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−

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−

The Edge of Hell aka Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (1987)

directed by john fasano
thunder films inc.
music by “the tritonz”

That this is somehow not the worst movie I’ve ever seen is really rather remarkable – and should probably be kind of embarrassing – given that not one single aspect of filmmaking is presented here with even the barest glimmer of competence. When the ending decides to play explicitly for humor, it underscores just how terrible the acting, pacing, delivery and screenwriting has been all along. Basically an extended music video for a fake band displaying most of the worst traits of the nadir of the hair metal era, this production also boasts some of the stupidest demonic puppetry imaginable and a surprise denouement that beggars belief nearly as strongly as it punches holes through whatever scant structure allegedly had been supporting the ramshackle works. And the songs! Maybe they were supposed to be humor as well, I don’t know, but “We Accept The Challenge” alone nearly had me weeping with incredulous near-hysteria.

why did i watch this movie?

Yeah, I was wondering that, too, until I remembered that the director also helmed the following year’s Black Roses.

should you watch this movie?
highlight and low point

After the interminable opening scene(s) of this shot-on-video, uh, epic, its audience is treated to one of “John Triton” (“Jon Mikl Thor”) driving a van, from various angles and vantage points, for four solid minutes. “Holy crow,” I thought to myself, “this barely rises to the level of ‘inept.’” Was I ever in for a treat. The band rocking out is unintentionally (?) hilarious, the multiple sex scenes are absurd, the wandering “cinematography” is often pointless, the FX are silly, the “story” is inane (what there is of it), and the “acting” is cover-your-eyes awful. The music’s the BEST part!

rating from outer space: D+

I Drink Your Blood (1970)

written and directed by david durston
a Jerry gross presentation

A dyed-in-the-wool exploitation quickie, the only thing surprising about this little absurdity is its relative restraint. Don’t get me wrong – there’s plentiful wallowing in sleaze here, but it’s kinda presented as an afterthought. Sure, limbs (and a head) are hacked off, and multiple animals are slaughtered, but the sexual assault happens off camera and minimal nudity is shown, even when it’s implied that an entire construction crew runs a train on an overly willing female. True, the sleepy little town goes haywire after a young boy injects meat pies with rabies-infected blood and sells them to a roving band of hippies … hmmm. Perhaps this reviewer has grown jaded. BE THAT AS IT MAY, this film mainly revels in its presentation of the idiotic “satanic” pretensions of the ill-defined “cult” at the center of the action, and dwells lovingly on its ensuing violent insanity. Ultimately, the picture descends into a disjointed and haphazardly edited sequence of uncompelling chase scenes. Those where the survivors defend themselves with water display a highly entertaining ignorance of why the deadly disease was once known as “hydrophobia.”

why did i watch this movie?

I’ve got a reputation to uphold.

should you watch this movie?

Do you like drugs? Do you like killin’? Do you like listenin’ to “Boogie Chillen’”?

highlight and low point

The cult leader’s opening oration includes “Satan was an acidhead” and “together we’ll all FREAK OUT!” Additional period dialogue adds this observation: “He’s not drunk, stupid, he’s been doped – with that stuff that they call ‘LSD.’” The sometimes alarming soundtrack often alternates between hypnotic monotony and electronic experimentations.  Bonus points were granted for a character using the phrases “the colored boy” and “the fuzz” in the same conversation.

rating from outer space: c−

Altered Skin (2018)

written and directed by adnan ahmed
indiecan entertainment/federgreen entertainment/empirical films/md productions

The first film I’ve ever seen lensed in Karachi, Pakistan, this Canadian production tells a tale of a drug company withholding research on a potential cure for a rapidly spreading virus in order to maximize profits on its patent treatment, and also probably to enhance the corporation’s market value prior to its sale. So while the premise is hardly farfetched, the disease in question, which produces implacable cannibal hordes reminiscent of those in 28 Days Later (but much slower, of course), stretches the bounds of credulity a bit. Disclaimer: I am not a molecular biologist or immunologist or whatever, so hey, maybe quickly mutating viruses could have such an effect. Anyway, it’s all enmeshed in a conspiracy to prevent the Liberal Media from interfering with Big Pharma’s imprimatur. I may be putting my own spin on that, sorry.

why did i watch this movie?

