Fallen Ones, The

Let's start this off with a simple statement, so you understand where I'm coming from: I honestly don't know how the other critics do it. By "it" of course, I mean write about movies they hate.

My thoughts are if a movie is so chock full of suck that you are driven to drink in order to forget the terrible memory of what you've just forced yourself to sit through, the last thing you want to do is sit down and write 500 words about it, right?

Before the Cable nets got all uppity and started making original television shows that were better than what the broadcast networks were doing, they were the haven of television reruns, infomercials, and late-night movie marathons. TNT in particular, before they knew drama, were intimately familiar with B-grade splatterhouse schlock.  Of particular note was a Saturday night show called Monstervision that started in the early 90's and ended in 2000. Every episode the host of the show, Jo Bob Briggs, would enthusiastically talk about the movie we were about to see together-frequently throwing in bits of trivia about the cast, crew, or the making of the film. This guy loved these movies no matter how bad they were, and his excitement was seriously infectious. The best part of his reviews though, were his lists, where everything ended in "FU". An example of his breakdown style, for Vampire Cop (1990):

The special effects consist of about ten seconds of a drug dealer's face turning into Silly Putty and getting fried off in the sun. My kind of promotion!

  • Twelve breasts.
  • Twelve dead bodies.
  • Multiple neck-fanging.
  • Wrist-cracking.
  • Double vampire sex in a bathtub. (Don't ask--you don't wanna do it.)
  • Flesh-burning.
  • Co-anchor bashing.
  • Kung-Fu.
  • Fang-Fu.
  • Fe-Fi-Fo-Fu.
  • Gratuitous "Hot Bod" bikini contest.

Well, the point of all of this is that I now get why he did it that way.  Sometimes it's easier to do a breakdown list than actually talk about the movie in detail. Sadly however, I notice that I still have about a hundred words left to go in this review, so maybe I should actually talk about the movie this review is supposed to be about.

The Fallen Ones tells the story of Matt Fletcher (Casper Van Dien), an archaeologist who digs up a giant mummy, only to find out that it's the son of an Angel who raped a woman thousands of years ago (Navid Negahban), and who's now trying to resurrect his son to start a new war on heaven...or something like that. To be honest, by the time they get around to explaining motives or anything, you'll be deep into your drink, trying hard to forget the stabbing pain behind your eyes this movie induces. The vaunted giant mummy on the box cover appears in the first 5 minutes and the last 10, that's about it.  Everything in between is people talking or dying off camera.

The best part of the picture is Tom Bosley-the dad from Happy Days-playing a rabbi. Sadly he gets offed early in the film, so the only thing left to you is more booze to try and slog it through the full runtime. Lest you think I kid about this: At our Cavalcade screening, a non-drinker sucked down 4 Rum and Cokes to make it through the pain. Further evidence in our continuing theory that the more Casper Van Dien is in a movie, the more one must drink to forget it.

There, 574 words. I've done my duty.

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Petrified

April 8th, 2008- It’s the date of the 6th Cavalcade event, and I’m left in a bit of a lurch. All week, I’d been searching for a 3rd mad mummy movie for our mad mummy movie marathon (ok, enough alliteration from me), but just couldn’t find something that broke the mold set forth by The Mummy (1932), so out of desperation, I head over to the Blockbuster across the street. Maybe they’ll have something in their previously viewed bin, a crappy little film I can pick up on the cheap.

After digging through the bin for close to 20 minutes, I’m feeling despondent, giving up hope that I’ll find anything, and turning to walk out of the store. Just as I take my eyes of the racks of DVD cases, a grotesque creature catches my eye. It kind of looks like a mummy, so I pick up the case, turn it over, and read…

When a black market antiques deal is botched by a goon and his girlfriend, the mummified remains of an alien they were selling is revived by the blood of the murdered dealer, Eldridge (Darrow Igus). The blood hungry mummy is on the run, and stumbles upon an in-patient psychiatric facility that his home to dozens of beautiful, voluptuous lesbian nymphomaniacs.

