The Coroner (1999)

directed by juan a. mas
califilm

An aggressively dreadful straight-to-video experience, this dross somehow didn’t make me start laughing out loud until the 49-minute mark … which was shortly after I began to wonder if maybe I was just imagining what I was seeing, mainly due to an assemblage of such oddly juxtaposed scenes and camera shots and visual styles that I actually voiced the question, “What is going ON?” The very next scene was when the main character revealed herself dressed in cat burglar getup, creeping down the side of THE CORONER’s house to plant some plastic explosives. I shoulda mentioned, she’s a lawyer. Well, by this point she’s presumably a former lawyer, but some vital exposition goes lacking. By the ensuing scene I noticed there was somehow still a half-hour to go.

why did i watch this movie?

It promised to be ridiculously bad. I win?

should you watch this movie?

Once the unintentional comedy really sets in, it’s a hoot, but it requires major tolerance. You could watch it to glimpse the kernel of a powerful concept underneath the incompetence and use that revelation for your own purposes, I suppose.

highlight and low point

How I imagine directors talk actresses into nude scenes for productions like this one: “Hey, we’re making one of the most unrealistic horror thrillers any of the few who’re actually gonna see it will ever witness, and it unnecessarily opens in a strip club, and we’ll need some egregiously pointless sex scenes. You in?” Sadly, this was a tremendous opportunity to make a really disturbing and upsetting statement on multiple levels – if merely by inspiring debate over the main character’s true motives and/or culpability – but instead it’s a rape revenge picture with a flimsy ending given away long beforehand.

Rating from outer space: D−

Slaughterhouse (1987)

written and directed by rick roessler
american artists

From the very beginning of this picture, I was pleasantly surprised. Well, scratch that – the very beginning of this picture is actual footage of a pork-processing plant, complete with pig massacre, and your faithful correspondent is a vegan animal lover – but once the movie proper began, it outdid my expectations. It hadn’t sounded promising, from the overly obvious title to the mentally challenged hillbilly character to the billing as a “horror comedy,” but it’s a fairly well-made slasher pic. As it turns out, the deranged Bacon scion (uh-huh, I know) is effectively unsettling, the humor is … well, “subtle” isn’t the right word, but there’s no mugging or slapstick and no awful punmanship, either. The kids are just regular kids, it doesn’t quite follow the usual trite template, and even the gore is reasonably presented, and fairly minimal. Color me impressed.

why did i watch this movie?

This one’s been in the queue for so long I have no idea. I saw a reference to it somewhere and thought, that sounds as though it could be terrible, I should watch it.

should you watch this movie?

With the acknowledgment that it wasn’t ever gonna win too many awards for originality, you could make much worse choices for overlooked ’80s numbers.

highlight and low point

That this picture could have degenerated into a cartoonish farce but didn’t ranks as among its best features. It does include the widely lampooned “let the villain talk long enough for help to arrive” shtick, though, along with the timeworn device of a freeze-frame ending – which here proved doubly pointless, as a sequel never materialized because this production failed to attract a lucrative distribution offer. The delightfully generic synthpop tunes contribute sporadic bonus contemporizing.

rating from outer space: B

Deadly Manor aka Savage Lust (1990)

written and directed by jose larraz
filmworld international productions, inc./castor films s.a.

The kind of picture that would’ve been better off not explaining the what or why of its anonymous slayings, this unexceptional slasher potboiler nonetheless manages to do quite a bit with almost nothing. It’s generic, sure, and its cast of unknowns could’ve done a much better job delivering their lines convincingly, but the air of menace is effective enough that the deceptive clues don’t displease too much. Surprisingly low on exploitation factor, given that there’s a nude dead female lavished across the screen at the 1:39 mark, this film revels in setting scenes in fumbling darkness, and boldly employs the ruse of the faux savior for good measure. Its ensemble of young adult characters, however, don’t quite match the usual stereotypes, and law enforcement is neither pointlessly obstructive nor dismissively inept. The story is no more ridiculous than you’d guess, probably.

why did i watch this movie?

The director, who was known to have used three or four pseudonyms, has quite a record of exploitation horrors to his credit … one of which I’d unwittingly previously reviewed!

should you watch this movie?

Despite its lack of ambition, it was actually pretty entertaining for the most part.

highlight and low point

The constant smirking of the red herring character adds a mischievous touch, and some of the pathos on display is almost convincing at times. The hallucinatory sex scene dream sequence is rather a surprise, in that it’s not one of the main cast’s young ladies that gets naked, and the fact that the group of meddling kids weary travelers stays in the title abode despite its appearance – and one of their own’s premonition – is the staff of life for this entire genre.

rating from outer space: b−

(note license plate)

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (2019)

written and directed by quentin tarantino
heyday films

I actually found this picture to be in extremely poor taste. It culminates with a presumptively humorous (and ultra-violent) reversion of the infamous Manson Family slaughter that took place at the Altobelli estate on Cielo Drive in 1969, wherein a change of plans leads to Tex, Katie and Sadie being killed in various ways by Brad Pitt’s stuntman and Leo DiCaprio’s imported Italian wife and then by Leo’s washed-up cowboy actor himself, in the pool, with a flamethrower. Yeah, I just ruined it for you; I don’t much care. See, I’m not sure this production had any greater purpose than flaunting its creator’s persona, so its turning tragedy into japery just for the sake of that ego – or whatever – is inappropriate. ’Twas less of a waste of casting than Reservoir Horses The Hateful Eight, I guess.

why did i watch this movie?

