Monday, September 03, 2018

Trust Me, There's No Rush!

Ever wondered what a Nancy Drew-type mystery would be like if you crossed it with a slasher flick and set it in “National Lampoon’s Animal House”? No? Well, someone did, and we have “Rush Week” to prove it.

Perky little Toni wants to be a journalist, so she is told to cover Rush Week at the university. This leads her to the Beta Delta Beta (so “beta” that they had to tell you twice) house. BDB is finally back on campus after being kicked off for flagrant violations of Greek policy and school morals. Cue the loud music, beer kegs, half-naked coeds, and obnoxious dolts we are supposed to either admire or root for.

Toni bumps into Jeff Jacobs, who is the chapter president. The intensity of her disdain for him when they meet tells you exactly how quickly they will fall for each other. Nice to know our heroine will sell out her ideals for a guy just because he looks like a hunky soap opera star.

Meanwhile, a mousy coed makes her way across the campus as she hears approaching footsteps but never sees anyone. Once in the science building, room 304, she suddenly transforms into Ms. Hot Bod while a large male figure takes her photos. After getting a few shots of her in the embrace of a cadaver (some like it in the ground, nine days old), the guy leaves, and our hooded killer offs the poor girl with a double-edged axe, just like the one used by the BDB fraternity. Ah, a clue, perhaps?

After accidentally leaving her tape recorder in the dean’s office during an interview, Toni learns of the missing girl and decides it is a much juicier story than Rush Week. She goes into full clueless detective mode, which means most of the information she gathers is either by accident or by contrived methods that only work in movies like this. Still, she looks appropriately cute and innocent which is the only device to generate suspense the film has, so expect to see her in those cozy, fuzzy little sweaters over button-down shirts a lot.

Despite the film doing everything except run a crawl stating, “This person is the killer!!!” when they first show Toni meeting the person in question, Toni begins to suspect her new love interest as the killer seems to be aware of Toni’s poking about the murders and is zeroing in to end her investigation.

If you are a gorehound, please step this way to the Egress. While “Rush Week” uses the slasher concept, it does not carry the blood-soaked flag as other films would, whether they could afford to or not. The murders, with only a couple of exceptions at best, take place off-camera. The only one that gets full attention is the death of the killer, and even that is 90% dry. The deaths in this film are only there to give Toni a reason to be nosy. I mean, even the first victim in the film is literally named “McGuffin”, which is the term for a thing that sets a film’s plot in motion.

If you like a good mystery, look elsewhere unless you are one of those folks who can NEVER figure out who the killer is. As previously mentioned, “Rush Week” pretty much shines a spotlight on the killer during that person’s first major scene. Because of this, it makes the rest of the film a bit silly when you know more than the characters because of poor script writing and inept direction. If you have ever seen “Splatter University”, you can pretty much skip this movie as the setup for the killer is the same; plus, “Splatter University” has way more blood for your buck.

Did you check into this movie because you can’t get enough of puerile college-boy antics? In case you haven’t figured it out, this is strike three. You get the standard “mooning” scene, motorcycles in a bicycle race, and a hooker set up with a corpse. Just the mooning incident would be enough to get the frat kicked off campus again, but since the BDB house is crucial to the film’s plot, nothing happens to the gang of low-brow miscreants no matter how much trouble they create.

Even though there is nothing worth recommending here (not even the nudity), the film is watchable. If you are stuck between this and “Gigli”, go with “Rush Week”. That way you can watch Greg Allman wander through his role as if he knows what he is doing, though you secretly suspect he is utterly stoned and doesn’t care about what is going on.
That may be the secret to enjoying this film. Quick, pass the bong.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Holy Killer Clergy, Father!!

One of the strangest things about being a film and television fan for 50-plus years is watching people who were once stars fall down the popularity escalator and end up taking most any acting job just to keep making ends meet or to stay in the limelight. Admittedly, a number of such actors ruined their own careers with drugs, drinking, sex addictions, bad luck, and piss-poor life management.