Dear sweet Gozer, I’d struck the mother-load! Space aliens! Mummies! Alien Space Mummies! Lesbian Nymphomaniacs! This has all the elements of a PERFECT Cavalcade feature! But wait, there was more on the box:

Meanwhile, the mummy is being tracked by FBI Special Ops agent, Buzz York (Roark Critchlow). While the mummy wreaks havoc at the facility, the resident Dr. Von Gelder (Osman Soykut) does everything in his power to protect his greatest experiment-eternal youth, in the form of the beautiful Cory (Dana Marie Barba).

Buzz York teams up with Helen Noel (Jessica Lancaster) and the other patients to battle the blood and lust hungry mummy.

Oh man, I just had to get this movie. Besides, it was 3 dollars, I couldn’t lose!
Unfortunately, in my exuberance, there was a small detail I missed, as my thumb covered it up:

Produced and Directed by Charles Band

Those aficionados of craptastic cinema are already knowing where I’m going with this. Mr. Band is the founder of Full Moon Entertainment, a.k.a. Full Moon Features, Full Moon Pictures, Full Moon Productions, Empire Pictures, and Charles Band Productions. While responsible for the seminal 80's low-budget franchises, Trancers and Puppetmaster, they were more recently responsible for such disasters as Decadent Evil (“Vampires! Midgets! Strippers!”-Their words), and Evil Bong. This guy produces more movies a year than some porn studios, with comparable production schedules that are frequently a week or less.

Nevermind the Wizard Entertainment logo the box. This was a full-on Full Moon Feature.

Complaining that a Charles Band movie has craptastic action, terrible acting and production values, or any of that other jazz is like complaining that water is wet, so instead I will focus on the fact that it’s filled with padding. After a brisk first scene that is fairly cool from a made-for-ten-dollar-schlocktastic-crap perspective sets the stage,  the film slows to a crawl. Scenes of people standing around, cracking random jokes that fall flat and otherwise jabbering on are the order of the day.

Then things just get sloppy. Characters appear in one or two scenes and then disappear from the picture altogether. Others reappear at the tail end with no explanation (and in one case, a vastly different hairstyle). Finally, for a movie that salaciously flaunts its lesbian nymphomaniacs, there is a surprising lack of sexploitation on display.

Yes, ladies and gentle sirs, this film failed to entertain on pretty much every level, and yet I’d still recommend that a Cavalcade put the movie in for the first 15 minutes alone. If the rest of the film were as laughably B-movie awesome, we’d be in for a treat. But alas, this mummy is wrapped in suck.

Mummy, The

I have a serious fondness for the classic Universal horror movies of the 30's and 40's. Creepy atmosphere, sexual subtext, and vaudevillian silliness oozes out of every pore of these movies who were telling such sordid tales while simultaneously fighting the censorship boards of the studios, with the conflicts resulting in some great movies (and some really bad ones, to be fair). For my 13th birthday, my present from my parents was a dozen blank VHS tapes so that I could record a classic horror movie marathon running on one of the pay channels over my b-day weekend. As I got older, I must have burned out more than half of those tapes, watching the movies over and over.

By the time I was graduating from high school, the studios were resurrecting these classic B-movie franchises with lush productions such as Bram Stoker's Dracula and Mary Shelly's Frankenstein and I was in hog heaven. Sure, some of the movies were pretentious forays that weren't nearly as fun as the originals (I'm looking at youWolf ), but at least my monstrous childhood companions were getting some serious attention once again. So when, in 1999, the studios finally got around to The Mummy, I took my 9 dollars to the theater and settled in to be taken back to the first time I saw the bandaged undead-corpse shamble across the museum floor in Karloff's 1931 Original.

