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−

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+

Stage Fright (2014)

Written and Directed by Jerome Sable
Music & Lyrics by Jerome Sable and Eli Batalion
Serendipity Point Films

A slasher horror comedy, which also happens to be a musical, this ridiculously over-the-top production doesn’t seem to have rated very highly in the world of apparently overserious movie-raters. And hey, I’m guilty as anyone of frequently missing the point, or not “getting it” – whatever the “it” in question may be for a given flick – but this is a very amusing picture chock-full of however many touchstones you’d care to notice. And have I mentioned it’s a musical? A meta musical at that, set at a theater camp for theater kids, with heavy family drama at its center. (Or is it … TRAGEDY?) It’s got obnoxious characters, classic tropes, red herrings, a tongue in its cheek and a song in its heart, and scads of gore. The show must go on! Will the playhouse be saved? Someone check on the cast.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I selected this title because I thought I’d previously considered watching it, but once it began, I wasn’t so sure that had been the case.

Should You Watch This Movie?

You know, it has come to my attention that some folks don’t particularly LIKE horror comedies. And I know musicals aren’t necessarily a preference for many viewers besides. So if it helps at all, the storyline here doesn’t make a whole lotta
                                                                             sense, either.

Highlight and Low Point

The songs are frequently hilarious, provocatively stereotyping theater nerds and the like. The late Meat Loaf has one of the major roles, and I found it at least a little surprising that his singing comes across weakly, given how he found fame and all. Most of what’s clever here lies in
the picayune.

Rating From Outer Space: B+

Ghostbusters aka Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (2016)

Directed by Paul Feig
Village Roadshow Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Ghost corps*

*”A Columbia Pictures Company”

Check, this isn’t really a horror flick – but it isn’t really not at the very least a horror-comedy, either. You got your scary ghosts terrorizing the populace, undead, a demon-haunted world, the modern version of New York City … it qualifies. Like many a knee-jerk type, I figured this flick couldn’t be anything but terrible, but especially by “reboot” standards, I didn’t think it was all that bad. In fact, I’ll admit, it showed admirable restraint in a lot of areas – especially given the “standard” established by, say, Ghostbusters II. And I’ll allow, in fact, that it kinda acts as a mashup and reboot simultaneously, as elements of “II” intermingle herein with those of the original. I may still be unsure why exactly this was necessary, but it has to have been better than another go-round with the old folks would’ve been. But back to the well we go with the next installment. (Likely still with the same musical theme, too.)

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I wanted to see what Kate McKinnon would do with a feature role, and I was desperately avoiding schoolwork.

Should You Watch This Movie?

Well … nobody else did, hahaha. Not exactly gung-ho for the experience myself, I seriously doubt I could sit through it again. (It’s over two hours long, for one thing.)

Highlight and Low Point

Chris Hemsworth’s himbo secretary offers drollery, and Kristen Wiig is convincing enough as the … I want to say “straight man,” but that seems like a loaded term in the context of a female recasting, and “straight person” and “straight woman” seem to imply something else entirely. Anyway, Melissa McCarthy didn’t annoy the hell out of me, does that count?

Rating From Outer Space: C+

The Banana Splits Movie (2019)

directed by danishka esterhazy
blue ribbon content/blue ice pictures

You know, I gave up drugs about nine years ago, and watching this insane production, I realize I either never needed them or they caused permanent brain damage. Holy cats. Based in some sort of madcap reality where The Banana Splits are still a popular and ongoing concern, this flick – which was for some reason filmed entirely in South Africa, even though the cast and crew are dominated by Canadians, and “Blue Ribbon Content” is a TV production subsidiary of Warner Bros. – conjures a pernicious mashup of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and Meet the Feebles. Obviously, with that setup, this is ostensibly a horror comedy, but I am not even kidding you, it’s a whole lot creepier than you’d think. Part of that is due to the cinéma vérité effect provided by the production values, but its humor is all pretty black, if not bleak, anyway. Tremendous. Stupendous! A mess of fun, indeed.

why did i watch this movie?

Periodically, I contemplate acquiring the music from the original television series (you’ll recall I mentioned brain damage), and the most recent time, the welter of information accompanying my “research” mentioned the existence of this film. Fait accompli.


should you watch this movie?

