The Cave (2005)

Directed by Bruce Hunt
Lakeshore Entertainment/City Productions/Cineblue

Trying to decide how to introduce this silly wannabe-blockbuster action thriller, I realized I should just state the facts: I decided to watch The Cave precisely because I knew what I could expect to get from the experience. See, I was in the mood for a fair-to-middling production with a “Hollywood” feel, by which I mean an affair so divorced from any actual identifiable reality that its viewer can just comfortably settle in with the stock setup and characters, and soak up the stupid. Striving for mediocrity, The Cave did its job admirably – perhaps too much so, as it barely recovered production costs after factoring in global revenues.

Now, when I try to describe what I had been seeking, let me allow Wikipedia to contribute its description of the cast of characters: “thrill seeking professional cave explorers who run a world famous scuba diving team” (sic). Set in Romania, under an ancient church, the Knights Templar … nah, never mind that, the script barely bothers anyway. Concentrate instead on the mysterious “parasite” that transforms its host into some sorta Species. Because ultimately what this flick brought to mind was the 1995 movie with that as its title.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I wasn’t in the mood for Halloween Ends.


Should You Watch This Movie?

Much as I once compared a clumsy example of an ’80s teen-kill picture to comfort food, I’d halfheartedly endorse this vehicle of dunderhead escapism … if it were, say, as good as The Descent.

HIghlight and Low Point

I found the creatures inhabiting THE cave to be prosaic, at least once they were fully visible. I would also quibble with the biological processes allegedly on display, but I’d like to retain a shred of dignity.

Rating From Outer Space: c−

The Burrowers (2007)

Written and Directed by JT Petty
Lionsgate/Blue Star Entertainment

It’s probably a fairly damning indictment of a horror picture – or any similar kind of picture, actually – if it revolves around some horrible creatures doing horrible things and the worst problem the production has is the appearance of those very same creatures. Now, to be fair, I suppose the “burrowers” here are not actually all that bad; they’re effectively creepy and gross, and only occasionally betray their CGI animation. They don’t necessarily stretch the bounds of credulity too terribly, either. So what the hell is my problem?

A slow-building, personality-driven nature horror, with all kinds of subtle societal commentaries, this Western set in the Dakota Territories during the time of the “Indian Wars” doesn’t overwhelm its viewer with visceral assaults, preferring to derive its impact from psychological discomfort. All right, fine, that’s laying it on a bit thick, but there’s a villain here that isn’t the insectile hunters, whose method of preparing their dinner is damned unsettling in its own right.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I had no idea this flick existed until only recently, as it was amongst those discussed in 100 American Horror Films (published, obviously, by the British Film Institute).

Should You Watch This Movie?

If, like me, you’re a sucker for tracking down, once you’ve finally heard of them, underpublicized films described as being of an originalist bent … sure.

Highlight and Low Point

As hinted above, upon further reflection I can accept the titular beasties well enough. While actually watching the proceedings, however, I hated them. (Admittedly, I tend to be hypercritical of modern movie monsters.) And I will employ my usual shtick to aver that the truly disheartening REAL HORROR here is only to be discovered at the bitter end.

Rating From OUter Space: B

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+

Gutterballs (2008)

Written And Directed By Ryan nicholson
Plotdigger Films

Actually proud of how many times its script uses the F-word and its derivatives – the writing makes Rob Zombie screenplays seem eloquent – this deliberately tasteless and mordantly abusive curiosity also boasts some of the absolute worst acting you may ever experience. (Don’t bother wondering why the high-stakes showdown takes place in an all-but-deserted kegling center.) Though most of the gore is so over-the-top as to be ludicrous – along with the amounts of “blood” spilt – there are a scene or two of impressively sickening brutality, if that’s your (bowling) bag. Crass, sleazy, and pornographic (in a bordering-on-obscene legal sense), it’s kind of hard to defend this picture for any kind of “artistic merit,” but by the, uh, redemptive ending, a sort of humorous acceptance may surface. Either that, or by that point the proceedings may just have become too grim (or too stupid) to shock you any more. But there IS a sequel called “Balls Deep,” so at least things could probably get worse.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I like bowling and independent horror productions, and I’ve got extremely questionable taste.


Should You Watch This Movie?

I really wish Nicholson could’ve found slightly more competent thespians for most of the cast, and that he’d have had a script editor to make the language less egregious.

Highlight and Low Point

The bowling pin gang rape scene is pretty bad, I guess, though at no time will you be worried whether it’s too realistic. The casual misogyny displayed throughout is a lot more grating, in my opinion. The antagonists in this story are truly despicable and unlikable, so I guess you can give the actors credit for accomplished something. Conjuring up the suffocation-death-by-69 scene also took some creativity.

