Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Why is it called 'Day of the Ax'?

Day of the Ax (2005)
Starring: Dustin Ardine, Janet Robbins, and Suzi Lorraine
Director: Ryan Cavalline
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

When a pair of psychotic brothers aren't killing travelers, they're abducting young women and forcing them to have babies. (I think.)

"Day of the Ax" is a dull, sloppily plotted slasher flick with bad gore effects. The actors are all decent enough, but the script they are working with was so bad that I'm sure even Ed Wood Jr. would have been declined to work with it.

Skip it. It's not worth your time. But if you decide to check it out, can you explain to me why the movie is called "Day of the Ax" when the killers prefer using hammers?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tarzan meets his match: Crappy Filmmakers

Tarzan and the Green Goddess (1936)
Starring: Herman Brix, Ula Holt, Frank Baker, Lew Sargent, and Ashton Dearholt
Director: Edward Kull
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

Tarzan (Brix) and his friends struggle to be the first to loot a Guatemalan idol from the natives of the Dead City, so the secret of ancient Mayan explosives don't fall into the wrong hands.

"Tarzan and the Green Goddess" is a condensed version of the second half of a serial titled "The New Adventures of Tarzan", and subsequently is a sequel to the condensed version of the serial's first half.

And it shows. Based on references characters make (along the lines of "let's hope the monsters of the Dead City aren't chasing us!") give the impression that a far more exciting adventure led up to the drab and boring events of this one.

This is perhaps the dullest Tarzan tale I've ever seen. Some excitement creeps in during the film's final third--when characters return to the Dead City and once again deal with the goofy cultists who live there--but it's too little, too late. A movie about the "gay gypsy party" that Lord Greystoke hosts to celebrate his return from Central America would probably have been more interesting.

The only positive thing I can find to say about this film is that Brix bears a close resemblance to one of my favorite Tarzan depictions in art--that from the pen of the great Russ Manning. He's also an okay actor, but he manages to ruin the performance by delivering a Tarzan "victory cry" that sounds like he's if he's taking part in a hog calling contest.

I think even the biggest fans of Tarzan can safely take a pass on this sorry effort.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

'Demon Slayer' not worth anyone's time

Demon Slayer (2002)
Starring: Michelle Acuna, Adam Huss, Howard Williams Jr., Hannah Lee, Monique Deville, Layon Grey, and Robert Eaton
Director: James Cotton
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

Five juvenile delinquints (Acuna, Huss, Williams, Lee, and Deville) are sent to clean up an abandoned mental hospital as one last chance to "go straight." Naturally, the place is full of demons and restless souls, and our troop of bad actors portraying one-dimensional stereotypes are soon in predictable dire straights.

I really don't mind unoriginality in horror movies. If I did, I would be giving lots and lots of really low ratings. What I do mind are horror movies that don't bring anything new to the table while managing to do the retreads badly. I mind it even more when a badly executed film starts with an impossible premise--a group of juveniles who are left alone in a building that would properly be overhauled by a professional construction crew that would probably even need haz-mat licensing. (Oh... the film also features the lamest, most illogical "sexy chick takes a bath" scene I've ever seen.)

And then there's the ultimate sin: The filmmakers either have so little faith in their abilities, or are so full of contempt of their audience's intelligence that they feel the need to label their stereotypical characters at the outset, with titles like "Tyron: The Brotha". That labeling made me think that perhaps I was in for a horror spoof, but there was no such luck. Any comedy in this turkey is purely unintentional.

Take it from me: You can spend your time better doing just about anything other than watching "Demon Slayer".

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Much promised, but nothing delivered

She-Gods of Shark Reef (1958)
Starring: Bill Cord, Don Durant, Lisa Montell, and Jeanne Gerson
Director: Roger Corman
Rating: One of Ten Stars

Two brothers (Cord and Durant), one wanted for murder, are shipwrecked on an island inhabited only by women who collect and guard pearls for an international jewelry company. However, the women are also involved with a cult devoted to a shark god who hungers for sacrificial virgins.

"She-Gods of Shark Reef" is one of the most disappointing movies I've ever seen. The first 15 or so minutes provide an abundance of promising set-ups, any one of which could have given rise to a decent horror movies and any combination of which could have been the foundation for a great horror movie.

First, we have our heroes completely cut off from the surrounding world. Add to that the fact that the island they are stuck on is completely owned by "The Company", and that only "The Company provides transportation on and off the island. The there's Pua (Gerson), the creepy woman in charge of the pearl divers, someone who is obviously hiding secrets and whose primary motivation seems to be protecting the interest of "The Company" above all else, as well as hiding whatever secrets there may be on the island. And, finally, there's the fact that the women are a bunch of superstitious cultists who believe their well-being is tied to a mysterious shark god that prowls the waters beyond the pearl beds they dive at. Oh, and then there's the added bonus that shark-infested waters are scary all by themselves.

But what does director Roger Corman and screenwriters Robert Hill and Victor Stoloff do with all this potential? Absolutely nothing, other than giving the "good brother" the opportunity to rescue a girl (Montell) from being a virgin sacrifice as part of a romantic plot in the film. The mysterious Company never comes into play, the creepy Pua turns out to be more of a nag than a serious threat to anyone, and the shark god angle is total dud. Heck, even the shark-infested waters aren't used to their potential, as characters blithely swim back and forth between the island the reef of the title.

This film wastes all its potential, features a cast who might be okay if they had a decent script and perhaps stronger direction but who mostly seem lost here, and spends five or so minutes of its brief 63-minute running time on showing the island girls doing Hawaiian dances. (Not sure why the dance segment is there. Perhaps it's intended as a tourism PSA as an additional thank you to the government of Hawaii, which is acknowledged and thanked for assistance at the beginning of the beginning of the film, or maybe just a misfired attempt to inject some exoticness into the beautiful but somewhat bland setting of the film.)

The only reason I'm not giving this film a 0-star rating is because it remains interesting for most of its running time. Even that misplaced Hawaiian dance routine isn't exactly boring, It could be it held my attention because I kept hoping some of its potential would pay off, but for all of its flaws and ultimately being a disappointment, but it kept me engaged.

But it is a crime against lovers of cheesy movies that a great title like "She-Gods of Shark Reef" was wasted on such a crappy movie. The crime becomes even greater when one considers the original poster used to promote the film:

Oh, if only the movie itself to have lived up to the coolness the marketing material promised!