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−

Forbidden World aka Mutant (1982)

Directed by Allan Holzman
New World Pictures

Preposterous in almost every meaningful sense, this Roger Corman production may well be one of my new favorite movies – it’s great! A schlock masterpiece, it’s almost inconceivable any film crew could do any more with any less than is accomplished in this tale of Science Gone Horribly Wrong, Deep in Space Where No One Can Hear You Scream. (Although Dawn Dunlap as “Tracy” does her damnedest to disprove this theory.) From the blatant Star Wars miming of the opening space battle (which is itself recycled from an earlier Corman flick) to the pseudo Alien spaceship-cum-laboratory where the bulk of the action takes place, this picture has everything you could ask for and much, much more. And this isn’t even my usual disingenuous shtick – this movie is terrific. Is it great art? Hahaha, no. Is it derivative and shameless? Oh, my, yes. Is it nonetheless a must-see? As much as anything else on this site.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I found it on Tubi the same night as “Creepers,” and that was enough to convince me – finally – to just view it.



Should You Watch This Movie?

You like blatant ripoffs and have a healthy sense of the absurd, I trust.


Highlight and Low Point

Maybe halfway through, it occurred to me that “Dr. Cal Timbergen” seemed familiar to me for a reason, that being he’s “J. Frank Parnell” from Repo Man (aka Fox Harris). The scanty disco jumpsuits worn by Dunlap and June Chadwick (as “Dr. Barbara Glaser”) are perhaps even more ridiculously sexist than their utterly gratuitous dual nude scene. During the opening moments, as military officer “Mike Colby” is being brought out of stasis or whatever, he inexplicably experiences visions foreshadowing the adventures to come.

Rating From Outer Space: B+

Night Ripper! (1986)

Written and Directed by Jeff Hathcock
A Video Features/Jeff Hathcock Production

I would be sorely tempted to break from my established format to give this gem the classic Devil’s DVD Bin treatment, as it has all the requisite ingredients: it’s (poorly) shot on video, the script and dialogue are lousy, the acting’s worse, characters show up and do stuff for little apparent reason and sometimes you’re not even sure who they are or who they’re supposed to be. and so forth. Unfortunately, I’m not capable of being that entertaining, so you’re stuck with my usual humdrum rundown. Someone’s killing “models” – that’s the plot. You’re supposed to suspect the “photographer” – there’s the intrigue. Everyone calls the killer “The Ripper,” which is enjoyable. The final (extremely slow-paced) stalking scene takes place in a room full of mannequins, because of course it does. Then it ends. Abruptly.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

It somehow warranted a review in the “Mammoth Book of Slasher Movies”!

Should You Watch This Movie?

So, the SPACE RATS “rating system.” This release gets a very bad letter grade, but that shouldn’t imply I didn’t highly enjoy watching it. The thing is, it’s technically terrible in almost every possible way, which more or less dictates the judgment. But other quirks are involved as well … “B movies,”
naturally, get rated along the “B” continuum, and general-release or “Hollywood” films most often are assessed by “C” criteria. (“C” classically denoting an “average”
mark.) Ideally, very few features will receive A or F designations.

Highlight and Low Point

There’s no “ripping”! Just stabbing, actually depicted reasonably well given the limitations. (And the “quality” of … everything else.)

There’s also this:

Viewers get to “enjoy” that contemporary delight during an interminable sequence of a car driving across town.

Rating From Outer Space: D

Creature aka Titan Find (1985)

Directed by William Malone
Trans World Entertainment

A fairly shameless ripoff/amalgam of Alien and The Thing – I mean, you’ll be thinking this long before one of the characters actually mentions the latter damn movie herself – this picture also has the dubious distinction of being yet another low-budget would-be space epic, hampered at many a turn by the hokey FX, budget sets and blatant matte paintings. (The spacesuits themselves are nearly unbelievably ersatz; they’re the cinematic equivalent of those packaged drugstore Halloween costumes with the vinyl one-piece tunics and molded plastic masks.) Despite such shortcomings, however, it’s a not-ineffective thriller. Even with its shameful title monster, which I neglected to mention in my list of detriments up there. Add all of those ingredients and you get a “cult classic,” which status allegedly has accrued to this flick. Hey, why not. Fun fact: There’s a Director’s Cut, and I plan to watch it. Eventually.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

It looked and sounded both preposterous and intriguing … especially the whole “director’s cut” thing. That’s ONE way to pique one’s interest in an underfinanced production of which one otherwise never has heard.

