Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Everything is padded but the lead actress's boobs

The Bewitching (2006)
Starring: Beverly Lynne, Tezz Yancey, Lysander Abadia, Steve Reaser, and Kevin Campbell
Director: Gary Sax
Rating: One of Ten Stars

When a witch (Lynne) decides to violate the commandments of her Coven and travel to our dimension to engage in "pleasures of the flesh", three friends (Abadia, Reaser, and Yancey) are in for a night of hot sex, horror, and confusion.

What passes for the plot in "The Bewitching" is really just an excuse to string some softcore porn scenes together, primarily showcasing the very attractive body of Las Vegas-based adult entertainer Beverly Lynn (and she comes complete with a subscription-based adults-only website). The picture chosen to illustrate this review showcases the film's greatest assets.

In fact, Lynn is one of only three actors whose performance seems to approach that of professional level--the other two being Lysander Abadia and Tezz Yancey. And even so, she appears stiff when sharing the screen with Abadia, who has been a bit-player on numerous television shows... with her main acting skills revolving around the activities taking place in the hotel room and bed with various cast members. Everyone else are amateurish in the extreme.

And that may be good enough for those who are really hard up for a little light porn. Lynn is quite good at what she does, and she hasn't mutilated herself by inflating her chest to the point where her boobs are the size of her head like so many actresses in these sorts of movies have done (or like one of the ladies who disrobe in this film to display her unfortunate impants).

Unfortunately, even if what you are looking for is a little light porn, you might still find yourself bored... and possibly even a little irritated. Gary Sax is a director of very little talent and he doesn't know when enough is enough. If it's not obvious by comments made previously, Beverly Lynn is basically "my type" and I still reached for the remote to fast-forward at about the halfway point of every sex scene, because they grew repetative to the point of actually repeating the same footage more than once. Maybe if I was 15, I wouldn't mind... but I have better things to do with my time these days.

Sax also doesn't know how to start and end scenes, how to pace dialogue scenes, or.... He's basically made a movie that showcases everything you SHOULDN'T do when making a movie. And I think ultimately would-be filmmakers are the best audience for "The Bewitching"; they should check it out and take careful note of everything that's wrong with it, and then avoid those mistakes. Worse, many of the weaknesses in the film might have been fixed if a little more time or care had been spent in editing.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A documentary that fails to mention it's a hoax?

Alien from Area 51: The Alien Autopsy Footage Revealed
Starring: Ray Santilli and Gary Shoefield
Director: Philip Gardiner
Stars: One of Ten Stars

In 1994, Fox got huge ratings with "Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction", a Jonathan Frakes-hosted documentary that purported to show genuine footage of an autopsy performed in late the 1940s, supposedly on the corpse of an alien that crashed his/her/its ship in Rosewell, New Mexico.

In 2006, the men who once claimed to have purchased the alien autopsy footage from a retired U.S. Air Force cameraman, Ray Santilli and Gary Shoefield, admitted that the footage was hoaxed as part of the promotional efforts surrounding a fictional comedy based on his efforts to market the material. He named names of other hoaxers involved, explained processes, and claimed that the original footage HAD at one time existed but had been degraded so he was forced to "recreate it" with a phony alien body and phony doctors in a phony laboratory.

Now, in 2012, along comes "Alien From Area 51", a documentary that promises to reveal information about government cover-ups and the Santilli/Shoefield film. Directed by Philip Gardiner (who was also two films I've recently reviewed over at Terror Titans, and both of which narrowly avoided being reviewed here) this is a film that will benefit viewers who were too young to have seen the alien autopsy footage Back In The Day and those who don't want reality to creep into their conspiracy theories about world governments covering up alien visitations and alien invasions. Because this is a "documentary" from the Michael Moore School of Documentary filmmaking, in that it offers one-sided views of the topics it covers, offers assertions rather than facts, and recreates reality to fit the narrative the filmmaker wishes to present.

"Alien from Area 51" seeks to reset the clock to 1994 by letting Santelli and Shoefield spin a tale about the history of alien autopsy footage that completely disregards the 2006 revelations and even parts of the original narrative about the pair supposedly came by the material. In the interview with the producers here, the footage is no longer a "recreation" using a prop body and actors in an apartment, but a pain-stakingly detailed restoration of salvageable parts of the decaying original that had been made by taking still shots of the individual frames and reassembling them into the movie that was the basis for the Fox program.