Others just fade away because the next juicy hot bod comes along. Look at Harry Hamlin. Once voted People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive and his face was everywhere. He’s still working, but most people wouldn’t recognize his name from Ed Brugel (the man loves his handbells).

“The Divine Enforcer” brings together four old-school character actors who were all popular many years ago and presents them all in what must be the nadir of their careers. Except Jan-Michael Vincent. He was at least able to mumble through his lines thanks to script sheets taped to the newspaper he is constantly reading. Better than his work on “No Rest for the Wicked” where he could not even keep his head up during most shots due to drunkenness.

Other than Jan-Michael, you also get Erik Estrada playing a monsignor who only shows emotion when telling Mr. Vincent’s character to shut up. Probably due to actual frustration with blown takes or just having to smell the alcohol in his co-star’s copious sweat. Beyond that, I think he probably required that he be dead center of any group shot. Seriously, watch, and you’ll see I’m right.

Then Judy Landers plays a bubbleheaded housekeeper working for the church. Her breathy-voiced, brainless shtick is the same here as it was in the 80s, and she looks the same as always. Honestly, she comes off better than most of the other performers, but I’m not sure if that is much of a compliment given what she’s stacked against.

Last but far from least is Don Stroud playing Otis, the “vampire” serial killer. He likes to remove the skulls of his victims and use them for cups, bowls, and decorations. He also likes to mumble a lot, so good luck understanding most of what he says. Stroud used to be a solid character actor when you needed a semi-hunky, Beach Boy-looking dude to play either a star’s buddy or the film’s bad guy. Lots of film and TV roles, and yet here he is poking hookers with needles while rolling his eyes and doing utterly pointless stuff to look bonkers.

Jim Brown and Robert Z’Dar also show up for about 3 minutes, but they can be forgiven because of the briefness of their roles as well as the fact they don’t really do anything other than what they normally do – look tough and sound menacing. I just hope they got decent pay checks for their day’s work.

What is “The Divine Enforcer” and why should these actors rue the day they spent working on it?
The film starts with Stroud as Otis. He drives a hooker into the country (she doesn’t find this odd?) where he attempts to drink her blood before a chase cribbed from a dozen silent comedy films results in death for a random rapist and the hooker being taken captive.

Without an establishing shot, we are watching another rape attempt in a different location with different people. A guy shows up, snaps a few limbs, and leads the victim away. This would be, as we find out later, Father Daniels, the new priest for the local parish. He is played by martial arts expert Michael Foley. Let’s be perfectly clear here: He is not an actor. He doesn’t completely embarrass himself, but you’ve seen brick walls with more emotive ability.

Daniels moves into the rectory (the establishing shot is of a normal house with no church in sight) and begins getting weirdos during his confession duties. He exhibits a psychic ability that allows him to see visions connected with the confessions he hears. Using these visions, the priest starts hunting down drug dealers and street scum with the use of his crucifix-emblazoned knives, shuriken, and ivory-handled .45 pistols.

While he is paring down the criminal populace, Father Daniel’s vigilante activities are being questioned by a secret organization aware of his real identity. Don’t get too interested in this sub-thread as it goes nowhere, but it sets up an interesting hook for a sequel.

Ultimately, and after WAY too much filler, our killer priest starts zeroing in the “vampire” loony dumping bodies on a nearly daily basis.

By this time, you have either turned the movie off or you are glued to the insanity going on. Either way, you can’t unsee what you have already seen. The dreadful acting, the nonsensical plot developments, Foley’s bugged-out eyes, and a smack-talking skull will all float down in the sewers of your mind for days.

Actually, this could be a way to stir up interest in the Catholic Church after all those sexual assault charges tarnished their reputation. Recruit people to be holy avengers for The Lord. Portray the Church as taking an active role in pushing back against the evil and injustice in the world. Teach nuns to wield swords. Holy gun ranges. This film could be a gamechanger; someone call the Pope!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Should Be "Movie in Traction"

How many of you have found yourself watching an episode of the old “A-Team” series and thought, “Well, I can’t imagine anything more juvenile and unrealistic” while watching one of the endless action scenes? I may be showing my age, but I have often thought that while watching the show. Of course, my dad was still alive at the time, and, since my dad fell in love with “Banacek” in the 70s, the family had to watch everything with George Peppard.

