film.

It's a shame that Zucker and the other filmmakers wasted the talent assembled on such a crappy effort. It's an even bigger shame that the film's weak showing at the box office will be taken as proof that the public isn't interested in seeing movies that carry a pro-America message. (Because that's the message the film industry establishment and analysts will want to take away from this.)