They/Them (2022)

Written And Directed By John Logan
Bh/Desert Wolf

You know, if you’re a horror movie kinda person, you might make some general allowances for films made in your preferred idiom. For example, imagine, oh, I don’t know … maybe a “slasher” flick that takes place at … oh, let’s say a “camp.” With such a familiar setup, you therefore might reasonably expect certain motifs, themes, tropes, what-have-you. And when all the stuff you more or less expect happens, it’s more or less what you’re willing to accept.

Except familiarity breeds contempt, and in this made-for-TV “Peacock original,” there are multiple problems. After the not-unforeseeable reveal is, well, revealed, it just doesn’t pass muster, a literally unbelievable gaffe that’s a disastrous last choice for Their underwhelming genre attempt.

I had higher hopes for this picture. I did appreciate the mild pronoun joke (poorly aped just above). And though I’ll grant that one must start somewhere in working out how to approach broadening the scope of flicks like these, this attempt mainly just shoehorns orientation/gender topics into an unimaginative template. I began this piece by pointing out my willingness to play along, but – ironically enough – this production mainly comes across like it’s not sure what it really wants to be.

Uninspired even by stock horror standards, it feels as though it was written around its cliché bonding moment – a musical number.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

In another review, I suggested a “slasher movie where the trans character breaks the usual archetype,” and imagined that potential addressed here.

Should You Watch This Movie?

Spoiler alert: It doesn’t come close, but one character (“Jordan”) takes a tentative step.


Highlight and Low Point

HEY DIDJA KNOW THE TITLE’S PRONOUNCED “THEY SLASH THEM”


That attempted witticism’s not even an accurate synopsis!

Rating From OUter SPace: D+

The Bay (2012)

Directed by Barry Levinson
Baltimore Pictures/Haunted Movies

Like most people who prefer to believe they’re rational actors, I hear the descriptions “found footage” and “mockumentary” in the synopsis of a “horror film” and I metaphorically run the other way. Then again, it is also true that nearly every art form, no matter how dubious, contains within it the potential for the sublime, for a performance that can outstrip its lowly genesis.

There are two directions I could be headed here, right? “This is not that movie” or “The Bay is a stellar example.” Well, it’s the latter. Buttressed by some splendid performances amongst its nearly anonymous cast, and paced very effectively in the creeping dread of its reveals, this Barry Levinson production is an exemplary and audacious eco-terror. Something is terribly wrong in Chesapeake Bay, you see. Is chicken farming to blame? Perhaps yes, but it’s much more complicated than that. Even so, between this and Cooties, the poultry industry must have been glad that lower-tier fright flicks don’t generate a lot of societal uproar.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

‘Twas Independence Day, but I couldn’t make it through the blockbuster with that title; the action herein also takes place on said holiday.


Should You Watch This Movie?

As a Radical Leftist® who thinks commercial fishing should be banned, of course I endorse this picture.


Highlight and Low Point

I noted three major detractions from the “documentary” conceit: The American oceanographer constantly carping (sorry) about his French partner’s accent; the fact that the fish the oceanographers examined didn’t quite look freshly caught; and the improbably framed closeups on one character’s face as he drove. Most convincing murder/suicide scene I can imagine, though. And the interactions between the doctor and the CDC were eerily instructive.

Rating From Outer Space: A−

Land of the Dead (2005)

Written and Directed by George A. Romero
A Mark Canton-Bernie Goldmann and Romero-Grunwald Production

While I enjoyed this relatively lavish Romero film, by the end it was nagging at me that what I had sat through was more or less an action movie. But then I started thinking about it, and realized that at heart, many zombie pictures basically are. This one, however, includes a ridiculous military vehicle – not to mention paramilitary forces – suitable for a Schwarzenegger flick, as well as a revenge plot against a devious criminal plutocrat. Ah, but the allegorical possibilities abound nearly 20 years after this film’s release. Masses in the cities crowded into hardscrabble Hoovervilles! The rich safely ensconced in their fortresslike tower! The undead inhabitating the vast wastelands that once were civilized! Or would those examples be parabular? Maybe Romero just had the touch of prescience.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Having just finished the initial “Living Dead” trilogy, and having found Day of more interesting than expected, I figured I might’s well tackle the more modern set.

