The Blob (1988)

Directed by Chuck Russell
Palisades California, Inc.

This remake of the ’50s classic is not a horror comedy, and I don’t think I’d even describe it as being tongue-in-cheek, but at the same time, it’s not exactly a, you know, raw slice of life or anything of the sort. Diminishing somewhat its precursor’s contemporary Cold War setting for a more cynical view of the military-industrial complex – and right now I’m trying to remember what specifically in the late ’80s may have spawned the aspersions being cast herein – this picture does vividly evoke its era, at least for someone who was a teenager himself when it was made. (Perhaps the Eighties’ ongoing obsession with “The Fifties” was one reason this flick was produced.) And I enjoyed it about as much now as I did then, to boot. The foreboding ending even still carries portent in these throwback benighted times … unfortunately.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

One of the books I’m currently reading is It Came From The Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror; this film is one of the subjects of the essay “Indescribable” by contributor Carrow Narby. (“Of all the ‘classic’ monsters from folklore and film, the iconic blob monster never seems to get much attention as a queer figure, in scholarship or in popular media.”)

Should You Watch This Movie?

“Blobs are not queer incidentally. They are not queer simply because, through narrative contrivance, they might be associated with the destruction of heterosexual order, as in The Blob … The blob’s relationship to queerness is a product of its basic symbolic function.”

Highlight and Low Point

The essayist’s point is perhaps understandable given the archetypes proffered in this movie’s Americana: the football jocks, the wholesome cheerleader, the nuclear families, the longhaired punk, and so forth.

Rating From Outer Space: B+

Contagion (2011)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Double Feature Films/Gregory Jacobs

Maybe it’s not quite the feat of soothsaying it immediately may appear to be, but watching this picture with the hindsight of having lived through the brunt of the Covid disruption was a pretty amazing experience. And it’s a credit to Soderbergh’s artistry, I think, that I was so absorbed in the story he was telling that I didn’t even think about the REAL HORROR – which is of course that we knew, everybody knew, exactly what was going to happen when a real pandemic arose … and we did all the stupid things anyway, exacerbating a threatening situation until it became the deadliest farce imaginable. (Until the next one.) Too grim? Too pessimistic? Well, I’m typing this with a sore left arm, having gotten my second Covid booster (the new bivalent one) two days ago. And I still wear a mask every day at work. But I’m in the distinct minority there, where we also have some anti-vaxxers on staff. If you really think nothing else like Covid – or the unnamed SARS virus in this movie – will happen again, my question would then concern your level of trust in your fellow humans. You know, just in case.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

It was included in 100 American Horror Films by Barry Keith Grant, and I’d never seen it.


Should You Watch This Movie?

Because I’m cynical, and have no trust whatsoever in my fellow humans, my answer here is why fucking bother.


Highlight and Low Point

This picture is excellent, but I did have a problem with what I consider an ill-conceived subplot involving the abduction of a WHO epidemiologist in a political maneuver. It struck a discordant note of fiction in the film’s otherwise credible verisimilitude.

Rating From OUter Space: A−

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−

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

John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness (1987)

Written & Directed by John Carpenter
Alive Films/Larry Franco Productions

This picture, though certainly not a “horror comedy,” definitely includes comedic elements, in addition to its absurdist dialogue. Now, I don’t mean to disparage the writing of “Martin Quatermass,” but the plot of this flick concerns Satan’s dad being a type of antimatter, manifesting his offspring as a sentient liquid, buried in a magical canister at the behest of intergalactic interloper “Jesus Christ,” with warning messages transmitted via dreams based on a hypothetical physics particle. Yea, discursions amongst the major players in this drama get a bit unwieldy. Elements – pun unintended! – of this production recur in They LIve and In the Mouth of Madness. (Allegedly, The Thing, this, and “Madness” constitute a “trilogy.”)

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I frankly wasn’t interested in taking a gander at anything else I had pending, and this title popped up somewhere.



Should You Watch This Movie?

It’s not what one might expect from the title, I’ll give it that.


Highlight and Low Point

The script is sui generis; one could pick almost any random moment and find ponderousness. I did just that; here’s what I got:

“So what is the dream? Precognition? Previous knowledge of a future event?
  A shared vision of something that is yet to occur.”
“Caused by that thing downstairs?”
“Perhaps not!”
“A tachyon is a subatomic particle that travels faster than light.”

Donald Pleasence outdoes himself as, uh, “Priest,” getting so overwrought one might almost believe he Believes. (At the end of this affair, his lack of concern for what may have happened to anyone else is a nice touch.) The Prince’s method of transmitting his evil influence to others is peculiar – though reasonable given his limitations as, you know, a liquid – and disconcerting.

