Tuesday, July 02, 2013

10 More Ways To Fill "Dead" Space

Oh, good gravy! The things I do for this blog.

I'm not talking the whole wussy boy Bruno Mars "take a grenade for you" kind of things. Well, okay, yeah, kinda along those lines. Take as an example what I've been doing since my last post here: I've been watching a 10-movie set of zombie movies. Normally, I'm all "Cool! Zombies! Gore! Guts! More gore! Even more guts!!!" Not this time. I'm done with zombies for a while. You might say, I've done them to death. (Hey, until I put AdSense on here, the humor stays cheap, so shut your cake-hole!)

Yes, 10 zombie movies. At least that is how they advertised it. Technically correct, I suppose. They mention zombies in all the movies. Or they call them "the living dead" or (no copyright infringement meant) "the walking dead". Occasionally "them motherfuckers" and "dead sons of bitches". Let's not bandy semantics.

The offenders...perpetrators...suspects?...the people behind The Midnight Horror Collection-Zombies would be none other than Echo Bridge Entertainment. This company is nipping at the heels of Mill Creek Entertainment, and I wouldn't be shocked if there was some connection between the two that us mere mortals cannot readily see, but someone else can follow the money because I'm here for the movies. Movies, we got. 10 of them! For a mere 5 bucks! At fifty cents a movie, you can't possibly go wrong. Right? Please tell me I'm right. Can I get an "Amen, brother!"?

There is no right or wrong order in which to present these films. To be blunt, a few of them brought on so little mental activity as to escape getting labelled "good" or "bad". More often that not, they got "Why isn't this over yet?" hurled at them. So, here they are, in no real order.

1. I Am Omega: If you had conflicting images of I Am Legend and The Omega Man running through your head when you saw that title, then you played directly into the hands of the shit peddlers at The Asylum. These turd monkeys crank out sound-alike movies so they hit video the same time the big-name movies they are ripping off are hitting the theaters. Mark Dacascos plays a guy whose family was killed when a plague causes people to become zombie-ish killers. He survives much like Chuckles Heston in The Omega Man. It is boring. Straight up freaking boring. There's a couple of moments where you see that the film might, with massive rewrites, turn out so-so, but it shoots itself in the foot every chance it gets. Answer me this: Why can't we have characters who just freaking kill the hero instead of almost killing them, but leave them around to recover and save the day? Could have saved a good 15 minutes of a bad ending with one more well-placed bullet.

2. Teenage Zombies: I can sum this movie up in two words for those who recognize the name--Jerry Warren. Oh yeah. THAT Jerry Warren. The guy who churned out crap films like a coke-addled Hollywood insider wannabe drops names. Only slightly better than Ed Wood and wore fewer women's clothes. Wacky teens run afoul an international plot to turn Americans into mindless zombies. If only they could have seen 40 or so years into the future, they would have realized we would turn ourselves into mindless zombies. Cornball humor, tedious camera work, and the always convincing guy in a gorilla suit with a poor-fitting mask. True Americana for your eyes and brain.

3. Last Of The Living: This piece of...um, film making?...hails from New Zealand. How the hell they made a movie down there with out working sheep into it in a big way is beyond me (last count I had, the Kiwis are outnumbered by sheep by a LARGE margin). Three annoying slackers have managed to survive the zombie plague and still manage to be uninteresting douche bags who make references to having sex with the same zombies they spend time killing, but only the female ones...that don't look too rotted. They stumble upon a living woman who is trying to find a cure for the plague. Even for a comedy (of sorts), it's a freaking zombie movie. Do things ever go well in a zombie movie? There, saved you some time.

4. King Of The Zombies: If you can overlook the "shotgun blast to the face of an innocent baby" style racism, this short little programmer (named because short films of this nature were "programmed" before or between more important things in early television days) is rather entertaining, primarily due to Mantan Moreland. He carries the film with his rapid-fire one-liners throughout the whole film while he is routinely treated like something akin to the family pet. A greatly over-looked comedian due to being a black man during a time when whites dominated films. Plus, we get a storyline that barely avoided coming out and pointing the finger at dirty Nazis for stirring up the bulk of the trouble in the film. I think the filmmakers were pussy-footing around to get international distribution during the time Hitler was rising to power in Europe. Still, an interesting bit of fun for those who enjoy older "horror" films.

5. Night Of The Living Dead: Wouldn't be a complete set without some incarnation of the granddaddy of zombie movies. Since it didn't cost them a dime to add this, they tossed it in. Always a good film to watch, but if you try to look at it from the perspective of the time in which it came out, you start to understand the intensity and unrelenting horror this film brings to the party. Slow to start, but once it gets rolling, it never stops, never backs down and stays firmly within its own logic set. Most modern films cannot make those claims. Sure, the gore level is less than you see on most episodes of Full House, but you can't deny the constantly shrinking options the characters face as the night wears on and the zombie hordes grow. Required viewing for zombie fans, if you didn't already know that.

