This week, two films which can be broadly characterized as creature features: Mystery Science Theater 3000’s skewering of Lamberto Bava’s “Devil Fish” and Larry Cohen’s “Q: the winged serpent”.
Bava’s “Devil Fish” was ‘remade’ in 2010 for the SyFy channel as “Sharktopus”.
Interestingly, many elements of “Q: the winged serpent” were ‘borrowed’ in 1998’s “Godzilla” as well, but not credited to Cohen…
Doing a review of an MST3K is like reviewing a review, in a way, but “Devil Fish” is so bad that this “commented” version made it much, much more palatable.
“Squirm” – (1976, USA, 92 minutes – VHS rated PG; DVD rated R)
From the ‘70s, we have in “squirm” yet another “nature strikes back” offering, although this one doesn’t preach, it entertains.
During a severe storm, power lines are downed near the small Georgia town of Fly Creek. As a result of live wires sweeping across the mud, bloodworms crawl out at night to devour the unsuspecting inhabitants of the county.
This French movie, filmed in the U.S., will hopefully be available on DVD in coming months. I doubt it will gain exposure in theatres as the subject matter is likely too dark and depressing, but the trailer alone hints at a masterpiece.
“Rubber” is the story of Robert who, wandering through the desert, gains awareness and special, powerful, psychic powers. One central theme of “rubber” is extermination, you may even call it genocide.
You see, Robert is a used tire. A car tire. Rolling aimlessly, unknowingly, through the desertic landscapes of the American Southwest, discarded. Used up. Until that moment when Robert rolls up languidly to a junkyard where humans are burning stacks of old tires: Robert’s kin. From then on, Robert’s burgeoning psychic powers will hone themselves into a weapon which he will turn against this humanity who created his people only to reject them after 40.000 miles or less.
I was salivating about stuffing a turkey with Spam this week, how unoriginal I know… I do like Spam, even the kind we find in the site’s ‘Spam’ box. Those buggers are getting semi-creative, as in this comment about “the worst journey in the world”:
“This was interesting and ive forwarded it on to all my friends on planet zikzar45. IF they like what you have written they may spare your life
but if they dont, well you should prepare your will. Earthling.”
Bet he or she drives a Plymouth Satellite (wink-wink), I’d like to have what he’s having.
But lo! Do I have a recommendation for your Thanksgiving night viewing….
This is no longer available through Netflix, and my recollections might be –perhaps – somewhat “clouded”…
Whatever your poison of choice is, even if it’s Wild Turkey, load up on it. Put the flick in the machine (can’t bring myself to even call this a movie). Well, look, it’s really bad. But in a groovy way, dig? As in dated… Carbon dated.
We’ve seen silent films which didn’t feel this fixed in their era.
Where was I? Thanksgiving started early…. Oh. So this dude Herschell (Steve Hawkes, born Sipek in Croatia), so named as a reference to Herschell Gordon Lewis, rides up on Angel, stranded by a flat tire, gives her a lift back to her pad where her sis is getting’ high with hipsters, yeah?
But Herschell, normally a righteous guy, partakes of the evil grass and boffs Ann, the baaaad sister.
animated series about a student, Light Yagami, who finds a notebook with special powers, the Death Note. The titular notebook is the artifact of Light’s doom, something he could have bought from Louis Vendredi’s shop in “Friday the 13th: the series“. The note, dropped on purpose into the human world by Ryuk, a demon-like Shinigami (death deity), has the following rules written in it, which Light attempts to refine and perhaps even circumvent: “the human who uses the note can neither go to heaven nor hell. If the time of death is written within 40 seconds after writing the cause of death as a heart attack, the time of death can go into effect within 40 seconds after writing the name”. Continue reading “Midnight Movie Madness: a “death note” everyone has to pay”
The outline of “Lake Mungo” is how an Australian family, its neighbors and acquaintances suffer through the sudden loss of a 16 year old daughter, the unraveling of secrets, and perceptions turned into enmity close to hatred.
