Q aka Q – The Winged Serpent (1982)

Written, Produced and Directed by Larry Cohen
LARCO PRODUCTIONS

Though this would appear to be a straightforward picture about a monstrous winged serpent randomly attacking New Yorkers, it’s actually the tale of an Aztec death cult that has managed to revivify its god Quetzalcoatl to … randomly attack New Yorkers, apparently. With that setup, this bonkers production is patently ridiculous on one level, obviously, but it’s buttressed immensely by the contributions of David Carradine, Richard Roundtree, Michael Moriarty and others. (Moriarty’s Jimmy Quinn alone presents quite the psychological study.) With several of the winged serpent’s attacks being blatantly – and thus amusingly – similar, this green-screened stop-motion monster extravaganza even manages to throw in an undercover cop purporting to be a mime. Larry Cohen, ladies and germs.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

A movie called “Q” about an inexplicable threat to ordinary citizens appealed to my sense of irony, or something. (Coincidentally, Moriarty is an expatriate American holding Canadian citizenship who once claimed he was starting a third party for “serious conservatives,” The Realists.)


Should you Watch This Movie?

Cohen knows how to make an entertaining film.


Highlight and Low Point

POWELL: “What I want to know is, how the hell does this tie in with the murders and the mutilations?”


SHEPARD
: “Well, that’s what brought it back … awakened it from its … centuries of sleep.

This thing has been … prayed … back into existence.”

POWELL: “Right.”

Hmm, maybe it’s not an accident this flick is called “Q” after all. Do your own research, people. Six-time National League All-Star Ron “Penguin” Cey, who played the last of his 12 seasons with the L.A. Dodgers in 1982, has a small role as “Detective Hoberman.” Was this a sly
reference to longtime Village Voice film
critic J. Hoberman? DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH.

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−

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+

Wolfen (1981)

Directed by Michael Wadleigh
A King-Hitzig Production

For years, I managed to remain confused as to whether I’d seen this (werewolf) picture, because in my mind I eternally conflated it with The Howling. (It didn’t help that both were released the same year.) Usually, I managed to clear up my confusion by remembering that “Howling” has Dee Wallace in it, and that’s the one I’d actually seen. Yet I still wondered if I’d ever watched this flick, so I decided to lay that question to rest. Turns out I’d never seen it. Turns out it isn’t even about werewolves! Turns out it’s a bit unclear exactly what kind of movie it is, but I can tell you it involves “Indians,” hotchpotch Native American mythologisms, wolves, some prescient Homeland Security-type apparatus, domestic and international terrorism, an NYPD detective who’s British and pairs up with a heavily armed police psychologist, a weirdo who works at the zoo, and I’m probably forgetting some other stuff. To sum up: if you’re not sure you’ve seen it … you haven’t.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I just “explained” that!



Should You Watch This Movie?

Not if you’re looking for werewolves.


H
ighlight and Low Point

The main “Indian” character is played by Edward James Olmos, which is at least somewhat curious given that many Native Americans are employed in bit parts or small supporting roles. The terrorism subplot seems really incidental. The wolves wind up being arbitrarily selective about their victims, and the alpha is pure white, although if that was explained, I missed it. Allegedly, the ruined church was built and destroyed just for this production, which seems insanely wasteful given what’s revealed by the actual footage of the South Bronx environs. The “wolfen,” uh, POV segments are … idiosyncratic.

Rating From Outer Space: C

Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers (1992)

Directed by Mick Garris
Ion Pictures/Victor & Grais

In case you thought the problem with movies made from S. King novels and stories was the difficulty in translating to the silver screen either their length and heft (IT, The Stand, The Dead Zone, etc.) or their sometimes dodgy supernatural motifs (Christine, say), I have bad news to report. This budget B flick was written FOR the cinema, not adapted from a story, and it, too, has some serious issues preventing it from being taken very seriously. I’m not even talking about the $2 FX, either, although those don’t help out a whole lot. And I’m not even talking about the army of darling kittycats that wind up being the main oppositional force to the, um … the quasi-vampire things. (Diehard King aficionados, oops, I mean “Constant Readers,” will recognize the energy-sucking conceit later employed by Doc Sleep.) Hack director Mick Garris – King’s handpicked fave – takes a tale with promise and lets it devolve into gimcrackery over its latter third. Consider (blame) the source, I guess.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Cats and the oeuvre of Stephen King: two things for which I have a soft spot in my heart (if not my head).


