Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rollerpocalypse (sans bras)

1986 was a pretty amazing year. In a triumphant season of homeruns, rapping, and Ivory soap ads, the New York Mets won the World Series. A little animation studio named Pixar was formed. Halley’s Comet appeared for freezing cold East Coast early birds to view and Geraldo Rivera discovered the most anticipated bottle of moonshine ever.
And perhaps most importantly, a post-apocalyptic film about roller skating was made by Donald G. Hell Comes to Frogtown Jackson. 
Quick Plot: In the second dark age in the city of lost angels (according to the title cards), an all-female cult clad in red phallic headdresses protects a magical crystal from an evil luchador-esque masked (over a pink winter ski mask) man and his borscht belt comic hand puppet.

I know right? Been there, done that!
I should specify that the ‘cult’ I speak of is none other than the Cosmic Order of the Roller Blades, the self-proclaimed ‘only force on earth where all weapons and battle techniques are converted into tools of love.’ Because, you see, in the second dark age of humanity, the world has been overrun by folks on roller skates. Yes, four-wheeled skates, as the invention we now know as the ‘roller blade’ was still some years from widespread popularity. As my knowledge of things on wheels is composed entirely of what I’ve learned from the movies, we’ll assume the modern roller blade was born in 1991, since that’s when it appears in Silent Night Deadly Night 5: The Toymaker.
Back on track--or rink, roller pun zap!--the evil Dr. Saticoy and his puppet right-hand-man (literally) enlist the skills of a blond rollergirl to infiltrate the Roller Blades and steal the crystal. It’s a lot of work, considering he could probably have found an even nicer one in any 50 cent gum ball machine. Still, we don’t get to see a lot of roller nuns naked unless this plot unfolds, so unfold away, ye madness!
The good get a sapphic nude bathtub baptism; the bad get a sapphic nude wrestling match. All speak with the occasional sprinkling of ye olde English and sport hip high wedgie-making undies. None wear bras.

Seriously, for any modern woman who enjoys comfort, this IS the dark ages.
Roller Blade, as you might now realize, is not the easiest film to recap in terms of what you commonly call ‘story.’ I think there was one, as evidenced by the important subplot of the Roller Marshall (you read that right)’s son being kidnapped by the bad guy. There’s the matter of the crystal, which will bring about an even darker age (maybe?) where I can only assume roller skates are replaced by something even more nefarious, like unicycles or pogo sticks or that impossible ‘80s toy that looked like Saturn and was designed for you to stand around a bouncing ball and not break your ankle. Primarily, there are a lot of boobs and an almost comparable amount of camel toe.

That’s about as ringing an endorsement as I can make for Roller Blade. It’s as ridiculous and insane as its cover art suggests, plus a little more. By a little, I mean the mother superior of the Cosmic Order of the Roller Blades is a wheelchair bound woman named Mother Speed who laments about the olden days, “when we skated for fun. Now we skate or die.” This is a heartfelt memory, and kind of all you need to know in order to judge whether Roller Blade will rock your world.

High Points
You can’t argue with the imagination of the film, right?

Low Points
I know this is besides the point, but I find it pretty impossible to believe that some of those roller superstar females would go bralass based on their bust size. There is back pain to consider folks!
Lessons Learned
Recycled Saticoy brand batteries have very short lifespans
Tears will cause thy wheels to rust
If one can only venture outside on roller skates, it’s probably a good idea to learn how to, you know, roller skate when as soon as you’re able to walk

Skin-melting acid will not harm your body if you immediately remove all clothing as soon as it touches you
The future will mean the rise of mohawks and death to bras
I scored my copy of Roller Blades at last year’s Chiller Theater convention along with the new Doll’s House classic The Refrigerator and the soon-to-be-watched Slashdance. It’s a VHS transfer, and one that you can probably find lurking on youtube or at your local gray market dealer. It’s pure 80s cheese in the most delightfully ridiculous of ways. The film won’t change your life like, say, The Stabilizer, but it will most definitely entertain your pals at the local roller rink!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Nah, I'm Just a Worm

There's a whole lot to love about Tremors. Big hungry worms. An adorable bromance. Kevin Bacon's feathered locks. Pole vaulting. Reba McEntire. The fact that it's an easy go-to when defending '90s horror as having at least SOME merit.

