Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day of the Turkey Review: Skyggen

Skyggen: The Mind of a Killer (2005)
Starring: Jemshaid Ashraf, Ralph Ferraro, Bianca Cheng, Michael Nahajski, and Gino Evans
Director: Jemshaid Ashraf
Rating: One of Ten Stars

A serial killer (Ferraro) is cutting a bloody swath through England's windswept North Country. Only Max (Ashraf) has lived to tell about him... but that's only because the killer is going to great lengths to frame Max for his rampage.

"Skyggen" plays, for most of its running-time like an inept homage to "The Hitcher" but ultimately transforms into something more like "Identity".

The best part of the film are the first few minutes, even with the bad sound. After that it's all downhill, with badly framed shots, badly chosen angles, badly lit scenes, and some pretty bad acting. This was star/writer/director's Jemshaid Ashraf's first movie, so maybe he should have cast someone else in the lead and focused on getting the film's other aspects right?

BTW, that mysteious word in the title is Danish for "Shadow." Why a movie made in England, by English filmmakers, and starring English actors speaking English in an English setting has a Danish title is beyond my meager ability to comprehend.

The Russian poster for the English movie with the Danish title.

Day of the Turkey Review: Slaughtered

With my eyes mostly recovered, I decided to expose them to some movies I had low hopes for in order to do a gimmicky impromptu Thanksgiving Turkey blog-fest between here, The Charles Band Collection, and Terror Titans. Welcome to Day of the Turkey!

The first selection, however, was far worse than I had imagined.

Slaughtered (2008)
Starring: Chris Smith, Arlisha Fogle, Aschleigh Jensen, Rebecca McQuen, and Cheri Lynn
Director: Anthony Doublin
Rating: Zero of Ten Stars

Harold (Smith) is a psychopath who murders nude models and posts gory images of his crimes on a pay/members-only website. As he goes about his business of booking small-time models and murdering them, the world's worst detective (Fogle) is hired to locate one of Harold's victims. But something else is closing in on Harold--the restless spirits of his victims. Is he truly being haunted, or are the ghosts just a figment of his deterioriating sanity?

"Slaughtered" is a movie so bad that the only good things I can say about it is that it's well-lit and the camera is in focus at all times. And I'd be appalled if those weren't quality, given that the writer/director of this should-have-been cinematic abortion is a well-established lighting technician and cameraman with several regular gigs on television series to his credit.

But as a director and a screen-writer, he is completely incompetent.

We have a central character--I can't bring myself to call him a protagonist--who is both loathsome and uninteresting, whose only defining characteristics is that he wears too much eye-liner and likes to kill women. Oh... and he's also a peeping tom who likes watching his models undress via a webcam before he... makes them undress and kills them. We never learn anything about Harold... who he is, why he is doing what he's doing, or any other stuff that might make him a little interesting. He never becomes more than a crazy goth in too much eye-liner.

We have a character who should be the hero, but who is so irrelevant to the plot that by the time she arrives at Harold's house, the movie's over... his last victim has freed herself and ghosts have exacted gory revenge on him. (Yeah, I just spoiled the movie. If you had watched it, you would have wished I had and saved you the misery.) She's also, as I mentioned in the teaser summary at the top of the review, the world's dumbest detective; while working on her missing person's case, she calls up the local police station and offers sexual favors in exchange for open missing persons cases. I've no doubt she's real popular around the squad room, since those sorts of things are not under lock and key... the police are trying to find those people. A Google search might have given her the same information as those files. And then there's the fact she spends much of the movie in her office (which looks like it might be a nook in her kitchen) trying to "hack" Harold's members-only snuff-port site. Why didn't get herself a pre-paid Mastercard, billed to her client, and just sign up for the site under a fictitious name?!

Of course, the police in the area of California where the film takes place--Santa Barbara? I think it was mentioned at some point, but my brain was starting to turn off by that point, so I'm not sure--aren't much smarter. Nude models are going missing... nude models who are contacted via their promotional web sites, via email... nude models who have computers and email accounts where correspondence is stored. It seems to me that it wouldn't take more than a couple of vanished women with emails from Harold in their inbox to make the police interested in him and his little web-venture. That and the fact that he disposes of their bodies, fully intact, in dumpsters. Neither Harold, nor the cops, have apparently watched even one episode of "CSI". Or "Quincy, M.E.". Or even "Columbo." Hell, the world's dumbest detective looked at the email account of one victim and zeroed in on Harold.

Some of the laziest writing I have ever seen in a film that was supposedly made by a professional is on display here. The cipherous nature of Harold. the idiocy and plot irrelevancy of the character who should be the hero, and the absence of any apparent thought devoted to how Harold can be getting away with his serial killing are only the worst sins among a multitude.

