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+

The Slayer aka Nightmare Island (1982)

directed by j. s. cardone
the international picture show company

For a flick with a ridiculously uninspired setup – two couples go to a remote island, where someone or something is bumping them off one by one – this small-time production winds up delivering a lot more than one would expect. I don’t think I’d go quite so far as to believe the claim that cineastes have long debated the manifold interpretations available to the ambiguous ending – how many people have even heard of this picture? – but although one’s immediate reaction to the final scene might be to feel a bit cheated, further reflection possibly may assuage such a response. It could also exacerbate it, of course, and hey, now I’m merging with those ca(s)hiers du cinéma(rt). Better than it should have been.


why did i watch this movie?

It’s called “The Slayer,” and it’s from 1982. Quod erat demonstrandum.


should you watch this movie?

It’s really more  of a character study than you’d be excused for expecting from a 1982 film called “The Slayer,” and kept reminding me of The Mutilator – which it predates – most likely because of the beachfront property.

highlight and low point

As Kay, Sarah Kendall gives audiences a pretty good indication of why they would never see her in anything ever again, but either her blank stares and flatness of affect eventually begin to seem more suitable or the dramatics of the rest of the movie overpower the urge to keep laughing. Kay’s an artist, which makes for an indefensibly inane analogy: though the plot here is akin to a paint-by-numbers kit, the end result is pleasing to the eye. The relationships between and among the couples are convincingly natural, and the final two minutes of this feature are a veritable tour de force.

rating from outer space: B+

Nightmares (1983)

directed by joseph sargent
universal

Allegedly produced for NBC TV, though for what, or which anthology series, seems to be in dispute – you can’t trust Wikipedia and I’ve noticed IMDb is far from infallible as well, but let’s ignore for the moment any debate about notions of authority in this exciting modern age – this set of four short vignettes isn’t bereft of effective moments, even if nothing gets visceral or even very threatening, in keeping with its origins. (Aside from the third segment, “The Benediction,” which features some intense moments courtesy of its classic tale of a “duel” on the highway with an unidentified motorized antagonist.) Otherwise, the first segment is piffle, and too short to build any momentum, the second features Emilio Estevez echoing notions of Tron with a ripping punk soundtrack, and the final chapter – which further makes use of Black Flag’s “Louie Louie” – is capped with wild-kingdom FX highly reminiscent of the end of Devil Dog. Strictly for nostalgists.


why did i watch this movie?

It’s one of the “roles” on Lee Ving’s dossier.


should you watch this movie?

The renditions of classic FEAR tunes heard during “The Bishop of Battle” are not the versions from The Record. That’s what I thought upon hearing them, anyway, and the end credits appear to bear out my impression.

highlight and low point

This picture really isn’t that bad, but even for episodic horror it feels slight. None of the tales have any kind of staying power, regardless of content or execution. Honestly, it would have worked far better delivered by cathode ray tube. Estevez is pretty good, Lance Henriksen is solid, Richard Masur is convincing, and the late Bridgette Anderson turns in one of the better
performances you’re likely to see by a 7-year-old.

rating from outer space: C−

Mosquito (1994)

directed by gary jones
acme films, ltd./excalibur motion pictures/antibes, inc.

The sort of low-budget affair during which you’re never not acutely aware you’re watching a movie made on a shoestring, this off-brand extravaganza survives on the chutzpah of its gigantic insect puppets and a game cast of people who seem as though they’ve never acted before. At least on film – the irrepressible Mike Hard plays a small role as part of a criminal element, for instance. Meanwhile, as a major character, late-career sometime actor Ron Asheton does a credible job, especially by the standards of the surrounding evidence. The typically absurdist plot – alien spaceship crashes in swamp, mosquito sucks alien blood, mosquito grows humongous, everyone dies – was thankfully pared down by fiscal realities. “That’s some science fiction bullshit,” Asheton’s character Hendricks accuses. “No,” he’s told. “You are living in science FACT.” This picture allegedly has become a cult favorite, and if so, that cult must really be starved for entertainment.

why did i watch this movie?

I had just finished Jim Jarmusch‘s Stooges documentary Gimme Danger, noticed the billing here and thought, “That’s one hell of a coincidence.”


should you watch this movie?