Should You Watch This Movie?

Clearly, my taste is highly questionable, but I did already admit I intend to watch another version of this film. So it must have something going for it.


Highlight and Low Point

Klaus Kinski appears in this, and I’ve had a difficult time enjoying his acting since reading of allegations at least one of his children has made – so it’s especially alarming that he first makes his presence known by graphically groping and assaulting one of the female crewmembers … purportedly an unscripted, um, ad-lib. Oh, and the alien itself is a somewhat hilariously unintimidating letdown, given the mostly effective buildup.

Rating From Outer Space: B

Invaders From Mars (1986)

Directed by TOBE HOOPER
Golan-Globus

Surprisingly entertaining despite some significant drawbacks – chief among them the extremely subpar performance of the lead child actor and some pacing/editing issues – this remake of a 1950s film I haven’t seen showcases director Tobe Hooper’s flair for understated comedic touches, although as usual I have less than no use for the references, homages, and tips of the cap to other movies and/or genres and/or directors. (Which is why I only know about them from online “research.”) What little plot there is – Martians think a NASA/SETI launch is an invasion, so they travel to Earth to preempt it – largely managed to evade my notice, as the few moments of expository dialogue aren’t exactly Pulitzer material. Decent creature and FX work abound, alongside some dependable B-movie performances from the likes of Karen Black, Louise Fletcher and James Karen. Incidentally, the hints of creeping/creepy conformity would in the original have predated those in Invasion of the Body Snatchers by several years.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I’ve always heard that this was an above-average offering, especially given its somewhat dubious provenance.

Should You Watch This Movie?

Sure, if you’d like to relive the experience of watching a network television “Movie of the Week” or late-night basic cable.

Highlight and Low Point

The FX really are fairly exemplary, notwithstanding the somewhat absurdist design of the majority of the Martians themselves. Hunter Carson is a severe detraction (if not distraction) as David Gardner, though in his defense, he was 10 when the film was released and his mother’s also in the cast. (That being Karen Black, who plays the credulous school nurse.) I mean, look, it’s a Cannon Films remake of a 1950s B movie. That statement more or less sums up the overall experience.

Rating From Outer Space: B

to all a GOODNIGHT (1980)

Directed by David Hess
Intercontinental Worldwide Distributing Corporation/Four Features Partners

Utterly disjointed, this train wreck of a prototype slasher flick is somehow largely enjoyable, albeit mainly on dubious grounds. A gaggle of coeds and their imported beaux are being slaughtered for Some Reason by an Unknown Assailant – who the viewer knows is dressed as Santa Claus. The initial reveal is no surprise, but the SHOCKING twist that immediately follows is … actually fairly unexpected. Most of the killings are absurdly unconvincing, the gore as well, and trying to keep abreast of the film’s botched continuity is an ongoing challenge. (The distinct majority of the acting, meanwhile, is on par with the gore and the killings.) The “action” drags significantly as the conclusion nears, to boot. Still and all, fans of dreck should be delighted.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Well, it was Christmas week. (I’m a little behind.) I was pointed in this direction by The Mammoth Book of Slasher Movies by Peter Normanton, but this is as good a place as any to point out that director Hess (of The Last House on the Left repute) also co-wrote and recorded a song called
“Speedy Gonzalez” (among other lesser creations).


Should You Watch This Movie?

Not if you persist in considering a lack of redeeming qualities a detriment.


Highlight and Low Point

The story holds that the original version of this picture available on VHS featured that time-honored pitfall of low-budget terror, scenes that are too dark to be able to discern what may or may not be occurring (such as in, say, Island of Blood, for just one pertinent example). That is not a problem in the Blu-ray release, which brandishes an unfettered “day for night” technique that doesn’t even bother with the pretense.

Rating From Outer Space: D+

Don’t Open Till Christmas (1984)

Directed by Edmund Purdom
Additional scenes written and directed by Al McGoohan
Spectacular International Films

Wow, here’s a distressed downer of a flick for ya. I know, I know, a Christmas-themed slasher that’s a downer? What a sorry state of affairs. Not unlike Christmas Evil in its backstory – and to be honest, not unlike dozens of other horror films in that backstory, either, except for the “Santa Claus” angle – this London-based film gives you a lot of disheveled or otherwise distasteful Santas, some cheesy killings, a little T ‘n’ A, and few survivors. Plus some 1984 British Punks stealing a drunken Santa’s bicycle. The filmmakers (at least three directors at various times!) don’t seem to invest a whole lot in any of the red herrings, and overall there’s kind of a lack of urgency about the whole affair. It’s not half bad, though, even if it does meander a bit too much.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

It was the yuletide, so I was duty-bound … although I see I apparently never posted a review of the exemplary Black Christmas, so I’ll have to rectify that eventually.