Should You Watch This Movie?

Look, I just don’t know what to tell you. I mean, I watched Stephen King’s The Night Flier, too, you know.


Highlight and Low Point

My notes for this picture – yes, really – include that the “deputy sheriff” cruises around happily singing Garry Lee and Showdown’s immortal “The Rodeo Song,” which I first heard about from a friend in, like,  fifth grade, disbelieving such a song could really exist until he proved it. My notes also indicate that apparently one can blow up a cop car by merely shooting it.

Rating From Outer Space: C−

Slugs aka Slugs: muerte viscosa aka Slugs – The Movie (1988)

Directed by J.P. Simon
Dister Productions

“Based on the novel ‘SLUGS’ by Shaun Hutson.” No, I haven’t read it, but you better believe I’m going to try to track THAT baby down. This entertaining piece of dreck is the sort of film so unconcerned with “verisimilitude” – there we go again – that it sticks a desk and a flag in a room and decides, “Okay! Sheriff’s office.” Said sheriff’s big scene, being dismissive of our well-meaning protagonist (“Mike Brady,” for crying out loud), may remind certain informed viewers of John Vernon’s similar scene in Killer Klowns from Outer Space … which came out the very same year. What a golden age of cinema THAT was! I also got a big “Pieces”* vibe from this picture, mainly due to the utter disregard for any sort of credibility whatsoever – for characters, motivations, acting ability, dialogue, etc. At the end the sewers blow up, which should remind you of … other movies. You get the drift. MIndless fun, and as a bonus, the slugs are kind of unnerving, even seeming threatening. And there’s a LOT of them.

*It happens to be from the same director, which I swear I didn’t know beforehand

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Of course you know the real mystery is why I hadn’t already seen it.


Should You Watch This Movie?

It is a testament to the undying power of schlock cinema.


Highlight and Low Point

WOULD this flick be even better if instead of a toxic waste repository, the underlying explanation given for the presence of rampaging mutant killer slugs was alien involvement, or maybe that the town was built on an “Indian burial ground”? That’s debatable. Use the phrase “You ain’t got the authority to declare happy birthday!” during your next workplace dispute.

Rating From Outer Space: B

Deathmoon (1978)

Directed by Bruce Kessler
A Roger Gimbel Production
For EMI Television Programs, Inc.

A plodding would-be potboiler that could serve as a one-item time capsule, this made-for-TV werewolf picture doesn’t have a lot to offer aside from its woefully inadequate scenes of hinted-at transformations … until it eventually deigns to try to depict said transformation, and hoo boy. For the most part, this is basically a blasé romantic drama, with a bunch of quasi-flashbacks and some ancient-cursed-missionary mumbo-jumbo about the, uh, Ileoha-kapuatiki. (It’s set in Hawaii.) A pointless subplot involves someone robbing guests of the luxury resort during a weeklong business conference, along with some attendant job tension between security personnel. Questions might plague you were you to give any of this rot a second thought – I mean, questions besides “why the hell am I watching this?” Like, our suffering shape-changer bears the curse via his grandfather, but … was the family unaware of this condition in the interim, between generations? Does it only affect him/them when in Hawaii? At the source, as it were? And how long does a full moon last, anyway? It keeps happening!


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Boy, I wish I had a good answer for that question. (It was part of the Internet Archive VHS “haul.”)



Should You Watch This Movie?

There is no reason you should ever do such a thing.


Highlight and Low Point

Seriously, when dude went to Hawaii, had there been no full moon, would he ever have known he bore the curse? Doesn’t the moon have the same effect everywhere? The moment when the security underling tells his chief that his diligent legwork has suggested that they’re dealing with a werewolf, and gets laughed at because that’s a ridiculous suggestion, was appreciated by this viewer.

Rating From Outer Space: F

Jaws Of Satan (1981)

Directed by Bob Claver
A Bill Wilson Production

This entertaining incompetence spotlights an endearing and enduring theme enrapturing schlock filmmakers since time immemorial – the Giant Deadly Snake that strangely resembles … an ordinary snake. (Decidedly not a giant one, either.) By the end of this ridiculous romp, we are supposed to believe the snake – a defanged cobra whose subordinate serpents get to be represented by blatantly superimposed hissing on the soundtrack – is actually Satan Himself. We are never told why, just as we never learn anything about the supposed familial curse dogging our beleaguered priest. But at least we get an analogue for our current times, as the local business big shot and his mayoral pal do their damnedest to circumvent a curfew that local health officials try to impose. “There have always been snakes in this area,” the dog track proprietor grumbles. But when his daughter, Christina Applegate, is bitten, well, his wife changes his tune tout de suite. Longtime TV producer/director Claver (Charles in Charge! The Munsters Today! Small Wonder!) applies his small-screen acumen to what appears to be his only feature-film directorial credit.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

A picture about a GDS that invokes Satan ain’t getting ignored around here.


