I’M AT COMIC-CON AND I’M COVERED IN NERD JUICE!!!

July 23, 2010

Hey, I’m at that nerd-a-palooza that is the SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON! I’ll be doing an in depth analysis of my experience here, which is already mega-epic with a side of awesome sauce and I’m only through with the first day! I spent the majority of the day in Hall H, where I saw some very cool stuff, but the highlight was footage and an amazing panel for TRON LEGACY. I cannot wait for that movie! I capped the day off with an advanced screening of EDGAR WRIGHT’S new film, SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD. It was absolutely fantastic and the crowd gave it a standing ovation that it damn well deserved! Here’s a few highlights of my day in picture form with more info coming ….

Nerd out!

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CROPSEY is one of the scariest horror films of the year AND IT’S A DOCUMENTARY!!

July 14, 2010

MINOR SPOILERS!

I love scary stories. When I was a kid growing up in the mid-west, we would often terrorize each other with tales of escaped lunatics with meat hooks for hands. They were usually hiding in the local forest preserves, waiting for us to go exploring so that they could extract some bloody vengeance upon us for a past misdeed. These yarns would fuel our imaginations so much, that they would evolve more and more with each telling and before long, we would start to believe our own fiction.

One day (around Christmas time) a real-life horror story rocked my young world with the police discovery of over thirty corpses buried in the crawl-space of convicted mass-murderer JOHN GACY’S suburban Chicago home. I lived in a neighboring town and a few of his all-male teenage victims went to the same high school that I would later attend. It was very scary and it was all 100% real.

In the new documentary CROPSEY, filmmakers JOSHUA ZEMAN and BARBARA BRANCACCIO explore the parallels between an east coast urban legend, an abandoned mental institution and a real-life boogeyman named ANDRE RAND, who’s probably responsible for the disappearances of at least four children in Staten Island, NY. The results are very disturbing.

Directors Josh Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio outside the abandoned Willowbrook Mental Institution.

Along the Atlantic seaboard, kids have been scaring the shit out of each other around the campfires for generations now, with the tale of the deformed, escaped madman Cropsey. The horribly burned psycho, armed with a hook or an ax (depending on who’s telling the tale) is a “fictional” monster that preys on anyone stupid enough to enter the forest he calls home. The Cropsey legend is often told at many of the sleepaway camps located in the woods of upstate New York and you may remember a variation of the story that’s told in the 1981 slasher movie, THE BURNING. For kids growing up in Staten Island, the legend was incorporated into the very real abandoned mental institution known formerly as Willowbrook. This is where the movie really starts to work its creepy magic on the audience.

Back in the early 70’s a young, ambitious reporter named GERALDO RIVERA did an expose on Willowbrook. He uncovered some really terrifying footage of a facility completely overcrowded with mentally and physically handicapped children living in absolutely inhuman conditions. At one time the patients outnumbered the staff fifty to one. Not long after the RIVERA report, the state closed Willowbrook down and moved most of its patients out, but some would return and make a home in the woods and tunnels around the vacant institution.

In 1987, a 13 year old girl with Down Syndrome, named JENNIFER SCHWEIGER, was abducted and became the focus of an intense search through the woods of Staten Island. Her body was found on the grounds of Willowbrook and before long, a homeless man named ANDRE RAND, a former worker at the closed facility who was living in a nearby tent, was arrested for suspicion of her murder. He was convicted of kidnapping through mostly circumstantial evidence and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Many years later he was on trial again, only this time for the abduction of another missing girl named HOLLY ANN HUGHES, and there are at least three others that he’s suspected of being responsible for as well. There are also a lot of ambiguities as to whether he acted alone or if he’s just an innocent scapegoat for the police. Some even suspect a conspiracy involving the same Satanic church that the Son of Sam allegedly belonged to.

Andre Rand in police custody.

Many of the discoveries made by the filmmakers are downright bone chilling. One scene in particular shows JOSHUA ZEMAN and BARBARA BRANCACCIO finding an old piece of news footage featuring a local reporter on the scene for one of the missing kids. Over the reporter’s shoulder is a young man from the neighborhood mugging for the camera. He just so happens to be one of the future missing children that police suspect ANDRE RAND of abducting. Blood-curdling.

This is one of the few documentaries I’ve seen that follows the narrative of a horror film. It’s really very frightening at times and like most good true crime stories, there are more questions posed than solid answers provided, leaving the audience to come up with their own theories. It’s the unresolved mysteries that I found to be the most haunting part of this film.

I was lucky enough to do a podcast interview with co-director JOSHUA ZEMAN about CROPSEY, along with GRAE DRAKE for THE POCORN MAFIA. Click to listen HERE or check it out on iTunes. We discuss the movie, the case and one of Josh’s film influences, the highly acclaimed documentary PARADISE LOST: THE CHILD MURDERS AT ROBIN HOOD HILLS. Nerd out!

