Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Project Terrible: Meteor Apocalypse (2010)

I'm almost inclined to give Meteor Apocalypse a bad review just because the way the title and the cover lied to me. Look at that poster! Looks kind of awesome right? Not so much. Meteor Apocalypse is my first non-snow-related Project Terrible movie, and it was assigned to me Maynard of Maynard's Horror Movie Diary.

The movie opens with all the nuclear warheads in the world heading toward a giant meteor slowly approaching Earth. They blast the shit out of it, but somehow screw that up and now all these tiny meteors are going to crash into us instead. But that's not even the real problem - the meteor pieces fall into bodies of water and contaminate the water supply in the area, causing seizures and death. The movie follows a man on a journey from Las Vegas to Los Angeles in search of his wife and daughter who were taken during a quarantine.

So Meteor Apocalypse is honestly not that bad. It sure as hell was not what I was expecting it to be based on the title. "Meteor Apocalypse." You would think that the movie would be all action-heavy, full of big, falling space rocks causing all kinds of fire and explosions and shit, right? Well, you would only be partly right. Like 10% right. That's about as much action as you're going to find here, because they chose the "post-apocalyptic" feel for this story, making it a bit more subdued and serious. And boring. And disappointing. But still not really bad. It's a competent film with okay actors and characters, but the story is too mapped out and clichéd. You've seen all this before.

Our main character is David, who gets separated from his wife Kate and 12-year-old daughter Allison. Allison unfortunately ingested the contaminated water, so there's that plot point. David is also afraid of heights - also a plot point. Somewhere along the way in David avoiding the authorities and wandering around the desert, he comes upon this hot chick named Lynn who also drank the bad water. He saves her, and the two of them spend the rest of the movie getting into trouble together while looking for Kate and Allison. At the same time, some head honchos in Washington D.C. do... some stuff. I didn't really see the point of this whole side plot so that's all I'm going to say about that.

It's really kind of weird to me that someone would have a movie called Meteor Apocalypse, and then have the meteors not be the main threat in the film. Granted, the meteors are the thing that cause the sickness from the water that actually is the main threat in the film, but it's still unexpected and doesn't make for a very exciting night with the movies. I started to really sick of bottled water while watching this. Seeing as how our two mains spend a lot of the movie wandering in the desert on foot (how the fuck they know where they're going is anybody's guess), they always need clean water. They're always thirsty. Always looking for water. Oh, a water bottle! Happy day! There's even a scene where they get in the middle of firefight with two criminals and two FBI agents, right next to a box truck full of bottled water. It's fate! The universe wants them to succeed.

Which, of course, they do. You know the ending way before the movie gets us there. David will randomly run into his wife and daughter; his daughter will be almost dead (remember, she drank the bad water); but David will be able to use his last vial of the antidote (yeah, somewhere along the way he and Lynn find his friend who has the antidote and he takes two doses) and save her, and then right after that, the whole family will be rescued. And that's exactly what happens. Well, what I didn't really see coming was Lynn dying - SPOILER - but I think she kind of needed to die because she was starting to become a homewrecker.

Technically, "Meteor Apocalypse" is a totally appropriate title for this movie - because the meteors sort of start a mini-apocalypse... well maybe calling it an "apocalypse" already is jumping the gun but anyway - but it really does make you think that you are going to be watching a completely different movie than what you end up with. Yes, there are some bad effects shots of fiery meteor balls hurtling dangerously towards our characters (don't worry, they of course get out of the way JUST in time... usually) throughout the movie, but most of Meteor Apocalypse is character stuff. Which is a good thing! This is not a crappy Asylum movie with tongue firmly planted in cheek. It's well made and the characters are fine and the story works for the most part. So what's my last Natural Disaster movie? Another end of the world thing? Goody.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Project Terrible: 100 Below Zero (2013)

One of the characters in 100 Below Zero (I don't know how to get the degree symbol, I'm stupid and don't want to figure it out) has a line that he says twice over the course of the movie: "I don't engage in hyperbole." As the movie went on, I realized what a funny line this is, especially in a movie called 100 Below Zero that never once gets as exciting or exaggerated the title might imply. This is my second Project Terrible movie, and comes to me courtesy of Bob, who will be posting his reviews on Alec's site, Mondo Bizarro.

