Cronos (1993)

written and directed by guillermo del toro
producciones iguana/ventana films/consejo nacional para la cultura y las artes/instituto mexicano de cinematografÍa/universidad de guadalajara/calidad cinematogrÁfica

Del Toro’s more widely known productions often invoke the term “fantasy,” but as I usually avoid anything with that description, it’s a good thing for me that enough macabre elements comprise this film for it to pass muster. Essentially a tale of the attempt to subvert the natural order of things, its tone throughout matches most of its set pieces for darkness. Structured not unlike a classical tragedy, both its vision and theme are somewhat morbid and fatalistic. I’ll admit that I was skeptical at the outset, but overall it proved to be a captivating work. Alchemy, an antiquarian, magical Renaissance artifacts, vampirism, resurrection (of a character named Jesus, of course), attempts to cheat death, death, murder, attempted murder … and a little girl named “Aurora.” Which certainly couldn’t be symbolism.

why did i watch this movie?

I constructed a long list of ’90s movies to watch, and made sure to include this one because it was Del Toro’s debut feature.

should you watch this movie?

A wealthy dying man seeks a mystical device to prolong his existence, but someone else has already succumbed to its seductive powers. Struggles ensue. 94 minutes. Subtitled.

highlight and low point

It highly amused me that this flick contained elements or motifs of the only other Del Toro works I’d seen: insects and the insectile (1997’s Mimic), and Ron Perlman (2004’s Hellboy, which terrestrial television often used to show in the wee hours during a period when I was both chronically underemployed and overly intoxicated). More attention could have been paid to the history of the mysterious device, and how one of the parties got hold of its instruction manual. Indeed, character development is not this picture’s strength.

rating from outer space: b+

Boardinghouse (1982)

written and directed by johnn wintergate
blustarr films

A “movie” only in the sense that someone filmed it, this amateur creation plays out like a cheap porno without the hardcore sex, or like an “erotic thriller” without the eroticism or thrills, or like a teen party comedy without humor or teens, or … I’d say you get the idea, but without experiencing this picture, you cannot. Shot on video – allegedly the first-ever film produced in that format and blown up for big-screen release – and beholden to the novelty of that medium in its contemporaneous milieu, the only thing this flick has going for it is the improbably weird story of its co-creators. The dramatic conclusion is akin to an extended Ozzy video – like, Ultimate Sin-era Ozzy, maybe.

why did i watch this movie?

Never mind that! Here’s a TRAILER!

should you watch this movie?

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is a warning to protect theater owners and the makers of this HorrorVision™ film. Viewers with nerve or heart conditions are advised to cover their eyes and ears whenever this object appears on the screen.”

“Thank you.”

highlight and low point

So, like, the writer/director/male lead and the female star of this movie (“Jonema” and “Kalassu,” who together are “internationally known as Lightstorm”) are disciples of “the Avatar, Sri Sathya Sai Baba,” and also the musicians behind the film’s soundtrack, which features two versions of their band, one of which performs in the picture under the name 33 1/3. This picture appears to include demonstrations of their lifelong devotion to the “constant practice of controlling and silencing the mind,” albeit in hyperbolized form. Oh, and their daughter is married to the lead singer of New Jersey’s long-running punk act Bouncing Souls. Please do not misuse this crucial information.

rating from outer space: D−

Pizza (2014)

directed by akshay akkineni
UTV Spotboy/getaway films

This Indian production, a clever and stylish feature, is unfortunately too clever by half. The revelations that follow a somewhat arduous setup are more than less a cop-out, and as the SHOCKING finale meanders its way to the screen, it provokes not only disbelief but a couple very big questions that are impossible to ignore. This is in addition to the fact that the rather lengthy middle portion of the action itself raises a query or two as it transpires – deservedly so, as it turns out. Though it’s mostly enjoyable anyway, in the end this picture is a little too dependent on its comedic values and doesn’t maintain its attempted eeriness well enough. And it just don’t add up.

why did i watch this movie?