THE LAST EXORCISM & CENTURION @ L.A. Film Festival 2010

July 9, 2010

I’ve been a very busy nerd lately, but I have finally found time to catch up on my blog about all I’ve been doing and seeing around town. I attended two screenings at the recent L.A Film Festival that were pretty cool and they both were held at L.A.’s famous Ford Amphitheatre, which is a large outdoor venue that normally programs live stage performances and music. It was really awesome watching two movies there on a huge screen with amazing sound,  right out under the stars in the cool California air. It felt like seeing a drive-in movie without the car. The first screening I saw was the ELI ROTH produced, THE LAST EXORCISM (previously known as COTTON).

ELI ROTH, director DANIEL STAMM and the entire cast came out to introduce the film, as it was the first time it had ever been shown in front of an audience, making it the world premiere! Everyone was very excited and ELI ROTH did all the talking, getting the audience pumped up and reminding us that the movie doesn’t come out till August 27th, so if we like it, we should tell everyone, but if we hate it, we should shut the fuck up. It was funny.

I liked THE LAST EXORCISM. It’s another one of those hand-held “documented” horror films in the style of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, [REC], CLOVERFIELD, DIARY OF THE DEAD, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, etc., etc. This one takes on THE EXORCIST, with a scenario about a minister who tries to expose the exorcism racket as a hustle, by bringing a documentary crew to a remote farmhouse so that they can film him perform his “act” on a supposedly possessed young girl. But, wouldn’t you know it, she is actually possessed and it’s by the mother-fucking DEVIL himself!

The cast is made up entirely of unknown actors that really make the film work with some very well crafted performances (most especially the two leads, who totally knock it out of the park). PATRICK FABIAN does a phenomenal job of playing a well intending preacher who ends up way over his head and ASHLEY BELL steals the show with her role of the demon-possessed girl. She’s cute as a button one minute and ready to tear your heart out the next!

There are some really cool creep outs too, including a scene where ASHLEY BELL bends almost completely backwards while standing up straight. It looks insane and I’m told it’s actually HER doing it! The ending is pretty crazy too, where we witness a satanic ritual that’s like an amped up version of THE WICKERMAN mixed with ROSEMARY’S BABY! It’s not the greatest thing I’ve ever seen in my life, but it was a decent little entry into PG-13 horror.

OUCH!

The second screening I saw was NEIL (DOG SOLDIERS, THE DESCENT, DOOMSDAY) MARSHALL’S latest genre-bending epic, CENTURION. MARSHALL himself came out to introduce the film to the enormous crowd in the amphitheatre that night and everyone went nuts. I’ve been a HUGE fan of his since DOG SOLDIERS and I’ve been looking forward to his latest foray into the “sword & biceps” genre for awhile now!

CENTURION is about a bloody war in 117 A.D. between the legendary Ninth Legion (the Roman army’s greatest warriors) and the savage and barbarous Pict Clan (whom are sworn to protect their lands at all costs from any invader). When the Ninth Legion faces an ambush, which results in the loss of most of its soldiers and the capture of their beloved general, the survivors must fight their way back from behind enemy lines!

MICHAEL (INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS) FASSBENDER is great as one of the Romans trying to “bop” his way back home to Rome and OLGA KURYLENKO is one hot, dangerous warrior chick trying to kill him. You could make a drinking game out of how many times she shoots a Roman soldier in the back with an arrow.

The movie is beautifully shot in locations around the european wilderness and it just looks absolutely fucking gorgeous. Which is great, because the cinematography is constantly being splattered with geysers of blood and guts. Lots of beheadings, amputated limbs, eye gouges, crushed heads, stabbings and guttings to behold for all those gore-hounds out there.

I loved it! Great action and very good acting complement this muscular thriller, which features all of NEIL MARSHALL’S staples: gory violence, macho dialogue, tough female characters, and another back-against-the-wall plotline straight out of the JOHN CARPENTER/WALTER HILL playbook. In a way, CENTURION is like a medieval THE WARRIORS, mixed with SOUTHERN COMFORT, DELIVERANCE and ALIENS. It was cool.

That’s all to report on now, but this is gonna be a very exciting month and I’ll be reporting soon on some very awesome stuff (including my upcoming return to the SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON)! Nerd out!

TUCKER & DALE Vs. EVIL is the THREE’S COMPANY of gore-comedy!

June 19, 2010

SOME SPOILERS!

I went to a sneak preview last Saturday night at The Cinefamily of a hilarious new situation-gore-comedy that has killed audiences at both Sundance and SXSW, called TUCKER & DALE Vs. EVIL. It’s about two perfectly likable good-ole-boys named Tucker (ALAN TUDYK) and Dale (TYLER LABINE) who have just inherited a creepy old shack in the woods that they plan on turning into their dream vacation home. A group of partying college kids mistake the lovable bumpkins for deranged hillbilly psychopaths when their friend Allison (KATRINA BOWDEN) is knocked unconscious and the boys carry her off to their cabin for aid. The splat-stick style violence ensues as the coeds begin accidently killing themselves, while trying to take back their pal from the innocent rubes. It keeps building and compounding on the misunderstandings and the gore, making it all play like a mix between THREE’S COMPANY and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. The performances by ALAN TUDYK and TYLER LABINE as Tucker and Dale are top notch funny and they both share a great chemistry together. The gore gags are extreme, but very comic and the mix of horror and comedy hasn’t been this good since SHAUN OF THE DEAD. I loved it and thought it was the most consistently funny movie I’ve seen this year!