Brother and sister pair Ryan and Taryn are in Paris awaiting the arrival of their father, Steve, and his new girlfriend, Lacey, from England. Mother Nature makes that rendezvous a little difficult, though, when a series of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions around Europe causes a massive ash cloud to block out the sun. The temperatures drop and the snow starts falling, but the family doesn't give up on their task to be reunited.

So this is another Asylum movie. I feel bad having to preface a review with that statement again, but it is kinda needed. Actually, 100 Below Zero is not as bad as my previous PT film, Age of Ice. The biggest reason for this is that 100 Below Zero has a bit more tongue-in-cheek comedic moments, sometimes very subtle, that shows that the characters and actors know that they are in a ridiculous movie but don't seem to care and just go with it. And I appreciate that. The production value is still just like the same old Asylum, though slightly elevated this time around - they actually filmed in Paris! Also in Budapest, which is not Paris, but at least it's not some poorly reconstructed version of Paris on a soundstage in California.

The plot of 100 Below Zero is a lot less schizophrenic and makes a helluva lot more sense than Age of Ice did. They even add in a nice touch to the plot where this isn't just some freak occurrence that will go away soon - the new European ice age will only get worse over the next two years which is why our characters have to get out as soon as they can. There's even a time limit on them as Steve, an ex-Air Force pilot, gets in contact with one of his old war buddies who promises them a seat on a plane that is evacuating to Australia, and they have ten hours to get there. Our characters - mostly Ryan and Taryn - get into some pretty strange mishaps along the way. One of them is almost brained by soccer ball-sized hail; they are trapped in a collapsing building; one of them is electrocuted by elevator cables; someone pulls a gun on them; and they are mugged when some dudes take their bicycles.

The character dynamic in the movie is that Steve's wife, Taryn and Ryan's mother, has left him and Lacey is the new, younger model. Ryan's okay with it, but Taryn has reservations. Also, Steve and his military friend Dillard, have a deep history where Steve saved his life, but that history is kind of ruined when Dillard explains what happened. Something about how a plane they were flying ran into a flock of geese that got sucked in their engine - which is more hilarious than it is horrible. None of this character stuff really ends up affecting the plot at all, though, which was probably a good choice. It would have made the movie look like it was trying too hard to be serious, and that is definitely not the point of a movie like this. We are talking about a movie that at the end has an ice cyclone - WHATEVER THE FUCK THAT IS - destroy the Eiffel Tower and most of Paris. Oh! There's also a quick, almost throwaway part where a random character is introduced and then almost immediately killed by a large falling icicle. Huge laugh from that moment!

The really disappointing thing about 100 Below Zero is what I mentioned earlier, that the weather never gets as devastatingly bad as the title and DVD cover lead us to believe it will. The characters continuously say that things will definitely get worse and worse, which gives the plot some immediacy but at the same time distracts the viewer from the fact that all of this is just beginning and that it basically looks like a regular winter's day out there (the ice cyclone doesn't show up until the very end). Two of the female characters spend the movie running around in either a short sequined dressed or a skimpy t-shirt, so things can't really be that bad.

100 Below Zero isn't the greatest, but it is good brainless fun for an hour and a half, and that thankfully goes by pretty fast. Look for the only recognizable face in the cast - John Rhys-Davies a.k.a. Sallah from the Indiana Jones movies! Two more PT films to go now, and luckily no more with snow. I'm definitely over that plot device already.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Project Terrible: Age of Ice (2014)

Hello, my horror fiends, and welcome to another round of Project Terrible! This is the thing where a bunch of us bloggers get together and make each other watch and review terrible movies. This round is sorta special because we have new member joining us this time (Welcome, Christian!) and we're doing things a little different - each blogger chose a theme for what types of movies they wanted to receive this time. For instance, I chose films about Natural Disasters, because there's a good guarantee that there are a lot of bad ones out there. Alec from Mondo Bizarro gave me this gem called Age of Ice.

