The Banana Splits Movie (2019)

directed by danishka esterhazy
blue ribbon content/blue ice pictures

You know, I gave up drugs about nine years ago, and watching this insane production, I realize I either never needed them or they caused permanent brain damage. Holy cats. Based in some sort of madcap reality where The Banana Splits are still a popular and ongoing concern, this flick – which was for some reason filmed entirely in South Africa, even though the cast and crew are dominated by Canadians, and “Blue Ribbon Content” is a TV production subsidiary of Warner Bros. – conjures a pernicious mashup of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and Meet the Feebles. Obviously, with that setup, this is ostensibly a horror comedy, but I am not even kidding you, it’s a whole lot creepier than you’d think. Part of that is due to the cinéma vérité effect provided by the production values, but its humor is all pretty black, if not bleak, anyway. Tremendous. Stupendous! A mess of fun, indeed.

why did i watch this movie?

Periodically, I contemplate acquiring the music from the original television series (you’ll recall I mentioned brain damage), and the most recent time, the welter of information accompanying my “research” mentioned the existence of this film. Fait accompli.


should you watch this movie?

I’m trying to determine this picture’s probable impact on those with no personal relationship with/foreknowledge of the nostalgia-tinged frippery upon which it is based, but ultimately I don’t think lacking the background should matter that much.


highlight and low point

The fact that almost none of the characters involved actually like The Banana Splits is both jocose and, in my opinion, keenly observant. After hinting that the action might stay somewhat tame, it proceeds to tear limb from limb – literally, in some cases.

rating from outer space: A−

Ladrones de tumbas aka Grave Robbers (1989)

directed by ruben galindo jr.
producciones torrente s.a.

A gleefully gory tale of demonic retribution (or something) that somehow keeps a straight face throughout its often surprisingly effective graveyard-campsite-and-church assault, this Mexican extravaganza has a little bit of everything you’d expect: lustful Inquisition monks, young people up to no good, stalwart lawmen, holy writ, and a whole lot of shrill screaming. Despite the obviously unreal nature of the proceedings – we are, after all, dealing with the undead, unless one considers that condition differently when Satanic possession is in play – only a few moments provoke disbelieving laughter, and even the evil rejuvenated monk’s makeup job works pretty well. And for all the hints of or nods to well-worn potboiler themes or tactics, well … I’m not sure where else you could reasonably expect to go with this material. Call it “classically themed” and move on.

 
why did i watch this movie?

My previous selection was known as “Grave Secrets,” and was released the same year as this one. Plus, a Mexican production felt like a good idea.

should you watch this movie?

Right from the start, it hits all the notes. You more or less know what you’re going to be getting, and you get it. Plus some nifty depictions of attacks from la hacha.

highlight and low point

There’s an interesting twist to the method of dealing with the supernatural fiend, which is especially welcome given the prevalence of so many other standard-issue tropes. Sociologically, you’d have to go with the quartet of young adults who pursue grave robbing as, like, their career choice, because how else are they supposed to earn a living? The occasional melding of diverse genre elements is also fun. A glaring continuity error provoked a literal double take on my part.

rating from outer space: B

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue aka Let Sleeping Corpses Lie aka No profanar el sueño de los muertos aka Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti aka Don’t Open The Window (1974)

directed by jorge grau
star films s.a./flaminia produzioni cinematografiche

So, after multiple examples of movies not living up to whatever (fair or unfair) expectations I had, here we have one that wildly exceeded them. This Spanish-Italian production sets its eldritch tale of the undead – rejuvenated by a newfangled agricultural invention utilizing radiation for pest control – in the British countryside, and boasts some truly intimidating zombies. They can’t be stopped, and they waste no time in disemboweling their prey, to dine with zeal and relish. Of course, no self-respecting story of the unexplainable would be complete without the dismissive lead investigator and obstructionist local gendarmes, and for a special bonus, these immediately pin the blame on those damn longhaired kids and their drugs and free love. Stupendous.

why did i watch this movie?

Not totally certain, but I was looking for 1970s product and the title I found announced this one as “Let Sleeping Corpses Lie.” So I gave it a whirl.


should you watch this movie?