After the screening, there was a Q & A with Tucker himself, ALAN TUDYK. He talked about filming the movie up in Canada and how director ELI CRAIG encouraged he and costar TYLER LABINE to play the situations as real as possible. TUDYK said he loved working with LABINE and the two hit it off instantly. He credits the film’s comedic strength to a great script from ELI CRAIG and MORGAN JURGENSON. TUDYK took questions from the crowd and none other than NATHAN FILLION (SERENITY, SLITHER) asked him about his comedy technique. Then FILLION took the stage with his former FIREFLY costar and the two friends went off on a hilarious and very self-deprecating discussion on comic acting. It was a real treat for everyone in attendance.

Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk discuss acting and humor.

The sad news is: TUCKER & DALE Vs. EVIL doesn’t have a theatrical distributor yet. As funny and awesome as it is, the producers have not raised enough money to release and market it properly, so it might just get dumped on DVD like TRICK ‘R TREAT. It only cost about 3 million to make, but 10 million is what it takes for distribution and they’re about 3 mill shy. I hope they get it because this movie deserves to be seen with an audience and I think, if given the chance, it could be a big hit. It’s a great gore-comedy in the vein of EVIL DEAD II, DEAD ALIVE and TREMORS and I hope everyone gets a chance to see it soon. Nerd out!

Phil Blankenship’s Film Explosion Part 2 @ The New Beverly Cinema!

June 12, 2010

From June 4th to the 10th, Phil Blankenship had a film explosion at the New Beverly Cinema. It was his second, so far. Who is Phil Blankenship? He’s a video-maniac extraordinaire and boy does he know his films. He programs the best selection of midnight movies that the revival house heavy city of Los Angeles has to offer. His choices are made up of many of the dusty, forgotten treasures you would often scan past on the shelves of your local video tape rental shop. Almost all of the films he programs are unavailable on DVD and include party favorites, cult movies and totally obscure b-movie gems. For one full week he put together a mind-blowing program of triple and double features that melted the faces of even the most avid film freaks right down to the bone.

It started on a Friday night with a testosterone and steroid drenched triple-bill of three of SYLVESTER STALLONE’S finest action films: the 1986 uber-cop madness of COBRA, followed by the over-the-top buddy-cop craziness of TANGO & CASH (costarring KURT RUSSELL) and the mountaintop action epic CLIFFHANGER (directed by RENNY HARLIN).

Saturday night was a triple-bill of b-movie auteur JIM WYNORSKI’S films: THE LOST EMPIRE, a highly entertaining and super-campy action/adventure flick about a big breasted blonde cop, who puts together a group of equally big breasted female mercenaries, so they can infiltrate a martial arts tournament on a secret island fortress and seek vengeance for the death of her brother from an undead wizard named Lee Chuck. It was wild! Then there was the incredible 80’s classic CHOPPING MALL (A.K.A. KILLBOTS), about a trio of mall security robots that go berserk and start killing off a group of partying teenagers. Lastly, there was a straight to video action movie starring COREY HAIM (who’s in his late twenties and playing a teenager) and ALAN THICKE (as HAIM’S cop father. Huh?) called DEMOLITION HIGH, which was like a combination of DIE HARD and THE BREAKFAST CLUB. Guests that night included JIM WYNORSKI and actors TONY O’DELL & KELLI MARONEY from CHOPPING MALL.

Tony O'Dell, Kelli Maroney and Jim Wynorski discuss CHOPPING MALL.

O'Dell poses with a Killbot.

Sunday gave us a double dose of two truly disgusting kids movies: 1987’s THE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS MOVIE, which was repulsive, grotesque and oddly surreal. Followed by the slimy puppet horror of GHOULIES II, which is considered by some to be the seventh best “carnival” movie ever made.

Monday was a double-bill of two classic 80’s slasher films: SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE, which was written and directed by two feminist women, whom were clearly making a not-so-subtle satire of the genre. It was followed by SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE, a gory campus cut-up. DAVID MILLBERN, costar of SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE was a guest.

David Millbern talking about SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE.

Tuesday was a really cool BRIAN DePALMA double feature of: BLOW OUT, which is one of my favorite films by the director and one helluva bad ass thriller. It was shown with his more recent sexy dream mystery FEMME FATALE. Acclaimed editor and DePALMA collaborator PAUL HIRSCH was in the house for a magnificent Q & A.

Acclaimed editor Paul Hirsch on Brian DePalma.

On Wednesday, it was Phil’s birthday, so he showed two of his favorites: the classic REVENGE OF THE NERDS (and everybody’s favorite nerd ROBERT CARRADINE showed up to talk about it), which was followed by the third annual screening of Phil’s favorite movie, the aerobicsploitation epic HEAVENLY BODIES.