Should You Watch This Movie?

This flick’s credits include ‘Experience’ Santa Claus, Theatre Santa Claus, Dungeon Santa Claus, Store Santa Claus, Market Santa Claus, Drunken Santa Claus, Circus Santa Claus, Circus Santa Claus (yes, two), and “Santa Claus in car.” They all seem kinda grubby, as does everything else in the picture.

Highlight and Low Point

I appreciated the scene that takes place within the London Dungeon tourist trap, serving as it does as a kind of signifier of the genre’s lingua franca. (Hey, one can semioticize anything, should one wish to do so.) A scene wherein a lonely middle-aged Herbert visits a peep show confers an incongruous subtlety.

Rating From Outer Space: C+

Wolfen (1981)

Directed by Michael Wadleigh
A King-Hitzig Production

For years, I managed to remain confused as to whether I’d seen this (werewolf) picture, because in my mind I eternally conflated it with The Howling. (It didn’t help that both were released the same year.) Usually, I managed to clear up my confusion by remembering that “Howling” has Dee Wallace in it, and that’s the one I’d actually seen. Yet I still wondered if I’d ever watched this flick, so I decided to lay that question to rest. Turns out I’d never seen it. Turns out it isn’t even about werewolves! Turns out it’s a bit unclear exactly what kind of movie it is, but I can tell you it involves “Indians,” hotchpotch Native American mythologisms, wolves, some prescient Homeland Security-type apparatus, domestic and international terrorism, an NYPD detective who’s British and pairs up with a heavily armed police psychologist, a weirdo who works at the zoo, and I’m probably forgetting some other stuff. To sum up: if you’re not sure you’ve seen it … you haven’t.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I just “explained” that!



Should You Watch This Movie?

Not if you’re looking for werewolves.


H
ighlight and Low Point

The main “Indian” character is played by Edward James Olmos, which is at least somewhat curious given that many Native Americans are employed in bit parts or small supporting roles. The terrorism subplot seems really incidental. The wolves wind up being arbitrarily selective about their victims, and the alpha is pure white, although if that was explained, I missed it. Allegedly, the ruined church was built and destroyed just for this production, which seems insanely wasteful given what’s revealed by the actual footage of the South Bronx environs. The “wolfen,” uh, POV segments are … idiosyncratic.

Rating From Outer Space: C

Blood Tracks aka Heavy Metal (1985)

Directed by Mike Jackson AKA Mats Helge (Olsson)
“Associate Director: Derek Ford”
Smart Egg Pictures

What starts out appearing to be merely a lighthearted, empty-headed (Swedish!) hair metal adventure turns out to be a plodding formulaic exercise beholden to dangers lurking in a poorly lit, seemingly abandoned building. Actually, back up … the adventure begins with an introductory vignette that makes little sense as it happens and manages to make even less sense later. (A woman fatally wounds her abusive … husband? Landlord? Prefect? Naturally, she and her children must hide from society forevermore.) This idea must have looked good to somebody on paper – rockin’ rock band, video hi-jinks, naked chixx, the aforementioned dangers lurking in a poorly lit, seemingly abandoned building, and so forth – but on film it quickly grows rather tedious. Neither the atrocious dubbing nor the copious gratuitous nudity provides any succor.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I was suckered in by the “promise” of yet another asinine “metal”-themed fright flick. (I’m not even sure if I was aware of the Swedish angle.)


Should You Watch This Movie?

I’ll say this: it’s no Black Roses or Rocktober Blood. Hell, it isn’t even “Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare.” I suppose if you’re really feeling nostalgic for images of purported glam-metal excess, this may suffice –but may I suggest seeking treatment instead?


Highlight and Low Point

It’s possible I’d be inclined to point out a creatively grisly murder or two, but at least one of them is unfortunately edited in such a way as to severely diminish its impact. The SPECIAL APPERANCE (sic) by EASY ACTION – not this one – who portray a band called “Solid Gold” – not this one – somehow manages to undermine the dignity of poseur glam.

Don’t just take my word for it, tho!

Rating From Outer Space: D