Eight Legged Freaks

Ever since Bud Abbot and Lou Costello first bumped into a reanimated corpse in the imaginatively titled Bud Abott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), the genres of Comedy and Horror have been inextricably linked. Sure there were others before that made the mix, and comic relief was a staple in the classic horror movies of the 20's and 30's, but no film was ever so able to both scare an audience and make them laugh at the same time as that one, and it's success spawned two sequels, numerous television sketches, and in my opinion, heavily influenced Scooby Doo, but that's another discussion.

Filmmakers have been chasing this particular dragon ever since, with varying degrees of success. For every American Werewolf in London, there is a House II: The Second Story; for every Tremors, an American Werewolf in Paris. The sad truth is that there have been so many bad comedy/horror hybrids that the good ones frequently go unnoticed by audiences. Slither is one example, Eight Legged Freaks is another.

Written and Directed by Elroy Elkayem, the story is straight 50's drive-in: A small cargo of Toxic Waste finds its way into a lake near the small town of Prosperity, Arizona (a town which, in typical movie fashion, fails utterly at living up to its name).  In short order, the local insect life ingests the water and are themselves ingested by the spider collection of the local kook (an uncredited Tom Noonan), who soon grow larger, escape and ingest their owner and the local fauna,  then make their way into town. By the time they get there, the babies are the size of, and able to go ten rounds with, a cat (which one of them does in one of the best scenes of the movie). Before long, they're the size of a car, with the queen mother towering over them at a grand 20 feet in height.

Kari WuhrerDavid Arquette, and a youngish Scarlett Johansson do a great job of filling the classic roles of the Small Town Sherrif, Prodigal Hero, and Rebellious Teenager while the script has  plays with the old stereotypes and turns them on their ear. Case-in-point: The wise professor/scientist role in this film is filled by a young boy (Scott Terra). All of this is played with energy and just the right touch of camp.

The best characters in the movie, however, are the spiders themselves. While realistically detailed in their Computer Models, they chatter with each other in odd little noises, react, and perform cartoonish pratfalls. The fact they do this while still managing to be deadly, and frequently creepy adversaries-is a testament to the Director's skill. The invaders in Mars Attacks! wish they were as memorable. Credit must go to the producing team of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, who manged to bring the special effects prowess and experience from Independance Day and Godzilla to a movie that's a hell of a lot more fun and better than either those movies ever were.

So is this recommended fof a Cavalcade? Absolutely! It's a wild, fun little ride that is perfectly suited for a Drive-In. Check your brain at the door and enjoy the entertainment.

Drive Angry 3D

A few days ago, my father asked me if Nicholas Cage was able to make a good movie anymore.  Having recently watched trailers for Next (2007)Knowing (2009), and The Sorceror’s Apprentice (2010), I immediately responded with no small amount of sadness, “no.”

Then I saw Drive Angry.

Now, like Zarathustra taught us the Ubermensch, the Cavalcade teaches to you the Drive Angry!

John Milton (Nicholas Cage) has broken out of Hell in a sweet muscle car.  This is a completely different concept from Ghost Rider (2007), in which Nicholas Cage is possessed by a demon hunting other demons on behalf of the Devil with a sweet chopper.  His purpose: to stop Satanic cult leader Jonah King (Billy Burke) from using his granddaughter in a sacrificial rite to bring Hell to Earth.  In between Milton breaking out of Hell and [Spoiler Alert] stopping King is nothing short of glorious.

Brought to us by the writer/director team Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier who have brought us epics like Jason X (2001) and My Bloody Valentine 3-D (2009)Drive Angry’s primary goal is showing as many car stunts, bodily mutilations, and gratuitous nudity as humanly possible in 104 minutes.  Gentle readers, you have to understand, the marketing for this film is deplorable.  Remember those commercials with Cage shooting people in a hotel room and dodging an axe thrown at his head?  What the advertisers do not want you to know is that Cage is actually having sex with a completely naked woman the entire time!

I do not have the space or the legal rights to list every incredible action stunt in the picture.  But I can tell you about the performances featured in this film because they are all gold.  Cage is surprisingly restrained here.  There is maybe one Elvis-ism, no screeching, and no quirkiness for quirkiness’ sake.  Cage plays it straight and it works perfectly.  Lussier takes full advantage of Cage’s ability to go from zero to BROODING in .0005 seconds flat.