Nerd! Robert Carradine in the house!

Thursday was the final day of Phil’s festival and he showed two really awesome and obscure 80’s horror movies: PRISON (1988) starring VIGGO MORTENSEN as a convict in a prison haunted by a supernatural killer. Director RENNY HARLIN was on hand, along with the screenwriter C. COURTNEY JOYNER and veteran exploitation producer IRWIN YABLINS for a Q & A about the film. Next was THE HORROR SHOW (A.K.A HOUSE III) about a sadistic killer (played by BRION JAMES) who returns from the dead after being electrocuted for his crimes, so he can destroy the life of the cop (LANCE HENRIKSEN) who caught him. Both were very smart and well made exploitation films that are relatively unknown.

From R to L: Renny Harlin, C. Courtney Joyner and Irwin Yablins sing Happy Birthday to Phil.

Phil’s got some great midnight movies coming up this month at the New Bev, including the underrated 80’s teen classic THE WILD LIFE, the CLINT EASTWOOD stalker-from-hell flick PLAY MISTY FOR ME and the summer camp sequel insanity of MEATBALLS PART II. Nerd out!

The 5 Minute Game and BBQ V @ The Cinefamily

June 3, 2010

This past Memorial Day was another edition of one of my all time favorite L.A. cinematic events, THE 5 MINUTE GAME AND BBQ at The Cinefamily. I’ve attended all the previous 5 Minute Games and this one made it the fifth. What is the 5 Minute Game, you ask? It’s a game devised by a group of crazed movie-nerds whom believe that the first five minutes of every movie is all you need to see to know if you want to watch it. So they show an audience the first five minutes of 15 different movies (all of which are very rare and available only on VHS) and then the audience votes on which one they want to see the most. The votes are then tallied up while everyone adjourns to the back patio for a huge BBQ. After the break, everybody returns back into the theatre and we all watch the movie that received the most votes. It’s very democratic!

The first 5 Minute Game winner was an incredible kung fu revenge flick from the 70’s called DEATH PROMISE, that was about a karate guy going after the evil landlords that killed his father. The second 5 Minute Game winner was MAD FOXES, a crazy European action movie about a guy seeking revenge on the biker gang that raped his girlfriend. The third 5 Minute Game was an 80’s horror movie called UNINVITED, that was directed by GREYDON (JOYSTICKS) CLARK and it starred the great veteran actors, GEORGE KENNEDY and CLU GULAGER. It was about a mutant pussy cat killing people aboard a yacht and the audience ate it up. I ran into CLU GULAGER later and mentioned to him that I had just seen UNINVITED and he groaned and said, “The one about the killer pussy!” That’s classic CLU! The last 5 Minute Game winner was the 80’s fast food gross-out comedy HAMBURGER: THE MOTION PICTURE, which I blogged about back in September. I can still vividly remember the scene where an “eating club” made up of obese people, take over a fast food joint and start eating and farting uncontrollably. It was sublime!

This year’s game consisted of the first five minutes of the following entries:

1. DAREDREAMER: This had an amazing opening that featured an insanely dressed ROCK GOD waking up in his mansion and beginning his day. It included him driving a motorcycle out of his house so that he could get to his limousine parked in front, while an awesome 80’s rock tune plays featuring the chorus, “He’s awesome!”.  It looked great but got lost in the shuffle.

2. LINDA LOVELACE FOR PRESIDENT: Crazy political comedy with an overt sex theme.

3. DEADLY BUSINESS: Can’t remember this one. Left no impression.

4. THE BOY WHO CALLED BITCH: This one’s about a young mother raising a horrible son who has violent tantrums and calls his mom a “Bitch” and a “Slut” in front of prospective boyfriends. This one got my vote for second!

5. THE SQUEEZE: This actually looks like a really good movie that stars the great STACY KEACH. Unfortunately, the first five minutes weren’t exciting enough to satisfy this rowdy crowd of drunks. I must check this one out sometime soon.

6. HELP, HELP, THE GLOBOLINKS!: A German newscaster declares, “ALIENS ARE INVADING!” and suddenly the news room is taken over by weird creatures that look like giant sprouts. We watch them dance for five minutes. Zzzzzzzzzzzz.

7. THE BEAT: Can’t remember this one very well either. Break dancing may have been involved.

8. DRAGON HUNT: The first five minutes of this film were incredible and it became apparent instantly that this would be the winner!

9. PRIVATE PRACTICES: Another one I can’t remember. I was a little drunker than usual.

10. THE LAST SLUMBER PARTY: Even I wasn’t interested in seeing this slasher movie and I love slasher movies!

11. NORMAN, IS THAT YOU?: This looked pretty amazing. RED FOXX makes an unannounced visit on his son only to discover he’s GAY! “Oh, Weezie!”

12. KILL!: Didn’t.

13. MR. PEEK-A-BOO: This one got one lonely vote.

14. SCORCHERS: Can’t remember if this is the one with the old Irish guy telling the long, boring story, but if it is, it almost started a riot.