Its offbeat title, which does not suggest terror, drew my interest, and when I found out it’s actually a remake of a 2012 film, I had to know more. (Somehow, I missed that the 2012 flick was helmed by Karthik Subbaraj, who was responsible for last year’s Mercury.)

should you watch this movie?

You may well lose your patience during the previously described middle movement, or be exasperated by the wrap-up and finale. I’ll get back to you about the original at some later date.

highlight and low point

Several of the musical numbers in this picture serve as diagesis, including the catchy tune during the ridiculous animated title sequence, but I think my favorite factor is the unexplained origin of Slices of Mumbai’s “Pizzaria Napolitana” setting. As hinted at several times, the resolution is unwelcome and more than a little hackneyed, although I suppose credit is due for the filmmakers resisting the urge to double down on the supernatural element … until the dubious conclusion, anyway.

rating from outer space: C+

Jack Be Nimble (1993)

written & directed by garth maxwell
essential productions limited/new zealand film commission

Wow, what a strange movie this is. Though one never expects an original take when dipping into genre offerings, this New Zealand picture is playing entirely on its own field. And what a field it is … the polar opposite of a “feel-good” film, this neverending litany of miseries only lets up at the very end, with a seemingly tacked-on segment that feels suspiciously like an afterthought, but which instead may not have been meant as a representation of reality. Sometimes it’s rewarding when you finish a viewing wondering what in the hell you just watched, and this feature manages to provoke that same sense of confusion and intrigue throughout its duration. I mean, I had no idea where this one was heading – and given its overall bleakness and the uncomfortably horrific final scenes, I’m fairly glad about that.

why did i watch this movie?

This is another product of the 1990s, and I was lured in by the odd name and convinced by its description as a unique, psychological offering.

should you watch this movie?

Powerful in several different ways, it’s quite an experience if you’re looking for a less typical horror picture, fraught with emotional turmoil. It is not an easy watch.

highlight and low point

Though obviously one must suspend one’s disbelief for certain elements of a picture steeped in the paranormal, the conflict in this flick relies on its grounding in related phenomena without an apparent link or any explanation whatsoever. It’s just sort of dropped in there: oh, by the way, this can happen, too. Since most of the variant otherworldly or mystical manifestations are given at least some backstory, that slight is troubling. Alexis Arquette and Sarah Smuts-Kennedy play long-separated orphaned siblings very believably.

rating from outer space: a−

クロネズミ aka Kuronezumi aka Black Rat (2010)

directed by kenta fukasaku
avex management, inc./deiz

This Japanese production plays like it WANTS you to think it’s merely another anti-bullying flick, but it’s a bit too clever and a little too insidious for that to be the case. It is a revenge picture, which it doesn’t try to hide at all, but the nature of that revenge – and who’s enacting it, and for what reason – is a bit slipperier. Not even pretending to hide its sardonic intent, the film doesn’t overplay its more comic moments and the humor stays mainly black. Layers of pathos also are added as the underlying mystery takes almost the entirety of the film to be revealed. Although a bit brief at 76 minutes or so, and maybe a bit lightweight for focusing on drama amid schoolmates, this is an engaging and enjoyable offering … you know, for a bloody revenge picture full of torments.

why did i watch this movie?

I saw it mentioned … somewhere  … while I was looking for information about … something. Man, I have GOT to start taking notes. It sounded obscure enough, basically.

should you watch this movie?

Though it certainly has elements that detract from its overall effectiveness, it also has enough endearing facets to make a viewing worthwhile. (It’s also not that long, as mentioned above.)

highlight and low point

The cheerful sadism of the Rat is wonderfully juxtaposed with the tremulous responses of her victims, and it was hard not to be amused by the occasional subtitled notation of “Squeak.” More seriously, I thought the picture did a good job depicting what subtleties can create enmity or animosity amongst young adults. Hints of stock scenarios were unwelcome, and a bit of creative liberty may have been taken with the resolution of the affair.