Rating From Outer Space: C

‘Salem’s Lot (2004)

Directed by Mikael Salomon
A Mark M. Wolper Production
in Association with Warner Bros. Television

Had I been aware this existed? I didn’t think so, but one scene convinced me I’d at least read about it somewhere before, and I have the sneaking suspicion it must have been a commentary by S. King himself. (I cannot confirm this.) Whatever the case, when I chanced upon it a few days prior to its viewing, a quick scan of its synopsis led me to think it would be nigh unwatchable, but that turned out to be far from the truth. Actually, one could argue the amendments made to the source text actually improve things, since it becomes a little bit less of a blatant rewrite of Dracula in this iteration. Hampered a bit by the need to be palatable enough to serve a basic-cable television audience, and also by the curious handling of the Barlow character, the three-hour runtime felt appropriate. Bringing the story into a more contemporary setting didn’t hurt, either, although I would argue it didn’t resemble “Maine” in the least … were it not for the fact I’ve never been to Maine, so how would I know.

Why Did I Watch This MOvie?

As I’ve never posted a review of Tobe Hooper’s CBS-TV version of this story, I had planned to rewatch that, but at a certain point in the proceedings I became aware of this one and switched allegiances.


Should You Watch This Movie?

I’ll say this, it wasn’t the easiest thing to find.


Highlight and Low Point

The casting is sometimes questionable. Rob Lowe’s a pretty good Ben Mears, but Donald Sutherland’s Straker may require a period of adjustment and Rutger Hauer’s Barlow is just odd. The intro and outro present a quandary.

Rating From Outer Space: C+

Cut (2000)

directed by kimble rendall
beyond films/mushroom pictures/mbp/south australian film corporation

Another Australian horror comedy? Okay, sure, why not. Dispensing with overt laffs in favor of a general mood that isn’t all too serious, this filming-of-a-film-within-a-film is about the attempt to finish, uh, filming a film. Which was never finished. Said celluloid seems to be cursed, you see, as mayhem and terror ensues whenever anyone even tries screening the reels that remain of the initial endeavor. Despite that, some plucky young film students are determined to make a go of it, their professor’s objections notwithstanding. For a largely unheralded picture languishing in smaller-foreign-film obscurity, this flick is a pretty good time, even if saddled with a pretty ridiculous underlying concept. (To be fair, it’s generally internally consistent, which is always a plus in my book.) Molly Ringwald has a meta role as a onetime name actress who agrees to take a scream-queen part in a DIY indie production.

why did i watch this movie?

Probably because it’s Australian, a condition I usually find signifies a certain reliability. After making the selection, however, I held off for a while because the whole “horror film shoot or equivalent plagued by slasher or equivalent” isn’t the                                                                             most innovative idea.

should you watch this movie?

Ultimately, it doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table. If you’re looking for cinematic entertainment you don’t have to get too involved with, though, this’ll do.

highlight and low point

Really, the fact that the director was a founding member of the quirky rave-up combo (Le) Hoodoo Gurus leads this category. How random is that? The script could’ve worked harder to create misdirection about the killer’s identity, and it feels as though some opportunities were missed in observing the lineage of the fateful film.

rating from outer space: C+

Zibahkhana aka ذبح خانہ aka Hell’s Ground (2007)

directed by omar ali khan
bubonic films/boum productions ltd/mondo macabro movies

All right now, this is what I’m talking about. A terrific little number with barely an original idea in its head – though that appears to have been the filmmaker’s intent – this Pakistani flick ultimately surpasses its bare-bones budget and its bare-cupboard storyline to produce a thoroughly enjoyable picture. Much of the proceedings are a recasting of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, there’s an obvious nod or two to Night of the Living Dead, and there’s some camerawork and atmosphere courtesy of The Evil Dead as well (plus the final girl’s name, Ayesha, often is rendered as, yes, “Ash”). Well-paced, and clearly made with the right attitude and healthy amounts of appreciation for the endeavor, its DIY sheen only adds to the entertainment value. Really pretty rewarding, given that it’s “Pakistan’s First Gore Film.”

why did i watch this movie?

Dude, it’s Pakistan’s first gore film. I couldn’t resist that kind of come-on. (It helped that I was able to locate subtitles for it.)

should you watch this movie?

If you actually read this palaver, you are presumably at some level a devotee of this art form, if not an aficionado per se. If you are also of a certain bent, you just may appreciate this presentation precisely because of its … familiarity.

