Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bad Movie Endurance Test 15: Alien Contamination

A ship shows up in New York seemingly without a crew, but when Tony Aris, NYPD, investigates with some red shirts, they find the crew all kinds of dead and gruesome-looking. They're also badly made prop mannequins, but that's not a plot point. They also find some evil green eggs that glow, makes a noise that sounds like an oboe masturbating, and then explodes and kills the hell out of people. At some point Colonel Stella Holmes, an ice queen who works for some vague government agency that operates out of a facility with computers that look like they were stolen from the set of the Lost In Space TV show, cheap knock-off Star Trek doors, and guards dressed in the finest vaguely Nazi-esque sci-fi uniforms. This is the first indication that Alien Contamination is set not in the late 70s, but in a future that mostly looks like the late 70s. 

The "is this set in the future?" question is answsered when the third protagonist, Commander Ian Hubbard is recruited. Hubbard used to be an astronaut and came back ranting about eggs or something and was assumed crazy because the other guy on the mission denied his story (this is a plot point). Anyway, since they'd found some evil eggs and Hubbard had seen (possibly non-existent) Martian eggs, he makes about as much sense to recruit for an ill-defined mission of a vague government agency as a random New York cop. Anyway, they all randomly stumble from clue to clue trying to uncover the secret of the ooze  eggs for the rest of the movie. 

The plot is weak, but does meet the basic requirements of a movie plot, there are some adorable attempts at characterization, and the special effects are bad even for 1980, but none of these alone, or even combined, are terrible enough to make Alien Contamination a truly bad music. What takes this movie over the top is the acting. Several of the characters talk in that "old movie bad guy" voice where you expect them to end every sentence with "see?" and say things like, "You'll never take me alive, copper!" The rest enunciate a little too clearly with a vaguely English accent and in a voice that's just loud enough that the dialog comes across as somehow both incredibly melodramatic and an emotionless monotone. If you've ever seen a movie where good actors imitate bad actors, you've seen the acting in Alien Contamination

Takeaway: If there's not an MST3K episode or Rifftrax for this movie, a great opportunity has been lost. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Bad Movie Endurance Test 14: Invasion

Like the HG Wells mini-series that the Sci Fi Fever collection counts as 3 movies, Invasion is a 2-part TV mini-series that the collection counts as 2 movies. Which means I'm 25% of the way through this one. That might be a good thing, since any hope the Wells stuff gave me that this  collection would be more watchable than Freakshow Cinema  was pretty quickly dashed by this Robin Cook novel adapted nonsense.

Luke Perry gets bit by a shiny rock, has CGI stuff happen to his  skin, gets the flu, and then starts acting weird and building exploded laser things out of his girlfriend's CD player. Meanwhile, the rock, which got left  in Pike's hospital room blows up a janitor for no apparent reason other than to bring Kim Cattrall and Jon Polito's characters, a doctor and cop. Then a bunch more rocks fall and the girlfriend, Rebecca Gayheart notices other people making CD player lasers. You'd think these CD player lasers would be important to the plot, but they only get used twice in the whole mini-series (possibly because they require special effects). 

Anyway, Luke Perry is the alien king of earth or something and all the other people who picked up the shiny rocks are his mind slaves except the ones who have a certain blood type and go crazy instead. Luke wants to build this thing that consists of two of those half-a-tin-can-lying-on-its-side style airplane hangers facing each other with lines coming out of them in an Atari-logo kind of shape. He even draws it on his computer. And has "blueprints" of it. And later has it on a chalkboard inside one of the hangars. None of these drawing includes measurements or wiring diagrams or indications of the machinery inside the hangars that create the Atari lines, just the hangars and the lines, making these drawings even less useful than the one Tim Robbins carried around in his sock in The Hudsucker Proxy

Also, for some reason 90210 starts to get all scaly and Voldemorty, which doesn't happen to any of the other people infected by the shiny rocks. Other than becoming alien mind slaves, the only indication that the others are infected is that they flash colored contact lenses whenever it would be convenient for the protagonist to realize that they're aliens. 

Anyway, Cattrall, Gayheart, Politio, and a bunch of people I didn't recognize hole up in Polito's remote cabin to try to find a way to the fight the alien invasion. Luckily, they're able to use THE INTERNET! (because luckily the cop has a connection in his remote cabin era when movies could do things using THE INTERNET!) to find a guy who has access to an abandoned but still operational top secret underground government lab with lots of high tech equipment. Once they get there, they're able to use a "Virtual Reality Microscope" to determine that the shiny rocks contain living things that look like evil shrimp from a DOOM-era video game. They also find a way to reverse the alien infection and come up with a plan to make it into a gas that will clear up the infection almost instantaneously. Those things happen in the span of about 3 minutes, making most of the other 3 hours of the mini-series even more pointless than they already were. Anyway, they do that and everything is good except Luke Perry dies because by this point he's completely an alien or whatever. So basically it's Invasion of the Body Snatchers, only three hours long and with all the stuff that made Invasion of the Body Snatchers good replaced with dumb shit. In the end, the only meaningful contribution this mini-series made to the art of film making was the fact that it presumably provided Polito with a paycheck at some point when the Coen Brothers weren't doing anything. 

Takeaway: If this movie is any indication, my long-held assumption that reading Robin Cook novels would take up valuable time that could be spent doing something more prestigious and meaningful, like writing Battlefield Earth-themed furry porn, was right on the money. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Bad Movie Endurance Test Part 13: The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells

After all the bad movies in the first collection, I decided to save the Best of the Worst collection for later and start watching the Sci-Fi Fever collection, which at the very least doesn't admit its badness right in the title. The first 3 "movies" in the collection are three parts of a mini-series called The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells, which I'm going to review as a single movie here. 