Rating From Outer Space: B

Looker (1981)

Written and Directed by Michael Crichton
The Ladd company

This Michael Crichton picture had me musing during its latter portions that Michael Crichton was also responsible for the 1984 Tom Selleck-Gene $immon$ vehicle Runaway. Such a reminiscence is probably not a great endorsement for this production, but overall, this forgotten flick has its merits, even if they’re mainly historical rather than artistic. (It presages CGI, for one thing.) A lot of stuff here doesn’t make a whole lotta (or any) sense if you stop to think about it, but you’re supposed to be enraptured by the futurism and, probably, struck (dumb?) by the ironies and therefore not get around to asking such perplexing questions. It’s probably not a great sign, however, that IMDb claims some of those pertinent details are included in the made-for-TV edit, in scenes left on the theatrical version’s cutting-room floor … but since this film hinges on a plastic surgeon and his work with a bevy of commercial models, I suppose that’s perfectly appropriate.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I found it accidentally, hooked by the existence of a heretofore-unknown Crichton venture.



Should You Watch This Movie?

Maybe, if you’re also considering taking in Runaway.


Highlight and Low Point

Speaking of harbingers, this project allegedly arose because Congo was at the time unfilmable, what with its “gorilla” problem. In a nutshell: large corporation is engineering models to exacting specifications for use in adverts employing secret technology to mesmerize viewers (and killing them off – the models, that is – for some reason). Ooh, and they’ve got a flashlight gun! Susan Dey plays one of the “perfect” models. She has a brief scene with her parents that implies TV destroys family bonds. Dey is of course largely known for The Partridge Family and L.A. Law.

Rating From Outer Space: C−

Forbidden World aka Mutant (1982)

Directed by Allan Holzman
New World Pictures

Preposterous in almost every meaningful sense, this Roger Corman production may well be one of my new favorite movies – it’s great! A schlock masterpiece, it’s almost inconceivable any film crew could do any more with any less than is accomplished in this tale of Science Gone Horribly Wrong, Deep in Space Where No One Can Hear You Scream. (Although Dawn Dunlap as “Tracy” does her damnedest to disprove this theory.) From the blatant Star Wars miming of the opening space battle (which is itself recycled from an earlier Corman flick) to the pseudo Alien spaceship-cum-laboratory where the bulk of the action takes place, this picture has everything you could ask for and much, much more. And this isn’t even my usual disingenuous shtick – this movie is terrific. Is it great art? Hahaha, no. Is it derivative and shameless? Oh, my, yes. Is it nonetheless a must-see? As much as anything else on this site.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I found it on Tubi the same night as “Creepers,” and that was enough to convince me – finally – to just view it.



Should You Watch This Movie?

You like blatant ripoffs and have a healthy sense of the absurd, I trust.


Highlight and Low Point

Maybe halfway through, it occurred to me that “Dr. Cal Timbergen” seemed familiar to me for a reason, that being he’s “J. Frank Parnell” from Repo Man (aka Fox Harris). The scanty disco jumpsuits worn by Dunlap and June Chadwick (as “Dr. Barbara Glaser”) are perhaps even more ridiculously sexist than their utterly gratuitous dual nude scene. During the opening moments, as military officer “Mike Colby” is being brought out of stasis or whatever, he inexplicably experiences visions foreshadowing the adventures to come.

Rating From Outer Space: B+

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−

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

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

Directed by Jason Reitman
Columbia Pictures/Bron Creative/The Montecito Picture Company

Okay, I swear to Gozer the Gozerian that I was all set to praise this feature’s overbearing multiculturalism in a smarmy, backhanded manner, by snarking that it was a shame they couldn’t find a way to shoehorn a trans character into the mix, because that would have been the ultimate triumph of this era/age … but after I watched it, I found out that Celeste O’Connor, the performer portraying Finn Wolfhard’s (nonwhite) potential love interest, identifies as non-binary, so scratch that – Afterlife wins after all. Oh, and it’s acceptable as a movie, too, despite – as noted elsewhere – basically devolving into a reprise of the original, and despite its suspicious paucity of, you know, ghosts. Plus, since I don’t pay much careful attention to entertainment media, I was surprised when Ray, Peter and Winston showed up to do battle. (That was far from the worst “franchise”-related pandering the producers did, but more on that in a bit.)

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Man, I was 11 when the original came out. It was an immense cultural phenomenon (as noted by this flick’s script, which treats it like documentary footage).


Should You Watch This Movie?

It’s better than Ghostbusters II. Make of that what you will.


Highlight and Low Point

Seriously, the fan service herein reaches the point where it ceases to be evocative of actual audience identification and instead seemingly exists only to assure said audience that fan service is included in the package. It’s not as incestuous as the Spider-Man ouroboros (or that of Star Wars) … but this is just one picture. As for inclusion, Spengler’s granddaughter is depicted as being “on the spectrum.” Meanwhile, the Asian stererotype kid’s only given name is “Podcast.” That’s progress.

Rating From Outer Space: B