I’m trying to determine this picture’s probable impact on those with no personal relationship with/foreknowledge of the nostalgia-tinged frippery upon which it is based, but ultimately I don’t think lacking the background should matter that much.


highlight and low point

The fact that almost none of the characters involved actually like The Banana Splits is both jocose and, in my opinion, keenly observant. After hinting that the action might stay somewhat tame, it proceeds to tear limb from limb – literally, in some cases.

rating from outer space: A−

Two Heads Creek (2019)

directed by jesse o’brien
dicentium films/hummingbird films/storm vision entertainment

You know, it’s hard to make a good comedy, and it’s at least equally as hard to make a good horror picture, so you’d have to imagine that the odds of producing a good horror-comedy (comedy horror?) aren’t very good. Now, the snarky side of me wants to add, “And neither is this film!” but that wouldn’t be entirely fair, or accurate. It’s … all right. Weighing more heavily on the “comedy” side of the ledger, this likable Australian feature throws a few new twists into a perhaps hackneyed setup. Siblings head Down Under to find The Truth about their lineage (didn’t we just DO this?), only to discover drama, intrigue, bloody gore – you know the drill. One of which tools isn’t involved, to the best of my recollection. Mostly fun, occasionally delightful, nothing too important.

why did i watch this movie?

Took a chance on the trailer and thought it promised madcap fun such as I’ve enjoyed from some other pictures from the Southern Hemisphere.


should you watch this movie?

Yeah, you know, sometimes a light and frothy offering isn’t a bad call.


highlight and low point

I watched this just after having found out that AC/DC have a “new” record coming out, and I’m not going to say that didn’t influence my choice. The soundtrack to this extravaganza features a couple bands I only know about from reading books about Australia’s heaviest musical export – Skyhooks and Sherbet. (The Skyhooks tune, “Horror Movie,” briefly invokes the ol’ Richard O’Brien spirit.) The running gag about “Australia Day” and so forth may be funnier to non-Americans, there’s a somewhat subtle jab at the United Kingdom’s “populist” backlash, and the two main characters are allegedly Polish. I can sympathize.

rating from outer space: C+

Yellowbrickroad (2010)

written and directed by andy mitton & jesse holland
points north

It is inevitable that this picture will make viewers think of The Blair Witch Project, even those like me who haven’t seen the precursory feature. Truth be told, this production brought to mind a passel of other films as well, although largely as vague hints or impressions, mainly evoked by the hallucinatory effects of people losing their grips on reality as they head into the hills. (One such flick that I’ve reviewed here would be Cold Ground.) Philosophical implications abound – especially the metaphysical – and the fact that everyone winds up alone in his or her struggle for life, though perhaps not so profound, reveals itself gradually enough to be quietly impressive. The ending, not so much … but points are awarded for the overall lack of any explanation of the events. Sometimes a mystery just is, and as forest service representative “Cy” points out, one needn’t go seeking answers for every question. (“These questions … never needed to be fuckin’ asked” is how he more colorfully puts it.)


why did i watch this movie?

It was recommended to me in an online forum.


should you watch this movie?

That isn’t the worst idea, though you may not be convinced for a little while. But for such a deceptively simple story, there’s a lot to ponder.


highlight and low point

When we meet a new character – a potentially suspicious one, at that – and discover that her name is “Liv.” I’m laughing right now thinking about it. The sound FX, and occasional lack thereof, often can be quite stunning. This feature also maintains a bit of a mockumentary feel without resorting to the “found footage” canard. The “Wizard of Oz” link is debatable; other moments of referentialism suggest themselves.

rating from outer space: B+

Scare Package (2019)

directed by emily hagins, aaron b. koontz, chris mcinroy, noah segan, courtney & Hillary andujar, anthony cousins, baron vaughn
paper street pictures

So this is a kind of anthology, a parodic meta horror potpourri, almost certainly bearing a superfluous section or two but still wildly entertaining. If you love horror movies (and lampooning them) even a little bit as much as these folks do, it’s a fair enough diversion. Personally, I thought the “One Time in the Woods” segment was going to cause me brain damage, plumbing the depths of inspired idiocy on a dadaistic level I’ve rarely experienced since meeting Snake ‘N’ Bacon’s Cartoon Cabaret 20 years ago. I was nearly in hysterics. “The NIght He Came Back Again! Part IV – The Final Kill,” meanwhile, is almost as good, absurdly reducing its depiction of a July 4th-themed holiday slasher to the barest essence. Sure, it’s more than occasionally too obvious, and The Cabin in the Woods exists, but Joe Bob Briggs playing himself at a critical moment suggests a certain acknowledgement. An unsubtle picture that must unfortunately wait to meet its true fate until people can gather en masse at frightfests again.

why did i watch this movie?