Moving onto the direction... words fail me. Either Doublin managed to make scenes of girls getting undressed boring, or I need to have my testosterone levels checked. We're treated to three scenes of girls getting undressed and then getting dressed (before undressing again and being murdered), and the next one is duller than the one that went before. Even the kill scenes are boring, with only the first one having even the slightest impact, possibly because it was a bit unexpected. Usually with films like this, I'm disgusted or irritated--I do not like movies whose central and only theme is the brutalization of women and other innocent victims--but with "Slaughtered", each murder brought a greater degree of indifference.

Perhaps it has something to do with the acting, which was almost as universally flat as the direction. The fact that Doublin is a seasoned professional probably helped him keep the "playing to the back row at the community theatre"-style performances that usually plague movies of this kind. The actors here all seemed comfortable in front of a camera and aware of how to play to it... but one can also easily understand why very few of the cast have credits beyond this picture, or other films directed by Doublin.

"Slaughtered" is lurking inside several multi-packs from Maxim Media's Pendulum Pictures imprint. Wherever you find it, save it for last... or, better yet, don't bother with it at all. The only reason to watch it is to gain a greater appreciation for Mario Bava's excellent "Hatchet for the Honeymoon" and Robert Hammer's "Don't Answer the Phone". Those films have many elements in common with Slaughtered... only they were made by directors who understand how to put a movie together.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

No posts on any of my blogs this week.

I am having really bad eye trouble. Hopefully, tomorrow's trip to the doctor will start to make things better.

I hope you'll check in at some point in the future.

Friday, November 4, 2011

'Ninja Powerforce' is powerfully bad

Ninja Powerforce (1988)
Starring: Richard Harrison, Alan Cunningham, George Ajex, Shelia Lau, Nancy Yeh, and Barti Marcus
Directors: Joseph Lai and Godfrey Ho
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

When ninjas become embroiled in a fight between two criminal gangs, Interpol sends in Gordon, their go-to Ninja Master (Harrison). Will he stop the gang-on-gang bloodshed? More importantly, will he survive the deadly confrontation with the Evil Ninja possessing the most impressive mustache in all the Orient (Cunningham)?

Poor Richard Harrison. At one time, he perhaps had a chance to be a semi-respected B-movie actor along the lines of Gordon Mitchell, but instead he became closely associated with the countless patch-work pictures that Joseph Lai, Godfrey Ho, and their compatriots created during the 1980 by by shooting scenes with Harrison and other actors doing ninja-y stuff and inserting the scenes into partially finished or simply unreleased movies that they acquired cheaply from failed production efforts. Harrison was invariably dressed in garish, outlandish ninja outfits, and he often sported headbands like the one he wears in this movie... because ninjas always want to make sure they're not mistaken for simple cowl-wearing freaks in satin outfits.

As Lai/Ho patch-work pictures go, "Ninja Powerforce" is fairly decent. Both the original movie that was sacrificed to create it (a gangster melodrama about two friends and hitmen for enemy gangs who pay a dear price when they try to go straight) and the ninja segments (which inserts a bald-headed Big Gangster Boss and his mustachioed Ninja sidekick, as well as Harrison and his Interpol boss, and lets them have nonsense conversations with characters in the other movie in between ninja hi-jinx) move along so quickly that you might not even notice how crappy it all is. Instead, you will notice the ludicrous dialog, the illogical and disconnected actions of every character in the film, and the laughably cheap sets and props used on the office set for the gangsters and Interpol officials alike... and you will find yourself chuckling if not outright laughing. The Mustachioed Ninja really is a sight that must be seen. (He's not being pictured here, because I don't want to ruin the comedy.)

This film actually teeters on the brink between a Two and a Three rating, making it one of the best efforts to emerge from Joseph Lai's IFD production house. I ultimately went with the lower rating because of the dizzying disorientation created by the interaction of the characters in the inserted Harrison footage and the original film.

In the original film, the hero is sent to prison for months, or perhaps even years, for almost killing his best friend. In fact, at one point, we are led to believe that said friend is dead. But, because of comments made by the Big Gang Boss and the Interpol Boss, it feels like the hero spends little more than a couple of days in jail, if that. (And yet over in the other movie, everyone is still behaving as though he was locked away for a long time.)

Given that these films are partially re-written through dubbing when they are assembled, it would have been nice if some thought had been put into making the film's internal chronology flow between the original work and the inserted segments. It would have made it a lot easier to enjoy Harrison and the Mustachioed Ninja assassinating people for little or no reason and battling each other in their garish outfits.

If you're looking for a film to add to a Bad Movie Night, "Ninja Powerforce" might just do the trick. If you REALLY want pain, perhaps make it a double feature with "Ninja Death Squad", another Godfrey Ho Special, which Craig Edwards reviewed today as his contribution to the Nine Days of the Ninja Blogathon.

The deadliest of blogathons....