Should You Watch This Movie?

Do you enjoy laughing at snakes? I’d recommend it if you like laughing at snakes.


Highlight and Low Point

Small Wonder somehow lasted for 96 episodes. The world is a strange and awful place sometimes. This production, meanwhile, features a burgeoning romance between the local doctor and her imported herpetologist as a subplot. The facial snakebite makeup is appealingly grotesque, the priest seems to smirk a lot, and dammit, that dog track means revenue, and it’s gonna open. Whatever scene he’s in, the sheriff is marvelously unconvincing.

Rating From Outer Space: D+

Mimic (1997)

directed by guillermo del toro
miramax films

Now that I know this is a Guillermo Del Toro production – I mean, now that I know who that is, as I didn’t when I first saw this film – it seems so obvious. The bugs, the labyrinthine depths, the hokum religiosity, the brooding shadows. And the heaviness. Everything’s so portentous, all the time. But when you’re dealing with hybrid mutant DNA experiments threatening the very existence of man – nay, humankind – I guess that’s allowed. So come on, let’s get metaphysical. Personally, I always enjoy it when movies take advantage of the legendary lost/abandoned/forgotten/secret NYC subway stations. It’s like its own Atlantean fable at this point. But anyway, Mira Sorvino plays an entomologist who something something something the CDC and uh-oh now there’s a Rob Bottin creature creation. And a bit of a wannabe action flick besides.

why did i watch this movie?

As has been a burgeoning mini-theme lately, I saw this in the theater BITD, and had been meaning to recontemplate it ever since I screened that other Del Toro picture.

should you watch this movie?

It’s nothing too memorable, really.
(Hell, I didn’t even remember THAT.)

highlight and low point

Flimflam “science” is always good for a laff, and there’s a moment or two where the shivers might get to you, but overall this is kind of a trudge through the mundane … which is sorta remarkable, given that it concerns bioengineered insects that can convincingly portray people. Ms. Sorvino does not come across as a terribly convincing entomologist, though I will admit, I haven’t met any to whom I can compare her. The very final moments of touching humanity in this film are fraudulently cloying postproduction dubs. This version was the “director’s cut,” which okay, sure.

rating from outer space: C

The Killer Snakes aka 手 殺 蛇 (1974)

directed by kuei chi hung
shaw brothers

Unusually wistful for an exploitation movie with multiple rapes and plenty of animal abuse – plus more than one guy slapping around more than one woman – this product of the Hong Kong studios of Runme and Run Run Shaw certainly provides plenty of fodder for your rumination. That doesn’t much excuse most of what goes on here, but at least there’s a plot and a story, more or less, to provide some underpinning. And oh man, the snakes. SO many snakes, so often very clearly being hurled across the length of the shot so as to emulate leaping or springing. The secondary plotline concerns what we now call “human trafficking” but just used to call “prostitution.” Plus probably the relationship between greed and rapacity. Boy howdy, is that reading too much into a picture called “The Killer Snakes.”

why did i watch this movie?

I won’t lie, it promised to be both lurid and somewhat preposterous. I may have expected more sheer lunacy and less slice-of-life grittiness, however. With the sadism confined to humans.

should you watch this movie?

Although it’s kind of amusing when our protagonist, “Keto,” urges his serpent friends to bite and kill his enemies or oppressors, this is a largely downbeat and depressing feature. Who’d’ve guessed that from a tale of a (literally) beaten-down loser who enlists an army of ophidians to avenge him, and even to perform what he claims is a mercy killing?

highlight and low point

Snakes get mutilated, tortured and killed. Maybe I need to vet these pictures better, potential spoilers be damned. Keto’s one outfit keeps reassembling itself, Hulk-like, no matter what happens to him. At one point, he springs monitor lizards on his victim. Those aren’t even snakes, man.

rating from outer space: c−