Saturday, February 28, 2015

A 1000 Cats?!

If there's a better way to end a month devoted to vertically challenged villains than with a 63 minute movie about human-eating cats, then I'm living my life wrong.

Quick Plot: A wealthy sadist flies a helicopter, picks up chicks, takes them to his secluded mansion, serves them brandy in comically oversized glasses, shags them in a variety of locations on his property, shows off his collection of severed heads, kills them, feeds their parts to his menagerie of domestic short-haired cats, and repeats the process.

Obviously, this is the greatest film ever put to screen.

(NOTE: Some of this review might have been written by other members of my household)

Beginning with its title--which can kind of be read as Night of a One Thousand Cats, which is adorably awkward--this is something special. Not 'good' by any conventional definition. The bulk of your film involves a man with a perm (genre stalwart Hugo Stiglitz, and yes, even Tarantino saluted him in Inglorious Basterds) in a helicopter. That's about 60% of its VERY brief running time.

But the rest involves man-eating cats.

Sometimes, there are SLOW MOTION cats. 

Often, there EXTREME ZOOMS.

And even more EXTREME CLOSE-UPS.




And, uh, THIS:

Look, this is a terrible piece of cinema. But it's the rare piece of cinema that involves a whole lot of man-eating cats. So for that, huzzah. Huzzah to us all.

High Points
Cats. Lots of them.

Low Points
Cats, probably lots of them, most likely experienced less than ASPCA friendly treatment on this set. I have no proof of this, save for the fact that the film includes multiple moments where our villain hurls his feline costars at each other or occasionally, the camera. Considering the only place the budget seems to show up is in gasoline for the helicopter, I just can't imagine the producers doled out extra cash for a wrangler

Lessons Learned
Your a 1000 cats might hate you, but you can always count on the soft touch of your stuffed polar bear

Never beat your boss in chess. You’ll probably be rewarded by being pushed into a den of man-eating cats

Any man who longs to put you in a crystal cage is generally not long-term material

Great parenting probably doesn't begin with leaving your six-year-old daughter home alone while you take off in a helicopter to bang a millionaire with a den of killer cats

Night of (a) 1000 Cats is a dreadful excuse for a movie. But it also has a lot of cats. 5 out of 4 paws it is!

That about ties it up for this round of The Shortening. Need a little more little villains in your reading? Allow me to direct you onward to some dear blogging pals who took up the challenge.

Over yonder From the Depths of DVD Hell, blogger and podcasting superstar Elwood Jones took a trip to the desert to tackle one of my favorites, 1974's trippy Phase IV. It has less bell bottoms than Empire of the Ants, but it's still pretty darn gnarly. Head on over!

For a whole smorgasbord of short goodness, Chris Hewson, the keeper of Not This Time, Nayland Smith, has been busy as a deadly bee covering an eclectic mix of fun-size goodies, including:



Monday, February 23, 2015

Second Time Singing the Baby Blues

As I compiled my list of Shortening offerings, I became a little worried. It's not February here at the Doll's House without at least one evil toy, but six years into this blog, it's becoming harder and harder to films of that ilk that I haven't seen, written about, or referenced. Are we nearing the end of dollhood?

Goodness no, and thanks to the beauty of Netflix Instant Watch and Hong Kong, I don't even have to resort to whatever outtakes Charles Band has compiled into a 72 minute excuse for a film. Sifting through Netflix, I was thrilled to come upon today's feature. I mean, just LOOK at that cover!

Quick Plot:
An attractive young couple moves into a sprawling and fairly isolated home with no drawbacks (save, for the fact that for whatever reason, their only neighbor is a cheerful homeless man living in a shanty of sorts across the street).  A box from the previous owners includes a creepy little doll wearing a turtleneck, and if we learned nothing from Puppetmaster or From Beyond the Grave, it's that one should never relax around a doll in a turtleneck.

Homeless neighbor across the street warns the couple of omens, but they settle in happily, especially after songwriter Hubby (I never caught his name and IMDB is confusing, so I'll call him what his wife does) finds his inspiration. It's pretty much the best scene of all time. Allow me to set up:

Hubby is hanging upside down from the ceiling, which sort of makes sense from a struggling artist with athleticism point of view. As he swings back and forth, Hubby knocks the Creepy Doll In a Turtleneck onto his piano, where it hits a few notes before landing on the ground. Those notes, my friends, are EVIL.

We don't quite know that yet, and actually, now that I think through the rest of the movie, maybe they're just a byproduct? See, Baby Blues has a lot going on, but it doesn't seem in any hurry to actually deal with it all.

In addition to an EVIL song (it's so evil that it causes one pop star to get into a car accident and another to spill a lot of scotch) co-produced by a Creepy Doll In a Turtleneck, Wifey Tian (but c'mon: let's call her Wifey) becomes pregnant with twins after an amorous evening overseen by the Creepy Doll In a Turtleneck whose eyes bleed. When one child doesn't survive, Wifey is diagnosed with the titular 'baby blues,' postpartem depression that in this case, leads her to treat the Creepy Doll In a Turtleneck Whose Eyes Bleed as if he were her elder baby boy Jimmy.