As for the sequels, I know not much about them. I watched Part 2 back in the days of VHS and all I remember was the lack of the Bacon. As with breakfast buffets or cobb salads, that's usually a bad thing.
Parts 3 & 4 were apparently made for the SyFy Channel before it got hip with the Ys. Now you might call me a wild one for daring to jump ahead to the last film without the continuity of its predecessors, but guess what? There's a lotta things about me you don't know anything about. Things you wouldn't understand. Things you COULDN’T understand. shouldn't understand. 

I’m a loner. A rebel. You know the rest.
Wait, where was I? Right, see, Tremors 4 is actually a prequel set in the old west and co-starring Billy '7 Mummies' Drago, a fact that results in the following:
  1. I can skip parts 2 & 3
  2. I must watch this movie
Quick Plot: Welcome to Rejection, population: dwindling. When 17 miners are mysteriously (and savagely) killed, only a handful of townsfolk remain. Among them are Juan, a hard-working Mexican with dreams of owning a range, Christine, a spunky redheaded innkeeper, the Changs, Chinese immigrants turned general store owners, and Tecopa, a Native American. There might have been a few more pieces of fodder--er, characters, but let's answer the question that's really burning your bottom:
Michael Gross (he to the Tremors-verse what Brad Dourif is to Child’s Playland or Costas Mandylor is to the Saw movies) is top-billed and yet, you say, this film is set a good 70 years or so before the birth of his franchise character, Burt Gummer, the gun-loving trucker-hat wearing country boy so handy with a firearm. Taking a note from Back to the Future, Tremors 4 casts Gross as Hiram, the great great (maybe still great, I'm bad with numbers) granpaw of our modern hero. 

A good deal of humor comes from Gross's portrayal of his previous character's exact opposite: Hiram is a prissy, sheltered investor raised with a silver spoon shoved so far in it reaches his prim mustache. Those who know the series will be amused by his mannerisms, chuckling at how he holds a gun as if he were Denise Richards trying to figure out how to open a dictionary.
But as much as we love Mr. Keating, the reason to watch any Tremors film is a little less complex: carnivorous worms! On that front, Tremors 4 is...okay. It’s refreshing that the creatures are done with practical effects (though some gooey splatter bares the mark of SyFy quality CGI) and the film adds some fun by playing with the size and age of the creatures. We came for the worms, we get the worms, and while they’re not spectacular, they’re still worms. 

Speaking of worms, Billy Drago shows up! The genre movie slummer gives a fun turn as
a sharp shooter hired to fight the tremors and teach Hiram how to handle a pistol. It’s amusing.

And ‘amusing’ is pretty much the best way to sum up Tremors 4. Does it capture the energy of the first film? No, but that’s a juggernaut too special to be repeated on a straight-to-Sci-Fi-Channel original. Still, the movie is a good time in a bag-o-microwave-popcorn kind of way, and sometimes, that’s the snack we need.
High Points
You have to love any film that begins with a clean decapitation played for gentle laughs
Low Points
Tremors has never been a mean franchise--in a way, it’s almost like the Brendan Fraser of horror comedy--and therefore, once we reach a point a good 30 minutes from the end where the only characters left alive are the friendly batch of townspeople with big dreams, it’s pretty obvious that none of them will be wormed
Lessons Learned
No one goes without a hat in China

Naming your town ‘Rejection’ ain’t such a bright idea
Rich people are always fat. Even if you think ‘hey, he’s rich and rather slim,’ you’ll probably learn that said he has actually lost all his fortune and is therefore not required to be fat

Tremors 4 is a good-hearted TV-PG rated monster film, one fit for a busy Sunday afternoon filled with sorting laundry or making your office lunch for the rest of the week. It’s not an overly exciting time, but hey, it has a nice spirit about it and offers plenty of wry smiles for those who love a good worming.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Toe Tapping Lambs & Lyrical Lotion

Let’s face it: if there’s one thing the world of musical theater needs, it’s more manufacturing of skin dresses.
Come on now. We have mutants...

