Jul 24 2016

The Uncanny (1977)

uncannyIf horror masters from Edgar Allan Poe to Stephen King have taught us anything, it is this: Cats are no damn good. A compelling piece of supporting evidence is The Uncanny, a feline-themed triptych from Milton Subotsky, a producer who specialized in the horror anthology (with 1972’s Tales from the Crypt being perhaps the most enduring example).

In present-day Montreal, fidgety author Wilbur Grey (Peter Cushing, The House That Dripped Blood) shares the details of his latest book to his publisher (Ray Milland, Terror in the Wax Museum), who expresses misgivings about its commercial prospects — after all, who would believe that adorable kitty cats are actually vessels of unbridled evil? In an attempt to change his host’s tune, the pussyphobic Grey shares three such cases, all helmed by Naked Massacre’s Denis Héroux, in his final film as director.

uncanny1First up, in pre-WWI London, a miserable crone (Joan Greenwood, 1961’s Mysterious Island) excludes her ungrateful cad of a nephew (Simon Williams, The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu) from her new will, instead leaving the entirety of her estate to her cats. Electrified with a nasty wit, this segment entrances viewers, thus positioning The Uncanny from the start as a veritable buffet of horror and suspense.

Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from there. In 1970s Quebec, the middle story about a tween girl (Chloe Franks, Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?) being mean to her little sister (Katrina Holden, Death Wish 4: The Crackdown) is a patience-trier further hampered by the goofiest of effects. Slightly better is the trio’s closer, set in Hollywood’s Golden Age, with cats causing chaos on the set of a motion picture starring Valentine De’ath (Donald Pleasence, The Monster Club) and his lover (a slinky Samantha Eggar, Curtains). It ends with a joke that also appears to be its raison d’etre, as if screenwriter Michel Parry (Xtro) started there and worked backward. —Rod Lott

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Jul 20 2016

Kings of Cult (2015)

kingsofcultA missed opportunity all around, Kings of Cult is a meeting of the indie-cinema minds Roger Corman and Charles Band. Strange pairing, so why Band? Because his company, Full Moon Features, is behind this shoddy documentary, that’s why.

For about 52 minutes, the two men sit in front of a backdrop seemingly pilfered from the J.C. Penney Portrait Studio and shoot the shit about their long and storied careers, their financial troubles starting out, studio interference, the changing state of the motion picture industry, milking the public through merchandising and the origin of Ghoulies’ infamous toilet-bowl poster art. Okay, so maybe it’s just Band who talks about those last two points.

kingsofcult1By now, B-movie fans are familiar with both men to a T, so they will know in advance that Band tends to dominate the conversation, despite being the one in the room who doesn’t have an Academy Award for lifetime achievement. Perhaps Corman’s age has something to do with his remarks being brisk and to-the-point, whereas Band is long-winded, especially for someone whose movies nowadays barely crack an hour. He also somehow gets away with not answering the unseen moderator’s softball question on their all-time favorite film: For Corman, it’s Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin; for Band, it’s … well, let him ramble for several minutes about a project he hasn’t even made yet, because a plug is a plug, kids.

There’s just not enough meat to Kings of Cult to justify it: no occasion, no structure, no clips! No, thanks. —Rod Lott

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Jul 19 2016

Hell’s Trap (1990)

hellstrapIrked over a round of paintball that went his archenemy’s way, preppy sore loser Mauricio (Toño Mauri) hopes to save face by proposing one final dick-measuring contest to mullet-helmeted good guy Nacho (Pedro Fernández, who squeezed this pic in between Vacation of Terror and Vacation of Terror 2: Diabolical Birthday). And that challenge is to see who can slay the bear that, according to the newspaper, is thought to have killed a few hunters over at Filo de Caballo (which, according to a crude Internet translator, is thought to mean “edge of the horse”).