An American family is expecting to have an exciting (and hot) vacation visiting the pyramids of ancient Egypt. But Mother Nature has other plans in store for them when seismic activity somehow leads to a freak snowstorm with below freezing temperatures! Will the family make it to the extraction point before they freeze to death? Will this plot ever make sense???

So let me just say two words to begin my review: The Asylum. Many of you are probably now going, "Ohhhh, okay, I get what kind of movie this is now." And you're right. It's that kind of movie. It almost doesn't feel right to give this movie the Project Terrible review treatment because it's TOO FUCKING EASY. I seriously doubt Age of Ice was meant to be anything other than what it is, which is frustratingly bad. From the stilted acting and lack of real characters, to the implausible plot, to the fact that it never once looks at all like the characters are in Egypt... Age of Ice is a masterpiece, you guys.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around where all this snow in Egypt came from in the first place. They try to explain it a few times but it never really works, or I didn't care enough to really pay attention and comprehend it. Could be either one. There's even a great line from the character of the teenage daughter, Amber, where she says something like "Okay, so there's lava, and a cold front, and shifting plates..." and that's pretty much the whole explanation for the sudden winter storm in the desert. Oh, but it's only in certain circular areas around the Red Sea, and not at all near the beach where the characters end up at the conclusion, even though it only seems to be less than a mile away from where they previously were that was full of snow. Once again, it's The Asylum. Just go with it and don't hurt your head trying to make sense out of it. On the other hand, I'm not a weather person. This could all be totally plausible.

This is ANOTHER one of those movies where I have something to say about literally every scene. There's the increasing embarrassment of the actors as they pile on mismatched blankets, scarves, and clothing for warmth. The way the parents don't seem the least bit concerned when their young son falls off a moving train. The way the parents don't seem the least bit concerned when their young son falls hundreds of feet down the side of a pyramid. Yes, the son causes a lot of problems in the movie and is very annoying. So's the daughter. And the mom. And the dad. Everybody sucks. Back to the plot, though... There is just a ton of stuff to talk about. How does anybody know where the fuck they are or where they are going in this snow-covered landscape with no location markers? And don't tell me that it's because of the maps on their phone, because that is bullshit. What about that camel farm - yes, camel farm - that they stumble across? Or the random group of people that are nearby when their plane crashes? I'm actually quite amazed at this movie's writer and how he came up with all this stuff to fit into one movie.

Okay, I've got to move on from this. There are still three more movies to do and I know they are going to be just as bad as this one. Actually, a fun part about doing this review was Googling pictures for Age of Ice and coming up with all these adorable screenshots for Ice Age. Sort of softened the blow of the badness of watching the movie. Anyway, more Natural Disaster fun to come!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Book Review: A Nerd Girl's Guide to Cinema (2015) by Kelly Cozy

I've been gone from here for over a week now, but I promise that I have actually been working in some way the whole time. I've been watching a couple Project Terrible movies; finally watching the whole of the TV show Holliston (which I L-O-V-E-D); and mostly finishing reading this book that I promised the author I would do a review of!

The book in question is A Nerd Girl's Guide to Cinema by cinephile and professional reviewer Kelly Cozy, and it contains Cozy's reviews of 200 "cult classics, overlooked gems, and interesting failures." The cool artwork for the cover definitely intrigued me, as did the overall idea of a self-identified female movie nerd possibly reviewing a bunch of movies that I've never heard of and that I really need to see. Discovery is always exciting! I thought it would be really strange at first to review a book of reviews, but Cozy's writing is very enjoyable and she's definitely a reviewer that I would follow on regular basis.