Scarred madmen who drop chandeliers on people...

Singing and dancing presidential Assassins...

And even the occasional telekinetic teenager with an itch to slaughter her entire graduating class.

Theater snobs may wring their Playbills in ire over the new trend of turning popular films into musicals, but every now and then, the right one comes along, mostly because it involves wearing dead men’s faces and discovering rotting heads in pickle jars. Much like the snappy Evil Dead: The Musical, Silence! The Musical, is a pretty joyous ride into classic horror territory with catchy showtunes that would make Angela Lansbury blush. Back in the nefarious Napster days, I heard a few of its songs (written by Jon and Al Kaplan) online while the play had an official premiere in 2005 at the NYC Fringe Festival, where it won the coveted Best Musical honor. Currently, Silence! has a limited run directed and choreographed by Christophere Gatteli down at Theatre 80, a cozy spot on St. Mark’s Place.

Silence! The Musical follows all the beats you know from Jonathon Demme’s film, and wonderfully so. There’s Clarisch M. Schtarling (Jenn Harris)’s breathy pleas for help from the elegant Hannibal Lector (Brent Barret, though soap star Paul Michael Valley played the role the weekend I attended), who quid pro quos her into a delightful tango (called, of course, Quid Pro Quo). A Greek chorus of sorts made of human lambs (and led with supreme energy by Jeff Hiller). Buffalo Bill’s show-stopping number, “I’d Fuck Me,” complete with the wardrobe (and lack thereof) you remember so sexily slung over Ted Levine’s shoulders. A touching and musically clever lullaby sung by Senator Martin as she reminds her daughter's kidnapper that "Her Name Is Catherine, Catherine's Her Name." Even the smarmy-as-ever Dr. Chilton gets a number, as does the underappreciated (and possibly underloved) Ardelia Mapp, played with fantastic 11th hour sass by Diedre Goodwin. 

Did I mention there’s a song called “Put the Fucking Lotion In the Basket?”
Some of the jokes are a little broad (both literally and figuratively, as evidenced by Bill’s cowboy-esque hoedown, “Are You About A Size 14?”) but it’s hard to not smile at any musical that finds a way to make “eating Ray Liotta’s brain” into a lyric. If you’re in the New York area this summer, it’s a pretty delightful way to spend an evening, although you do run the risk of later finding yourself humming the way-too-catchy signature song, “If I Could Smell Her Cunt.” 
That could result in awkward office moments.
The show runs through the end of August, with tickets set at half what you’d pay for a Broadway show. The official website is here so check it out, providing you, like me, consider the marriage of choreography and cannibalism the best thing since peanut butter and chocolate opened up its marriage and invited in banana.

We are all the better for it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cold Film Club Prey

I feel an itch. More like a burn. And no, I’m not leading into a cowbell joke. 
It’s my not-so-secret society ring sending an alert! Stacie Ponder’s Final Girl Film Club is back in session, and today’s movie to be reviewed by myself and a whole lot of other bloggers is the Norwegian horror, Cold Prey.

Quick Plot: Two couples and a fifth wheel drive up a mountain to the middle of Norwegian nowhere to do some free-spirited snowboarding because of course, nothing bad has ever come from avoiding the tourist hubs and exploring the frozen wilderness on your own. 