Nacho agrees, bringing his girlfriend (Edith González, René Cardona Jr.’s Cyclone) and his obese, quesadilla-craving best friend (Charly Valentino) to the agreed-upon campsite at Filo de Caballo. Mauricio brings some eye candy and acid-washed jeans. Director/co-writer Pedro Galindo III (the aforementioned VoT2) brings a twist, because there ain’t no bear!

hellstrap1Credit for the hunters’ deaths is all due to Jesse (Alberto Mejia Baron in his lone acting job), a Vietnam veteran with maximum PTSD and a face mask that recalls Owen Wilson’s Zoolander character caught in a perpetual scowl. His weapon of choice is a homemade Freddy Krueger glove with serrated blades and, as backup, a machine gun when you absolutely, positively got to kill every motherfucker in the forest. That’s not really a problem for Jesse; he seems to have every branch and bush rigged with some kind of booby trap for the kids to trigger — hence the title of Hell’s Trap.

It is comforting to know that other countries — in this case, Mexico, if you didn’t discern that already — can make slashers as mediocre as we Americans. And as inane, as silly, as comfort-foody. Known as Trampa Infernal in its native tongue, Hell’s Trap has our nation’s decade-defining Voorhees formula down pat, then supercharges it with a shot of the equally ’80s Rambo. All that’s really missing: tetas. I refuse to pretend they are not missed. —Rod Lott

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Jul 18 2016

Zoombies (2016)

zoombiesAlthough my gut tells me the release of Jurassic World is the true reason, I dream that Zoombies exists because someone at the production company made a typo, showed the boss, and that typo got the green light. “Teh hell,” you say? The Asylum has proceeded with pitches less substantive.

What Zoombies is about is all contained with within the title’s eight letters: Zoo animals become zombies, duh; how, when and why are irrelevant. For historical purposes, however, here goes: At the Eden Wildlife Zoo, a deceased lab monkey is given a shot of an experimental concoction that turns it into an undead death machine. Infecting all the other creatures great and small across the theme park, it turns the zoo into … well, a zoo in the metaphorical sense.

zoombies1Directed by The Coed and the Zombie Stoner’s Glenn R. Miller, the movie puts an ethnically diverse group of dolts through the ringer of mortal danger. Most notable among them — but only because she is the film’s lead — is Kim Nielsen (The Amityville Terror) in the Bryce Dallas Howard role, but saddled with a precocious daughter (a film-debuting LaLa Nestor) who gets to baseball-bat a killer koala into chunks of lunch meat. More disposable are a bird buff (Isaac Anderson) who is so enthusiastic about his internship, he seems to be auditioning for an I Am Sam reboot; the aviary supervisor (Tammy Klein, Little Dead Rotting Hood) who appears to have applied her eye shadow in the dark and upside down; and a ponytailed dude (Aaron Groben, CobraGator) whose right cheek plays home to three moles in such a perfect horizontal line, you await the arrival of Pac-Man to chomp ’em up.

Zoombies knows exactly what it is — at one point, Nielsen’s character exclaims, “This is a zoo, not Jurassic Park!” — which could be why it barely tries. With Zoombies being a product of Z-movie shithouse The Asylum, nobody should expect it to be anything but, in the best possible scenario, only marginally watchable. That might be the case if the effects were even a hair above their current ranking of far below average. Whether a monkey claws out a nurse’s eyeballs, or giraffes pull apart an Asian man like taffy, or elephants stomp their way across the grounds, great pains have not been taken to meld the computer-generated elements with the real-life ones; concepts like depth and perspective are given the middle finger. In many genre pics, these kind of errors have the unintended effect of elevating one’s enjoyment level, but Zoombies is so oppressively stupid at its core, added incompetence just further weighs it down. —Rod Lott

Get it at Amazon.

Jul 12 2016

Hijack! (1973)

hijackBold admission: I’ll watch almost anything that dares to put an exclamation point in its title, including Hijack! (Exclamation theirs.) But since nothing in this Spelling-Goldberg telefilm gets hijacked, I propose that it should be called Hijack? (Question mark mine.)

TV’s original Fugitive, David Janssen, is Jake Wilkenson, a gruff, tanned, middle-aged truck driver on suspension, hired to drive a top-secret government project from Las Vegas to Houston. Sounds easy, right?

hijack1Well, unfortunately, blobby, lisping Donny McDonald (Keenan Wynn, Dr. Strangelove) is his co-driver. Ha! I kid, because the real trouble comes in the form of a bald guy in loud pants who chases and attempts to kill them, over and over (per the orders of The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart director Leonard Horn), until Jake gets the bright idea to ram their helicopter with his semi.

See? Not a damn thing hijacked, except 74 minutes of your free time. —Rod Lott

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