The series was produced by the Hallmark Channel, so the thing that immediately set it apart form the movies in the Freakshow Cinema collection was the fact that it was made by people who do this professionally, with real live actors and costumes and sets and camera work, not somebody's dumbass friends out in the woods with a shakycam. Each episode adapts two Wells stories to the conceit that the stories were based on actual events in the Wells' life. The stories are framed as old man Wells' recollections to an agent of an unnamed secret British science agency about a recently-deceased scientist friend who had worked for the agency and left behind a locked chest full of artifacts of his adventures with Wells. 

Overall, I enjoyed the series. The characters were likable, the plots made sense and stuck to their own rules, and there was even some humor. While I'm not familiar enough with Wells' work (I read War of the Worlds and The Time Machine when I was a kid, but that's about it) to know how faithfully they were retold here or how much they were altered to fit the "really happened to Wells" narrative, the tone of the stories fit my idea of turn-of-the-century science fiction. I was especially happy that the writers who adapted the story didn't feel the need to "update" any of the stories to fit modern science. For example, the story involving Martians stayed about Martians. No need to move them to some other planet just because we now know there aren't any Martians. 

Takeaway: Kind of plays out like a late 19th Century version of Fringe

Friday, November 8, 2013

Bad Movie Endurance Test 12: Tuck Bushman and the Legend of Piddledown Dale

Doesn't the title Tuck Busman and the Legend of Piddledown Dale sound delightful. It sounds like it should be a comical Hound of the Baskervilles about a brilliant bowler-hatted inspector who uses his keen detective mind to uncover Scooby Doo-style shenanigans in the sleepy village of Piddledown Dale. If I were to make a movie with that title, it would definitely include a wacky chases scene with lots of near-misses and hilarious sight gags.

Of course, I didn't make this movie and it's part of the Freakshow Cinema collection, so I knew it wouldn't live up to the title. I was fully prepared for a darkly lit found footage movie with bad acting and an ambiguous ending. Maybe it would even include some teen-angsty philosophy or a misguided attempt at a social or political message. There would almost certainly be Satanists, witches, or maybe gypsies if this was one of the more creative filmmakers in the collection. Filters and strobe lights were unavoidable.

I wasn't that lucky, either. The film is British, wants to be a comedy, and even has the Scooby-Doo style plot. Unfortunately, the filmmakers define comedy as "wearing fake beards and silly costumes while talking in mostly-unintelligible funny voices." While there are occasional attempts at actual gags, these are so predictable, overused, or unfunny that they make the writers of the later installments of the  ____ Movie series seem like Mel Fucking Brooks by comparison. The result is the kind of movie that's so tedious that the viewers main concern during each scene is how long the scene will last. The answer is always "too long."

The only reason I was able to watch this movie all the way through was that I'd already watched the other 11 movies in the set, so turning this one off would have meant defeat. I kept repeating to myself, "It's only 95 minutes long. It's only 95 minutes long. It's only 95 minutes long." It felt like much longer.

Takeaway: Try to imagine a Monty Python skit written by Dick Cheney and performed by British versions of Daniel Tosh, Pauley Shore, and their closest friends. Then imagine it lasting an hour and a half. Then try to convince yourself that life is still worth living. Don't expect to succeed.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Bad Movie Endurance Test 11: By The Devils Hand: The 666 Killer

The penultimate movie in the Freakshow Cinema Collection, By The Devils Hand: The 666 Killer, despite its lack of titular apostrophes, has much better production values and acting than most of the others. If only the same could be said about the plot. The flick begins with the only-ever-seen-from-the-shoulders-down 666 Killer's murder of the final victim of his killing spree from 25 years ago. During the opening credits, we learn from a news reporter that he killed 6 women over 6 days in 6 different ways and buried them in a mass grave with a 6 carved in the last victim's forehead, which would by my count make him the 6666 killer, but apparently their grammar expert is also their math expert. 

Oh, and the 666 Killer's kid was watching him murder his victims. If we allow that the series of events in this movie constitutes a plot, that's important to it. 

After the credits, some random bimbo gets kidnapped and then the movie moves to what seems to be a completely different movie about office politics at an office that does something unspecified but very office-like. The characters in this...I'll say drama...are: 
  • Jamie, The Survivor Girl: Despite a consensus around the office that she's incompetent and the fact that she's been showing up late to work looking strung out, has just been promoted and given the company's most important account for whatever it is they do there. This seems like a bad business plan, but mine involves magical hobos and ponies with lasers, so I'm not going to throw stones. 
  • Kevin: Kevin might not be his actual name, but it doesn't matter. I'm not going to look it up, so I'm going to call him Kevin. Kevin is Jamie's boss and may be a sexual predator. Despite Jamie's widely-lauded inability to do her job or even show up for work, Kevin has risked his career to go to bad for her, possibly due to the the "probably a sexual predator" thing. 
  • Marnie: The office bitch, who wanted the job Jamie got but didn't get it because she used to fuck Kevin. 
  • Scott: The office geek who knows everything that's going on. 
Early on, we find out that Jamie is having stop-motion hallucinations of a guy in a BucketHead mask (or maybe an Edward Cullen mask painted white, Mike Myers style), which is why she's having sleep issues. Apparently that's where this will intersect with the whole 666 Killer thing. We also meet The Guy From The Gym Who Is Obviously The Killer (at least after the second scene he's in) and discover that Jamie's hallucinations and oversleeping are happening because the killer is drugging her water, and that Marnie is in cahoots with the killer. It's never really made clear what Marnie thinks the killer is getting out of the cahooting; if she knows he plans to kill Jamie, she must really want that promotion. 