Within two minutes, the single Morten breaks his leg. A token ‘no cell service’ shot leads the gang to settle in for the night at an abandoned inn filled with aging booze and, whaddya know, lots of bloody secrets.

We’ve got an axe monster! Or more specifically, a very tall man who slices through any Hansel or Gretel that dares to sip his whisky. The kids--I think, though one couple discusses moving in together while the other features a high schoolish virgin, making me completely confused whether they’re 15 or 25--are quickly separated and hunted down in typical but sufficiently gory ways.
There’s virtually nothing original about Cold Prey, something you may notice from my lack of energy in this review. Excuse me while I take some speed Twizzler Nibs.

Back. Great. Energy kick has KICKED and so the killer is kind of scary but we don’t know who he is until the end so it’s hard to know or care and I liked the winter setting because it felt very cold but so did Dead Snow and that one had Nazi zombies and twists and this one had no Nazi zombies or twists but very proficient gore and it looked quite good but was I in the mood for something more? I think I just rhymed but let’s not dwell on that so instead to figure out what I wanted I’d have to go back in time and check that and Nibs don’t have a time machine flavor but if they did that would be AMAZING but then every movie would probably be amazing and how could I still write reviews if all I could say was THIS WAS AMAZING BUT THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN BECAUSE I WAS HIGH ON NIBS.
Crash. What’d I say?
Cold Prey. Good. Nibs. Even better.
High Points
Final girl Jannicke (Ingrid Bols ‘oh with a cross through it’ Berdal) totally sells the last half of the film by being strong and smart enough to keep her friends alive as long as possible (SPOILER ALERT: it’s not very long) 

Low Points
Oh Netflix, on top of nearly doubling my rates, do you have to put dubbed versions of good films on Instant Watch? Do you know how distracting it is to hear overly American accents using names like Ingunn and Mikal?
Lessons Learned, Norway Edition
1 out of 4 Norwegians spend Easter in the mountains (according to statistics)

In Norwegian, “This is going to hurt a little” translates as “This will cause searing pain that will make you wish you were dead”
Superglue is to Norway what maple syrup is to Canada
Cold Prey is a more than competent winter slash ‘em up. It offers just about nothing new, but what it does it does quite well. As an instant watch, it’s perfect for a night when you want a slick, fast-moving horror that won’t hurt your brain. I personally don’t see a buy being necessary, since there are plenty other films out there that would give you the same exact results should you have an urge for good hunts, but hey, I’m not telling you what to do.

Oh wait, yes I am: head over to Final Girl to read a roundup of other Cold Prey reviews. That my friends, is an order.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Stranded At the Drive-In HorrorShow

Ahh, the horror anthology, a sadly under-utilized subgenre that irrationally went the way of the leg warmer (and tragically enough, drive-in) when the 1990s rained its plague upon us. Browse through your Mill Creek packs and you’ll find, amongst the adorably inept Guy From Harlems and less adorably but more inept Sunbursts a handful or anthologies that easily clean your palette. On a personal note, it’s rare that a multi-story horror film leaves me totally cold because with anywhere from three to five shots, a few simply have to hit the right spot.
2010's The Drive-In HorrorShow is a cheerful throwback those days of horror yore, primarily the ‘70s and early ‘80s. Directed and co-written by Michael Neel (a horror convention pal I’ve had the honor of sharing bacon bread with), it features five stories that cover such genre tropes as rape revenge, body melting, urban legends and the tried and true slasher. The segments are framed in a post-apocalyptic future drive-in where the host, Zombie Frank, tries his bet to please ghoulishly unhappy patrons.
The first story, Pig, opens upon a frat boy glued tightly inside a bathtub as his date rape victim lords over his frozen body with a running faucet and hammer. It’s a typical morality tale aided by decent performances and some painfully gooey gore, but (MILD SPOILER ALERT) it also has a strangely straightforward storyline. On one hand, it’s oddly (and ironically) refreshing to NOT have to expect the unexpected standard short story twist so widely used in anthology pieces, but at the same time, the structure somewhat deprives its characters of any real arc.