Back on track, I will admit it has been nearly 30 years (not that I was expecting something like this to ever happen), but I have actually found something more juvenile and unrealistic. In fact, this film treats reality as if it was that sheet of plastic covering the face of your new smartphone: It gets tossed aside like a pointless thing and the film never looks back.

The film in question is Teddy Page’s 1988 mostly-forgotten “Movie In Action”. Never heard of either Teddy Page or “Movie in Action”? Don’t feel bad. I hadn’t either until I found a copy of the movie. It is fairly convincing proof that curiosity can be a bad thing. But rest assured that the smell you’ve been complaining about is not a cat killed by curiosity. Just don’t ask for more information. Okay? Good.

Let’s start with the opening scene. We are dropped into a heated battle as a small force of soldiers in a helicopter mow down dozens and dozens of enemies. Then the men leap from the copter and begin charging towards the enemy. Mortars and bullets rend the ground and air all around our heroes as they sprint across many fields and down many hills (that look exactly the same). “CUT!” comes the cry from the Director (the credits don’t even grant the characters names – just their crew titles).

We have a movie about the making of a movie, and it is already either stupidly or insultingly attempting to tell us that everything we just saw was done in a single take despite the numerous cuts to various camera set ups. Wow. They whipped that protective sheet of reality off and left it in the dirt before the first solid line of dialogue hit the boom mic.

Within what appears to be minutes, the crew has set up for a whole new scene. With one camera. One. Think about the opening scene and imagine that being done with one camera. In one take. I’m just gonna leave that right there. Examine as you please.

During the scene, the star actress is supposed to be rescued by the lead male. What actually happens is a group of real armed soldiers walk into the shot, knock out the guy, and take the woman hostage. As they make their getaway, a soldier fires an M-16 into the film crew. Only the Director is hit. Not really believable.

Oh, and the direct hit to his leg is patched up like a simple scratch. No. Most of the backside of the wound would be a shredded mess and that’s if he was luck enough to avoid having the bone shattered. Reminded me of the “A-Team” episode in which B.A. had been shot in the leg with a 50-caliber round. My brother, who served as a medic in Vietnam, happened to be there that night. He started laughing. “He’d be damn lucky if the leg was even still attached. Fuck saving it.” Even though the Director is played by Bo Svenson, I think an M-16 round would hospitalize him in the real world, but in this film, he just needs a cane, whether he sees fit to use it.

The whole film follows the spunky but sparse film crew as they saddle up to rescue the Actress. They face grenade launchers, light machine guns, AK-47s, destroyed vehicles, roadblocks, and dozens of supposed NVA troops with marksmanship so bad that even Star Wars stormtroopers are embarrassed for them.

The unreality of the violence is tweaked even further as slapstick is introduced to, I don’t know – shake things up? It just sticks both rancid feet in its mouth and goes for a 40-mile hike as far as not giving a flying flip about the audience. Why should it? They already have your money; the filmmakers no longer care beyond that point. Why not throw more and more shit at the wall until they run out of film stock?

Another utterly weird and tone-deaf scene would include the crew deciding to harass a person for not wanting to sell his cattle, so they frighten him with a rubber mask. First of all, that water buffalo is that farmer’s only resource to move things on the farm; of course, he won’t sell it. Secondly, the guy had lived through the attempt at genocide by the Khmer Rouge, so I doubt a rubber mask would freak him out. And Americans wonder why the rest of the world hates us?
I can’t recommend “Movie in Action”. It isn’t bad in a way that is funny. It frustrates you and insults you as the characters walk through every action scene as if they are wandering through a meadow after they smoked some Thai stick. Nothing matters. You know it. The actors know it. Hell, even the characters know it, but apparently no one told the real director.