It’s really lousy, but if you’re in the right frame of mind you might not care much.


highlight and low point

Not that it was a concern to begin with, but the closer this production gets to its grand finale the less anyone involved even winks at verisimilitude. Case in point: our heroes jump off the roof of a house to escape the teeming parasitic horde, suffering no ill effects from a conspicuously soft landing. Plus, a certain lack of passion and effort becomes more noticeable as things … progress. Rebuttal: “Just as I expected – those mosquitoes are making these bodies radioactive.”

rating from outer space: D+

Beloved Beast (2018)

written & directed by jonathan holbrook
chronicle factory

An independently produced horror picture with a complex if not exactly visionary storyline, this film suffers a bit from some copycat conceptualization, but more from abysmal pacing. It’s not that it’s nearly three (3!) hours long – 2:53:15 – but that the delivery of the dialogue is too deliberate by half. There’s no rhythm or carry to the conversations; everyone seems to be a half-beat off and a second too slow. This abets some scenes, as a hazy, dark undercurrent runs through much of the operation, but otherwise it can be a bit off-putting. Also, the cinematography often looks cut-rate, too digital, too sharp. And if you wanted, I guess you could quibble with some of the performers’ chops. But! It’s an impressive accomplishment nonetheless: A little girl is orphaned by drunk driving, goes to live with her aunt who couldn’t possibly care less, befriends an escaped mental patient with a proclivity for massacring every living person he encounters. Oh, and there’s a fairy-tale conceit and a nasty crime ring involved, plus a weather-worn and sardonic sense of naturalism. Don’t let my faint praise be too damning.

why did i watch this movie?

I don’t recall; it’s been waiting on the list for nigh on a year.

should you watch this movie?

Not if you have an attention deficit.


highlight and low point

The filmmakers – cast, crew and production staff intermingle – delve ever deeper into the more awful side of the oxymoronic term “humankind” without seeming to revel in it for the sake of spectacle. That being said, what should be an unrelentingly bleak experience never quite plunges that low, prodding to the fore some potentially unsettling ruminations on one’s conceptions of compassion and moral judgment. Contains a few passably witty allusions.

rating from outer space: B−

The Old Dark House (1932)

directed by JAMES WHALE
universal pictures

This really happened: nearing the climactic point of this frankly rather goofy haunted-house yarn, I was thinking to myself, “this is kinda reminding me a bit of Burnt Offerings” … and almost immediately a character in the film says, “He wanted, he said, to … to make this house a burnt offering.” Based on a novel that’s claimed to be about “post-WWI disillusionment,” this picture concerns two groups of weary travelers forced by a cataclysmic rainstorm to beg refuge from, yes, an old dark house. (When the initial group knocks on the door, I expected Riff Raff to answer, of course.) From that point on it’s gothic intrigue and highly amusing characterizations, with a little passion and violence tossed in as seasoning. Can you ever judge an artifact such as this without seeing it through the filter of all that’s come since? Maybe, maybe not; either way, and irrespective of whether it’s the first horror-comedy, it’s a blast.

why did i watch this movie?

I came across a reference to the 1963 remake, which sounds terrible but piqued my interest in the original.

should you watch this movie?

It’s about 72 minutes long and easily accessible in the, uh, “public domain.”

highlight and low point

Ernest Thesiger as Horace Femm is worth the price of admission all by himself, and it’s informative to espy the genesis of the many references made to aspects of this adventure across multiple forms of visual media over the decades. (Such as the aforementioned Rocky Horror nod.)  It’s pre-Code, too – another reason I chose it – and there’s at least one exchange of racy innuendo that might surprise. For trivia buffs, it’s Charles Laughton’s first Tinseltown feature and allegedly the source of an unceasing enmity between Karloff and Whale.

rating from outer space: B+

Prophecy (1979)

directed by john frankenheimer
paramount pictures
a robert l. rosen production

Boy, does this one feel like a missed opportunity. Compelling despite itself for the majority of its running time, this cautionary eco-terror tale collapses drastically once the “monster” is revealed. Because it’s a bear. Sure, it’s an ursine that appears kinda acid-damaged (no, not that kind), but it’s a bear nonetheless. Which is quite a letdown, given all the Science-y gobbledygook promising mutations and devastation of the food chain and so forth, and renders this production not unlike a handful of other such endeavors about rampaging animals. Until that reveal, however, it’s an engrossing flick that works pretty well. The usual caveat applies about giving the details of the story too much thought. Especially those that are glossed over in the first place.

why did i watch this movie?

I had just finished the David Seltzer novel and felt it must have been filmed at some point. It turns out he wrote the script first.

should you watch this movie?

If you plan to, I’d recommend reading the novelization beforehand. It helps fill in a lot of backstory. Of course, it may also contribute to a feeling of disappointment with the screen version.

highlight and low point

The bear monster is supposed to be humongous – some of the promotional material specifies “15 feet tall” – and it isn’t. It’s, you know, bear-sized. Except when it’s smaller, because it’s a guy in a bear monster suit. Other than that, this picture’s biggest problem is that it pares away the relationships intended to give events their gravitas. The allusion to Minamata disease is indeed frightening, even if the source material fails to note the outbreak amongst First Nations people in Ontario, Canada, that must have inspired the proceedings.

rating from outer space: C−

Bats (1999)

directed by louis morneau
destination films

A typically dunderheaded nature horror predicated on an “accident,” this flick features not one believable element. You will not believe that Dina Meyer’s character is a bat expert with a Ph.D., you will not believe that Lou Diamond Phillips makes a creditable sheriff, “Leon” doesn’t even always seem to believe he’s supposed to recite his character’s lines, and you certainly won’t believe the BATS are real for even a second. In other words, it’s quite the enjoyable waste of time. The BATS, of course, “escaped” from some sorta experiment-cum-military project. (Maybe.) A wannabe Halloween blockbuster that somehow made money, it would’ve been perfect brainless summer fare. Oh, by the way, the predetermined ending isn’t believable, either.

why did i watch this movie?