Next comes The Closet, the first of two child-centered tales. The segment follows young Jamie, the black sheep of his crass family. While Jamie dreams of attending space camp and cleaning the kitchen, his parents moon over his overachieving tennis star sister. Everything changes when a good old fashioned monster-in-the-closet offers a hand (or more appropriately, mouth) to Jamie’s plight, slowly tearing through the household to free space and power to our young hero. It’s a fun segment with a great sense of humor (note that the first thing the newly liberated Jamie does is scrub the dining room table) that manages to be a playful exercise in cheeky black comedy. 

In Fall Apart, we meet the sympathetic Dr. Paul Mazursky, a general practitioner who despises the current state of the healthcare profession for its bureaucratic limitations. When he makes a housecall to a mysteriously ill couple, he catches their unpleasant, skin-peeling disease and finds himself suffering a far worse fate. Like Pig, Fall Apart puts some incredibly gory makeup effects on display, aided here by Larry Jay Tish’s likable performance as a man always trying to do the right thing. The segment drags a little during the middle, but ultimately offers a darker and more serious anchor to nicely balance some of the lighter segments.

Speaking of, the fourth story, The Meat Man, is easily the funniest of the bunch. Two little boys trade urban (or rather, suburban) legends of the titular carnivorous villain only to grow suspicious that their own father might be the man in question. Much like The Closet, The Meat Man benefits greatly from how it portrays its young stars, energetically getting their humor and translating it into something funny, familiar, and lively throughout its short running time.

The final story, The Watcher, takes some inspiration from Creepshow 2’s The Raft crossed with just about any backwoods-set slasher. Survivor champions Ethan Zohn and Jenna Morasca star along with two other decent-looking folks camping in the wrong part of the forest. Once the monstrous woods killer emerges, the story moves well with intense human-hunting action. It's a strong note to end on, although my personal tastes would have preferred something with the more unique quirk of the previous three tales.

High Points
Boy that budget goes far! Some of the special effects on display are painfully icky and by painful, I mean they make you think twice about ever touching anybody with the sniffles or slipping rufies to a coed

Low Points
As is the nature of all anthologies, the balance in stories isn't quite perfect, since the best meat seems reserved for the middle segments

Lessons Learned
Water damage is expensive and plumbers aren’t cheap
There’s way too much paperwork in modern medicine
Frat houses tend to keep a ready inventory of industrial strength waterproof glue on hand, perhaps to ensure football trophies can always be safely put back together in case of accidents

In today’s anti-NASA culture, space camp has a dirtier reputation than rock ‘n roll, skateboarding, Pog playing, or gang warfare ever got from your parents
The Drive-In HorrorShow is a neat little nostalgic package, one that should put a smile on horror fans raised to associate Leslie Nielsen with burying Sam Malone in sand just as much as Frank Drebin. The middle three segments offer a genuinely creative batch of laughs and ews, while the surrounding two are a little more traditional but give some impressive low budget gore. The film is now available at the official website,, as well as on store shelves in those places that kind of still exist, ACTUAL STORES!

And if you're a Bostonite, why not see the film on the big screen for all of SIX DOLLARS? A certain little podcast called Outside the Cinema is presenting a very special screening this coming Saturday (July 23rd) at the Hollywood Hits Theater in Danvers, MA. Tickets are sold at the door, but you can stay up to date with the Facebook event page here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Can't Sleep, Clowns Will Tell Me to Kill My Mother, Can't Sleep, Clowns Will--

According to IMDB, Shattered Lives earns all of 3.2 stars out of 10. I suppose that means I’m supposed to hate it. Perhaps the fact that it involves a stormtrooper-like killer, a clown little person that speaks like Marlena Evans when she possessed by Satan on Days of Our Lives, and the most monotone child actress since Birdemic solidifies this assumption.