While this is going on, we also see the killer kill five other women. In a lot of movies, there's at least some kind of token attempt to make the viewer identify with the victim in some way so there's a sense of loss when they die. This movie doesn't have time for that shit. Except for the chick who got kidnapped right after the credits, we don't see these women until they're chained up and scantily clad in the torture dungeon about to get killed. This could be a clever statement about the role of women in horror film, but I kinda doubt it. At some point we find out there are two killers, probably the original 666 Killer and the kid that was watching 25 years ago. 

After a long loop of scenes where people do stuff in the office, Jamie has trouble sleeping and hallucinates, and the killer kills random chicks, the killer finally goes after Survivor Girl, but when he takes off his BucketHead/Edward Cullen mask (which is a serious breach of masked killer union rules, I might add), he's not The Guy From The Gym Who Is Obviously The Killer! WHAT A TWIST! . Luckily, one of the EMTs who comes to haul the killer away is The Guy From The Gym Who Is Obviously The Killer, who reveals himself to be the killer's brother before hijacking the ambulance. When they get back to the torture dungeon, The Guy From The Gym Who Is Obviously The Killer reveals that even though Survivor Girl got away, he's found a substitute sixth victim. If you've ever read an EC Comic, you can probably guess who it is. The closing scene is a bunch of news reports about the 666 Killer's latest spree, so I'll at least give them points for framing symmetry. 

Takeaway: Completely forgettable, but not actively painful to watch. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Bad Movie Endurance Test 10: Dark Measures Gang Warfare

Dark Measures: Gang Warfare starts out with a message from the "lead actress" (their description, not mine) about how domestic violence is bad, which is kind of weird because the blurb doesn't give any hints that this movie is about domestic violence. That's because it's not. Apparently the "actress" is just really against domestic violence, which is a good thing. That's the most positive thing I can say about anyone involved with this movie, because holy shit it's terrible.

Have you ever seen Wes Craven's Last House On the Left? This movie is kind of like that, only if you took out all the things that make that movie work and replace them with random plot complications (and accompanying plot holes),  characters with less depth than the Afflek duck, bad acting, bad camera work, bad sound, bad fight choreography, bad special effects, bad music, bad stuff, badness, more  badness, and some pure essence of bad just to make sure  there's enough bad. I've seen a lot of  bad movies and I've never found myself fantasizing about horrible things happening to the actors (not the characters--none of them are interesting enough to want to watch die) and filmmakers before, but if you told me that the entire cast and crew of this movie were infected with some kind of horrible, flesh-eating disease, I'd probably giggle for at least ten minutes straight.

Takeaway: It was bad.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bad Movie Endurance Test 9: Glitter Goddess: Queen of the Sunset Strip

Pro-Tip: If making your biopic requires you to write it, produce it, narrate it, and play most of the roles in it, it might be worth asking whether there needs to be a biopic about you. Llana Lloyd, the Clive Turner-like "talent" behind Glitter Goddess: Queen of the Sunset Strip did not ask this question.

The blurb for the movie reads: "Frustrated with her family life, Llana Lloyd rebels by worshiping Alice Cooper, becoming one of the most prolific rock and roll groupies of the 1970s." It should have read "Frustrated with her family life: Llana Lloyd," because that's the bulk of the movie. There are a few scenes in a "club" on the "Sunset Strip" (I'm guessing someone's garage, with  set design that would be embarrassing for a middle school play), and a scene or two with a guy in one of the worst Alice Cooper costumes I've ever scene, but most of the movie is about how Llana's mother was a mean old dyke.

Apparently Llana did the talk show circuit in the 80s, when having a gay parent was scandalous, because probably a third of the movie consists of footage from talk shows (one has a very young Oprah Winfrey and some white dude). Later on in the movie we find out that in the late 80s Llana was artificially inseminated and married a gay man, but I'm sure that had nothing to do with the talk shows losing interest in her gay mother. Aside from archive footage, the movie also has a lot of home movies and photos with narration that wouldn't be out of place in a low-budget educational film about truck farming or something. The third component of the movie are the re-creations of actual events that might have happened, but probably without so much melodrama and so many bad wigs. I've seen mattress commercials with better acting, better sets, better camera work, and more convincing dialogue. Fortunately, it's so bad and everyone involved seems so oblivious to how bad it is that it's kind of hilarious, if way too long.

Takeaway:  If you've ever wondered what Dancin' Outlaw would have been like if it were "A Jesco White Film," this is probably as close as you'll get.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Bad Movie Endurance Test 8: Indemnity: Rage of a Jealous Vampire

So this guy's running through these grainy, badly-lit woods. There's a girl chasing him. She's a vampire. Luckily, he catches a ride to a bar where despite being pompous, unlikable, poorly lit, and surrounded by bad generic pop country music, he befriends the folksy, annoying bartender. Except for a couple of scenes of the vampire chick making her way through town and an incident where the pompous unlikable guy beats up some redneck troublemakers, the majority of the movie consists of pompous unlikable guy explaining that the vampire girl (though he doesn't call her that) wants him dead but he can't kill her for some reason and trying to convince the folksy bartender to kill her for him. When she shows up all vamped out, that's what happens right before we find out that pompous unlikable guy is also a vampire! Did I blow your mind? I did, didn't I?

Every single aspect of Indemnity: Rage of a Jealous Vampire is bad, with acting and dialog competing with lighting for the "Thing Done Most Incompetently" award. It's so bad that there are moment's of The Room-like comedy gold, but they're too few and far between to make this crap watchable. The best thing about this movie is that it's only an hour long.