“Couple of drug-crazy maniacs.”
“Oh, worse than that, sergeant. Have you ever come across any of these Satanists … in your investigations?”

“No, but I’ve heard about them. Here, you don’t think –”
“They vandalize cemeteries. They profane tombs. And, you know, hold black masses … that’s why you’ve got your cross. Looks to me like a pretty typical case.”

highlight and low point

The  plot here takes a while to unfold, which proves to be gratifying. The experimental agronomics are tremendously unconvincing. The doctor is remarkably placid. Nearly everyone hates the youthful on sight. But Arthur Kennedy‘s Inspector can’t be topped. Seriously: “You’re all the same, the lot of you, with your long hair and faggot clothes … drugs, sex, every sort of filth. And you hate the police, don’t ya.”

rating from outer space: A−

Zibahkhana aka ذبح خانہ aka Hell’s Ground (2007)

directed by omar ali khan
bubonic films/boum productions ltd/mondo macabro movies

All right now, this is what I’m talking about. A terrific little number with barely an original idea in its head – though that appears to have been the filmmaker’s intent – this Pakistani flick ultimately surpasses its bare-bones budget and its bare-cupboard storyline to produce a thoroughly enjoyable picture. Much of the proceedings are a recasting of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, there’s an obvious nod or two to Night of the Living Dead, and there’s some camerawork and atmosphere courtesy of The Evil Dead as well (plus the final girl’s name, Ayesha, often is rendered as, yes, “Ash”). Well-paced, and clearly made with the right attitude and healthy amounts of appreciation for the endeavor, its DIY sheen only adds to the entertainment value. Really pretty rewarding, given that it’s “Pakistan’s First Gore Film.”

why did i watch this movie?

Dude, it’s Pakistan’s first gore film. I couldn’t resist that kind of come-on. (It helped that I was able to locate subtitles for it.)

should you watch this movie?

If you actually read this palaver, you are presumably at some level a devotee of this art form, if not an aficionado per se. If you are also of a certain bent, you just may appreciate this presentation precisely because of its … familiarity.

Or you won’t.

highlight and low point

The weapon of choice for the unrelenting maniacal stalker quite amused me, as did the transliteration of the stock young adult characters into a South Asian disposition. “Yah, let’s get STONED, and get that damned radio on, yah?” as Rubya Chaudhry’s Roxy memorably puts it. At times, depictions here reminded me of the original attempt at All Cheerleaders Die. The élan involved is definitely similar, anyway.

rating from outer space: B+

The Relic (1997)

directed by peter hyams
pacific western, cloud nine entertainment, polygram filmed entertainment, marubeni, toho-towa, tele-münchen, bbc et al.

The sort of well-budgeted Hollywood horror thriller that eventually must become just another iteration of Alien, this vehicle for nobody in particular boasts, above anything else, a bland technical competence as its calling card. You can pick which stock character is your fave, but I vote for “the Mayor” (pun definitely intended) throwing his weight around as if “Chicago” is his personal fiefdom. You will recognize the outline: anthropologist mysteriously doesn’t return from an expedition, but a RELIC (which by the way has almost nothing to do with anything else that happens here) does, and then a creature you barely see for most of the picture slaughters a bunch of people, in the dark. WHAT’S the connection? WILL the day be saved? The End. Wait, let’s at least give ’em credit for not jamming in a subplot featuring a developing love story.

why did i watch this movie?

Long ago, I saw this flick in the theater, much as I did many of its ilk*, and I remembered almost nothing about it. For good reason, as it turns out.

*Species! Species 2! Mimic! The Faculty! It was the ’90s, man!
Creepy monsters were all around us!

should you watch this movie?

See that list of entities responsible for cobbling this feature together? That’s a focus group, and the result was this bland consensus.

highlight and low point

The most interesting thing about this production is how remarkably generic it is. From the opening scenes of the scientist’s “fieldwork” (featuring “natives”) all the way to the – “spoiler alert” – preposterous death throes of the mutant-DNA monster, it just follows the template. Through tunnels, and occasionally through glass.

rating from outer space: D


©1972 E.C. Publications, Inc.

