Wednesday, May 23, 2018

SNOWBEAST

Snowbeast Movie Review

While enjoying a trip to a ski resort, a group of people face the terrors of a Yeti...or a snowbeast, if you will...on the loose. So a bit of a television history lesson: some younger readers may find this hard to believe, but there once existed a time when a majority of the people in the United States did not have cable television--in fact, there was even a time when cable television did not exist at all, but for the purposes of this lesson, we're not going back quite THAT far. Home video did not exist for much of this, and when that finally became an option, it was very pricey--people used to go to video stores and actually RENT VCRs to watch the movies they rented...I'm not making this up. So short of that, during the late 1970s, the only way for people to see movies was to go to the local theater or drive-in, which, sadly, was quickly becoming  a dying breed, or watch movie on one of the few channels they received. Most people got the big three--CBS, ABC, and NBC--plus whatever local UHF they may have picked up via their rabbit ears. So the big three networks would often feature a "Movie of the Week", or "Sunday Night Movie", or something along those lines.

And they looked like this

A lot of these were box office hits from the past couple years, and were often the television premiere of the movie; many times, the network would actually make the film, and these were naturally called made-for-television movies. Some of these were good, most were not, but they usually received pretty good ratings and were fairly cheap to make, so the trend continued for many years--the networks were so good at promoting these that even as a child I would get excited to see what movies were coming up the next week. Cable television became dominate in the 1980s, and the movie of the week concept transferred more toward box office films and less on made-for-television films, and by the end of the 1990s, this format had pretty much disappeared from network television, though it did transition toward cable channels. So how does Snowbeast fit in with all this? It is a 1977 made-for-television movie from NBC, and remember when I said most of these were not good? Snowbeast would qualify as just that. The acting is dreadful, most of the film is of people aimless skiing, and when we finally see the snowbeast, he is...

This is him

So pretty much nothing happens until near the end, when our three heroes, after a VERY extended scene of them driving through the snow, track down the snowbeast and we prepare for an epic battle...but get a guy killing the monster with a ski pole to the chest, complete with a sudden monster point-of-view shot....yeah.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 3

Snowbeast Full Movie

Monday, May 21, 2018

EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers Movie Review

Aliens invade Earth with plans to enslave all humans, and it's up to scientists and military personnel to stop them. This one comes to us from 1956, the golden era of science fiction awesomeness, and it certainly lives up to what you expect...for better or worse. The movie provides plenty of staples from that genre--"scientific" nonsense, stock footage (including a real-life airplane collision), aliens, and, naturally, flying saucers.

Not a Hidden Mickey

The acting is pretty wooden across the board, but we typically don't watch these films for the acting, so that can be overlooked. The story is nonsense, but that only adds to the enjoyment of the experience. The part of this film that really grabs you is the special effects. Done with stop-motion, the attack scenes at the end of the film, complete with the crumbling buildings, are truly fantastic. While the sequence of the action scenes are very satisfying, the conclusion they lead to is less so. Another big plus for this film is the aliens. While they look a little questionable in their suits...

I'm not touching this one

...when they are revealed without them, they actually look fairly frightening.

Yikes

Consider most of the aliens and creatures we see from this time in cinematic history, and you appreciate how these beings must have terrified people in 1956. This film also heavily influenced another cult classic that came out many years later, and another personal favorite of mine--Mars Attacks! If 1950's science fiction films aren't your thing, you may want to skip Earth vs. the Flying Saucers--if you love the genre, this is a must-see.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 7


Earth vs. the Flying Saucers Movie Trailer

Friday, May 18, 2018

WINCHESTER

Winchester Movie Review

Believing she is unfit to run the company, Winchester Repeating Arms Company sends Doctor Eric Price (Jason Clarke, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) to the home of Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren. Red), the majority owner of the company, to have her deemed mentally unstable. Upon arrival, the doc finds a lot more than he expected.

Ghosts...it's ghosts

This supernatural horror is based on the Winchester Mystery House, a very real haunted mansion located in San Jose, California...and on my bucket list. The real-life story is that after Sarah inherited the Winchester fortune, she became tormented by the spirits of people killed by Winchester rifles, and the only way to keep them satisfied was to continue building upon the house, complete with doors and stairways that lead to ledges and dead ends. Winchester kept this up until the day she died. This movie plays on that somewhat, but certainly takes its liberties with the story. The main issue with Winchester is it does little to catch you from the get-go--for the majority of the film, you are stuck watching the characters go in circles with repetitive dialogue and the occasional jump-scare thrown in to remind you this is a horror flick. It's not until the final fifteen minutes or so that this one picks up, but quickly collapses into a world of horror cliches. The decent acting of Mirren helps carry the film somewhat, but anybody who is as fascinated with the real life story of this house as my girlfriend and I are will likely find themselves as disappointed with this film as we were--she only made it twenty minutes into the movie before falling asleep, and had no interest in revisiting it.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 5

Winchester Movie Trailer

Saturday, May 5, 2018

NIGHT FRIGHT

Night Fright Movie Review

A series of bodies show up in a small town in Texas, and the killer is from out of this world. Not to be confused with the horror classic Fright Night, Night Fright is a 1967 low budget flick that was released to little fanfare, and it hasn't garnered much since. If you're wondering why, well, you probably have never seen the film. Much of the movie is a sheriff (John Agar, Revenge of the Creature) walking through the woods in search of the monster, and running from him through the woods near the end. We also get a lot of scenes of teenagers partying in the woods-- I am guessing the night scenes in this movie were shot during the day, and the filmmakers took a cue from Nosferatu and saturated the scene in blue to make it appear dark...it doesn't work.