Should You Watch This Movie?

Dunno … gotta watch the other two chapters before I can say. (As a standalone, I’m not sure it rates.)

Highlight and Low Point

The acting’s more convincing in this rendition, certainly as compared to the previous installment. It reminded me that John Leguizamo existed, for one thing … and also reminded me that CBS had a show called The Mentalist that I always thought looked utterly idiotic (and which ran for seven seasons). I suppose it’s intriguing that while the military theme carries over from that underground bunker in Florida, it’s now a private concern. I’d like to know more about how the other uninfected human survivors managed to last long enough to form have/have-not parallel societies.

Rating From Outer Space: C+

Cooties (2014)

Directed by Jonathan Milott & Cary Murnion
Spectrevision/Glacier Films

I’m glad I’m not a real movie critic, because if I were I’d apparently have to be as humorless as I was when I was a music critic, and then I wouldn’t have enjoyed this terrific little picture nearly as much as I did. A (now much more) topical story of a mysterious viral outbreak, triggered by an infected meat product, that becomes a pandemic afflicting the prepubescent and turning them into merciless and ravenous killing agents, it’s as effectively targeted at teachers as Abbott Elementary, which it occasionally resembles (only with copious gore). It’s initially set in summer school, you see, and watching the transformation of foulmouthed fourth graders into zombified marauders – and the gleefully violent means to which their teachers resort to fight their way out – is … well, I guess I shouldn’t say it’s “heartwarming” if I want to keep my job, but it sure is grimly hilarious. This is some dark, dark, humor, and though it’s true, critic class, that it doesn’t breathe new life into blah blah blah, what the hell do you people want, anyway?

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I discovered it took place in scholastic environs, and I’m a professional educator.


Should You Watch This Movie?

Well, I thought it was fun. The usual “horror comedy” caveat applies.


Highlight and Low Point

I don’t wanna get up on my soapbox again, but relying on the “Asian” character to provide martial arts flash and noticeably accented speech is an unfortunate choice – even given the rather broadly drawn stereotypes of all the other grownup characters. (Macho man-child, burnout, flaming gay guy, histrionic, milksop, etc.) Amusing use is made of ADHD meds. Located in fictional town of “Fort Chicken, Illinois.” Adeptly vulgar.

Rating From Outer Space: B+

Matinee aka Midnight Matinee (1989)

Written and Directed by Richard Martin
“©1989 D Slayer Productions inc.”
Produced With the Participation of Téléfilm Canada
Produced in Association with B.C. Film

A Canadian made-for-TV picture about the aftermath of a mysterious murder at a horror-film festival and the threatening goings-on when a similar festival is attempted three years later, complete with a visit from a hotshot local-boy-done-good director and its impact on his estranged daughter and ex-wife, this is essentially an insanely melodramatic soap opera with some largely implied killings and an extremely low-key manner. For all that, it made for surprisingly compelling viewing, at least until it became obvious who the perpetrator must be and devolved into the requisite finale of stalking quarry through murk. Needed more montage scenes with anthemic accompaniment.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

It was in my “to watch” folder, and I didn’t have the foggiest notion what it was, although I knew it was a fairly recent addition. Once I started it, I just stuck with it.

Should You Watch This Movie?

Probably not? It’s more a somnolent (and lengthy) episode of any random crime drama than a proper motion picture, much less a scary one.


Highlight and Low Point

As is not uncommon with these sorts of affairs, the film festival(s) screen a number of faux flicks, of which we get to see glimpses. In this one, those titles are “Murder Camp,” “No Escape,” “The Sleepwalker,” “Bad Blood II” and “The Black Closet” … all of which would probably have been more entertaining than “Midnight Matinee.” William B. Davis plays director/guest/dad Heath Harris, and eventually I realized he was “Cancer Man” from The X Files. A pointless subplot about the intertwined pasts of “Detective Al Jason” and newspaper reporter “Geoff Oslam” is never explained or resolved.