 

Halloween II (2009)

written and directed by rob zombie
dimension films/trancas international films/spectacle entertainment group

In a way the definitive Rob Zombie picture, this sequel to his remake of the first Carpenter horror classic basically only makes a dent because of that lineage. I mean, if this were only a movie about just some random psycho killing people for no real reason most of the time – and it is, only that character happens to be dubbed “Michael Myers” – it would not be particularly compelling, nor memorable. Brutal and dismal throughout, it ends without redemption, and Zombie’s juvenile obsession with titties-and-beer doesn’t particularly help. His ongoing attempt to inject metaphysical compulsion (or something) into the Myers saga via hallucinatory visions is categorically odd, and his characters, as usual, are often rehashed caricatures. But for all that, it definitely establishes and holds a mood. Why it bothers is a different question.


why did i watch this movie?

This was strictly stunt programming, piggybacking on the previous selection.


should you watch this movie?

Are you really enamored of extended scenes of cruelly barbaric murder, or hopelessly trapped in hidebound fascination with music of the 1960s and ’70s? (“Laurie’s” Black Flag and Government Issue t-shirts notwithstanding.)

highlight and low point

It may be unfair to point out, as I watched the “Director’s Cut,” but a lot of moments here are just Zombie indulging his own tastes, to the point of self-parody. One might prefer to think he’s self-aware enough to give W. Al Yankovic a cameo role for just that reason, but honestly, that doesn’t seem to be the case. It would appear he just thinks these stylistic touchpoints are, like, bitchin’. Yeah, you can identify his work as his own – after a fashion, anyway – but the effect can be pretty grating.

rating from outer space: C

Halloween II (1981)

directed by rick rosenthal
dino de laurentiis corporation

One of those movies where I recognize certain scenes but don’t remember much else besides, this once-and-future sequel – for now, it’s been written out of the canon – is mainly notable for introducing Michael M. to the cinematic world of the bored spree killer who begins to get creative in his methods of destruction, along with its clumsy attempt to hang some sort of meaningful framework onto a story better left unexplained. And no, I don’t mean the “Laurie’s his sister” angle, I mean that “Samhain” silliness, a direction which of course reached its apogee in “Season of the Witch.” It’s good enough, I guess – but strictly as a sequel, as its formulaic nature probably wouldn’t have sustained it as a standalone. Not that thousands of its ilk haven’t been churned out anyway, of course. I will give it some credit for taking place immediately following the events of the first feature, as a continuation of the same story; that’s pretty crafty.

why did i watch this movie?

A) it’s the last week of October
B) see the first sentence of the lede

Should you watch this movie?

Dude, it’s not canon. You’re waiting breathlessly for Halloween Kills, correct?

highlight and low point

Though it’s something of a staple in this genre, Mike’s experimentation with different approaches to killing becomes sublimely absurd. Messing with the thermostat? Man, in my house growing up, that’d GET a guy killed, not prove lethal to others. One of his means of dispatch doesn’t even seem as though it’d work! An empty syringe to the temple, quickly in and out? Pshaw. Not to mention, subtleties of slaughter and the aforementioned nod to the rites of sacrificial hoo-haw kinda undermine the big guy’s mythos.

rating from outer space: C

Two Heads Creek (2019)

directed by jesse o’brien
dicentium films/hummingbird films/storm vision entertainment

You know, it’s hard to make a good comedy, and it’s at least equally as hard to make a good horror picture, so you’d have to imagine that the odds of producing a good horror-comedy (comedy horror?) aren’t very good. Now, the snarky side of me wants to add, “And neither is this film!” but that wouldn’t be entirely fair, or accurate. It’s … all right. Weighing more heavily on the “comedy” side of the ledger, this likable Australian feature throws a few new twists into a perhaps hackneyed setup. Siblings head Down Under to find The Truth about their lineage (didn’t we just DO this?), only to discover drama, intrigue, bloody gore – you know the drill. One of which tools isn’t involved, to the best of my recollection. Mostly fun, occasionally delightful, nothing too important.

why did i watch this movie?