That, along with Santelli and Shoefield's ideas about whether aliens exist and questionable anecdotes of visits from Chinese government officials to their London offices, make up the bulk of the film. It opens with a basic primer on the Roswell, New Mexico, UFO crash story (augmented with manipulated outtakes from "The Dark Watchers"), and it closes with Santelli and Shoefield's supposed find in its restored glory. There are no counter viewpoints here, nor is there any explanation for why the narrative here doesn't match Santelli's 2006 account.

I'm not entirely sure what Gardiner was trying to accomplish with this film, nor am I sure that anyone should bother watching it other than the hardest of the hardcore UFO enthusiasts.... and then only so they can know the latest "truth" about the supposed alien autopsy footage. It would have made a fantastic bonus feature on the DVD of Gardiner's "The Dark Watchers" (which contains many of the themes touched on in this film) as the two films would have complemented each other, but as a stand-alone product it is not worth most people's time or money.

Rent the film online, or order it on DVD.

(Full disclosure: This review was based on a distributor-provided screener copy that most likely did not completely reflect the final edit of the film. For example, the version I watched had an obvious opening titles sequence but the text had not been placed.)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Franco foul-up that's kinda saved by unintentional comedy

Neurosis: The Fall of the House of Usher (aka "Revenge in the House of Usher" and "Zombie 5") (1982)
Starring: Howard Vernon, Robert Foster, Lina Romay, Jean Tolzac, Olivier Mathot, and Fran├žoise Blanchard
Director: Jess Franco
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

Dr. Alan Hacker (Foster) travels to the castle of his old professor, Dr. Usher (Vernon) where he quickly learns that his old teacher has gone mad. Aside from claiming that he is 200 years old, Usher is obsessed with resurrecting his dead daughter by giving her blood transfusions from girls he’s kidnapped.

With "Neurosis" (as the film was called in the on-screen titles even though the DVD case told me I was going to see "Revenge in the House of Usher"), Jess Franco manages to make himself look worse than usual. Not only does he do a half-assed job of adapting the classic Poe story "Fall of the House of Usher" but he uses 15-20 minutes of footage from one of the few good movies he's made--"Awful Dr. Orlof"--as a flashback sequence so the viewer can compare what he did in 1964 with what he did in 1981. 1981 Jess Franco does NOT look good when compared with 1964 Jess Franco.

The fault in using the old footage is embodied first in the character of "Morpho", Dr. Usher's blind (one-eyed?) assistant who is more in love with Usher's semi-undead daughter than even Usher. Morpho's make-up in the 1981 footage is pathetic when compared with the 1962 footage... when it should have been the other way around, given the improvement in the art in the two decades that passed between the production of the two films. Secondly, the old footage is simply better over all cinematography-wise. The shots are better composed and framed, more interestingly lit, and just more dramatic over-all.

As for the film overall, there is no logic to the story and the scenes appear to be strung together almost as random, with characters dropping in and out--like the horny stable boy; or important characters being introduced out of the blue in the third act--like Usher's wife, who may or may not be a ghost. We never do find out what she is or how she managed to creep around the castle without Usher's loyal housekeeper and would-be lover Helen seeing her (if she wasn't a ghost).

Speaking of Helen... if someone can explain her character arc to me, I will bow down to you as the superior reviewer. She becomes a completely different character all of a sudden. I could chalk it up to delusions on the part of Usher, but Dr. Hacker was the one who was primarily involved with her inexplicable transformation.

While watching the film, I actually did wonder on more than one occasion whether it was a satire of gothic horror films that misfired rather than a serious attempt at making a horror movie. If viewed as such, it suddenly becomes a mediocre movie instead of a terrible one. Certainly, the bad acting on the part of the men dubbing Robert Foster (as Dr. Hacker) and Howard Vernon (as Dr. Usher) gives rise to much hilarity... and the people responsible for voicing Lina Romay and the rest of the cast are almost as effective with their comedic stylings.

But I doubt this was intended as a comedy, so the film ends up here, with the rest of the cinematic trash. There are actually a few well-done scenes of horror sprinkled here and there throughout the film, but overall it's another cheap-jack Jess Franco Failure, with another of his trademark botched endings. (Free advice to filmmakers: If you're going to adapt "The Fall of the House of Usher" and you're going to have a building collapse... for God's sake, budget some miniature shots or buy some stock footage, because the way Franco does it here is a textbook example of what NOT to do.)

That said, the bad voice, the incoherent storyline, and the outrageously random behavior on the part of the characters also make this movie the exact right kind of trash for those who enjoy riffing as bad movies unfold. With the right group of friends, this movie can be a lot of fun.