As I hinted earlier, I needed a break from watching, like, five or six consecutive Friday the 13th flicks.

should you watch this movie?

This is a movie about The Movies – I mean, even more than most of Tarantino’s overly obsessive oeuvre – and it has provoked peevish observation about its obliviousness to different societal issues and how such ignorance, wilful or genuine, continues to propagate injustice. (Its seeming adoration of a lily-white world filled with the privileged exploiting that privilege contributed mightily.)

highlight and low point

DiCaprio is terrific throughout, his natural and often understated performance bordering on the truly sublime at times … so of course Pitt won the Oscar, while being strangely reminiscent of a wizened Chevy Chase. The Bruce Lee scene feels breathtakingly awkward, and dammit, I’ll just say it, this whole affair is an exercise in whitewashing. It’s an unfortunate hue of nostalgia.

rating from outer space: C−

God Bless America (2011)

written and directed by bobcat goldthwait
darko entertainment/jerkschool productions

I’ll admit, I laughed heartily throughout this not-terribly-original flick, an entertaining mashup of source material such as Falling Down, Idiocracy, Natural Born Killers, Albert Brooks’s Lost in America, hell, probably Network, and so on. A few of the harangues and spiels and much of the invective plays a little too much like a script reading, but Goldthwait’s bile is certainly in the right place, at least to this eremitic misanthropist radical. Yes, it’s maybe a little too pat, a little too obvious at times, but the director evades cliché as much as embraces it. The ending is almost beautiful somehow, even though the absurd impossibility that buttresses the whole structure is blatant and a few nagging questions are never countenanced. This auteur’s failings often provide as much to contemplate as his successes, so I’m not inclined to argue much.

why did i watch this movie?

I find the arc of Goldthwait’s career fascinating, and his 2013 Bigfoot picture, Willow Creek, was absolutely phenomenal.

should you watch this movie?

If you’re at all an outsider, outlier, an elitist, or at the very least somewhat pretentious, I’d wager you’d enjoy the premise and its setup. To make it very clear, the main target of opprobrium here is the “American Idol” entertainment model and its ardent supporters … along with a very broad swath of workaday existence and the type of populace that determined itself “populist” for the 2016 election.

highlight and low point

The  speech the jailbait character gives about her love for, like, Alice Cooper, doesn’t really come across too believably, and oh yeah – one of the two main characters is a Lolita analogue, which presents multivarious uncomfortable connotations. (Which largely has been Goldthwait’s stock in trade as a filmmaker.)

rating from outer space: B+

The Terror Within II (1991)

written and directed by andrew stevens
concorde
“based on characters created by thomas m. cleaver”

Wisely adding unnecessary nudity* to its winning formula of B-movie SF dreck, this highly amusing low-budget picture flaunts its status as a sequel in the truest time-honored fashion: it’s virtually the same as Part I in terms of its “plot,” but it dresses things up with some flashy new touches. You’ll be happy to know, however, that the air shafts are once again in play, and the elevator. The fetus, this time, survives, and grows too quickly, and where that particular part of the storyline goes should delight you. (It did me.) I wish there were, like, at least two more chapters of this shoddy adventure claptrap.

*Seductive female dialogue: “There’s nothing wrong with people needing each other. It’s OKAY. I need you … we need each other … and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

why did i watch this movie?

It was pure coincidence that I was enjoying this picture about the aftermath of a runaway mystery illness right as the panic and paranoia about the current pandemic was about to explode.

should you watch this movie?

It could give you hints about the fate that yet may befall us all. Or survival tips, perhaps!


highlight and low point

The screenwriting is pretty ridiculous, of necessity, and the FX used – especially when depicting what’s seen through mutant eyes – is dependably absurd. As the commander of the survival research laboratory, R. Lee Ermey is at times pointlessly gruff, and the foibles of the supporting cast get little attention or magnification. The pregnancy theme is revisited, and is probably weirder this time around. What becomes of the salvaged finger from one of the savage attackers is nearly unparalleled in both predictability and munificence.

rating from outer space: b−

Graduation Day (1981)

directed by herb freed
ifi/scope iii

Sure, there are hundreds of movies just like this one, but this example manages to be more fun than a lot of them, even if it pushes some of the faults and foibles of its type to the extreme. As an example, the roller-skating scene, with the band “Felony” playing in the center: their song, “Gangster Rock,” goes on and on and on … and on, and on … and on, and we’re treated to the same shots of band members miming and the same closeups  of feet shod in roller skates over and over and over. (Although there are plenty of extras in the scene who don’t even bother with the skates!) And then there’s some of the frankly ridiculous methods of victim dispatch, the belabored attempts to draw attention to the wrong suspects, the fact that absolutely everybody repeatedly has to use the all-too-convenient woods path, and so forth. But for all that, what this flick really did for me was spur thoughts that #MeToo should probably have happened a loooong time ago.

why did i watch this movie?

I’d been contemplating checking this one out for a long time, as it’s from an estimable era for these types of flicks, and also because opinions of it seesaw.

should you watch this movie?

You were just saying how you needed to flesh out (sorry) Linnea Quigley‘s incipient scream-queen career. Or perhaps you’re an aficionado of “horror movies with generic rock bands.”

highlight and low point

Seriously, the unnecessary T&A in this picture is kind of … depressing. The depictions of women’s roles in the home and the workplace might be worse. And since the overall feel of the production is kinda skeevy besides, that’s all kinds of unappealing.

rating from outer space: b