The incident is a drowning.
What follows are detailed, keenly observed reactions of all who were touched by Alice Palmer’s (Talia Zucker) death.
Since George Romero’s “night of the living dead” in 1968, the genre seems to have been growing across genres (comedy, sci-fi) and media (comics, novels, video games), and depending on the country of origin, even says something about cultural mores.
“Night of the living dead” had some interesting things to say about race and class relations, which perhaps had to be expected as it was made in the late ‘60s.
And “dawn of the dead” (1978), also from Romero, had consumerism as a subtext and used a mall as location which introduced different dynamics.
But really, zombie flicks are about bloody mayhem which provides relief after a long day at work, dealing with people you might wish were dead. So without further ado, let’s look at a serious offering from France. “They came back” (2004) from Robin Campillo will not satisfy your urges for carnage because there is none to be had.
What “they came back” does offer is more along the lines of what they call “l’etrange, le bizarre, l’insolite”: it is eerie and at times really disquieting, particularly the couple instances reintroducing children to their parents.
In these alternative 1950s, after the “zombie wars”, life resumed in America within fenced in communities managed and policed by a corporation named Zomcon (zombie containment is their motto). Hordes of ‘untamed’ zombies roam the zones outside the communities’ perimeter, while within, domesticated zombies wearing electronic shock-collars serve the living delivering milk, papers, mowing lawns and acting as household help, etc.
In order to keep up with the neighbors, Helen Robinson (Carrie Ann Moss) buys a domesticated zombie helper (Billy Connolly), much to her neurotic husband’s (Dylan Baker) dismay. Bill Robinson has a serious phobia of zombies since childhood, when his dad and uncle tried to eat his brain.
Certainly a very sore subject around the dinner table.
Bill is distant with his son Timmy (Kesun Loder) and pretty sadistic towards the zombie helper, zapping him for the slightest reason, and repeatedly. Timmy decides to call the zombie Fido and the two become friends, inasmuch as you can with a Z-dude.
Somewhere deep in Australia’s Northern Territory, a group of tourists embarks on a tour boat piloted by guide Kate Ryan (Rhada Mitchell). As they prepare to turn back in the late afternoon, the group notices flares going up somewhere deep in sacred aboriginal land.
Reluctantly, they push on in search of the distressed party.
As they consider returning to town, in a wider part of the river forming a lake with a tiny mud island at the center, they come upon a small boat partly submerged and nothing else. Before they have a chance to discuss their next move, their boat is almost lifted out of the water by a huge crocodile hitting them from below.
With the hull breached and rapidly taking water, Ryan steers towards the island and beaches the craft.
With the tide rising and ill-equipped tourists far away from civilization, the group’s survival comes in serious doubt, especially as the huge crocodile begins to pick them off in an inexplicable display of aggression.
Watch the trailer:
Director Greg McLean describes “Rogue” as an old style horror film and I suspect he refers to his suggestion of violence rather than graphic displays. In fact “Rogue” uses both and it’s a good blend. Some reviewers took issue with the pacing, others with a perceived lack of gore. There are several things which set “Rogue” apart from other entries in the so-called killer-croc sub-genre.
One of these are the locations. The setting of the film, the Northern Territory, is one of the main characters, absolutely stunning from the features of the landscape, waters, sky and shifting colors beautifully captured by Will Gibson, the director of photography. Sadly, he passed away in March 2007, and from what I’ve seen in the extras and the way he shot the film, I’m sure he must be dearly missed.
Anyone who loves the outdoors owes it to themselves to check out “Rogue”: footage of this quality and of this part of the world is all too rare.
The music score, written by Frank Tetaz, is excellent: while I was always aware of it, I never felt it intruded, as others have.
The extras have him describe how he integrated certain tonalities to not only ‘support’ the action and mood but define characters: tapping strings on violins and violas, using wooden and metal containers immersed in water as percussion instruments and a simple piece he composed as a foundation for improvised Aboriginal vocalizations.