15. DEADLINE: Nothing.

I voted for DRAGON HUNT and THE BOY WHO CRIED BITCH. So did almost everyone else, so after the BBQ grilling and food consumption we all gathered back inside and DRAGON HUNT was screened before an anxious crowd.

DRAGON HUNT (1990) is a Canadian made martial arts action movie that stars the incredible McNAMARA BROTHERS. It is as cheesy and wonderfully entertaining a film as you can possibly imagine. You’ve got an organization of vicious killers that call themselves The People’s Private Army, which are led by a cartoonish madman named Jake (B. BOB) who sports a metal hand and a mohawk inspired by FLOCK OF SEAGULLS. Part of his plot for world domination includes capturing the Twin Dragons (MARTIN AND MICHAEL McNAMARA) a brother karate duo that look like a cross between CHUCK NORRIS and the SUPER MARIO BROTHERS. Pretty much everyone in this movie has a crazy haircut and a wild mustache and it’s awesome!

The Twin Dragons are set up and drugged by two foxy women that are in cahoots with the bad guys. They wake up on an island filled with vicious killers (whom have names like THE BEASTMASTER, THE FAT MAN and THE RED SKULL OF DEATH), where they are forced to be the prey in a DANGEROUS GAME styled hunt. But they don’t know who they’re fucking with! One by one, the Twin Dragons take out The People’s Private Army (including a team of the most incompetent ninjas ever seen) and punch and kick their way to the evil Jake.

Wow, this movie totally delivered on its promising first five minutes! It was a really entertaining piece of Canuxsploitation from beginning to end and it just kept delivering the goods. Silly plot, bad acting, strange dialogue, weird costumes, horribly staged action, cheesy music and not one, not two, but THREE action montages set to music! This was probably my favorite 5 Minute Game to date. Exploitation movies just seem to play the best with that crowd and the more obscure the better. After searching for a VHS copy of DRAGON HUNT, I can say that it’s definitely not available anywhere else. I don’t know how The Cinefamily got a hold of this gem, but it’s worth its weight in nerd gold. I can’t wait to see which obscure titles they’ll have in store for us at the next 5 Minute Game. I leave you with some photos from the BBQ, enjoy!

THE GRILLMASTER!

BBQ carnage.

Cinefamily chieftains Tom Fitzgerald & Hadrian Belove and screenwriter Josh Olson discuss their choices for the evening.

A rowdy drunkard crashes the BBQ and wreaks havoc! Oh wait, that's Max Landis.

That's a packed patio!

LOST IN THE DESERT @ The Cinefamily: The Passion of the Dirkie

May 28, 2010

This last Saturday, I gathered together a group of movie-freaks to see a South African “children’s” film called LOST IN THE DESERT at The Cinefamily in West Hollywood. I already had seen it last year when it played there and it left quite an impression on me. It was shown again as part of the “Fucked Up Kid’s Movies” series they’ve been doing for the entire month of May, which also included the sleazy (yet charming) talking-monkey masterpiece CARNIVAL MAGIC, as well as the nightmarish, product placement laden, E.T. rip-off insanity of MAC AND ME. But when it comes to twisted films that were marketed for youngsters, LOST IN THE DESERT – A.K.A. DIRKIE (1969) takes the cake. It is the most sadistic children’s movie ever imagined.

“The most amazing adventure a boy ever lived through!” – tagline for LOST IN THE DESERT

Little eight year old Dirkie (DIRKIE UYS) has a really bad cough, so his doctor recommends that he leave the city for awhile and get some fresh air in the open country. His father, a famous songwriter (played by JAMIE UYS, the writer, director and actual dad of the actual kid) sends Dirkie and his pet dog off in a tiny commuter plane, piloted by the kid’s own uncle. Sounds safe, but unfortunately the uncle has a fatal heart attack while flying over the African desert and the plane goes down in the middle of it.

Dirkie and his cute little doggie survive, but find themselves trapped in the middle of a dangerous wilderness, all alone. Just about every horrible thing you can imagine befouls this poor kid and his pooch. First, he and the dog are menaced by a vicious hyena. In an attempt to frighten the beast off, Dirkie inadvertently sets fire to the plane wreckage he’s using for shelter and blows it up, along with the radio his father and the authorities have been using to pin-point his location! Next, the kid’s arm gets ripped open when he tries to get some water from a cavern! Then, the dog is attacked and injured by the dreaded hyena! If that wasn’t bad enough, a poisonous snake spits a wad of venom in Dirkie’s eyes, blinding him! This causes him to accidently step too closely to a scorpion and, yep you guessed it, it stings the poor little bastard! Christ on a cracker!

Meanwhile, back in the big city, Dirkie’s father is comforted by the authorities and his agent, who inform him that the odds of finding the boy are pretty slim and that he should “just try to forget he ever had a son and get back to work, earning money.”