You know what they say about assuming. It simply doesn’t work when Emily gets to watch a movie involving little clown people and killer kids.
Quick Plot: We open on a drunken teen party being crashed by aforementioned stormtrooper wielding an axe. Flash back a few years to young Rachel, as blond as The Bad Seed and as sour as a Lemon Luden’s Cough Drop. Rachel is the only child of a miserably married couple who constantly discuss the fact that they are sad.

Sad, for Mom, apparently justifies having an affair smack in front of your child and calling her a little bitch when the kid has the nerve to tell your nice guy husband that, you know, there was a naked man in the shower. What would possess a daddy’s girl to spill the beans? Why, her clown dolls coming to life of course!

Letting your child play with a pair of harlequins just seems like irresponsible parenting, but considering mom’s methods include dragging her daughter to the park to “go play on the swings or something” while she makes out with her lover, it’s not surprising. As Rachel gets more and more stressed about her parents’ unhappiness, dolls Leelo and Melo (I think?) evolve into ghostly apparitions that show up to dance, stare, and threaten the poor little girl with mouth removals.
It’s incredibly creepy. Or really funny. Or very silly. Or maybe terrifying. 

I kind of have no idea.
It’s a bizarre description of a key ingredient in the film, and I realize that. When the figures first appear, they’re eerie. Then they open their mouths and sound, plain and simple, rather stupid. But they keep talking, having a lighthearted ‘we’re your TOYS’ conversation that, mid-sentence, turns into a threat to remove Rachel’s mouth from her fudging face. I will understand if anybody that has seen this film found these villains hilarious. I will also defend their rights to be scary.
As you might guess, encouraging a tattle is just the warmup for Rachel’s playthings. Their real game involves the biggest knife that Rachel isn’t allowed to play with, lodged, naturally, inside Mom’s cheating chest. 

This part of Rachel’s childhood makes up the first hour of the 90 minute Shattered Lives, and while it shows its amateur-ity and low budget, it’s also fairly unique and even, at least to me, unsettling. An odd choice is made in moving the action forward 10 years or so, skirting over what happened after Dad came home to find his daughter stained in her mother’s blood. Nah, why explore the resolution of that plot when we could just give Rachel a new tragedy to deal with for her post-high school life?
Shattered Lives is a strange film, which actually works well towards its benefit. There are plenty of straight-to-DVD horror movies about pretty urbanites hunted by hillbillies or zombies feasting on frat boys. With Shattered Lives, we never really know what’s going on, even though we know (based on the introduction) where it will eventually end. It’s incredibly flawed in its storytelling, but the movie has more ambition than is required and makes some fairly interesting and possibly, scary choices.

High Points
There’s some genuinely strong attempts to get inside the marriage of Rachel’s parents, leading to a surprisingly believable moment where her mother acknowledges that she’s just not living the life she thought she wanted
Low Points
...but then again, it’s hard to even care when said character has done just about everything but beat her daughter with wire hangers and slap her in the face with a handful of Comet

Lessons Learned
You should always do at least one fun thing a day. This is some ace life advice from Rachel’s dad, who also theorizes that married people fight all the time because that’s what marriage is
Despite the visual limitations of a gas mask, wearing one offers few drawbacks when committing multiple homicide

When your clown dolls tell you to stop asking questions, stop...asking...questions
I rather liked Shattered Lives, even though the sane film fan inside me knows it’s not necessarily very good. Even so, I admired the weirdness of it all. Writer/director Carl Lindbergh definitely needs some more practice behind the camera, but he clearly has some interesting ideas and isn’t afraid to throw some wackiness our way. I’m genuinely curious to see where he goes from here. The film is streaming on Netflix (which is, quite frankly, as much effort as you should put into acquiring it) so give it a try if you want something different and don’t mind a lot of rough edges. 

Also, it’s a must for fans of clown dancing. Just sayin’