Amber Heard is plays Milton’s sidekick, Piper.  Having only seen her previously as “406” in Zombieland (2009), I did not expect much.  This actress is phenomenal.  She is essentially Elly May Clampett if she were metal.  Billy Burke’s ability to work leather pants and puffy shirts while simultaneously making any semi-religious nonsense sound like the Gettysburg Address firmly cement him as the heir-apparent too Billy Drago.  Our esteemed screenwriter, Todd Farmer, makes a cameo doing exactly the same thing as he did in My Bloody Valentine 3-D.

However, the man that steals the show is William Fichtner.  Playing “The Account,” the Devil’s bounty hunter, Ficthner joins the “Why didn’t anyone think to give him superpowers before?” list.  Said list includes Christopher Walken after The Prophecy (1995) and Robert Forster in season two of "Heroes." Fichtner glides through the movie as the entire world is his amusement park.  Drive Angry Fun Fact: It is!

The thing is, you all have to go out and embrace this film in the 3-D in which it was intended.  If you don’t, we’ll never get another one.  And we need another one.  This is a film that gives Nicholas Cage license to say with complete seriousness that he will not drink a beer unless it is the skull of his mortal enemy.

Wanna guess what he does before the credits roll?

 

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Dracula: I, who served the Cross. I, who commanded nations, hundreds of years before you were born.
Professor Abraham Van Helsing: Your armies were defeated. You tortured and impaled thousands of people.
Dracula: I was betrayed. Look at what your God has done to me!

Oh, what a beautiful mess this movie is!

Prior to the release of this film, Francis Ford Coppola promised that this would be the most faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel ever brought to screen, and while there are some glaring deviations in the story, he was right. But that doesn't change the fact that after the 2 hours and 8 minute runtime is up, you'll be stunned by what you saw, and that's not entirely a good thing. Frankly, this movie is all over the map in terms of quality and content, so much so that I am of two minds when I watch it: The Film Geek and the B-Movie Freak. As such, I will give each their time in the following review:

TFG: Beautifully shot with set pieces designed specifically to be evocative of both stage and early theatrical productions, Coppola's film has a real old-world style feel to it that perfectly sets its operatic tone early on. With the energetic opening that ties Bram Stoker's tale to the historical Vlad Tepes, even minutes into the film, you know you are not going to be seeing your average Dracula movie.

BMF: Impalements! Blood-fountain Crucifixes! Bad-ass anger management issues! ROCK! Winona's kinda hot too.

TFG: Shifting now into the familiar territory of the book, it is here that the film shines... and starts to show its many flaws. Gary Oldman's campy turn as a deranged Dracula, tormented by memories of his past, yet still all-together evil deservedly launched his career into the forefront of Hollywood. On the flip-side, Keanu Reeves casting as Jonathan Harker solidified opinions of just about everyone to his limitations as an actor.

However, the true stars of the overall show, the production design and cinematography, keep you rolling along, even as the movie is about to drastically change its tone yet again.

BMF: Oldman rocks, Keanu's hilariously bad, and there are BOOBS. Add to that some nifty shadow effects and cool spider-man action. This movie is just plain awesome.

TFG: It's here that the movie begins to crumble under the weight of its own pretentiousness. With a shoe-horned romance that only just barely manages to be better than the one shoved into Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (the new standard low from here to eternity), intermixed with a surreal whirlwind of images pulling together the disparate threads of Stoker's dense novel, it's hard to make sense of what exactly is going on if you haven't already read the book. But it's beautiful to look at, so we'll give it a pass, but it's still hard to deal with the sudden shifts from supernatural romance to violence for little-to-no reason.

BMF: Hey look, he's all young and pretty again...err...why, exactly? Yawn, can we get past these courtship scenes with Wino-oh SHIT! What the fuck is that cool freakin' Wolfman-thing doing with that lady on the-oh-oooo-ok, that can't be legal! oh, and BOOBS!

TFG: As the film progresses, the bits of story are becoming more and more disjointed. Anthony Hopkins appears as Van Helsing, but his portrayal won't win him any awards. Tom Waits has an impressive turn as Renfield, and we are treated to some truly impressive effects, but the script is unraveling. The score by Wojciech Kilar however, is impressive enough to become a staple in theatrical trailers for the next 15 years.

BMF: BOOBS! BlOOD! Batman? This film is awesome! It's got comedy, gore, and sex! Lots of sex. I mean, wow. By this time we're all cackling along at some very weird happenings on the screen. Oh, and could somebody explain to the rest of us why Van Helsing is teleporting around like Nightcrawler from X-Men 2 and...oh, who cares. This. is. AWESOME.

As you can see, this movie gets bogged down by it's own pretension and some laughably bad performances by most its leads (Oldman and Waits being the distinct exceptions). But the sumptuous visuals, music, and that same B-movie acting manage to make this a worthy addition to any Cavalcade event.