I have no idea who Baby Blues was made for. In an American theater, it would probably be rated PG-13, although its storyline is far more geared towards adults with career and family worries than the typical Friday night young adult and tween crowd who just want to see some jump scares. There's an odd reluctance to ever REALLY go for darkness, even though there is certainly some horrific subject matter at play.

Thankfully, we're not talking about that OTHER low budget horror film I watched a few years ago also called Baby Blues. That movie made me want to track the filmmaker down and perform Bart Simpson quality prank phone calls on his private line. We're not in that camp.

This Baby Blues is just tonally very strange. Our only real body count comes from the tragedy of a stillborn birth and a few hazy flashbacks about the fates of past residents of the home. There's a genuinely horrific moment involving a baby being dropped from a very high deck, but it's ultimately resolved in a rather easy manner that undercuts its own horror.

Still, we do get a dream sequence that involves an evil child in a tuxedo, and for that, I give this film a passing grade.

High Points
When Wifey is kind of dull, her little bike-riding, punch-giving, wine-drinking, popstar-slamming tomboy sister is KICK. ASS.

Low Points
The general lightness of a movie that seems to want to go darker kept me from loving Baby Blues, although I was always interested in where it was going

Lessons Learned
CPR can pretty easily be achieved by simply beating up a new corpse

Doctors don't lie!

Like all media, Baby Blues teaches us a well-known fact: anytime a woman vomits, she will, within two minutes, discover that she is pregnant

Never doubt the warnings given by the friendly homeless man who just so happens to occupy the shanty across the street

It's hard to recommend Baby Blues because I feel that the majority of horror film fans will be annoyed and disappointed. But there's something strangely charming about such an innocent take on a killer (sorta) doll movie. Viewers who don't require a high body count in their horror may be able to enjoy this for its quirks. I certainly did.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Not the Deadly Bees!

Because having wings, stingers, and a venom that can apparently kill Britteny Spears, Drew Barrymore, and Macaulay Culkin's character in My Girl, does not mean that a bee ain't short.

Quick Plot: Pop sensation Vicki Robbins has a mental breakdown on live television (today, we'd put an 'exhaustion' diagnosis and move on to the next Mariah), prompting her doctor to order her to rest up in a quiet little rural community known as Seagull Island.

In theory, it should be very easy to catch up on your rest at Seagull Island, since there are exactly five people living on it. Unfortunately, there are also killer bees.

Isn't that the rub? You've found a lovely little cottage where a grumpy couple moodily hosts your stay, a happy dog follows you around before being attacked by killer bees, and a kindly neighbor offers you tea at every moment. Only, you know, the couple is super grumpy, the killer beers kill a happy dog, and the kindly neighbor REALLY wants you to have his tea.

Don't worry though: if at all you get confused and forget what happened during the 85 minute runtime of The Deadly Bees, not one but TWO montages will refresh you on all the key plot points.

The Deadly Bees is an Amicus adaptation of a mystery novel and, well, it's a rather dull affair. I can forgive silly-looking bee attacks filmed in 1966 if they had any real narrative weight. If you're curious what a bee attack filmed in 1966 might look like, follow me along:

Closeup of character getting scared


Closeup of character swatting a bee


Closeup of character scratching at a toy bee glued to his or her face


Character superimposed in front of SWARM!

I'm a forgiving genre fan: that process didn't bother me in the least. What bothered me was how an 85 minute film could feel like Lawrence of Arabia.

The film starts off promisingly enough, although yes, I most definitely say that because it includes extreme closeups of a Beatles-like band called The Birds (but not The Byrds). Aha! I smiled, feeling smart. I GET IT! The Birds because this movie is about BEES! It's just like that time I realized the Chipmunks and the Chippettes each had a character named for a Roosevelt and thought that making that connection made me the smartest person in the ninth grade.

Except, I dunno, maybe the band was just named The Birds.

The Deadly Bees is a mystery film, but because the suspect pool is so tiny, it never holds much suspense. The resolution is as simple as spilling an open jar of liquid out of stupidity, despite this happening to a character that had just proven itself to be exceedingly smart. Ah well. At least the dog was cute.

High Points
Man, what a wonderfully embittered middle age wife Catherine Finn played as Mrs. Hargrove. The actress inject so much disgust towards her husband and life in general that I genuinely longed for a spinoff one-woman show where she sings Elaine Stritch numbers on a cigarette ash-coated piano

Aside from Finn, you know who worked hardest? That super angry instrumental score, that's who!

Low Points

Lessons Learned
When smoking out killer bees, remember not to smoke yourself out as well

When smoking out killer bees, remember not to smoke yourself out as well 

(yes, Ijust said that, but since the character in question did this twice in a row over the course of ten minutes, I figured it warranted repeating)

I don't recall the MST3K episode on The Deadly Bees, but I'll just make a blind recommendation to say that if you HAVE to watch bees sort of attack a bunch of dull Brits, do it in the company of Crow T. Robot.