Actually, her writing style reminded me a lot of, well, me, and how I think and hope people perceive me in my reviews. Cozy's personality shines in every sentence of her reviews and after reading the first few, I found myself wondering what she would think of this movie or that movie. She's brutally honest, funny, knowledgeable, and wonderfully analytical. If the movie she's reviewing is a bit silly or stupid, then the tone of her review would match that. Likewise, if the movie is more serious or laudable, her analysis of it is much more professional, while still peppering in a quip here and there. Or if she finds a certain element in a movie, like the characterization or theme, that stands out to her while the overall movie doesn't, she makes sure to highlight that and let her readers know about it. All of these are things that I like to do with my reviews, too, so I absolutely respect and admire the approach that she took.

The 200 movies that Cozy covers in A Nerd Girl's Guide to Cinema definitely helps the book live up to its title. By the time I was done reading, I had a very long list of movies to add to my queue (which is already way too long), and many of them were ones with which I was not at all familiar. She covers different genres and different levels of production value, from Seven and Django Unchained, to Death Bed: The Bed that Eats (something I am definitely going to be reviewing in the future) and Massacre in Dinosaur Valley. There are sci-fi films, classic horror movies, kaiju movies, even a romantic comedy or two. There is an equal balance of reviews of films that Cozy finds favorable, and ones she doesn't like so much. The length of each piece is comfortable, though I think her longest review is for Tommy Wiseau's The Room, strangely. Does that mean I should see it just to know what all the fuss is about?

Needless to say, as with any reviewer, there are times when I completely disagreed with Cozy, and found myself saying to her a couple times, "What the hell are you talking about?!" Most notably for me, she gives a lukewarm review of The Blob remake, I Spit on Your Grave, and Four Flies on Grey Velvet. And somehow, she found something negative to say about some of my absolute favorite movies like American History X (that just isn't possible - American History X is perfect), Event Horizon, The Omen, and Ravenous. Ravenous! How do you not love Ravenous?! Can't understand that, but to each his own, of course. Also when talking about the Tales from the Crypt TV show, Cozy calls the Cryptkeeper "annoying" and that hurt my heart a little bit.

A couple of notes: I really didn't like the Intermission section that was titled "Movies I Won't Watch." If you won't watch them, don't talk about them. Even though you haven't seen them, you're still judging them by writing something like this, and that bothers me. Also, Cozy will sometimes repeat herself in her reviews, and though putting the reviews in alphabetical order was probably just easiest, the flow between some of them was a little weird and she would inherently repeat herself again, just by having certain reviews right after each other. But that's really just my weird version of OCD talking.

Still, Cozy's book is wildly entertaining and informative, and the reader will quickly figure out that this girl knows what she is talking about it and is so forthcoming with her opinions that you can't help but respect and admire her.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Franchise Review: Hellraiser [IV]: Bloodline (1996)

Wow, really? We're already going to space with this franchise? It's only the fourth movie. You don't go to space until way later when you are just shit out of ideas and don't even care about being good anymore (unless you're Jason X and you end up being totally awesome). Hellraiser: Bloodline actually just goes all over the fucking place in space and time, literally, and I don't really have much of a clue about what I just watched.

We start off in the year 2127 on a space station, where a guy named Merchant (that name should be recognizable) is manipulating a Terminator-looking robot into solving the puzzle box but some SWAT guys crash the party just as Pinhead shows up. The SWAT guys interrogate Merchant, and we get a whole history lesson on the family that built the first puzzle box and how they might hold the power to keep Pinhead out of our world.