Salvation comes to Dirkie in the form of a local African bushman and his son, who happen upon the kid and his dog while on walkabout. They treat the child’s wounds and nurse him back to health, but when Dirkie mistakenly thinks the bushman has cooked his dog and wants him to eat the canine too, the child insults the native and is promptly shunned and abandoned. Once again alone, Dirkie carries his wounded dog and a pocketful of dying puppies (that the dog just gave birth to), across the bleak desert landscape, searching for rescue. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but the kid finally gets reunited with his father again. However, the way the film concludes leaves speculation as to wether or not rescue has truly arrived.

LOST IN THE DESERT is a kid’s movie where the filmmakers try to make the audience think the cute dog has died not once, but on three separate occasions! This film has been nicknamed THE PASSION OF THE DIRKIE by those who’ve seen it, for the Christ-like way the child is battered throughout. I recommend it highly if you can find a bootleg of this rarity out there, somewhere.

This Saturday is Cinefamily’s conclusion to their “Fucked Up Kid’s Movies” program, and they’re showing a BUGSY MALONE-esque kid’s flick called HAWK JONES, which features children acting like adults in a cops and robbers style mystery. It features a big shootout between the little ones. I wouldn’t bring the kids! Nerd out!

SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD is a case of wishful thinking.

May 15, 2010

SPOILERS AHEAD!

I want to preface this review by stating that I’ve been a GEORGE ROMERO fan for quite some time now. I consider his original zombie trilogy of NIGHT, DAWN and DAY OF THE DEAD to be the best that genre (which he invented) has to offer. I even enjoyed his fourth highly anticipated zombie sequel, LAND OF THE DEAD a lot. From the vintage UNIVERSAL logo to the dozens of Iraq war and George W. Bush metaphors, I thought LAND was a great return to form from the old master. His non-zombie movies are pretty damn good too! MARTIN, KNIGHTRIDERS, CREEPSHOW and MONKEY SHINES are all excellent films, that show there’s a lot more to the man than zombies. I can also truly appreciate the fact that he works almost completely outside the Hollywood system and usually makes all of his films independently. Unfortunately, it seems the only way he can get money to make a movie as of late, is if there’s a “OF THE DEAD” at the end of every title.

I went into the advanced screening of his latest zombie movie SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD with an awesome amount of trepidation. I utterly hated DIARY OF THE DEAD. I thought it was a useless reason to make a movie and added nothing to the series or the genre in general. It didn’t even seem like it was made by the same guy. I’m happy to report that I found SURVIVAL to be a big improvement over DIARY. But, it’s still not that great of a movie.

SURVIVAL is not a mock-doc like DIARY was. It has a straight narrative like his previous films. It is however a “sequel” in the way that it follows a minor character from DIARY in their own storyline, during the same zombie outbreak. Sarge “Nicotine” Crocket (ALAN VAN SPRANG) is leading a small band of armed national guardsmen through the zombie-apocalypse of Philadelphia. They come across a message posted on the internet by an old guy named Pat O’Flynn (KENNETH WELSH), who is offering boat rides to a nearby island. Turns out it’s an ambush, but the bushwhackers are no match for the guard and Sarge and company take their boat. The old guy from the internet manages to get on board too and convinces Sarge to help him take back the island he’s from. Turns out that he’s been exiled from the island because of a difference in opinion with another resident named Seamus Muldoon (RICHARD FITZPATRICK), over what to do with the dead. O’Flynn prescribes to the notion of shooting them all in the head. Muldoon wants to keep the zombies around and train them how to do chores and eat animal flesh. So far, he hasn’t had much success and before you can say “Monroeville Mall”, everyone’s up to their armpits in zombies.

SURVIVAL has a strong BIG COUNTRY vibe and plays like a western at times. The social commentary that ROMERO’S going for in this one (according to him), concerns the huge split we’re seeing right now between the Left and the Right in our country. The two feuding Irishmen represent both sides refusing to listen to each other and work out the problem that faces them both. This is the part of SURVIVAL that I like the most and it echos the “man is his own worst enemy” thread from the other DEAD movies.

I didn’t like the “more of the same shit” feeling I got from the rest of the movie. There’s a lot of things about SURVIVAL that remind me of a cheap, less scary version of DAWN OF THE DEAD, only on an island instead of a mall.

I also thought the acting was pretty sub-standard throughout and I didn’t really like any of the characters I was supposed to like. The main guy Sarge is pretty poorly performed and most of the Irish accents sound awful (especially KATHLEEN MUNROE’S).

But, the worst thing about SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD is the dead! They’re fucking boring and not in the least bit frightening. Also, as with the case of DIARY, the gore scenes are mostly CGI and it’s BAD FUCKING CGI! There are two really creative zombie kills that are ruined by the use of CGI and made to look almost BUGS BUNNY style cartoonish! Shitty!

After the movie was over, GEORGE ROMERO came out to do a Q & A with the sold-out  crowd at the L.A. Film School. He talked about how if SURVIVAL is successful, he wants to make two more DEAD movies that also follow minor characters who were introduced in DIARY. If he does, I’ll hope for the best. He said that basically he’s been ripped off financially for all the old DEAD movies (especially NIGHT which is public domain) and I think that’s one of the reasons he decided to reboot a new series of DEAD movies that are separate from the others. It makes sense, but I wish this new series was a lot better.