Takeaway: Moments of "so bad it's good," but they're fleeting.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Bad Movie Endurance Test 7: Cold Creepy Feeling: Paranormal Excorcism

You may have noticed that the titles of many of the movies I've been reviewing have subtitles. I just checked, and this is true of all but two movies in the current collection. Maybe the filmmakers think they make the movie sound more impressive. Maybe they're fans of Mark Rein "cool dot" Hagen (co-producer of TV's Kindred: The Embraced). Or maybe it's that subtitles are traditionally separated from the main title with colons. And as you know, the word "colon" can also refer to a part of the digestive system. Is it possible that the people who name these movies are subtly warning potential viewers that these moves are turds?

Tonight's movie, Cold Creepy Feeling: Paranormal Excorcism, may be the biggest, stickiest, you'll-never get-it-off-your-shoe-no-matter-how-hard-you-try turd I've stepped on so far. I don't think I've ever been so conscious of the clock while watching a movie in my life. Every 3 to 5 minutes I looked at the clock, reminding myself that there were only X minutes left and that if I stopped watching, the movie would  win. This is a terrible, derivative, 20-minute movie with 70 minutes of filler. As you can probably guess from the second half of the title, it's basically a Paranormal Activity movie, but against all odds it's even worse than the movies in what is probably the single worst series of horror movies every made.

I'm not going into any more detail because, once you count the time it took to write this review, this movie has taken away slightly over 100 minutes of my life, and that's at least 99 more minutes than it deserves.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Bad Movie Endurance Test 6: Order of One: Kung Fu Killing Spree

As you may remember, Order of One: Kung Fu Killing Spree was the move title that made me risk five bucks on one of the bad movie collections I've been making my way through. I'm happy to say I was right. For the first time since I started this little experiment, I got to see a movie that was actually enjoyable to watch and I would recommend for a bad movie night. As is often the case, the thing that made the movie was that  the people making it were in on the joke. They were fully aware of their limited capabilities and considerable disadvantages and found a way to turn them into something that wasn't a steaming pile of zombie shit.

The movie opens with a reporter in a diner interviewing some guy for a story, though before we can discover the nature of the story a couple of cops come in with a prisoner they're transferring to a high security prison. Then some lady assassins dressed like Austin Powers extras show up and start shooting up the place. The convict escapes the diner and one of the assassins follows him, and during this fight we get the first hint these people might know what they're doing when the convict uses an INTERNAL ENERGY SUMMONS! to break his handcuffs. We know  he's using an INTERNAL ENERGY SUMMONS! because it appears on the screen in great big letters in front of a red star burst.

The convict gets away, but not before the reporter jumps into the car he's stealing (which happens to belong to the reporter) carrying a sword he got from the interview subject. We know from the opening narration that this sword was forged from the Spear of Destiny, so it's chock  full of Jesus blood and magical powers. The reporter explains that they have to get the sword to a group called The Order. After they exposition, we get the second clue that these guys know what they're doing in the form of a scene break: freeze frame, fade to monochrome, zoom in. Ok, they know they're making a bad 70s action movie. Good for  them! Pretty much every scene ends like that, with appropriate accompanying music.

Next we meet Mr. Park, who is obviously the bad guy because he's stern and  Korean and grunts a lot. He wants the sword and dispatches his minions to find it. This leads to a couple hours of the reporter and the convict (Sonny) running into Park's henchmen, often because they fall for really obvious traps like free beer at a strip club (because a movie like this has to have a scene at a strip club) or a sexy lady with car trouble. Nearly all the people they fight are basically wearing Halloween costumes. In addition to groups like the mod lady assassins and some rockabilly-esque grease monkeys, there are all different types of gangsters, the expected Kung Fu fighters, a cowboy, and so  on.  I wouldn't be surprised if there was a pirate in there somewhere that I just missed.

The fight scenes are mostly competent and what they lack in expertise they make up for with super loud sound effects, gratuitously breakable walls, and--in the case of gunfights--overly bright muzzle flashes, all accompanied by a soundtrack that mixes equal parts Shaft, disco, and Double Dragon-style video games. And of course there are more moves so cool they have to be highlighted on-screen, including SKULL DESTRUCTION FIST!, EYEBALL EXIT PUNCH!, and HEART EXTRACTION FIST! While Sonny uses most of these, a few others get in on the action. One of the more prominent thugs (kind of a street hustler/pimp type with the ability to see the future during the full moon) uses something called the SZECHUAN DON PALM (whatever that is), and even the reporter takes down a bad guy with the DRUNKEN POOL CUE SWIPE! A bit later in the movie, we briefly get an indication that these are kind of a Scott Pilgrim thing when Sonny enters a building with a pistol and the screen goes into FPS mode, complete with stamina meter and ammo count.

So yeah, it's really goofy, some of the acting isn't great, and a couple of the fights go on a  little too long, but it's fun to watch. The real advantage of intentionally trying to make the movie look 30+ years out of date is that it makes the mistakes a lot less blatant. While some of the screw-ups are obviously unintentional, some things are done badly on purpose, so there are times where the line between bad movie making and genre fidelity is  very, very blurry. If you enjoyed Fist of Jesus, you might like this one.

Takeaway: Finally found one that didn't make me want to tear my eyes out. Unfortunately, I'm less than halfway through the first collection. Hopefully I can figure out how to do the EYEBALL EXIT PUNCH! on myself.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bad Movie Endurance Test 5: Below Ground: Demon Holocaust

Maybe it's because I took a few days off, but tonight's movie, Below Ground: Demon Holocaust, seemed especially brutal. The movie starts with a guy explaining that he's a director and there's a zombie apocalypse going on (of course he doesn't call it that, because all zombie movies must pretend they take place in a world without zombie movies) and he's going to film it with a super 8 camera. To show that's it's a super 8 camera (and to keep them from having to do any special effects more complicated than corn syrup and fake teeth), there are random film artifacts and breaks throughout the movie. Kind of like Grindhouse but without the restraint, originality, or actual good movie behind the old film feel. Based on the first ten minutes or so, I assumed this was going to be a collage of poorly-acted, cheaply made shot-for-shot re-enactments of scenes from every other zombie movie.