rating from outer space: b

this blog approves of this nod to Ichiro

A Return to Salem’s Lot (1987)

directed by larry cohen
larco Productions/420 demons

As this picture began to unspool, I didn’t know if I’d be able to stand it, because once we reach the town of Jerusalem’s Lot, the production quality (acting, costumes, props, makeup) takes a severe nosedive – and it was iffy from the get-go. I persevered, however, and was amply rewarded by general weirdness. (I also greatly enjoyed the credit “Based on characters created by Stephen King,” as the only way in which that is true is if one considers the town of “Salem’s Lot” itself to be a character.) Okay, look, in terms of actual credibility, this flick is nowheresville; it plays more like a made-for-TV movie than the 1978 Tobe Hooper-directed Salem’s Lot CBS “miniseries” and is chock-full of several stripes of bad acting that run the gamut from half-baked to hammy. Throw in a Nazi hunter to save the day, and you’ve got everything you always wanted in a fear, and less! This is where sequencing can be important: after watching Scarecrows, this flick wound up being highly enjoyable.

why did i watch this movie?

As acknowledged, I am a bit of an S. King obsessive, so I’ve wanted to investigate this one for quite a while, especially after having viewed Cohen’s Special Effects.

should you watch this movie?

It depends on how SERIOUSLY you take “Salem’s Lot” to be a “gripping masterwork of horror,” or whatever people consider King’s (or Hooper’s) Dracula redux to be, because this is a tongue-in-cheek treatment of the (purported) source material.

highlight and low point

The last time I watched a vampire flick I learned how to revive a bloodsucker; this time I found out a mortal can impregnate one and that its ashy remains may spontaneously combust. This is the terrifying leader of the hemovores:

rating from outer space: D

Scarecrows (1988)

directed by william wesley
effigy films

I would be inclined to call this picture “comically inept” except for the fact that nothing about it is funny – especially not the hour and a half or so I wasted watching it. Laborious, idiotic and pointless, this film has three characteristics in preponderance:

  1. voiceovers, to the point that it seems as though large swaths of the flick were shot without any dialogue whatsoever
  2. a repeated closeup* of one of the appellative dummies so prevalent it lends itself to disbelief
  3. blatantly obvious continuity problems for roughly the first third of its running time, which also return at the end

The latter involves an aircraft out of which hijackers are parachuting in pursuit of their heist money, for which they’ve been double-crossed. When the paratroopers land – allegedly this flick is known as “Paratroopers” on the German DVD market – they’re in pitch-dark night, but all shots of the airplane flying are in varying levels of daylight (early twilight at worst). As for the narration, one of the voices illuminates the turncoat’s thoughts, except that when he actually speaks, it’s … in a different, accented voice. As to the “action,” you may reasonably inquire why the scarecrows are killing people. Well might you wonder: no one knows. “I think this place is possessed by demonic demons,” one annoying character says to another. And they can’t be stopped! Except for when they can.

why did i watch this movie?

I have lousy decision-making skills, apparently.

should you watch this movie?

Bake a cake. Ride a bike. “Mail” a “letter.” Take a long walk off a short pier. Write poetry, even!

Highlight and low point

Paced as poorly as the rest of this venture, the credits last more than seven full minutes.

rating from outer space: f

*this one

Blood Bound aka The Dark Rite aka Bloodline (2019)

written and Directed by richard lemay
southern fried filmworks/film mode entertainment/garden house entertainment/bloodline productions

It CAN’T be a good omen that a film’s own production company’s website doesn’t have its title of record updated, or that its “release” schedule on IMDb only lists “(internet),” but truth will out, and this movie is, like, an emo vampire picture. Even if the brooding deep dark character isn’t a vampire. Know what else isn’t a good sign? This explanation: “Two hundred years ago a distant cousin of mine made a pact with a demon to give our family unlimited power. He was greedy and didn’t realize he was binding our whole family to darkness. In exchange, every 25 years we must sacrifice four human lives, one being a member of our own family.” (SHHHH! THAT’S AN IMPORTANT HINT!) This is a teen-soap-opera horror of a type I wasn’t aware they were still making, and it’s got more angst than you could hit with a stake. Even if the demi-magical evildoers aren’t vampires. Note to all aspiring screenwriters out there: Just recycle some shit, that’s how you’ll get your script into “development.”

why did i watch this movie?

