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+

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

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)

Directed by David Blue Garcia
Legendary Pictures/Bad Hombre/Exurbia Films

Goddamn, will somebody tell me why they keep making these movies. Battling itself for its first 30 minutes as to whether it preferred to be more inane or more annoying, this mess produced by the once-promising Fedé Alvarez is said to have taken its modernist cues from the ongoing rebooting of Halloween. Sure, I guess “Hey, you know that thing that sucks? Let’s double down on it” is a possible approach one can take, but ideas like that haven’t held as much appeal for me since I quit drinking 10 years ago. But at least there’s a bona fide chainsaw massacre in this one! For about ⅔ of this picture’s mercifully brief running time (barely 75 minutes) I was angry my intelligence was being so demeaned, but then I just started laughing at the idiocy (mine perhaps included). This is a deeply stupid and lazy undertaking, and really tips its cap to its inspiration by giving ol’ Leatherface a Voorhees factor of at least 40. Way to go?

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I didn’t even know this garbage existed until my brother asked me about it on NFL Football Championship Sunday. Then I unwisely looked into it.

Should You Watch This Movie?

This film proudly trumpets that it’s been “50 years” since the original events … yet good ol’ Leatherface appears to be barely older than 50 himself. His fountain of youth is not mentioned. And his chainsaw looks fine and is rip-roarin’ ready to go despite … you know what, don’t
even bother.

Highlight and Low Point

“Sally Hardesty” carries around an allegedly old Polaroid of her long-lost chums and brother. The producer claims this storyline can encompass all the rest. Sarah Yarkin and Elsie Fisher are somewhat unconventional leads.

 
Rating From Outer Space:

The Crawlers aka Creepers aka Contamination .7 aka Troll 3 (1990)

Directed by “Martin Newlin”
FILMIRAGE

Grotesquely inept in all regards – I cannot think offhand of another film in which so many lines are flubbed – and graced with some of the most overwrought, overacted death scenes imaginable – especially given that in most cases, the victims are clearly flailing the unconvincing props about themselves – this Italian-produced eco-terror is a truly marvelous experience. Listing all the hilarity would take far too long for this allotted space, but suffice it to say this flick stands proudly, incoherently proclaiming its action/adventure “credentials.” (Among these,  “Costumes” are credited to Laura Gemser, who played “Emanuelle” in roughly 213 softcore flicks in the 1970s and early ’80s, and who was a longtime associate of producer/co-director Joe D’Amato.)

Why Did I Watch This MOvie?

I was idly browsing the selections at Tubi and this description caught my attention: “The trees are alive with a taste for humans after they soak up toxic runoff from a local nuclear plant, forcing villagers to fight for their lives.” A quick peek promised nearly unparalleled shoddiness, and there you have it.

Should You Watch This Movie?

BRIAN: Listen, maybe we can call the Environmental Protection Agency. Look, they’re the only ones who’re even remotely qualified for this kind of situation.

TAYLOR (“SCIENTIST”): No, no, we don’t have enough time … we get involved with people from Washington, no telling HOW long it’ll take.

MATT’S DAD: He’s right.

BRIAN: Look, it is the only way!

MATT: No – it’s YOUR way, but it’s not the only way.

Highlight and Low Point

The death scene of the hired killers sent by the polluting corporation’s nefarious executive to eliminate no-good busybody Taylor is phenomenal, but the toxic dump cleanup takes the cake, as the townsfolk take no precautions whatsoever for handling any materials.

Rating From Outer Space: D−

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

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