Bloodline is interesting to say the least. I'm not calling it horrible just yet because of what may come in later films, but there is definitely something wrong about this entry and how it fits into the franchise. Somewhat jumping the shark so early and taking the story into the future is definitely not the choice I would have made, even if a good portion of the film actually takes place in different time periods. It's not a total train wreck, though, which is very surprising - especially considering the huge reservations I was having during the opening credits when the director was listed as "Alan Smithee." There were actually two directors for Bloodline, and they both were so disappointed with the movie that neither one of them wanted their name on it. Ouch.

The main thing that I didn't like about the movie is that the main villain is not really Pinhead so much as this other chick named Angelique. And the even further problem with that is that we have no idea who Angelique is or what her background is. She appears during the portion of the film that takes place in 1796, when the box is first built by a toymaker named Phillipe LeMarchand. LeMarchand built it for a creepy, pancake makeup-wearing guy named de L'Isle who uses it to summon a demon through the body of this random chick his assistant, Jacques, killed and she becomes Angelique. But what kind of demon is she and where did she come from? Later on in time and in the movie there is a Cenobite version of her (I think), but was she a Cenobite to begin with? Is she from the same realm of Hell as Pinhead and that's how he knows her (because they act like frenemies for most of the movie)? When Pinhead finally does show up, it almost feels weird that he's there and that he doesn't fit in with the movie because he hasn't been the main villain so far.

I do have to give Bloodline props for some cool things that it does. There isn't an abundance of great kills or anything (and one of them is basically a repeat of what they did in the previous movie) but what is there is pretty good. First of all, Pinhead's pet demon dog - we'll call him Fido - was both hilariously bad and hilariously awesome. Fido is the first BDSM dog I've ever seen who is not really that terrifying because all he can do is click his teeth really fast. How adorable. Fido doesn't get a crazy amount of screen time, though, so don't go into Bloodline expecting to see a lot of him. The repeated death is when the twin security guards become the Siamese twin Cenobite, and the effect looks just like when Spencer and Pinhead merged together in Hellraiser 3. The only real standout kill for me was in the portion in 1996 when Merchant is very cleverly decapitated with one of Pinhead's chains that has a nifty attachment on the end of it. This was also surprising because the audience was probably expecting him to survive.

I'm not entirely sold on their explanation of what ends up defeating Pinhead. Light? Really? Just... light? Please tell me there was something more to this that I didn't care enough about to really pay attention, because I really hate to believe that Pinhead was dispatched with by LIGHT. And being blown up in space, sure, but mostly light. Kind of dumb, I'm sorry. Not sorry, though, to say that I kind of really liked the whole thing at the end where the space station turned into a giant puzzle box and explodes. It was a cool way to make the scope of the movie and the story that much bigger, and really, it was a fucking good idea.

I very much enjoyed the cast. Doug Bradley is of course back as Pinhead, but several other recognizable faces show up as well. Rimmer, one of the futuristic SWAT people on the space station is Mark Greene's wife from ER. Merchant's wife Bobbi is Kim Myers from Nightmare 2. Merchant's son Jack is child actor Courtland Mead. Jacques is a guy whom I randomly recognized as one of David's boyfriends from Six Feet Under. It's really a good cast all around and they each do a great job with their roles, never once either hamming it up or dumbing it down.

So what was my overall experience like with Hellraiser: Bloodline? I wasn't a big fan of the story, which was just way, way overreaching - going to space, jumping time periods, being really fucking confusing and not making any sense. I really can't give the movie any points for that. However, the execution is not too shabby when you really look at it. Like I said before, it's not a total train wreck, but it definitely could have been better.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Short and Sweet: Forevermore (2015)

Not as short and sweet as some of the other films I've shared here, but "Forevermore" by filmmaker John Francis McCullagh is still worth a look, definitely. This 18-minute short film is a great period piece about a husband and wife who are having some problems and how the husband handles it... that's all I want to say! I really liked the social topics they touched on here, and the film quality is wonderful. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Franchise Review: Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)

Alright, this is interesting. I'm not sure if this is exactly where I saw the Hellraiser movies going right after the gold that was the first and second films, but I'm gonna go with it. Here we have a new location, a new protagonist, and basically a new Pinhead. Or a new Pinhead and the guy Pinhead used to be. It's kind of weird, but it's cool to see Doug Bradley out of makeup for a good chunk of the movie.