Hey, ’19,” I thought. “That’s, like, a new release.”

should you watch this movie?

It is really hard to take seriously.

highlight and low point

That the demon who eats still-beating hearts from human chests is not one of the most labored – pun inevitable – plot points in this picture should clue you in on the level of creativity we’re dealing with here. Also, a detail crucial to the SHOCKING twist at the end impossibly evades the notice of the character it will directly affect. Eden Brolin does a passable job with her thankless role, I guess.

rating from outer space: c–

Bride of Re-Animator (1990)

directed by brian yuzna
wild street pictures/re-animator iI productions

Even before the extravagant reprise of the first film’s opening credits sequence, I feared that this picture would be too obviously a sequel, as all the signs were there. Indeed, moments of one-upmanship pertaining to certain effects, scenarios and locations are present throughout, but the director mostly manages to evade scenes of blatant repetition and also avoids the cardinal sin of reductionism. Even so, at moments it threatens to get a little too cutesy, the parallelism to Bride of Frankenstein doesn’t quite work, and the inclusion of Dr. Hill’s head at times feels forced (and for a while appears to have been forgotten). When things really get dicey near the ending, however, it is about as uncomfortably eerie and threatening as one could reasonably hope from a Lovecraft adaptation, and it succeeds, humor and all. I did not expect this one to be this good – and maybe it isn’t – but Jeffrey Combs delivers enough of a tour de force to make fine assessment meaningless.

why did i watch this movie?

The original was terrific, and I’m still catching up on the 1990s.

should you watch this movie?

Respectable or not, it IS a sequel.

highlight and low point

The portrayal of Herbert West, as noted above, is splendid, and one observation he deadpans in the latter portion of the flick is laugh-out-loud funny.  Bruce Abbott and Claude Earl Jones also deliver worthy performances. Strong motivation is lacking on behalf of many of the characters, though, and if you’re not caught up in the zaniness, you might begin to see right through the flimsy premise.

I mean, presuming you’d be of a mind to take a production of this nature that seriously.

rating from outer space: B+

the credits thank “Mary Wollenscraft Shelly”

(and Tenzing Norgay)

Dark Souls aka Mørke sjeler aka Zombie Driller Killer aka Drill Murders (2010)

written and directed by césar ducasse and mathieu péteul
addict films

At this late date in the human experiment, it’s downright surprising to come across a picture that presents a fresh take on the undead/zombie genre, but this Norwegian offering does just that. Or DOES it. Deliberately vague, the flick doesn’t really sustain its momentum, but it never ceases to lure one along, either. Along about the climax, I suddenly detected a THX 1138 vibe, and some 28 Months Later – or maybe Shaun of the Dead – parallels occurred to me as well. (One man’s zombie is another man’s walking dead, as the old saying goes.) Largely dialogue-free for its final 20 minutes or so, the disconcerting nature of the proceedings persistently is heightened. You know things aren’t going to end well, but you’re just not sure exactly what that might mean. Not bad, could’ve been better, can’t think of any specific improvements offhand. Well, maybe a little more action wouldn’t have hurt.

why did i watch this movie?

Description: It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out. Haha, no, but the breathless review I saw did say it was depressing, confusing, and worth giving a look-see. Et voilà.


should you watch this movie?

I have made similar observations before, but this film-festival favorite (IMDb lists 36 screenings) will be acceptable to, and more than likely appreciated by, the sorts of viewers who enjoy productions of that ilk and/or on that scale.

highlight and low point

Without giving too much away, the various depictions of the stages of affliction of the most prominent victim are both poignant and blackly humorous to a degree. One serious bit of bad planning, though, involves a rather large discrepancy in the time-release nature of the malady. Also, an amateurish sheen prevails.

rating from outer space: B−