“While caring for his ailing wife, an American engineer in Pakistan stumbles upon a deadly pharmaceutical conspiracy.”

should you watch this movie?

Though the zombie approximation of the mysterious illness isn’t the freshest concept, given the corporate American drug/healthcare/insurance complex, along with the questionable government administration or oversight of same, themes here may be of interest nonetheless.

highlight and low point

Authority barely exists in this pic’s verisimilitude, which I will accept as representative of actual reality. A telling quotation: “You know, if you could ever fix a problem by denying it ever existed, this place? Would be a fucking Utopia.” The unshakeable probity of the protagonist might be a touch overdone, but as a questionably allied henchman of the curative cartel accuses, he IS essentially acting out of selfish interest, so that’s really just a bit more food for thought.

rating from outer space: B+

Friday the 13th Part VII − The New Blood (1988)

directed by JOHN CARL BUECHLER
friday four, inc./sean s. cunningham films/paramount pictures

It’s impressive to stand out for idiocy in a series whose main character’s backstory makes no sense whatsoever – if Jason’s so devoted to his mother, why’d he hide from her in the woods for 20 years? – and wherein he would later not only hijack a pleasure cruise but be found aboard a spaceship – having previously become immortal after being revivified by a couple of lightning strikes – but “The New Blood” manages to do just that, and not least because this chapter of the story introduces a young lady who has absolutely no control over her telekinesis right up to the point at which she can suddenly command it with pinpoint accuracy. Oh, and it takes place at Crystal Lake, where the accursed campgrounds have been upgraded into stately lakeside manses by some no-doubt visionary land speculator with a heart of pure graft. In addition, the murderous antagonist finds a  veritable Home Depot there on the lakeshore, as he has a seemingly unlimited supply of dangerous weapons at hand.

why did i watch this movie?

A yeomanlike review of “A New Beginning” by The Devil’s DVD Bin prompted my viewing the installments of this series I either hadn’t seen or couldn’t recall seeing.

should you watch this movie?

Scrutinizing five consecutive franchise flicks proposed an explanation for my uncertain recollection.

highlight and low point

Jason appears in multiple successive scenes with different woods tools; it had me yelling at the film as though I were watching it at a late-night festival screening with other yahoos. No attempt is made to justify the extremely dubious ending, and there’s little gore despite all the new weapons. Victims still die instantly upon being stabbed, at least.

rating from outer space: D[umb]

Demons (1985)

directed by lamberto bava
dacfilm, rome

A couple days ago, my brother says to me, “I was just thinking about the video for [Mötley Crüe’s] ‘Too Young to Fall in Love’ … what the hell WAS that? It made no sense.”

I thought for a moment. “That was the one with the ninjas, right?” I asked.
(It was. But maybe they were “samurai.”)

Well, sub out the ninjas for zombies – wait, sorry, “demons” – and exchange the “Asian” setting for a fortress-like movie theater in the middle of Berlin, add a lot of screaming … and it still might be more coherent than this Italian splatterfest. Clearly scripted with its eye firmly set on the teenage metalhead demographic (a key rampage is set to “Fast as a Shark” by Accept, and so forth), this blaring mess managed to give me a headache while also inducing boredom. Seriously, I was metaphorically glancing at my watch while enduring this nonsense. The ending sequence somehow manages to make even less sense than the rest of the film … in which Nostradamus is to blame for demonic carnage.

why did i watch this movie?

It sounded as though it would be a lot of fun. The novelty wore off quickly.

should you watch this movie?

It felt REALLY dated, and not just because I was watching a murky VHS upload. Too redolent of MTV, perhaps.

highlight and low point

This is the sort of flick wherein the language barrier makes the dialogue sound like phrases read from a textbook, and where the characters narrate all the action and describe everything they’re doing. Example: Three characters are watching a demon claw its way out of a woman’s back. One of them exclaims, “Look at her back!” They are all already looking at her back.

rating from outer space: D+