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

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+