Very well thought out, and best: it works great, not unlike the soundtrack designed for “winged migration”.
As mentioned above, McLean effectively ‘suggested’ some of the kills, using clever editing and scene set-up rather than showing people getting chomped. This gave those kills he did show more impact. And those were complex scenes to design, between stunt work, CGI, mechanical crocs and editing. What gore there is has more of an impact, not just because it looked very real, but because there wasn’t that much of it throughout the movie. He had a fairly solid group of actors as well, with some unspoken characterization notes, glances, looks and smiles which actually worked better than much of the dialogue, which was on the weak side.
Where McLean avoided gratuitous gore, he gave in to gratuitous cussing, which was unnecessary and ‘jarred’ a little.
Given the shooting conditions, heat, humidity, flies, having real crocs and snakes around, not to mention spending a fair amount of time in murky waters, the actors pushed themselves. As Michael Vartan, who plays American travel writer Pete McKell, says in the extras, he did not have to act afraid, he was terrified. There is a real element of danger shooting a movie in an uncontrolled environment, especially doing take after take in the water as Sam Worthington had to do, knowing a three meter crocodile had been seen in the area. Sure, there are security guys with rifles around, but as they told the actors: “if we have to use the rifle it’s too late.”
And the mechanical croc head with chomping jaws? You can hear them clamp shut hard in the final confrontation in the crocodile’s lair, as Vartan humorously put it, he ‘peed a little’, you’ll know why once you hear that sound: special effects or not, that mechanical croc head could take a limb off.
This was a work intensive production for sure. The island on which the tour party seeks refuge was man made for the movie, in an artificial (and large) lake. The croc’s lair was a set on a sound stage, and the CGI and animatronics were complex blends of real and digital.
I don’t know how much of a return was made on this movie but it deserves to have done well: it is superior in most respects to others in the genre and I would rank it up there with “jaws”.
“One man struck by lightning is an accident. Two men struck by lightning is a conspiracy.”
Word of advice: the dubbing is pretty bad on this one, so you may well want to listen to the French soundtrack with English subtitles… And dark as the movie is visually, you’ll want to wait after Midnight.
Paris in 1830, capital of a country in turmoil, with a regime installed by the Prussians. Francois Vidocq (Gerard Depardieu), former creator and head of Napoleon’s secret police, sacked under the current government, is now France’s most famous detective.
Someone has been killing French notables with no discernible link between them, stumping the chief of Parisian police. Worse yet, the assassin used lightning to set them ablaze!
Hot on the mysterious killer’s trail, Vidocq chases him into a glass factory. Deep into the bowels of this place, Vidocq fights this “Alchemist”, as he is known, who seems possessed of super-human abilities, with stamina and acrobatics which Vidocq cannot match. And indeed, the detective falls into a furnace pit, seemingly to his death.
As the paper men all over Paris shout that Vidocq is dead, his former partner Nimier (Moussa Maaskri) receives an unwelcome visit from young journalist Etienne Boisset (actor-film maker Guillaume Canet), who claims to have worked with Vidocq on his biography. Boisset now is intent on discovering everything about Vidocq’s last case, the pursuit of the Alchemist.
In flashbacks, we retrace the steps which led Vidocq to the glass factory, through the darkest chambers at the heart of the City of Light, and the hellish plot the “victims” were involved in.
This is an interesting story with layers. Vidocq is part of French history, a former convict, whom Napoleon did in fact utilize to great effect in reforming French police. That in itself is worth researching. This film has an interesting look and atmosphere as well, part video game, part graphic novel, dark with vivid colors, shot entirely in digital with Sony’s 1080 p, 24 fps camera before even Star Wars episode II.
Written and directed by Pitof, “Chronicles of Vidocq” also profits from Marc Caro’s character design. Caro used to collaborate with Jean-Pierre Jeunet on comic strips and “City of lost children”. Bruno Coulais’ music suits the mood perfectly as well.
This is a dark tale, which will put viewers in mind of “from hell”, though very distinct. A lovely trip to take past midnight.