Rating From Outer Space: C−

Day of the Dead (1985)

Written and Directed by George a. Romero
A Laurel Production

I didn’t watch it for this express purpose, but this flick has given me some good tips for becoming a doomsday prepper, which feels like a good idea as this country I live in lurches a few steps closer to becoming a full-fledged theocracy. (I also didn’t watch it explicitly to follow one “master of horror” with another, but who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men. Besides the so-called “supreme” court that has been hijacked by conservative ideologues doing the bidding of a dwindling but ever-powerful junta of allegedly “Christian” demagogues, that is.) ANYway, during the first 20 minutes or so of this picture I was dubious, and during the final 25 minutes or so I was but merely periodically amused, but somewhere in the middle I remarked to myself, “Hey, this is actually really good!” For which I must credit primarily the script and its depictions of both the growing interpersonal discord and the standoff between brain and brawn. That latter dualism being multifaceted, of course. As for the dissension in the ranks of the “good guys”? Any resemblance to actual persons or actual events is purely coincidental.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I’d never seen it, and it sounded like a good idea.


Should You Watch This Movie?

It feels unfortunately timely. Not as much as this, but …


Highlight and Low Point

I think this installment may answer my question about the undead’s insatiable hunger. Apparently, their only necessary organ is the brain, and as demonstrated by Dr. “Frankenstein” Logan, it retains vestigial information. So in a sense, the urge to eat is more or less a habit (or addiction, if you prefer).

We’ll just conveniently forget that they also bleed.

Rating From Outer Space: B

John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness (1987)

Written & Directed by John Carpenter
Alive Films/Larry Franco Productions

This picture, though certainly not a “horror comedy,” definitely includes comedic elements, in addition to its absurdist dialogue. Now, I don’t mean to disparage the writing of “Martin Quatermass,” but the plot of this flick concerns Satan’s dad being a type of antimatter, manifesting his offspring as a sentient liquid, buried in a magical canister at the behest of intergalactic interloper “Jesus Christ,” with warning messages transmitted via dreams based on a hypothetical physics particle. Yea, discursions amongst the major players in this drama get a bit unwieldy. Elements – pun unintended! – of this production recur in They LIve and In the Mouth of Madness. (Allegedly, The Thing, this, and “Madness” constitute a “trilogy.”)

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I frankly wasn’t interested in taking a gander at anything else I had pending, and this title popped up somewhere.



Should You Watch This Movie?

It’s not what one might expect from the title, I’ll give it that.


Highlight and Low Point

The script is sui generis; one could pick almost any random moment and find ponderousness. I did just that; here’s what I got:

“So what is the dream? Precognition? Previous knowledge of a future event?
  A shared vision of something that is yet to occur.”
“Caused by that thing downstairs?”
“Perhaps not!”
“A tachyon is a subatomic particle that travels faster than light.”

Donald Pleasence outdoes himself as, uh, “Priest,” getting so overwrought one might almost believe he Believes. (At the end of this affair, his lack of concern for what may have happened to anyone else is a nice touch.) The Prince’s method of transmitting his evil influence to others is peculiar – though reasonable given his limitations as, you know, a liquid – and disconcerting.

Rating From Outer Space: B

Studio 666 (2022)

Directed by B. J. McDonnell
Roswell Films/Therapy Studios

All I can say for the reviewers that sniffed that this isn’t a very effective horror movie (or similar sentiments) is … I feel sorry that you can’t see past whatever biases you’re carrying around with you. And that I wish more bands did things like this. (And that there were still, you know, bands.) Heavily indebted to various chapters of the Evil Dead saga – and in my opinion, The New Scooby-Doo Movies – this picture showcases more than anything what is presumably the Foo Fighters’ healthy sense of the absurdities that underscore the mythologies behind their day jobs. Even the copious gore is cartoonish, for crying out loud. I mean, I think the point of this flick was to have fun, people. Fun, remember that?

Why Did I Watch This MOvie?

A movie about demonic possession afflicting a (real) band recording in a supposedly cursed location? How in HELL ( \m/ ) was I NOT going to watch it?

Should You Watch This Movie?