They couldn't afford that, so except for the opening bits and one grainy scene of TV news, it's just five jerkoffs in a basement talking: Director Guy, Stripper, Douchebag, Holy Guy, and Holy Guy's pregnant wife (who has of course been bitten by one of the zombies). In an explosive beer shit of scenes full of emotionless acting and terrible dialog, we get a book review (not sure if it's of a real book. I could look it up, but I just don't care), a discussion of religion that could have been taken line for line from any internet forum frequented by college freshmen, a very special anti-drug message, and some Jerry Springer type stuff establishing how everyone knows each other (they've all been to the strip club where the stripper works, but unless you're legally brain dead you probably could have figured that out yourself).

Eventually they all start passing a bottle of vodka around and become best friends despite all the interpersonal tensions we didn't care about earlier. So of course start telling their stories. You know that scene in Chasing Amy where Holden is about to propose his brilliant plan and you're thinking, "don't say it, you idiot?" This is kind of like that in that you know exactly what they're going to say. In Chasing Amy, you don't want Holden to say what you know he's going to say because you realize it will end badly and you don't want that to happen because you're emotionally attached to the characters involved. In this one, you don't want them to say what they're going to say because you know it will be predictable crap and, worst of all, is probably going to lead to attempts at DRAMATIC ACTING. It does, it goes on for what feels like the bulk of the movie, and all you can do is hope for the sweet embrace of death--of the actors, the director, the DVD player, yourself, it really doesn't matter after a few minutes, as long as the suffering ends. But it doesn't.

After all of this nonsense finally ends, there's a film break and they tie up the bitten pregnant lady and throw her out of the basement because she's turning into a zombie. The discussion of this decision apparently was the one thing the guy with the camera didn't film because there was an outside chance it would result in a watchable scene. I'm pretty sure that during the "throw out the zombie" scene, the zombie-bitten woman was played by the same actress who played the stripper. This gave me a bit of hope. Maybe the original pregnant zombie lady actress realized what a terrible movie she was involved in and left to do something more rewarding with her life, like re-posting hoaxes on Facebook or artificially inseminating cockroaches or something.

Once the zombified pregnant lady is ousted, the stripper asks the director why he didn't hang himself earlier that day (the suicide plan was part of his dramatic backstory. I won't go into details because it's statistically improbable that anyone cares). He tells her that he saw the camera and it gave him a reason to live. If this is autobiographical, I have something to say to him if he's reading: If it happens again, hang yourself. You having access to a camera will only hurt more people. If nothing else, at least think of the children who might accidentally see your film vomit and lose all faith in humanity. Seriously, kill yourself. Do it now.

After that, talk turns to some of the director's other films (not real, I assume). The first couple of titles are completely generic, but then he mentions one called Werecow. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? You had an idea for a movie called Werecow and instead you made this stinking pile of derivative shit? Really? When you could have made WERECOW?  Kill yourself immediately. Werecow has way to much potential to be trusted to the likes of you.

After another film break, the stripper tells director guy that she's worried because holy man has been praying for hours, even though during his poignant backstory we learned that the zombies made him lose his faith--not sure if that's a hint something's wrong or a plot (and I use that term loosely) hole. Could be either. It doesn't matter, because there is no way that anyone could give two tugs of Warren Ellis's proverbial dead dog's cock. When they go to check on him, he zombies out (even though as far as we know he hasn't been bitten) and bites the stripper. In a final scene that might have been emotional with characters anyone on earth cared about, the stripper asks the director to kill her and he does. It's like Old Yeller, if at the end of Old Yeller the audience let out a collective sigh of relief, thankful that their suffering was finally over. There's no indication of what happens between the director, the douchebag, and the now-zombified holy man after that, but since tying up those loose ends would have meant even more terrible scenes, I'm happy that they left things unresolved.

Takeaway: I wish they would have made Werecow.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Bad Movie Endurance Test 4: Idol of Evil: Hell is Forever

Idol of Evil: Hell is Forever isn't so much a horror movie as a low-impact Indiana Jones wannabe without the exotic locations, exciting action, and Nazis. Except for some truly awful fight choreography and bad special effects at the end, there's a pretty solid 80s made-for-TV movie level of film making and acting here.

The main character is a mythology expert who gets recruited to investigate what happened to an archaeologist who's gone missing while on a super secret government mission. The guy turns out to be the lead character's former mentor, but the two haven't spoken to one another in a while because of a complex web of character relationships that are later revealed even though nobody cares. He's joined by mentor guy's hot (by British standards) young assistant, who's also tied up in the soap opera of relationships, but we still don't care.

Anyway, turns out missing guy was looking for an artifact called the Eye of Kali. You'd think that would have something to do with the Hindu goddess Kali, but you'd be wrong. It was made by Satan by some ancient king who Eye of Vecna-ed it into his head and...I don't know...ruled like an evil king or something. Apparently if you find the king's skull and  put the eye in it, you'll get phenomenal cosmic power or something (represented by a green filter over the camera lens).

Fun fact: Despite having the word "idol" in the title, there's  no actual idol in this movie.

After an hour or so of the two heroes getting then losing the artifacts numerous times in dull action scenes and getting capture dozens of times, they get captured one final time and we discover the movie has [Robot Chicken M. Night  voice] WHAT A TWIST! Despite still not caring, we're then treated to a much-to-long and incredibly dumb final unexciting climax filled with terrible special effects. Afterwards, in a display of  balls that would  make  G. Gordon Liddy proud, they actually set up a sequel. I'm assuming it didn't get made.