Took a chance on the trailer and thought it promised madcap fun such as I’ve enjoyed from some other pictures from the Southern Hemisphere.


should you watch this movie?

Yeah, you know, sometimes a light and frothy offering isn’t a bad call.


highlight and low point

I watched this just after having found out that AC/DC have a “new” record coming out, and I’m not going to say that didn’t influence my choice. The soundtrack to this extravaganza features a couple bands I only know about from reading books about Australia’s heaviest musical export – Skyhooks and Sherbet. (The Skyhooks tune, “Horror Movie,” briefly invokes the ol’ Richard O’Brien spirit.) The running gag about “Australia Day” and so forth may be funnier to non-Americans, there’s a somewhat subtle jab at the United Kingdom’s “populist” backlash, and the two main characters are allegedly Polish. I can sympathize.

rating from outer space: C+

Terror (1978)

directed by norman j. warren
crystal film productions

I swear, I didn’t even realize when I selected this picture for review that I’d previously seen and written about this director’s two immediately preceding numbers – Satan’s Slave and Prey. The display of a “Satan’s Slave” poster in the office suite of this flick’s film-producer character tipped me off, though. Closer in feeling and execution to “Slave” than “Prey,” there isn’t really a whole lot of the title condition represented here, except as experienced by a victim or two, maybe. Additionally, there’s neither much rhyme nor reason to the goings-on, but there IS a moment that appears to be a direct progenitor to S. King’s novel Christine. I mean, portions of the scene are lifted lock, stock and barrel. Another fanciful depiction later turns up in Christmas Evil (and eventually Repo Man). Other than that, this saga of an accused witch haunting and/or hunting her descendants sees the seemingly indiscriminate slaughter of a bunch of people, and then ends in a puff of smoke.


why did i watch this movie?

Probably because it’s called “Terror.” So succinct!



should you watch this movie?

Among Norman J. Warren spectaculars, I’d recommend “Satan’s Slave” over this one. Mind you, I haven’t tried “Inseminoid.” Yet.

highlight and low point

Given Norman J. Warren’s oeuvre, it’s probably ridiculous to lament lost opportunities potentially glimpsed herein, but there’s a whole angle about the world of cinema that’s touched on but dismissed, even given the “film within a film” opening scenes. A gaggle of hopeful actresses live together in a hostel, an arrangement allegedly modeled after a real-world nurses’ colony. Hey, why not. Most of those slain in the course of this production come across as being targeted solely because some action is necessary.

rating FROM OUTER SPACE: C−

Yellowbrickroad (2010)

written and directed by andy mitton & jesse holland
points north

It is inevitable that this picture will make viewers think of The Blair Witch Project, even those like me who haven’t seen the precursory feature. Truth be told, this production brought to mind a passel of other films as well, although largely as vague hints or impressions, mainly evoked by the hallucinatory effects of people losing their grips on reality as they head into the hills. (One such flick that I’ve reviewed here would be Cold Ground.) Philosophical implications abound – especially the metaphysical – and the fact that everyone winds up alone in his or her struggle for life, though perhaps not so profound, reveals itself gradually enough to be quietly impressive. The ending, not so much … but points are awarded for the overall lack of any explanation of the events. Sometimes a mystery just is, and as forest service representative “Cy” points out, one needn’t go seeking answers for every question. (“These questions … never needed to be fuckin’ asked” is how he more colorfully puts it.)


why did i watch this movie?

It was recommended to me in an online forum.


should you watch this movie?

That isn’t the worst idea, though you may not be convinced for a little while. But for such a deceptively simple story, there’s a lot to ponder.


highlight and low point

When we meet a new character – a potentially suspicious one, at that – and discover that her name is “Liv.” I’m laughing right now thinking about it. The sound FX, and occasional lack thereof, often can be quite stunning. This feature also maintains a bit of a mockumentary feel without resorting to the “found footage” canard. The “Wizard of Oz” link is debatable; other moments of referentialism suggest themselves.

rating from outer space: B+