What I saw instead was a film that owed more to Indiana Jones and the pulp serials of the 30's than the classic Universal films. But it was made with such a sense of glee that I didn't mind, especially since I was too busy being blown away by some of the more astonishing computer special effects of the day. The story is laughable, the characters sketched thin, and the scenarios are absured, but when the DVD came out, I eagerly snatched it up, and started the much more difficult process of burning that out by watching it over and over. Sure it wasn't atmospheric and creepy, but it was one hell of an adventure romp that paid homage to all of its sources... eventually (near the end, I finally got my shambling bandaged corpses in a scene that also makes great reference to Jason and the Argonauts).

Fast forward almost a decade and the Mummy theme finally makes its way out of the voting block for the Cavalcade. This was the first picture I thought of, so I ran out to the store, picked up the shiny new Blu-Ray. The night of the event came and I threw it in the player, eagerly anticipating a great experience and....well... the years haven't been all that kind to it.

Being from the early years of photo-real CGI, the effects aren't nearly as impressive as they once were, and the overall flow of the movie just doesn't work as well as it once did. That said, we had a good time watching the picture, even if it wasn't the thrill-a-minute it was back in '99. Additionally, there really aren't that many better choices for mummy movies easily available. The sequels got progressively worse (with Tomb of the Dragon Emperor being a total waste of time on any level), and there isn't exactly a glut of Mummy pictures otherwise. Pull it out for a Cavalcade, and you won't be disappointed... But you won't be blown away either.

Bubba Ho-Tep

The idea had B-movie gold written all over it: Elvis Presley didn't die, but instead switched places with the best impersonator he could find so he could live out his days in peace. Only, the plan didn't go so well and now he's just another old man in a nursing home with a "growth on his pecker" and his only friend is a confused black man convinced he's John F. Kennedy. Then, of course, there's the 3,000-year-old mummy stalking the other residents, sucking their souls out their a.... You know, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Let's get back to the mad mental case that concocted this story, shall we?

Don Coscarelli, the writer-director-producer-freak behind the mind-bending multi-dimensional alien zombie picture, Phantasm, and all 3 sequels. He also did the campy-yet-creepy Beastmaster (those bird people gave me no small number of childhood nightmares with their digestive hugs). The man knows his way around a smaller budget and frequently crafts quirkily interesting movies, so when I hear that the was teaming with no less than the King of B-Movies, Bruce Campbell (Elvis, a role he was born to play), and veteran actor Ossie Davis (as J.F.K), I'm all kinds of eager to check it out. Besides, there's a mummy in a cowboy hat!

By the time I'd gotten around to seeing it for the first time, Bubba had already won a handful of awards in the independent and genre film circuits. Plus other critics had given their stamps of approval, so my anticipation only continued to grow. I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting, but the end result wasn't it...well, not exactly. Where I expected an action packed campy romp, I got a very rich and interesting character piece, with a captivating performance by Mr. Campbell, and good chemistry with Mr. Davis.

Eventually a giant scarab and the titular mummy show up and get with the face-eating and soul-sucking, but by the time said evil finally makes an appearance and the film begins to ramp up, you can almost forget what type of movie you came to see. This is not to say it's a bad movie, far from it. It's much more skillfully put together than just about any others of similar ilk. But it is deliberately paced in its establishment of the characters before it deals with the monster. Which is part of the problem.

The film doesn't entirely know what it wants to be. Is it a character drama? Is it a silly yet sometimes scary horror movie? It's not that these can't co-exist in a movie, that's not the case at all. It's that these pieces at times feel as if they're being culled from various different movies that the filmakers wanted to shoot, and crammed into this one. It doesn't entirely work, but it's still a fun ride.

But not a fun Cavalcade ride. For a group of people gathered around the screen, drinks in hand, deliberate pacing leads to distraction and boredom. While I love the movie for all its beautiful weirdness and loving care given to its characters, It isn't the best kick-off to a Cavalcade event we've ever had. If you do screen it, make sure it's not the opener. It's better served as a second or third movie, when the crowd is more relaxed.

Hmm. All that, and I never did get back to from where the Mummy sucks the souls...