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.