The trailer juiced the passé concept.

should you watch this movie?

If you think I specialize in missing the point, the reviewer at rogerebert.com prattles on about how this flick “has no good answers” to whatever postulation he’s imagined, dismissing “this sort of pandering humor” while unapologetically using the term “janky.”

highlight and low point

Undead Roger Ebert there misquotes Briggs’s observation that the character Rad Chad is “the personification of what the internet did to film criticism” while decrying this film’s burlesque. It’s a send-up, pal. Amazon Women on the Moon didn’t resolve the B-movie, either.


rating from outer space: B

We Summon the Darkness (2019)

directed by marc meyers
fyzz pictures/common enemy/nightshade entertainment

I’m not sure it makes any sense that this film is set in “1988,” at least not for contemporary viewers who don’t remember the era. The “Satanic Panic” that gripped media and for a time engulfed the practitioners and fans of heavy metal isn’t really represented here, and hardly any attention is paid to the actual sights and sounds of the moment, either. So what you have is a story that primes the audience for what it hopes is an unexpected reveal, and after that it becomes just another survival saga. The setup: three chicks head to a metal concert (where a band pretends they’re performing “Black Funeral” by Mercyful Fate), meet three dudes, and proceed to a big house for an afterparty. But someone’s been ritually slaughtering people, oh no. Elements of humor suggest themselves but don’t really go anywhere, and if you cannot predict several of the events in this flick … Hey! Welcome to the world of horror cinema!

why did i watch this movie?

I hadn’t been too interested, but positive acclaim persisted.


should you watch this movie?

The female trio consists of Texas Chainsaw 3D‘s Alexandra Daddario, Maddie Hasson from God Bless America (not that I recognized her), and Amy Forsyth from Hell Fest, which yet awaits its own compelling campaign to stoke enough
interest in me.

highlight and low point

Once the maleficent plan starts to leak and burn oil, it should probably be a lot funnier than it is. Once the grand scheme is revealed, you will likely not be surprised to hear, it contains some serious gaps in logic. A key moment from the conclusion also beggars belief. This is not a retro ’80s picture; it’s just (nominally) set then.

rating from outer space: C

Sadistic Intentions (2019)

written & directed by eric pennycoff
midnight treehouse/feast & bourbon films/alexander groupe/79th & Broadway entertainment

Plot twists, or maybe thematic twists, are pretty much this film’s modus operandi, and for the most part, they’re not all that predictable – and even the ones that are receive a little tweak. At about three-quarters of the way through this fable, I thought that what may have been intended to be some sort of dark comedy was about to veer into a disturbing realm that few films ever broach. Such a move would have been disheartening, nay, dispiriting, and it was with a palpable sense of dread that I waited to see if the director had chosen that path. Nope. He didn’t entirely cop out, either, however, so that was refreshing. But – this could have become a really remarkable examination of how things can spiral out of control and seemingly ordinary people can become trapped by circumstances and wind up making absolutely terrible, life-shattering decisions. In one sense, it still is, only the profound lack of empathy at its core finishes much differently. The actual ending is disconcertingly funny in its own special way.

why did i watch this movie?

Well, the trailer was intriguing, though I wavered for quite a while because I had envisioned something more ironic and postmodern.

should you watch this movie?

A guy invites over his bandmate and a prospective drug buyer; they don’t know each other. And where is he, anyway?

highlight and low point

Right, there’s only three people in this picture, and two of them are tremendous. The third, however, basically channels Crispin Glover, which is fairly distracting. This T-shirt, however, was jaw-dropping:

I haven’t been so envious in a long time. Oh, yeah – this movie involves death metal, mostly as a framing device.

rating from outer space: B+