C’mon, you know you wanna see a movie Dave Grohl’s in that isn’t a punk doc or some other rock history piece. (It’s still mainly for music fans.)

Highlight and Low Point

So, the very night I finished watching this picture, I went to look up some pertinent information related to the “Dream Widow” record that accompanies it in the metaverse … and found then-breaking news that Taylor Hawkins had died in Colombia. (Yeah, I’ve fallen a little behind again.) Given the nature of the movie, I found that one weird coincidence. The DW LP has its moments. Malevolent presences in this production are budget versions of those in We Are Still Here. Viewing this led to my discovery that “Pat Smear” is married, and a parent.

Rating From Outer Space: B+

Q aka Q – The Winged Serpent (1982)

Written, Produced and Directed by Larry Cohen
LARCO PRODUCTIONS

Though this would appear to be a straightforward picture about a monstrous winged serpent randomly attacking New Yorkers, it’s actually the tale of an Aztec death cult that has managed to revivify its god Quetzalcoatl to … randomly attack New Yorkers, apparently. With that setup, this bonkers production is patently ridiculous on one level, obviously, but it’s buttressed immensely by the contributions of David Carradine, Richard Roundtree, Michael Moriarty and others. (Moriarty’s Jimmy Quinn alone presents quite the psychological study.) With several of the winged serpent’s attacks being blatantly – and thus amusingly – similar, this green-screened stop-motion monster extravaganza even manages to throw in an undercover cop purporting to be a mime. Larry Cohen, ladies and germs.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

A movie called “Q” about an inexplicable threat to ordinary citizens appealed to my sense of irony, or something. (Coincidentally, Moriarty is an expatriate American holding Canadian citizenship who once claimed he was starting a third party for “serious conservatives,” The Realists.)


Should you Watch This Movie?

Cohen knows how to make an entertaining film.


Highlight and Low Point

POWELL: “What I want to know is, how the hell does this tie in with the murders and the mutilations?”


SHEPARD
: “Well, that’s what brought it back … awakened it from its … centuries of sleep.

This thing has been … prayed … back into existence.”

POWELL: “Right.”

Hmm, maybe it’s not an accident this flick is called “Q” after all. Do your own research, people. Six-time National League All-Star Ron “Penguin” Cey, who played the last of his 12 seasons with the L.A. Dodgers in 1982, has a small role as “Detective Hoberman.” Was this a sly
reference to longtime Village Voice film
critic J. Hoberman? DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH.

Rating From Outer Space: B+

Looker (1981)

Written and Directed by Michael Crichton
The Ladd company

This Michael Crichton picture had me musing during its latter portions that Michael Crichton was also responsible for the 1984 Tom Selleck-Gene $immon$ vehicle Runaway. Such a reminiscence is probably not a great endorsement for this production, but overall, this forgotten flick has its merits, even if they’re mainly historical rather than artistic. (It presages CGI, for one thing.) A lot of stuff here doesn’t make a whole lotta (or any) sense if you stop to think about it, but you’re supposed to be enraptured by the futurism and, probably, struck (dumb?) by the ironies and therefore not get around to asking such perplexing questions. It’s probably not a great sign, however, that IMDb claims some of those pertinent details are included in the made-for-TV edit, in scenes left on the theatrical version’s cutting-room floor … but since this film hinges on a plastic surgeon and his work with a bevy of commercial models, I suppose that’s perfectly appropriate.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I found it accidentally, hooked by the existence of a heretofore-unknown Crichton venture.



Should You Watch This Movie?

Maybe, if you’re also considering taking in Runaway.


Highlight and Low Point

Speaking of harbingers, this project allegedly arose because Congo was at the time unfilmable, what with its “gorilla” problem. In a nutshell: large corporation is engineering models to exacting specifications for use in adverts employing secret technology to mesmerize viewers (and killing them off – the models, that is – for some reason). Ooh, and they’ve got a flashlight gun! Susan Dey plays one of the “perfect” models. She has a brief scene with her parents that implies TV destroys family bonds. Dey is of course largely known for The Partridge Family and L.A. Law.

Rating From Outer Space: C−