It really does look this bad

The music during the party scenes, however, is better. Texas garage band The Wildcats perform some surf music that sounds akin to soundalike music you may here on DVD releases of television shows that didn't want to pay for the rights to obtain the songs used in the original broadcast--Quantum Leap, I'm looking at you! The rest of the music throughout the movie is also catchy, so that, if nothing else, will keep you going. The acting is pretty bad, but everybody appears to be having fun, so you can almost forgive it. Toward the end of the film we FINALLY get a look at the monster...kind of.

Here he is now!

So instead of something appearing to be from outer space, we get a dude in a suit that looks like a cross between a gorilla and Big Foot, with an 80s party chick's sunglasses. Once he finally catches up to the humans he's chasing, the final battle is rather anti-climatic, to say the least. I really wanted to like this movie...I even watched it twice to try to get into it...but unfortunately, Fright Night doesn't have much going for it. 

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 3


I wouldn't find the trailer, so here's the full movie!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

ALL GOD’S CREATURES

All God's Creatures Movie Review

New couple Jon (Josh Folan) and Delia (Jessica Kaye) are each hiding a major secret from the other--she's a prostitute, and he's a serial killer. Will they find out each others' secret? Will the other one care? Will we care? That's the basic premise of this 2011 super low budget indie film--if I told you they spent $30,000 on this film, you'd wonder where it all went, so if you are dead set against watching movies that look like they were shot on a high quality home video camera, you may want to skip this one.

"Don't say that!"

This movie is a strange mix of the kind of good, the really bad, and the what could have been. The good would be the story--while obviously inspired by works such as Dexter and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, the story, written by Folan, is actually fairly interesting. On the flip side, we get the really bad, and that is most obvious with the directing. Some of the shots are puzzling, and the camera movements are terribly distracting--at times, it looks like the camera is on a tripod, and people are bumping into it; at other times, it appears as though the camera operator is randomly playing with the zoom button. This all takes you out of the story, and makes you realize you're watching a movie, which is certainly NOT what you want the audience to feel. As for the acting...well, the less said about the acting the better. What is really painful about this movie, however, is the what could have been. If the story would have continued the momentum it built early on instead of heading down the path of cliches, had there been competent people behind the camera and decent actors in front of it, this movie could have become a classic--instead, it became a movie that is just...forgettable.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 4


All God's Creatures Movie Trailer

MR. SARDONICUS

Mr. Sardonicus Movie Review

After attempting to rob the grave of his father, Baron Sardonicus (Guy Rolfe, who you will know as Toulon from the Puppet Master films) is cursed with a hideous, permanent smile on his face. This 1961 horror flick comes to us from legendary gimmick master William Castle (House on Haunted Hill, The Night Walker), so we know we're in store for something...different, and this film doesn't disappoint. We get a bit of an introduction from Castle in the beginning, and the real gimmicky stuff comes in at the end...but more on that in a moment. Back to the story--Sardonicus, who wears a mask to hide his condition, seeks out the assistance of physician Robert Cargrave (Ronald Lewis) to cure him.

Can his face really look worse than this mask?

This films moves at a surprisingly quick pace, and includes some rather intense scenes--if you're scared of leeches, and lets face it, who isn't, you may want to fast forward through some parts. A fair bit of tension leads us to the inevitable reveal, and it doesn't disappoint!

Let's take a smile off that face!

...

The movie has a decent little twist after the encounter between Sardonicus and Cargrave, and an even better one in the final scene. So remember when I said Castle was the master of gimmicks? After the reveal and fallout of it, Castle joins us once more and asks the audience, via a thumbs up or thumbs down card, if they want to see Sardonicus punished, or if they want to have mercy on him. After pausing for the vote, Castle declares the audience has voted to punish the villain, and we see the result of that...while it doesn't hold up on home video for obvious reasons, this gimmick must have been a really cool experience for people actually in the theater when this came out. Mr. Sardonicus is a fun movie with a few thrills, and was much better than I expected it to be.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 7


Mr. Sardonicus Movie Trailer (With a special introduction from William Castle)

Monday, April 30, 2018

OPEN WATER 3: CAGE DIVE

Open Water 3: Cage Dive Movie Review

In 2003, the film Open Water became a surprise box office hit--the inevitable sequel followed in 2006, and eleven years later, it became a trilogy with Open Water 3: Cage Dive. In this one, three Americans, played by Australians, visit the land down under in hopes of becoming contestants on some reality game. They decide to go on a cage dive to see some sharks up close and personal and, this being an Open Water film, you can imagine what happens next.

"I'm going to be floating in water HOW LONG?!"

As is typical with these "Americans visiting foreign lands" horror films, we get the arrival scene, followed by the party scene, followed finally by the distress--mercifully, this movie gets through the initial part of this model fairly quickly, but fails to make any of the three main characters even remotely likable, leading to the viewer not really caring a lot about their fate. Once they end up in the water, we actually get some shark attacks and a fair amount of gore, which is a nice touch. The movie is shot as a hybrid between a found footage film and documentary, and that works out fine, except it does have the same drawback most found footage horror movies share--the unlikelihood that somebody would actually continue shooting through all the scares. The acting is fair, and it has more action that its predecessors--these things may not combine to make Open Water 3: Cage Dive a great movie, but they certainly make it the best of the trilogy. 

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 6


Open Water 3: Cage Dive Movie Trailer