Godzilla: Final Wars

Good day, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for joining us for our long-awaited review of Godzilla: Final Wars. However, before I can get to the review proper, and adequately discuss the nuances of the film, I have to get something off my chest. I feel the need to do this, if only because it does so affect the rest of the analysis. We here at the Cavalcade of Schlock do want to thank you for your patience in this matter, ladies and gentlemen, and promise to be brief in my announcement, so that we may both continue on in our studied consideration of the motion picture. So, without further ado...

Ahem.

*cough*

....

*deep breath*

Oh. My. F*@%ING GOD. This movie is F*@%ING AMAZING!

*cough*

Thank you.

Ok, now onto the review proper: The year is 2020 and the earth is in chaos. Countless years of constant warfare and environmental neglect has led to the rise of the monsters. To combat the growing threat, the world's governments have formed the Earth Defense Force (EDF), whose sole purpose is to, well, defend the Earth... through force. Wielding a staggering array of the latest technology and weaponry that science-fiction can provide, the EDF have still more resources to call on in this desperate struggle for humanity: Super-Human Mutants.

Enter into the situation, the Xiliens. An alien race that, at first glance, is promising to help defend mankind against not only the monsters, but the impending doom of a planet made of FIRE on a collision course with Earth (to be fair, I think they meant "meteor" and mistranslated). However, it turns out that the Xiliens are actually the ones controlling the monsters and the fiery planet of doom hurtling towards Earth. Now, with the planet overrun with giant monsters, what hope do we have left?

That's right, Godzilla.

The one monster that the EDF couldn't defeat steps into the fray, not necessarily to defend the Earth, per-se. It's mostly a "if anybody's gonna trash the place, it's gonna be me" kind of deal. That's right, Godzilla is here to kick ass and call it Christmas, so sit back and enjoy the show. And what a show it is!

Every monster to ever set foot (or wing, in the case of Mothra) makes an appearance in this picture. Even the American 'Zilla from the travesty that was Godzilla (1998) steps up to receives a beating in one of the films best scenes.  This is a movie that's not afraid to ripoff of every science fiction movie released in the last 20 years. Just off the top:

But. It. doesn't. Matter. Because this movie throws them all together, stirs the pot of absurdity into a quality stew, and sets the burners to eleven...

Hmm. Kind of took that metaphor a bit too far there.

The point of all this is that you won't find a better Cavalcade movie than this. I still haven't mentioned the captain of one of the EDF warships, played by former champion Mixed Martial Artist Doug Frye as a man so... manly that he carries a samurai sword slung over his shoulder the entire picture soley so he can stick it in a wall and fight mano-a-mano against an alien in one of the films climactic battles!

In closing, three words: See this f@#%ing movie.

28 Days Later

When a movie opens with a montage of violent revolts playing on monitors and pans over to a chimpanzee strapped to a table with electrodes and wires stuck on its head in a laboratory, you know it's not going to end well.

Nothing good ever comes from chimpanzees strapped to a table.

By the time the PETA hugging eco-terrorists are mauled by the very animals they're there to rescue (much to the amusement of the meat-eaters in the audience), before turning on each other in a blood-soaked rage, you know we're in infected human zombie territory.

In 2002 Danny Boyle , the director of Trainspotting and the under-appreciated Shallow Grave , decided to tackle the end of the world in 28 Days Later. The resultant movie is a film that both pays homage to Romero's original Dead Trilogy (and movies like The Omega Man ) and updates the whole spiel with a nifty twist here and there.

The first change from the classic Zombie formila is the fact that they aren't "Zombies" at all, in the traditional sense. Here there is an outbreak of a "Psychological Virus" that turns those infected into rampaging flesh-mongering homicidal maniacs who vomit gore and scream alot. Being as how they aren't reanimated corpses, the infected here can run, jump, play hop-scotch, and tear you to shreds in a matter of moments. The flip side is that, while they are stronger and faster than the non-infected humans, they are every bit as mortal, so there's no special considerations to killing them... other than making sure you don't get any of their infected blood in yours, which leads us to the other change in the formula.

Another cliche in zombie cinema is the human that gets bitten and slowly dies from the infection, only to turned into a zombie at a dramatic moment. The change here is that a single drop of blood is enough to transform anyone into an infected in a matter of seconds, which leads to a few intense moments in the picture where allies become enemies in the course of a few moments.

Being a Danny Boyle picture, this movie is filled to the brim with slick visuals and great music. The ten-minute sequence where the main character (played by a then-relatively-unknown Cillian Murphy of Batman Begins and Boyle's own Sunshine fame) walks shell-shocked through a desolate and deserted London is incredible. The infected attacks are equally well shot, filled with intensity and energy.