ROMERO said he’s also working on a zombie NOVEL! He didn’t elaborate any further than that, but said that he wanted to tell an even bigger “OF THE DEAD” type story that’s in the vein of MAX BROOK’S ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE. I’m looking forward to that.

There was also a lot of talk about the original script for DAY OF THE DEAD and the more I hear about what that film could have been like, the more I want to read it, because it sounds fucking EPIC! That draft never got made, because at the time it would of cost way too much money. It featured a fully trained and armed ZOMBIE ARMY that are used by the military guys to fight the other zombies! They were “rewarded” with “fleshy” snacks. The source of these snacks was to be a group of prostitutes, who are “used” by the soldiers to create a BABY FARM! The babies are the zombie snacks! How totally FUCKED UP is that? That idea was meant to be a comment of sorts on the abortion issue. WOW! Someone should have made THAT instead of the DAY remake they did a few years back. Oh well.

At one point, ROMERO talked about an original idea he had for a new horror movie. I won’t tell you what the idea was, but I will say it sounded very interesting. This is what I think is so sad about the man; he still has a lot of awesome ideas, but he just can’t get them financed unless there’s a bunch of zombies eating people in it. I hope he gets to make it someday and finally give the DEAD their much deserved rest. Nerd out!

TROMA 35th ANNIVERSARY @ THE NEW BEV!

May 4, 2010

On April 22nd 2010, The New Beverly Cinema hosted a 35th anniversary celebration for the indie movie mavericks TROMA and their legendary CEO and founder LLOYD KAUFMAN was in attendance! TROMA has always held a special place in my movie-nerd heart and there was no way I could pass on an opportunity to see THE TOXIC AVENGER again on the big screen. I was but a mere pup working at a video store in the Chicago suburbs, when I was first introduced to Toxie and the crazy citizens of Tromaville, New Jersey. I brought THE TOXIC AVENGER home one night after work and popped it into my parent’s VCR for a look. I was utterly floored by the combination of over the top humor, social satire and graphic violence. I made it a point to see every TROMA movie they had at my store. I watched CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH (my second favorite after TOXIC AVENGER), SURF NAZIS MUST DIE, SGT. KABUKIMAN NYPD, TROMA WAR, TROMEO AND JULIET, etc. I always found a gross charm to their movies, and under the big tits and cheap ass gore, a subtle subversiveness.

In typical TROMA fashion, LLOYD KAUFMAN and his sideshow of crazy characters were on hand before and during the movies. LLOYD filmed the line of TROMA fans with his own camera and greeted everyone in sight, along with COUNT SMOKULA on his accordion, TOXIE and a cavalcade of scantily clad starlets and weirdoes.

Great poster!

Toxie in person!

LLOYD KAUFMAN films the line.

Count Smokula!

Once inside, LLOYD KAUFMAN, TOXIE, and COUNT SMOKULA were joined on stage by POULTRYGEIST co-star RON JEREMY. The former porn star played the harmonica in a weird duet with COUNT SMOKULA on his accordion, while costumed freaks and hot girls danced around. The shit was surreal.

Pandemonium!

LLOYD KAUFMAN films ME!

TOXIE, RON JEREMY and COUNT SMOKULA entertain the crowd. All we need is one more horseman and we got ourselves an apocalypse, folks!

Random TROMA weirdoes.

A TROMA girl selling DVD's.

After a crazy musical number and an incoherent speech from LLOYD, the show began. There was a trailer reel of all TROMA titles that included: SUGAR COOKIES, MOTHER’S DAY, ZOMBIE ISLAND MASSACRE, CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH, SURF NAZIS MUST DIE, TROMA’S WAR, TROMEO AND JULIET and CITIZEN TOXIE: THE TOXIC AVENGER IV. Then, we were treated to a special director’s cut of THE TOXIC AVENGER, which included a deleted scene involving the Mayor on a golf course and two of the longest 80’s montages ever edited. It was EPIC watching this movie with an audience full of TROMA fanatics. I remembered watching THE TOXIC AVENGER as a midnight movie at Chicago’s Music Box Theatre way back in the day. It’s truly a movie to watch with others. The style of TOXIC is all over the place and I think that’s a huge part of its success. Part gross out comedy, part comic book movie, part revenge flick and part horror movie. It’s got it all and I love it. Even though they’re talking about doing a TOXIC AVENGER remake, I guarantee you will never again see a scene where a little boy get his head crushed under the tire of a speeding car and it’s all played for laughs, ever again. Pity.

There was a chaotic Q and A afterwards. The only real newsworthy item was that there will eventually be another TROMA TEAM produced TOXIC AVENGER movie, hopefully. I was going to leave due to exhaustion from the previous evenings indulgence, but decided to stay and check out a little of TROMA’S newest film, POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD. I’m sooooooo glad I did!