Takeaway: Bad, but in a completely forgettable way.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

BMET3: Tales of the Dead: Grim Stories of Curses, Horror, and Gore

In addition to having the longest title, Tales of the Dead: Grim Stories of Curses, Horror, and Gore is from a purely technical perspective the most competently-made movie I've seen so far. It's got logos and shit at the beginning and everything. Nobody told them they should actually light night shoots and there's way to much "look at the discordant noises I can make with my Casio" sound, but the acting is mostly at least community theater level and the camera seems to generally be aimed at where it's supposed to. All in all, solid low-end straight-to-video filmmaking.

The movie tells the story of some Brits who have gathered on Halloween to, I think watch horror movies, though most of the framing makes it seem more like they're telling ghost stories. There are five stories within the story:

  • The first is the story about a woman suffering from Apotemnophilia (a mental disorder that makes you want to amputate your limbs) who for some crazy reason can't get a doctor to chop off her parts. Luckily some random stranger gives her the card of someone who probably doesn't have a medical degree but is willing to help her out. If you've ever seen Tales From the Dark Side or read an EC Comic, you can guess where it goes from there. This is definitely the best of the stories, mainly because it's short and has a beginning, middle, and end. 
  • Next is the story of a kid who loves horror movies and has a dead father and a mother who wants him to get a job. He claims that he's really creative but his "creativity" seems to manifest as vivid hallucinations of being in scenes from classic  horror movies. After a bit of this, his mom sends him to the store for smokes, the movie inexplicably rewinds at high speed, and he gets attacked by Night of the Living Dead zombies. Back in the framing sequence, the actors were blown away, but I didn't  get it. 
  • The third story is about a cop tracking an S&M-themed serial killer. But get this: the cop is also into S&M. After a couple of murders, an old acquaintance from the S&M scene shows the cop a letter (that said way too much and was written too poorly to read on the small screen) and the cop quits his job. That's the end of the story. Maybe whatever the letter said made that seem like an ending, but without any hint what that was,  it kind of feels like they gave up. 
  • The next story is one of those cutting-edge found footage movies, and  the point at which I realized they were supposed to be watching bad movies instead of telling bad ghost stories--this one was VHS because it was, of course, the real tape. Anyway, apparently some filmmakers are planning to make a film about a witch's curse in Northhampton, so we're treated to some scenes of research and some night vision shakycam before everybody presumably gets killed off-screen or something. 
  • The fifth person doesn't have a DVD or a VHS, she has an actual story about a killer who targets people who celebrate Halloween (if they'd made it Christmas, at least they'd have gotten some publicity from Fox News). She explains that he starts by cutting the electricity. Can you guess what happens next? Can you? CAN YOU? 
Takeaway: Just because this is the least awful one so far doesn't mean it's not awful. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bad Movie Endurance Test Part 2: The Curse of Blanchard Hill

The Curse of Blanchard Hill is especially frustrating to watch because there are occasional moments where it seems like at least some of the people involved realize they're making a terrible fucking movie. Unfortunately, they never embrace that fact and keep going back to trying (and failing) to make an actual horror flick. Even worse, it's  a horror flick with a message. Yeah, this one's not for amateurs, kids.

The first thing you need to know about the this movie is that nearly every scene is intercut with still (possibly stock) footage of  trees and  waterfalls and  shit. Out of the 75 minutes of the film, I'd guess that at least 30 of it is stuff you'd expect to see with "God Bless The USA" playing over it as a local TV station somewhere in Kansas ends its broadcast day. I assume that in theory these scenes are there to remind you of the half-ass theme, but mostly they're just boring. 

We open with a guy filming some scenes in the woods (maybe the very scenes that keep intruding upon the movie, I don't know), only to be chased by the cameraman and killed. I guess. He definitely ends up lying int he woods. Twenty-two years later (though it seems longer), we learn that this guy was Victor McShane from a group of campers that includes Victor's nephew or maybe niece (not really sure who the character speaking was talking to when he said "your uncle," and don't really care). Luckily, one of the campers, Gus, has a theory. If you went to college, you'll immediately recognize Gus as the  "deep thinking douchebag philosophy major who thinks deep thoughts" type, with the added bonus of the actor thinking he might be Crispin Glover (he's not). So you're not surprised he has a theory, just annoyed. Anyway, Gus mentions that his Indian friend (because, let's face it, Gus is the kind of guy who's going to constantly work the fact that he has ethnic friends into conversation) told him about how the Indians put a curse on the hill to keep white people away or something. Because Indians love nature, but not in a "cartoonish racial stereotype" way or anything. Anyway, Gus's theory about Victor is that (Gus's words, not mine) "nature raped his soul" and made him a vengeful killing machine. With a machete. Because nature never thought to just skip the meat puppet and have a bear attack people or a tree fall on them or something. 

Over the next 75 minutes, a lot of people get killed by Victor in scenes boasting special effects like I haven't seen since Redneck Zombies. Apparently there are more people per square mile on Blanchard Hill than in most major cities. Most of these people are terrible actors, but not from the usual low-budget school of stilted bad acting. These guys are hams who are terrible actors. There's Ranger Fred, who  sounds like a mix between Shaggy from Scooby Doo and Charlie Brown's teacher (though the second part may just be bad sound--there's one scene that may include exposition but you can't hear what the characters are saying over the crackling of the campfire). There's a sleazy photographer who's convinced some not-at-all-hot lesbians to let him take pictures of them in the woods in exchange for a big bag of flour. No matter how hard you try to keep them from it through sheer force of will, the lesbians get topless before they get killed and  we're "treated"  to what has to be at least two minutes of strobing shots of boobs and chest wound. There's also some other people, all of whom I was thankful to see die, even if they died boringly and badly. Somewhere in there the killer picks up some trash with his machete. Because he's nature's soul-raped servant, and give a hoot, don't pollute.