The statue that now holds the soul of the Lead Cenobite Pinhead - and the box that is used to summon him - is purchased by a sleazy club owner named JP. When news reporter Joey Summerskill witnesses the chains from the box killing a young man, she recruits JP's ex-girlfriend Terri to find out more about the Cenobites and stop Pinhead from unleashing "hell on earth."

As aforementioned, there is something a bit different going on with Pinhead in this story. The statue that appears out of the mattress at the end of Hellraiser 2 is the Pillar of Souls and has all these agonized faces on it that represent the souls trapped inside, one of them being Pinhead's. But it is only his demon side that is trapped here. Also trying to make contact with the real world, to stop his other self, is the soul of his human side, Elliot Spencer, who is in limbo. Spencer communicates with Joey through her dreams and helps her. He's actually quite charming, so I very much enjoyed these scenes.

Joey is actually a pretty cool heroine. I liked the smart aleck side of her that we see in her first scene, and throughout the movie, she remains inquisitive and brave, but never really all that stupid, even when she is tricked by Pinhead. She not only gets to call Pinhead an "ugly fuck" (hey hey now, girl) but also gets to be the only or one of the only people to actually call him Pinhead, I think. I'll find out when I refresh on the rest of the movies. Bradley has a lot more screen time in Hellraiser 3 and a lot more dialogue. He doesn't go full Freddy Krueger with cheeky puns and shit, but he gets damn close sometimes. His voice is also just a bit different sounding sometimes, and his look - especially just his head - is weirdly monochromatic, and I don't think I really dig the fleshy color as opposed to the white. At the same time, though, he's still Pinhead and he's still awesome.
As gory as the first two Hellraiser films were, there was a weird respectability and beauty to the way they were handled. Here, things start to get a little skewed in that regard, and there are more random deaths of random people just for the sake of upping the body count. Not that that's not awesome, though. I loved some of it. The first gag is at the hospital when Pinhead's chains somehow make a guy's head explode. The next gag is definitely my favorite - one of JP's one-night-stands gets too close to the statue and is hooked, then flayed alive and sucked into the statue. Later, there is a bigger sequence where Pinhead slaughters a bunch of the club-goers in various interesting ways. Also some very lame ways. I'm not sure how I feel about seeing Pinhead looking like a rock star in a club, but I guess that's just the vibe of this movie.
Also when speaking of effects, Hellraiser 3 sees the creation of some new Cenobites with really cool, if not a bit hokey, looks. Joey's nice cameraman doc has a camera imbedded in his skull; the disc jockey at JP's club The Boiler Room is impaled with all these CDs; and the bartender carries around a shaker cup full of gasoline and can breath fire. JP and Terri also become Cenobites At the end, Spencer and Pinhead become one person again, and there is an effects shot of their heads twisting and molding together. Not bad, not bad. The setting of New York City also sets up some new action sequences, like the part where Joey is running through the (strangely empty) streets and then meets up with the new Cenobites.
Gah, there's actually a lot more to talk about with this one than I initially thought. I like the story a lot because it builds well upon the events of Hellraiser 2, when there was that moment of sympathy for the Cenobites and the human beings that they once were. Bradley's portrayal of Spencer helped bring forth more of this sympathy, and was a nice contrast to the gleeful evil of Pinhead.
I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that I'm a fan of Hellraiser 3. It's a sharp left turn from the tone and the goals of both its predecessors, but it's pretty good. I like the protagonist and the story was a good progression, despite the odd cast of characters that the movie surrounds itself with. Three down, six to go!
Sidenote: The Motorhead song "Hellraiser" plays during the closing credits, and that was actually my first time hearing it! Nice!