I was in the mood for just this type of highbrow feature. Actually, by my standards, I was veritably giddy with anticipation.

should you watch this movie?

What ELSE are you doing?


highlight and low point

The BATS. Oh my my my, the BATS. Some are animated. Some are animatronic! Some are bat size. Some are, like, scary-movie-bat size. And once in a while, for effect I assume, one or two are the size of goddamn turkey vultures. Plus, the very first time the BATS kill anyone, they rip ’em to shreds. After that, they … don’t. These facts more or less encapsulate the professionalism imbued in this endeavor. Also quite humorous: the ongoing “hints” that the obviously nefarious scientific foil is concealing a dark secret. Stock military footage is thrown in for good measure, along with a rather remarkably turgid action sequence. Somewhat surprisingly, few overt attempts at comedy are present. But as Steven Wright observed, you can’t have everything – where would you put it?

rating from outer space: C+

Come to Daddy (2019)

directed by ant timpson
nowhere/new zealand film commission/scythia/firefly films/blinder films

What seemingly begins as a relationship experiment – with hints vaguely reminiscent of the discomfort underpinning Creep – abandons that tack fairly quickly as it heads into somewhat more traditional territory. In this story of a man uncertainly meeting up with his long-lost father, it shouldn’t take one too long to spot the first plot twist as it approaches, and since the second one is closely allied, its revelation should follow appropriately at its heels. Afterward, the oddball is mingled with the ordinary, but the whole affair remains captivating throughout, never quite succumbing to becoming predictable. Near the end, there’s a chance for it to toss in a devastating conclusion, but this production is content with an enigmatic and cinematic finish. Once the effect wears off, as usual, if you give any of the happenings a second’s thought the whole construct collapses … so, as usual, you shouldn’t do that. This feature’s a font of black humor, indeed, so dark and quirky you may well miss some of it.

why did i watch this movie?

Intriguing trailer and strong buzz.

 
should you watch this movie?

It works for a lot of different reasons, and probes emotions and their attachments on many different levels.

highlight and low point

I don’t recall having seen Elijah Wood act before, though The Faculty is on his CV, so I must’ve, and Timpson was a producer of but otherwise uninvolved in 2015’s rhapsodic Deathgasm, so I didn’t have any preconceived notions about either of them. The direction was splendid and Wood’s performance is almost as profound, after taking a bit to establish itself. Some of the supporting cast tends toward excessively broad caricature at times, or is perhaps a bit too self-consciously outré.

rating from outer space: a−

Die, Monster, Die! aka Monster of Terror (1965)

directed by daniel haller
american international pictures/alta vista film productions

For the first half-hour or so, this sumptuously appointed fable seems as though it’s going to be a vastly rewarding romp through B-movie silliness, complete with Boris Karloff adding plenty of dramatic intrigue. Unfortunately, it soon descends into choppy pointlessness, though the inane and repetitious dialogue might bolster things for a while if you’re in the right mood. The story kinda feels cobbled together as it goes along, and even the requisite expository scenes don’t much help to clarify matters. A few startling moments crop up here and there, though only the first earns its reaction, and it goes nowhere. Based on “The Colour Out of Space” by H. P. Lovecraft, though how or why Arkham, MA, is transplanted to England is a question best left to others.

why did i watch this movie?

I found it under the title “Monster of Terror,” which … I mean, what more do you need? The presence of Boris Karloff and some glowing (pun definitely intended) nostalgia offered by commenters sealed the deal.

should you watch this movie?

I will table that question until I’ve watched a couple other filmed interpretations of the classic story.

highlight and low point

Boris Karloff’s clearly dissembling patriarch and his myopic assistant Merwyn are a hoot, and our hero Reinhart’s difficulties with the locals in Arkham set the picture up rather nicely. By far the best effects are achieved when Stephen and Susan are creeping downstairs in the dark guided by one lighted candle … which brightly illumines absolutely everything in the vicinity, and looks suspiciously like a spotlight trained right on them. Again, there are a few genuinely unsettling moments, but they’re wasted  – along with the lavish set dressing – by a flimsy screenplay.

rating from outer space: C−