Or you won’t.

highlight and low point

The weapon of choice for the unrelenting maniacal stalker quite amused me, as did the transliteration of the stock young adult characters into a South Asian disposition. “Yah, let’s get STONED, and get that damned radio on, yah?” as Rubya Chaudhry’s Roxy memorably puts it. At times, depictions here reminded me of the original attempt at All Cheerleaders Die. The élan involved is definitely similar, anyway.

rating from outer space: B+

Halloween II (2009)

written and directed by rob zombie
dimension films/trancas international films/spectacle entertainment group

In a way the definitive Rob Zombie picture, this sequel to his remake of the first Carpenter horror classic basically only makes a dent because of that lineage. I mean, if this were only a movie about just some random psycho killing people for no real reason most of the time – and it is, only that character happens to be dubbed “Michael Myers” – it would not be particularly compelling, nor memorable. Brutal and dismal throughout, it ends without redemption, and Zombie’s juvenile obsession with titties-and-beer doesn’t particularly help. His ongoing attempt to inject metaphysical compulsion (or something) into the Myers saga via hallucinatory visions is categorically odd, and his characters, as usual, are often rehashed caricatures. But for all that, it definitely establishes and holds a mood. Why it bothers is a different question.


why did i watch this movie?

This was strictly stunt programming, piggybacking on the previous selection.


should you watch this movie?

Are you really enamored of extended scenes of cruelly barbaric murder, or hopelessly trapped in hidebound fascination with music of the 1960s and ’70s? (“Laurie’s” Black Flag and Government Issue t-shirts notwithstanding.)

highlight and low point

It may be unfair to point out, as I watched the “Director’s Cut,” but a lot of moments here are just Zombie indulging his own tastes, to the point of self-parody. One might prefer to think he’s self-aware enough to give W. Al Yankovic a cameo role for just that reason, but honestly, that doesn’t seem to be the case. It would appear he just thinks these stylistic touchpoints are, like, bitchin’. Yeah, you can identify his work as his own – after a fashion, anyway – but the effect can be pretty grating.

rating from outer space: C

Wendigo (2001)

written, directed, edited by larry fessenden
glass eye pix/antidote films

I had to more or less force myself to finish watching this tale of a weekend trip gone bad. I don’t think it was this picture’s fault, though, even if I neither found it particularly interesting nor would agree that it’s affecting and frightening. Maybe it’s a trend – the last couple films covered here haven’t really delivered the goods I have sought, plus it’s “baseball season” after a fashion, and I have a bunch of other stuff I gotta worry about, and, and, and. I know that’s a bit unfair. One thing I will say for this Larry Fessenden production: he got terrific acting jobs outta pretty much his entire cast. The naturalistic nature of most of the story really works, and paradoxically, therein lies some of the problem. The supernatural stuff, which eventually strives to establish a presence, doesn’t carry enough weight and mainly feels like an intrusion. I’m not at all sure the story even needed it.

why did i watch this movie?

I’d like to say because it’s under Fessenden’s imprimatur and leave it at that, but that’s only partially the reason. It was the primary factor I paid attention to its inclusion in that same Fangoria book, however.

should you watch this movie?

I’d prefer to be more positive here, because as often noted, I strongly support the independent film community. This offering doesn’t present a compelling argument, though.

highlight and low point

The family members (mom, dad, youth) are completely convincing as a unit. It’s a really finely wrought set of performances. The student-film camerawork had me rolling my eyes. And again, there’s a seeming dichotomy of purpose here, and the feature never seems to commit one way or another.

rating from outer space: C

Lady Blood aka Insane Blood Massacre (2008)

directed by jean-marc vincent
alterego films/eifel tech/canal+/cinÉcinÉma/Fonds national de soutien à la production audiovisuelle du grand duchÉ du luxembourg

Boy howdy, you’d think that if you were going to wait 15 years to come up with a sequel to – oh, wait, I just used that opening. But yikes, Dave, does it ever apply here. Now, on one hand, it’s commendable to follow up the rampant insanity and psychotic humor of Baby Blood with a movie that’s altogether serious; not playing to expectations can be a strong artistic move. Grafting the referential portion of the script onto a confusing subplot involving vicious gangsters, however, makes less than no sense at all, it actively makes for unnecessary confusion. (I mean, the gangland subplot doesn’t even make much sense on its own, let alone intermingled with the body-jumping murderous horror that was Yanka’s beastly baby the first time around.) Oh, yeah, Yanka’s a police captain now, just in case her evading all suspicion and capture throughout the first flick wasn’t unbelievable enough. And she’s got a human baby, too … BUT FOR HOW LONG.


why did i watch this movie?

I loved the demented original, and I’m a fool.


should you watch this movie?

I cannot urge you too many times to watch 1990’s precursor instead.


highlight and low point

Seriously, as I’m writing this, I’m thinking about other aspects of this movie that are either confusing or pointless or just don’t work. Aside from one especially nifty detail near the very finish that you’ll miss if you blink – the camera ignores it almost entirely – nothing much stands out. (That it appears to be an unconscious design afterthought is stunningly effective.) All the action, drama and horror takes place in that same brief scene as some ends are loosely tied.

rating from outer space: D