As a matter of fact, with great dramatic turns by Christopher Eccleston, Brendan Gleeson, and Naomie Harris, one could be legitimate in the concern that 28 Days Later might not be suited for a gathering dedicated to Schlocky pictures. But I will argue that the energy, intensity, and the sheer rocking quality of the infected attacks stacked with the sheer creepy atmosphere throughout the rest of the picture make this a good addition to any marathon.  However, if you're going for more carnage, and want to stick in the 28 XX Later universe, 28 Weeks Later had more appearances of the howling masses, and was a solid pic that, for the most part, lived up to the original's quality.

But if you're simply looking for a fantastically stimulating flick that hits all the high points of the zombie genre, while still stimulating reinventing it, you can't go wrong with 28 Days Later.

You know, it isn't often we actually get a "good film" in the Cavalcade, and I'm still not entirely sure whether that's good or bad.

Bug

Once upon a time as a boy, I used to explore deep into the woods behind my house and explore the vast microscopic universe of the insect kingdom. Waterbugs, Wood Ticks, Beetles, Ladybugs, Ants, Bees, Yellowjackets, and Wasps all held equal fascination for me. The entimology wing of the Natural History Museum was my second favorite  stop after the dinosaurs, what with the living bee hive within the Plexiglas box that I could see inside.

This all changed in the swealtering hot summer of my 12th year, when I was sitting on the front porch of my friend's house, talking about whatever it is that 12-year-old boys talk about when trying to escape the cloying heat of Maryland's humid sweat box. I felt a strange pinch, looked down, saw a large red ant, and flicked it off my arm-thinking nothing of it.  Not long after, I felt another pinch, this time on my leg. Looking down there was yet another ant, which I again swatted away. Before long, I felt another 10 pinches and realized that I was swarmed, running home to my mother who threw me in the shower and helped get the hive off of me. Since then, I've been less inclined to get anywhere near anything remotely insect-like.

I share this tale with you so that you understand when I say that I was distinctly creeped out by Bug,  a movie where a seismic disturbance leads to an invasion of giant cockroaches capable of causing fires with their hind legs, you realize my disquiet has very little to do with the actual quality of the film, and everything to do with my own neurotic phobias.

Yes, this film is bad, but you could probably already tell that from the description. That said, the first half is not as stupid as one might expect, though there is signifigant padding for time. After the initial introduction of the main characters and the afore-mentioned earthquake, things plod on for another 40 mintues or so before anything really interesting happens. Wait, no...there is a scene where the cockroaches take down a cat in a scene that would be disturbing if it wasn't so hilarious. After that, there's nothing for the better part of an hour.

There are a lot of scenes with the main protagonist, Prof. James Parmiter (Bradford Dillman) looking intently at the smoldering palmettos as he figures out exactly what makes them tick (and tick they do, as this their associated sound effect), and other scenes where they talk about the bug's origins, their lifecycle, carapice,yadda yadda yadda. Every once in a great while, somebody gets their head set on fire. But nobody in the film seems to really mind all that much in the next scene. Small towns, go figure.

Where the movie takes a bizzare turn is when the Proffessor gets all disappointed about the short lifespan of the deadly insects (I guess because that would mean the movie would end earlier) and decides to "improve them" by cross-breeding them with another roach to create, you guessed it: HYPER INTELLIGENT PYROTECHNIC COCKROACHES that can spell words, formulate complex strategies, and even eventually fly.

Those cooky college Professors, they just never leave well enough alone.

Then the film just kind of ends... That's it, no doom, no real anything. Kind of pointless, really. So is this cinematic gem worth a Cavalcade? Not really, unless you fast-forward past the insufferable padding with the horrible 70's synth track music and skip straight to the cat attack and the games of bug scrabble.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space

In 1988, the Chiodo Brothers (pronounced Kyoto) unleashed a labor of love that they hoped would blossom into a franchise. Mixing elements of comedy and horror, Killer Klowns from Outer Space wasn't exactly a huge box office success, but it did go on to become a genuine cult phenom in some circles. Since the Cavalcade is dedicated to the very kind of film KKFOS epitomizes, we pulled it out for a screening.

Cotton candy cocoons, mutant popcorn demons, and acid cream pies; you can't fault this one for false advertising. The Klowns...er..Clowns in this movie do, in fact, kill people; and yes, they are from outer space. If you're looking for anything deeper than this, you've obviously come to the wrong place. It's small-town America, frequently victimized by aliens and politicians alike, coming under fire yet again from extra-terrestrials... that happen to resemble clowns that want to eat your face.