6. Awaken The Dead: This film is a rather unfortunate misfire. The lead male actor is pretty good, but has crap to work with. The female lead could be good with a much better director and more experience. There is a supporting character that you grow to like even though his part is a bit cliche. The story ultimately is not bad but it drags and drags. The whole thing, shot on video from the looks of it, is grainy and dark and monochrome in color. Not sure if they were shooting for a "mood". It would have been more tolerable in a crisper image, if nothing else. Like I said, not utterly horrible, but it commits the sin of being painfully dull.

7. White Zombie: Old-school horror with Bela Lugosi and stilted acting styles, impressionistic minimalistic sets and wise use of lighting and camera angles to evoke emotion. While the story is a bit thin and convoluted, the flair with which this very quiet film was shot makes it a gem compared to the newer films in this set. The story uses the more realistic style of "zombie" as in Haitian-chemically-induced people who have their thought centers wiped out so that they become mindless slaves. Sure, Lugosi fiddles around with wax figures combined with the target's personal item, but that is showmanship, as well as attempting to appease the Hayes Code with witchcraft naughtiness in the place of real-life medical possibilities. A rich plantation owner wants a beautiful young woman who is to marry another man. That's the basic story, but this fun movie is all about how the story is told, not the depth of the story itself. Sit back, relax and let all the camera work, lighting and stylized sets cast their spells on you.

8. Zombie Dearest: Finally, a movie released by The Asylum team that is actually watchable. Mostly. A guy who is trying to repair his marriage while repairing his wife's old family home digs up a zombie. What does one do with a freshly unearthed undead person? This guy puts him to work digging out the septic tank while trying out his stand-up comedy routine on the maggot-brained chump. So-so performance by the lead male (who also wrote and directed), but the woman who plays his wife actually seems to have some acting ability. Too bad the script isn't up to giving her something solid to work with. The film drags in a couple of places, but it still moves at a decent enough pace with a good amount of weird humor that it doesn't overstay its welcome by much. Bottom line: You can do worse, but don't bust your ass to watch this film; digging up your septic tank is almost as much fun.

9. Grave Mistake: The biggest near-miss in the whole set. Tongue fully in cheek every step of the way, but the overly broad acting (and just plain bad acting) and tired story elements constantly drag the film down. The upsides of the film would be that it moves fairly fast, keeps the action going by bouncing around to different characters without being confusing, and, amazingly, funnier than I think they were shooting for. I mean, it IS a comedy, but the funniest bits are the little things most people don't tend to look at, like great facial expressions during certain events or the occasional pitch-perfect tone and timing of some events. The movie starts with an asshole who has just buried his wife and adds the additional insult of dumping toxic waste on her grave. We all know that means zombies are a-comin' soon. Take note of the SCA-type characters tossed into the mix. There's a great movie idea waiting to happen there. (For those of you who don't know, SCA stands for Society for Creative Anachronism, an organization that attempts to recreate ancient battle styles such as sword and shield fighting while in full armor as an extreme contact sport. Not to be confused with those weird Ren-Fest types or LARPers.)

10. Hide And Creep: I will admit that this film is my personal favorite of the modern films in this set. Much like Plan 9 From Outer Space, aliens kick start a zombie invasion. But does this film ever take the concept and twist it in every direction with knowing nods to all the major zombie films out there while heaping great slapstick humor into the mix! I actually watched this thing twice because I had so much fun with it. Oh, don't think you're gonna see something high-class. This movie had a budget smaller than my apartment, but they knew how to wring every bit of good out of every single penny. The acting and the writing stand out, and they make this one giggle-laced treat of a film. I consider the five bucks spent on this set to be worth it for this movie alone.

Seriously though, I'm full up on zombie flicks after pushing myself through the lesser efforts in this set. If only I could find a dirt cheap set of 80s cheesy slasher flicks to wash away the bad aftertaste this set left in my mouth...and brain. Brains! BRRRAAAIIIINNNSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!    

Friday, June 07, 2013

Scream And Shout!

In keeping with this blog's original goal of finding glorious crap movies at shockingly low price points, we return to active duty with a splendid offering from Shout! Factory. Shout! has been around for a while now, and I have to admit that I have a deep well of respect for this company. They have pulled from the veil of oblivion quirky TV series like Small Wonder, Rocko's Modern Life, and Max Headroom as well as release some wonderful films of dubious (to anyone except fans of crap movies) entertainment value.  

More to our liking here at Bargain Basement Thrills, Shout! Factory also releases 4-movie "marathons" aimed directly at both cheapskates and those who delight in films that inspire giggles when they try to be deadly serious. With that, let me give you the lowdown on their 4 Action-Packed Movie Marathon collection.

You get Cyclone, Alienator, Eye Of The Tiger, and Exterminator 2 on 2 DVDs. If you aren't familiar with ANY of these titles, you live a sheltered life or you are in your 20s (or younger). In any case, if you are here reading this and you have never heard of these films, then shame on you. Out of the kindness of our hearts, Shout! Factory and Bargain Basement Thrills will educate you...if you can consider what we are about to introduce you to as an "education".

