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

Claw (2021)

Directed by Gerald Rascionato
Just ONE More Productions/The Adventurers Club/Exit Strategy Productions

A tough offering to judge, given its brevity (barely over an hour) and its clear, uh … evolution … as a minimally cast mini-feature – by which I mean, normally I’d presume such choices were made to keep costs low, but there’s a lotta FX necessitated by the plot, which I can’t imagine being all that cheap. They don’t look particularly cheap, you dig, and I am ordinarily no fan whatsoever of CGI and its affiliated chintz. Overall, this is a fairly impressive featurette, with the strongest evidence of its “highly independent” …  nature … being the dialogue too often presenting as just exactly that. (A script being performed, that is, rather than the output of naturally occurring conversation.) And as you may have guessed from my lame hints – or if you’ve seen the trailer or any of the promotional materials, such as the poster pictured here – this film is centered around a large, dangerous creature that is not exactly appropriately situated in a modern setting.

Okay, fine, it’s a dinosaur.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

The trailer executed its function well, apparently.



Should you Watch This Movie?

You’ve probably got a spare hour or so.


Highlight and Low Point

This film’s biggest drawback was that I found myself thinking, “you know, there’s only three or four people in this to save money for the FX” and so forth. Granted, that didn’t exactly take me out of the moment or anything – it’s not as though reality was at issue. Characters and raptor alike are cleverly envisioned and deftly handled, and the endeavor succeeds without gore, nudity or crudity. That’s pretty remarkable, honestly. What appears to be a very amateurish false ending leads to a slightly predictable conclusion.

Rating From Outer Space: B+

M.D.C – Maschera di cera aka La Máscara de Cera aka The Wax Mask (1997)

directed by sergio stivaletti
Cine 2000/mediaset/france film international

Dedicated to Lucio Fulci by its production team, due to some convoluted backstory (“Dario Argento Presenta”), this very mannered extravaganza boasts a visual sheen not quite in keeping with its turn-of-the-20th-century period setting, and spins a tale that, while engaging enough as it unspools, is somewhat undermined by a gaggle of absurdities at its center. The enigma that compels it doesn’t stay very mysterious for very long, despite the labored attempts by virtually everyone in the cast to vamp it up as much as possible, and the sumptuous costuming is somewhat hilariously at odds with what one must term the futurism at its core. (Were one inclined to be unkind, it could be called anachronistic, but as it’s a horror fable, what would even be the point.) At heart, it’s just kind of silly, another victim of the genre’s inability to stop rewriting stories that weren’t that interesting the first time around. See, it takes place in a WAX MUSEUM, would you believe. And what’s more!

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I’d have to guess at this point, but it’s most likely the release date, and maybe the intrigue underlying its production. (Argento wanted to help Fulci make a film, but Fulci died before filming began.)


Should You Watch This Movie?

It’s nearly interesting at times.


Highlight and Low Point

Despite its efforts, this production doesn’t do a very effective job of making it appear to be 1900 – it is too obvious that you are looking at sets and costumes. (The steampunk Re-Animator setup doesn’t much help in that regard, either.) The gore and pseudogore FX are pretty good, befitting the nominal director’s usual professional pursuits. The absurdly blatant ripoff of The Terminator, on the other hand …

Rating From Outer Space: C−

Dead Heat (1988)

Directed by Mark Goldblatt
Helpern/Meltzer

A movie starring Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo that somehow failed to set the box office ablaze – it grossed under $3.6 million – this action-horror about two cops who don’t let being killed in the line of duty stop them from avenging themselves on the criminal schemers plaguing L.A. with a rash of undead perps is, uh … yeah, YOU try ending that sentence, chief. This picture might’ve worked, but something about it never quite connects. A strictly B-level feeling prevails despite the simulacrum of a big-league budget. Like, Piscopo gets the meathead bro dialogue – go figure – but the patter is too ill-timed to generate buddy cop vibes. Meanwhile, the Williams character (“Roger Mortis,” ho ho) has so little charisma he could be sleepwalking – and that’s before he dies. Also, the extensive FX are a little too glitchy, etc., etc., and so forth. Instead of the cult classic its best future self could’ve become, it’s instead a nearly forgotten obscurity, as far as I can tell.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

This doesn’t answer the question, but I’m pretty sure I read a minor blurb about it around the time it came out.


Should You Watch This Movie?

Do the inner workings of Hollywoodland nag at you? Do you obsess over who gets the plum roles, and why? Are you driven to distraction trying to puzzle out how some projects ever got the nod? Buddy, have I got a story for you.

Highlight and Low Point

Obviously, they never figured out how to market this – and it’s hard to blame them, even if reasonably expecting that problem to have been considered beforehand. But generic cinematic police trappings aside, this film mainly evokes the previous year’s Dragnet and Real Men. Remember those?

(Exactly.)

Rating From Outer Space: B