They/Them (2022)

Written And Directed By John Logan
Bh/Desert Wolf

You know, if you’re a horror movie kinda person, you might make some general allowances for films made in your preferred idiom. For example, imagine, oh, I don’t know … maybe a “slasher” flick that takes place at … oh, let’s say a “camp.” With such a familiar setup, you therefore might reasonably expect certain motifs, themes, tropes, what-have-you. And when all the stuff you more or less expect happens, it’s more or less what you’re willing to accept.

Except familiarity breeds contempt, and in this made-for-TV “Peacock original,” there are multiple problems. After the not-unforeseeable reveal is, well, revealed, it just doesn’t pass muster, a literally unbelievable gaffe that’s a disastrous last choice for Their underwhelming genre attempt.

I had higher hopes for this picture. I did appreciate the mild pronoun joke (poorly aped just above). And though I’ll grant that one must start somewhere in working out how to approach broadening the scope of flicks like these, this attempt mainly just shoehorns orientation/gender topics into an unimaginative template. I began this piece by pointing out my willingness to play along, but – ironically enough – this production mainly comes across like it’s not sure what it really wants to be.

Uninspired even by stock horror standards, it feels as though it was written around its cliché bonding moment – a musical number.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

In another review, I suggested a “slasher movie where the trans character breaks the usual archetype,” and imagined that potential addressed here.

Should You Watch This Movie?

Spoiler alert: It doesn’t come close, but one character (“Jordan”) takes a tentative step.


Highlight and Low Point

HEY DIDJA KNOW THE TITLE’S PRONOUNCED “THEY SLASH THEM”


That attempted witticism’s not even an accurate synopsis!

Rating From OUter SPace: D+

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−

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+

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+

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−

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+

Scream (2022)

Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Spyglass Media Group/Project X/Radio Silence

Half tired and half inspired, this not-a-reboot (wink, wink) is not exactly too clever by half, but its orientation seems to want it to be. An amusing discussion of the good and bad of the modern horror film and the rules involved – you know, all that “Scream” stuff – works well enough, but the endless diatribes connected to the final reveal are tedious – and present one of the most egregious examples of the trope wherein the evildoer(s) just keep talking and talking about their brilliant plan and motives and so on and so on and so on. Scorecard: someone you won’t expect to die does, the identities of the killer aren’t a terribly big surprise (and the movie itself points out that you know there’s more than one), the convoluted ties established between the characters’ roots and pasts and their relationships to the “Stab” franchise probably push past acceptable levels, and yeah … it’s a Scream, what else would you expect.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I mean, I’ve seen the rest of ’em. And a shload of the raft of those that followed in the wake of the original to boot. (My “favorite” was The Faculty, should you be wondering.)


Should You Watch This Movie?

You’ve certainly got your choice of “legacy” titles these days, don’t you.

 
Highlight and Low Point

I don’t wanna spoil nothin’ for ya, but not for the first time in the franchise is it off-putting that “Ghostface” is always the same size no matter who winds up having been portraying “him.” (It especially beggars belief during the hospital confrontation.) Whether the guilty characters actually could have been responsible is another question, but I don’t care enough to investigate.

Rating From Outer Space: C−

Boys From County Hell (2020)

Directed by Chris Baugh
Six Mile Hill/Blinder Films

A vampire yarn … or IS it. Well, yes, only it proposes a mythological Irish malevolence that doesn’t appear to align precisely with ye olde folke tales, but what the hell do I know. At heart – of course – it’s really a fable about family, about fathers and sons and mothers. There’s also a lot of drinking, foul attitudes, and an amusing side story about the forces of progress and who’s in opposition to them and who’s aiding and abetting. In fact, that’s how all the trouble begins. I mean, after two buddies have a drunken fight in front of a locally legendary cairn. The relationships between the friends and family members are coarse, rude, and revealing. And as usual, I couldn’t decipher some of the dialogue through the brogue.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Hey, let’s see how many times I have to replace this embedded video!

(Sometimes, it’s just that simple.)

Should You Watch This Movie?

You know, it has come to my attention that some folks don’t particularly LIKE horror comedies … but as for me, I usually do, and as I’ve pointed out before, I also usually seem to enjoy Irish pictures as well. Is this flick groundbreaking? Aside from some of the onscreen action, no. It’s a mildly suspenseful diversion.

Highlight and Low Point

It’s nice to have a new perspective on vampirism, even if the creature itself ends up being somewhat more bark than bite, so to speak. Slapstick elements briefly threaten to become overwhelming, and the tearjerker motifs don’t pack quite enough heft. I might have preferred a little more attention be paid to the underlying theme of unwelcome development, but that probably would’ve put too much of a damper on things.

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+

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