Cyclone is a fairly standard low-budget action film. The primary asset the film has is Heather Thomas in the star role as the girlfriend of an inventor who is murdered over his latest creation--a super-awesome, gnarly, radical, bitchin' motorcycle with lots of things glued and bolted onto it to make it look...well, clunky and dorky, to be honest. But it can do all these awesome things!! In theory. We never really see it do too much. In its defense, the motorcycle is a far better actor than Heather Thomas, but not as pretty as she is. Of prime interest for giggles, watch for the nightclub scene that looks like it was shot in the corner of an abandoned community center hall. Do NOT expect any action until the final quarter of the film. Lots of talk and poor Heather getting roughed up a bit fill the bulk of the film, but it at least has decent pacing and fairly interesting characters.
On the other hand, we have Alienator. Both this and Cyclone were directed by Fred Olen Ray. Where Cyclone is fairly enjoyable, Alienator is anything but. A rebel leader (played by Ross Hagen, who did not age well) escapes from a space prison and lands on Earth, so the warden sends the titular being after him. He stumbles in front of an RV driven by a drunken lout with his annoying friends as passengers. Actually, "annoying" is the key word for this movie, as everything about it makes a bushy crotch full of crabs, fleas and lice sound like a refreshing bit of R and R. Unlikeable characters who either act like morons, cry non-stop, spout gibberish or speak with a voice that makes you homicidal are paired with pointless scenes and a go-nowhere story with a--hold the presses!!--"twist" ending that can't even explain itself well and does nothing to save the film from leaving you wishing for your 90 minutes back so you can spend it kicking yourself for having watched this thing in the first place.
Eye Of The Tiger is the highlight of this 4-movie set. Admittedly, that isn't saying much, but you take what you can get. This movie is one of those simple vengeance films that the 80s seemed to spew forth as fast as it did slasher flicks. You know the drill: average guy who has been wronged too many times finally takes a stand. That's it. But this one added some odd quirks that make it stand out from the pack. You have Gary Busey as the lead character. This was before he had his noggin whacked in that motorcycle accident that apparently unleashed some weird Id creature that now makes the man appear to be mostly insane. The film also sports a traumatized child who is used as a bargaining chip by the bad guys. Ooh, and grave desecration! That is a nice spin on things. Add to that the fact almost everyone EXCEPT Busey chews the scenery up with a voracious appetite. Pretty fun stuff, except for the traumatized child bit. Oh, and this was NOT directed by Fred Olen Ray, which is probably why it was quite enjoyable.
Last, but far from least (that would, of course, be Alienator), we have Exterminator 2. Yes, a sequel without having the first one on the disc. It is better this way; just trust me. Go out and get Exterminator on Blu-Ray, watch it and then watch this sequel. That way, you get to see how far down the toilet this sequel went compared to the original. On its own merits, it...well, it didn't put me to sleep. Here we go again with the revenge/vengeance thing. Guy who is slaughtering the bad guys in New York lets his guard down to fall in love, and tragedy strikes, making him...wait, he's already killing punks, so having horrible things visited upon his friends and lover is just sadistic icing on the cake. Of prime interest is Mario Van Peebles as the nasty villain. He tries his best, from what I can see, but the role is nothing but a fruitcake with a taste for violence. The star of the film, the late Robert Ginty, looks tired and seems to just be hitting his marks to land the paycheck at the end of the day. Just go watch the original Exterminator for a decent, though definitely brutal, revenge movie.

Shout! Factory, the Bargain Basement Thrills blog salutes you for providing good, cheesy entertainment for chump change. We look forward to your 4 Scifi Movie Marathon due to be released on July 9, 2013, and it will be the subject of another blog post shortly after that release date. 

For those of you who read this, expand your library of films and welcome Shout! Factory into your home with these inexpensive movie sets. Believe me when I tell you that after watching these, you will be using Alienator as your new watermark for awful films.

(Just for the record, I bought this set with my own money, and Shout! Factory in no way contributed to this post, other than releasing this 2-disc set. However, Fred Olen Ray owes me SOMETHING for watching his alien hunter movie. Maybe a nice cheeseburger and a bottle of beer. Or a hug. I understand an apology is asking way too much.) 

Monday, May 13, 2013

What Fresh Hell Is This?

I find it amazing that I can track the date of my last posting in this blog to a major life event. The event? I discovered I have ADHD and started taking medication.

It was a good beginning, but like many of the films I review here and on other sites (well, I used to), things that start well don't always end up that way. 2 years of various mind-altering medications has led to 2 years or more of...basically nothing. This site isn't about wailing, weeping and great gnashing of teeth over the ups and downs of modern life. Hell, if it was, I'd be on here constantly whining about something.

So, what does this mean, the blogger returning to the scene of the crime?

Not sure. Can't promise I'll come back and start reviewing again, but heaven knows I've seen enough crap to post on a regular basis for months. And, even if I don't have any readers out there (Blogger tells me I've had 11,000 page views, and that number utterly wows me speechless), I miss doing this. I miss ragging on these movies that I so love and spend so much of my time and money on.

In a word...maybe.

If there isn't another new post inside of a month, then you'll know I got distrac...SQUIRREL!!!!!!!!!!!