With sets comprised mostly of painted cardboard and baloons, the film does what it can with its $2 million dollar budget. Being well-known effects technicians, the Chiodo brothers were able to get most of their visual effects work done for free as favors from friends. This makes for a film that, while obviously low-budget, still manages to pull off a few gags that are actually pretty nifty. The sad part however is that while the Klowns themselves are a interesting bunch of cheesy monsters, the human cast is...well... Let's just say that we were pulling for the Klowns.

The filmakers obviously knew that they were making a ridiculous movie, and as such did everything they possibly could to spice it up. And while I'm sure that it's possible to make a movie with alien clowns that's either genuinely frightening or genuinely funny, KKFOS never really pulls off either. There was one genuinely creepy scene in a jail, and one laugh-out-loud funny moment involving the creative use of a baloon animal. Other than that, we were mostly quiet the entire picture, which actually feels much longer than it's fairly short 84 minute runtime. So while I applaud the Chiodo brothers for bringing such an absurd vision to the screen, I can't exactly recommend it for a Cavalcade feature.

Lifeforce

Once the intrepid astronauts fly into the tail of Haily's Comet to find a gigantic ship shaped not-unlike a penis, disembark their shuttle to enter and fly down a long organic corridor that is not-unlike a urethra (more of a fallopian tube, but we're sticking with the previous organ), and enter a room that was not-unlike a womb filled with batlike fossils, and with a large doorway that is not-unlike a sphincter that later has a shaft of light shoot out of it, we knew we were in for a cinematic achievement heretofore unimagined by man. Once the self-same astronauts deploy a "specimen bag" on one of the fossils (read: A Net) and fly into the sphincter light only to find some nubile alien hotness in a crystal cage on the other side, we realize that Freud is deeply at work in this picture. But we also realize that this is going to be one hell of a movie!

It's kind of hard to figure out exactly where this film went so gloriously astray. Written by Alien-scribe (and director of Return of the Living Dead) Dan O'Bannon, who certainly is capable of writing a creepy film with Xenomorphs, and directed by Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), who has scared the living crap out of an audience more than once, and yet this is one of the silliest "serious" Sci-Fi/Horror movies to ever come out of the 80's. Maybe it's the subject matter? When you adapt a little-known book published in the 70's with the auspiciously descriptive title of Space Vampires, you set yourself up for a certain level of camp. Strangely enough, the book is supposedly better than the movie, but I can't see how. It doesn't have Mathilda May.

Ah yes, Mathilda May, the lead vampire. One must  wonder what she thought when she read the script and saw that the only costume she would be wearing the entire production would be a see-through scarf, and that for only one scene. The rest of the movie she walks around the very cold sets very naked, something that the producers certainly decided to showcase in all of the trailers and a healthy dose of the promotional materials. To be fair (and a bit of a lech), it's totally the right call on both the producer's and the vampires' part.  To quote one of the astronauts: "I'd say she's perfect. I've been in space for six months and she looks perfect to me."

Don't worry ladies, there are two male vampires who also suffer from the same continuous wardrobe malfunction for a large portion of the picture, but for some reason they don't get equal screentime. Go figure.

As it turns out, bringing naked space aliens, who just happen to resemble hot-bodied models housed in crystals to your ship can lead to electrical fires (something that Smokey certainly never thought of). Also, when a derelict burned-out space shuttle is found to have only one survivor and a cargo of naked space aliens, who just happen to resemble hot-bodied models housed in crystals, it might not be a good idea to bring them back to Earth. It might just lead to an alien invasion, a whole host of horny zombies, and some man-on-man action with Patrick Stewart. Who knew?

What totally makes this movie is that every one in it is dead serious. British actors Peter Firth, Frank Finlay, and the aforementioned former Starfleet Captain all deliver their lines with the gravitas of Lincoln's Gettysburg address. The same goes for the heavy-handed direction and script. At no point, it seems, did anybody realize exactly how ridiculous this all was, which makes it all the more amusing to watch.

Colonel Tom Carlsen: She's resisting. I'm going to have to force her to tell me. Despite appearances, this women is a masochist. An extreme masochist. She wants me to force the name out of her. She wants me to hurt her. I can see the images in her mind. You want to stay? Otherwise wait outside!
Colonel Colin Caine: Not at all. I'm a natural voyeur.

When exchanges like that are handled like they're reciting Shakespere, well...It just becomes that much more enjoyable with a group of friends, a host of drinks, and a large helping of food. Throw in some truly impressive special effects for the time, and this film is highly recommended for the Cavalcade.