Bad things happen when a new military-themed fast food restaurant called American Chicken Bunker opens up in Tromaville. For starters, it’s built over a cursed Indian burial sight. Then, it’s protested by a feminist-led animal rights group called C.L.A.M. To make matters worse, new employee Arbie’s girlfriend Wendy has gone off to college and become a militant lesbian. And oh yeah, all the food gets contaminated and everyone who eats it turns into a giant man-eating chicken-zombie. It’s up to Arbie and Wendy, along with fellow employees-Denny, Carl Jr., Humus (a young woman of Arab decent) and their boss General Lee Roy (a white cracker stereotype), to put aside their differences and save the day.

POULTRYGEIST is gross, insulting, obnoxious, homophobic, racist, sexist and hilarious fun! Every ethnic group is raked over the coals. The comedy ranges from juvenile, to gross, to brilliant. On occasion, it suddenly becomes a musical and the characters break into these wonderfully funny song and dance numbers. I was shocked and blown away by how much fun I had and I stayed for the whole damn thing. LLOYD KAUFMAN directed this movie beautifully and I gotta say, it’s definitely a true TROMA film in every sense of the word. If you like their particular brand of independent insanity, I suggest you check it out. You won’t be disappointed. Nerd out!

THE VHS JUNKIE’S LATEST FIX: JENNIFER (1978)

April 27, 2010

I recently purchased a brand new Panasonic Bluray/VHS combo player and I’ve been going on scavenger hunts all over the city and internet, looking for rare movies on video tape. Thanks to my good friend,  New Beverly Cinema Queen Julia Marchese, I found a small independent video store that’s selling off its entire VHS inventory. The place turned out to be a virtual treasure trove, where I was able to purchase TONS of old movies for peanuts, that are either not available on DVD, out of print, or so obscure even I have never seen them before. I’m gonna write up some reviews of certain select titles from my new collection.

Tagline: SHE WALKS IN TERROR, STILLED WITH FRIGHT. A TRAIL OF FEAR, TO FILL THE NIGHT!

JENNIFER (1978) is a low budget B-movie rip-off of the supernatural hit CARRIE. It concerns a young, pretty, country girl named Jennifer Baylor (LISA PELIKAN), who attends the snotty Green View School for Girls on an academic scholarship. She lives with her cagey, religious cook papa in the back of a pet store they operate and is a quiet girl, who keeps to herself. Unfortunately for her, she bumps heads with the evil Sandra Tremayne (AMY JOHNSTON) over a cheating scandal. Sandra leads a clique of pill-popping rich bitches, whom along with their equally cruel boyfriends, begin to torment poor Jennifer at their leader’s request. Also, to make matters worse, Sandra is the daughter of Senator Tremayne (JOHN GAVIN), whom presses the all-too-eager Head Mistress, Mrs. Calley (NINA FOCH), into siding against the innocent waif.

At home, her papa is constantly pressuring her to accept the “power” she was gifted with, when she was a child. You see, Jennifer’s father used to take her to these crazy church meetings when she was young, where they speak in tongues and worship serpents and it turns out, Jennifer has a gift for conjuring up and commanding SNAKES with her mind! She doesn’t want to unleash this dangerous ability, but her papa keeps on her about it.

Her only ally comes in the form of BERT CONVY as the sexy school teacher Mr. Reed, whom every girl has a crush on. He sympathizes with Jennifer, but is threatened with termination from Mrs. Calley, if he continues to support her. “The rich are always right.” she tells him.

Without anyone to help her, the girls play a lot of cruel pranks on Jennifer. Sandra tries to drown her in swim class. Then, they steal her clothes from her locker and take nude photos of her, circulating them around the school. If that isn’t fucked up enough, Sandra buys Jennifer’s favorite cat from the pet store, kills it, hangs it in her locker and frames her for the pussy’s death. What a fucking BITCH!

But that’s not all! Sandra tricks Jennifer’s stupid father into leaving the back door of the pet shop open, so that she and her friends can surprise her with a gift. The old man buys it and they kidnap Jennifer out of her bed, tie her up, throw her in the trunk of a red Trans Am and drive her to the rooftop of a parking garage, where they plan to torment her some more.

Well, the jokes on them! Jennifer conjures up a bunch of deadly snakes with her mind and unleashes them on her tormentors. All the bullies are bitten and choked to death by a wide variety of serpents. Sandra flees in her car, but a GIANT snake leaps from the back seat and bites her, sending the car careening upside down, where it explodes on impact in typical 70s fashion. Jennifer gets her revenge!

JENNIFER is in every way, shape and form, a cheap version of CARRIE with snakes, but it wasn’t half bad. The main reasons being that, the mean girl Sandra is a great villain to watch get her comeuppance and LISA PELIKAN is very likable as Jennifer. Even though the movie is totally derivative, I enjoyed it and rooted for Jennifer to fuck everyone up with her crazy snake magic. It’s not available on DVD, just the good old VHS release from VESTRON VIDEO, if you can find it. Nerd out!