At some point we also meet a couple of right wing stoner patriot detectives (yeah, I don't really get it either), who are sent to investigate the death of two rednecks who thankfully were killed before they got around to what promised to be a stomach-churning sex scene. After finding a few other bodies, they manage to pass out in the woods without getting chopped up,  but the next morning one of them wakes up and starts freaking out. Since they've been doing drugs non-stop, it's not until he yells dramatically (in his mind, at least), "I won't let you overtake me nature!" that we realize that nature is presumably raping his soul. Fuckin' nature. Rather than being soul-raped, he shoots himself in the head, which wakes up the other cop so we can see a (judging from the music) very sad sepia-toned montage of scenes of the dead guy from earlier in the movie. 

Meanwhile, Gus and one of the other campers manage to survive the night, but she's hurt her leg so Gus decides to go "get help" on his own and promises to come back for her. He steals a car and doesn't seem to be planning on coming back, but the car's owner knows a shortcut through the woods and manages to cut him off, stop him, and conveniently put his gun on the hood of the (still moving at that point) car right before Victor offs him. Then Gus shoots and kills Victor, gets soul raped by nature, goes back and kills the girl, eats her, finds Victor's machete, and kills some hippies who are conveniently camping nearby. 

Some time later, it's winter and the still-living cop has finally come back for revenge. At this point we discover that while Victor kept his fucking mouth shut like a respectable machete killer, Gus is still a pontificating douchebag when he's a vengeful soul-raped servant of nature. At one point he calls himself "Nature's Hand." Thankfully, the cop shoots him and the movie finally ends before this becomes completely unbearable. 

Takeaway: This is one of those "Bob's got a video camera, let's make  a movie" things that's all fun and games until somebody gets some camera filters and starts thinking they're an auteur. The best thing about this film was the mediocre "coffee house lesbian with Emmylou Harris delusions" cover of "She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain" from the opening credits. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bad Movie Endurance Test Part 1: Zombie Genocide: Legion of the Damned

If you live in a small town, sooner or later you have to go to Wal-Mart. It's not a pleasant experience, but sometimes you have no choice. This happened to me recently and it was every bit as awful as you'd expect, (right down to a great big pile of poop--possibly not human--in the middle of the bathroom floor) but I did find something that will turn out to be either kind of neat or even a more harrowing experience than going to Wal-Mart: several collections of what promise to be terrible movies for $5 each.

I  picked up three of these collections. The first was Freakshow Cinema, which features 12 recently made (and based on the first one, I'm guessing mostly amateur-made) horror movies, which I bought entirely because one of the movies is called Order of One: Kung Fu Killing Spree. How could I pass that up? I love me a good Kung Fu killing spree. I also got Sci-Fi Fever, which features 20 sci-fi flicks from a 1948 movie called Counterblast to what looks to be a 3-part mini-series from  2001 called The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells. Of course it was the 1983 Fred Williamson cheese classic Warriors of the Wasteland that really made me buy this one. Finally, I got The Best of the Worst, a collection of epic bad movies including Manos: The Hands of Fate and The Beast of Yucca Flats.

I've always claimed to like bad movies, and now I'm going to put my money where my mouth is. I'm going to watch all 44 or these awful movies. I'm not going to set a time limit on this since some may require a certain amount of recovery time and repeated viewings of Terry Gilliam movies to afterwards restore my faith in the art of cinema. However, once I start watching one of them, I will not stop until it's over, no matter how much I want to. Then I'll post reviews of them here, because presumably some of you also like bad movies but don't want to watch this much crap to find the good bad ones. Consider it a public service.

The first movie on the list is from Freakshow Cinema and is called Zombie Genocide: Legion of the Damned. Watching the opening credits, I was reminded of The Howling: New Moon Rising. Much like Clive Turner before him, Gary Ugarek wore many hats while making this movie: he directed it, stars in it, wrote the original (I'm guessing extremely unpublished) short story it was based on, etc., etc. Unfortunately, Gary is no Clive Turner, and that's really saying something.

Right from the opening credits, you know this is not going to be an easy movie to watch. The soundtrack music sounds almost like an instrumental version of a Cinderella song, and it takes skill to make something made in the 21st Century that starts with knock-off 80s glam rock watchable. This music (or something very similar to it--it's so perfectly bland I couldn't really tell) will appear in the movie a few more times, and when it shows up is actually a welcome change from the steady-drumbeat-dirge-like-seriously-can't-you-hear-how-atmospheric-and-spooky-this-movie-is-even-though-you're-bored-out-of-your-mind? music that dominates the soundtrack.

Anyway, once the Cinderella tribute band finishes, we're introduced to what I will generously call our protagonists, Pony-Tail Man and Bald Guy, one of whom I assume is Gary. Pony-Tail Man has a wife and kid. His pal Bald Guy is recently divorced and likes to party all night (we know this because they mention it about a dozen time in a stilted five-minute conversation). They're going somewhere, and after Pony-Tail Man's wife warns Bald Guy not to let her man get into trouble, they take off in Bald Guy's Sweet Ride (TM). Are they going on an exciting adventure? Of course not, they're going somewhere to shoot some bottles. On the way to their bottle shooting, they talk about...something. You can't really hear them because the music in the car--presumably Gary's band--is a little too loud (it's neither Cinderella nor overdone attempt at atmospheric music, at least). The only thing I made out was some hilarious joke about Keith Richards not being human or something. This was just one example of the fresh, totally original humor Gary wrote into the script. Later on we'll get a "men don't stop to ask for directions" gem and I can only assume there was a "bad airline food" gag somewhere in there that I couldn't hear over the terrible soundtrack.

Meanwhile, back at Pony-Tail Man's place, Mrs. Pony-Tail Man and Pony-Tail Man, Jr. are out in the yard when suddenly there's a noise (I won't go so far as to say a loud noise, but definitely a sound effect). After some voice-overs that make Harrison Ford in Bladerunner sound like a game show host and filler-sound-packed radio announcements (I forgot to mention that the opening scene established that the TV didn't work, presumably because they didn't have the budget to put together a newsroom set), we discover that there was some kind of unspecified terrorist attack. Also, there's  a big traffic jam. At some point, some people stop by and tell Mrs. Pony-Tail Man to lock all the doors and windows and stay in the house, so of course she immediately grabs the kid and leaves. They also make a point to get the dog, but when Pony-Tail Man returns later the dog is still  there, so I can only assume that they have a teleporting dog. You'd think that would be a bigger part of the plot, but Gary never does anything with it. They run over a zombie (which unless you count a couple of shootings is the closest anyone in the movie actually comes to fighting a zombie). Behind them, you see some footage from a zombie walk and a couple of scenes of half-assed zombies--or possibly juggalos--eating chicken livers or something that have been piled onto the bodies of people lying on the ground. Maybe it's the Maryland yokel version of those Japanese restaurants where businessmen eat sushi off a naked woman's body.

While all this is going on, we see scenes from a shelter. There are some scenes of people arriving at the shelter, then a redneck shows up with non-specific but dire warnings that there's no way the people in the shelter will survive. Then the zombies attack (or at least montage threateningly) and manage to kill everyone except the redneck, who bravely hides in the one zombie-proof room in the shelter. After it's all over, he comes out, sees the carnage, and is never seen again. Somewhere during this, Mrs. Pony-Tail Guy (who apparently was able to avoid the traffic jam which is we're told is keeping anyone from going anywhere) arrives at her destination, the home of some guy. He's got a motorcycle AND a John Deere Mower, which I assume is important given the way they were set out showroom-display-style for the camera to lovingly pan over. He's also got  a shotgun. Obviously a guy who can handle some zombie scum (luckily he never has to).

Eventually, about an hour into the movie, we return to Pony-Tail Man and Bald Guy, who are trying to figure out how to get home through the traffic jam. After naming some random road names, they apparently succeed and arrive back at the house where they find a note from Mrs. Pony-Tail Man telling them where she's gone. Apparently it's the home of a survivalist nut who I think is Pony-Tail Man's brother. After promising the dog that they'll come back for him (which seems pointless since we already know the dog can teleport), they easily make their way to the completely-nowhere-near-the-traffic-jam-that's-stopped-all-traffic-in-twelve-states home of Motorcycle Lawnmower Guy.

Six months later, they're still at Motorcycle Lawnmower Guy's house, but it's getting harder to find supplies and Bald Guy is wondering whether they should move on. This planning for the future is no doubt a sign of character growth, since we were told repeatedly in the first five minutes of the movie how he used to party all night and not think about the future. Luckily, the group doesn't really decide what they're going to do and the movie ends. Presumably somewhere out there is a redneck and a teleporting dog, but we never find out what happens to them. I bet they met up and had wacky adventures.

Takeaway: This movie is kind of like The Walking Dead if it were written by gin-drunk Korean child slaves, starred The People of Wal-Mart, and was 80% montages. It might be possible to enjoy this with enough people and booze, but it would have to be very funny people and very strong booze.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Did Patton Oswalt Plagiarize Mr. Rogers?

Following news of the bombing in Boston, comedian Patton Oswalt posted a short piece on Facebook that boiled down to "when bad people do bad things, remember all the good people who rush in to help." Did he steal it from Mr. Rogers?

Of course he didn't. Oswalt credits the central idea of his post to FAKE Gallery founder Paul Kozlowski and Kozlowski, whether he realized it or not, was expressing the same sentiment that Mr. Rogers expressed (on Good Morning America, I think) following 9/11 (chances are good that your Facebook feed is lousy with that meme today as well). Oswalt took the central idea and expanded it into his own mini-essay about the events in Boston.

So why ask whether Patton Oswalt is a thief in my headline? Easy. To make you click. It's called link-baiting, and usually consists of using a headline that suggests something is more controversial than it really is so people will click and share (often without actually reading) the link. This increases your page's rankings on social media sites and search engines and, more importantly, gives you traffic (and ad revenue). Unlike this post, most link-baiting sites will front-load their "stories" with several paragraphs of fluff and quoted text (which we'll get to in a minute) so you have to click through multiple pages of ads before discovering that the source for the controversial fact is some random idiot with absolutely no credentials in the subject being discussed (probably Jenny McCarthy).

Even when these sites aren't creating fake controversy, they're experts in siphoning away other peoples' web traffic by "reporting" on comments or actual journalism from other sources. These "reports" of course, don't offer any analysis or additional information, just enough of a frame to allow them to quote the original content, usually very nearly in its entirety (how many of you first saw Oswalt's comments via Huffpo?). Since these sites are optimized for social media sharing, (and since people are lazy), the site owners are fully aware that most people who see the "story" will share it rather than click a link or do a Google search to share the original source. The practice is somewhere between plagiarism and vampirism. Once you know about it, it's not hard to spot. When you see it, either don't click those links or take the extra step and share a link to the site of the person who actually wrote the content or reported the story instead of the site that's leeching their traffic. Making money off the labors of others without contributing anything meaningful is something Wall Street can handle just fine without help from Buzzfeed.

By the way, it took me every bit of one Google search and one click to reach Oswalt's Facebook post.  If you want to share what he said, link to it so he gets the credit in terms of newsfeed placement and rankings.