Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Xtro 2: The Second Encounter, Havoc from an Alternate Universe

Alternate universes rarely have blessings for us.  Whatever is over there tends not to like us.  In alternate universes, their inhabitants are not 'just like us'.  They usually have bigger teeth and more homicidal tendencies in their demeanor.  In 1990's "Xtro 2: The Second Encounter" this is the case.  For those of you familiar with the original "Xtro," you also know that rape and misogyny are also going to be key traits in beings from the other side.
Three unfortunates are sent into an alternate universe from a top-secret underground lab.  Only one returns.  Unfortunately for our Project Nexus scientists, the returning explorer is a babe named Marshall (Tracy Westerholm).  Yep, she was impregnated on the other side and a monster soon explodes out of her womb.  The lab, thousands of feet underground, is now under lock-down, quarantine, and in self-destruct mode.  We've all been there, I know.  As our toothy monster rips scientists apart and snoops for more nubile women, Dr. Julia (Tara Buckman) calls in her former lover, Dr. Ron Shepherd (Jan-Michael Vincent).  He is the only one ever to go and return from the other side.  Ron is deemed insane as he returned yapping about monsters.  So horrified by the other side, Ron destroyed Project Nexus' Texas facility.
Now the monster is loose in a very cavernous underground lab and has infected Julia's boss, Dr. Alex (Paul Koslo).  A tactical team attempts to track down the fiend, but even with heavy weaponry, the monster shreds most of them.  With the countdown clock running down, Julia and Ron must rekindle their former love affair, figure out how to kill the beast, and escape from the lab.  Is there room for pre-marital sex in a besieged top-secret underground facility?  Can we blame a monster from an alternate universe to want in on that love?
Like "Xtro," this sequel (which really isn't a sequel) was directed by Harry Bromley Davenport.  The action is explosive and the ending is quite chilling.  Not as taboo as the original, but fans of cheesy science fiction/horror will love it.  This film is more of a rip-off of "Alien" than a sequel to "Xtro."

Monday, December 5, 2016

Wild Beasts, Animals Eat Europe

"Belve Feroci."  Have some with a red wine, preferably a Merlot.  Nah! Movie titles are always better in Italian.  This 1984 product of Italy is actually "Wild Beasts."  Shot in Germany, set in "a major northern European city," (as opposed to a minor northern European city), this film is the urban version of Day of the Animals . Though made during complicated negotiations between Reagan and Gorbachev, one may view this film as foreshadowing of the plight of the European Union.  Okay, that's a stretch.  In any event, this film will deliver plenty of gore, bad dubbing, ridiculous dialog, and a most horrific conclusion.
Lorraine De Selle
The elegant and glamorous Lorraine De Selle stars in this film.  Oddly enough, her character has nothing to do with anything relevant in the plot.  Other than being really good looking, we'll not mention her again.  Animals at a German zoo are thirsty.  Unfortunately for Germans, something is in the water and these furry beings all go completely mad.  Before they bust out of their cages and march down city streets, signs of this disaster occur.  Hundreds of rats eat a cute couple having pre-marital sex in a car, and a seeing eye dog eats his blind owner.  A flamethrower dispatches the rats and once again we are reminded that when a flamethrower is introduced into a movie plot ...well...only good things can happen.
Strangled by an elephant
Much to the surprise of Dr. Rupert Berner (John Aldrich), zookeeper, his animals bust out.  Some classic cinema ensues.  In one heartbreaking scene, elephants converge on a car driven by a great looking German couple.  One pachyderm strangles the guy with his trunk...the other crushes the gal's head with his foot.  These same elephants will bring down a Lufthansa jet with hundreds on board...don't ask.  As Rupert and the police try to figure out what is going on and how to stop it, polar bears head to a dance academy and tigers run into the subway.  The death toll will be hundreds, including a German babe in a VW Beetle chased down by a leopard.
Hold that tiger
Will Rupert figure out how to end this carnage?  Do humans deserve this treatment after exploiting these animals for so long?  Will the statuesque Lorraine De Selle, who appears often in this film, doing practically nothing, remain un-chewed upon and un-crushed?  Directed by Franco Prosperi, "Wild Beasts" is a lot of fun.  Beware!  However inane much of this film is, the ending is incredibly chilling.  

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Last Shark, Jaws Italian Style

"The Last Shark"! (aka L' Ultimo Squalo")  Oh please, not the last one, how about one more?  Nope, today's film is 1981's "The Last Shark."  Made by Italians and shot in Savannah and Malta, this is an over-the-top B movie. With entire lines and plot devices taken right out of "Jaws," we must give director Enzo G. Castellari credit for ripping off a great film instead of "Ordinary People" or "Looking for Mr. Goodbar." With lots of gore, bad dubbing, and a cheesy irrelevant musical score, you'll have fun with this one.
A nice, quiet coastal town prepares for their annual windsurfing regatta.  Mayor Wells (Joshua Sinclair) reminds us of the revenue this regatta will bring in.  Uh oh, preparing for the weekend event, a hunk wind surfer is swallowed by a 30 foot great white.  The political entities want to keep this potential boating accident a secret as not to scare off tourists.  Peter Benton (James Franciscus), no...not Peter Benchley...his babe wife Gloria (Micaela Pignalelli) team up with Ron (Vic Morrow)...think Quint...to find the shark.  Alas, Peter's beautiful daughter, Jenny (Stefania Girolami Goodwin) grabs some of her teenage buddies and they also go out fishing.
The adults find Ben Gardner's boat...actually in this film it is Ed Glover's boat...all chewed up.  Meanwhile our teens find our 30 foot monster which will feast on leg-of.teenager.  Peter, Ron, and Gloria go back out to sea and now the entire town is mobilized.  The giant fish will take out a helicopter, more boats, news crews, more windsurfers, and some spare ribs.  I bet you can figure out how this will end.  To this film's credit, the mechanical shark is quite neat and dwarfs Bruce from "Jaws."
Fans of the 1975 classic will be able to pick out a dozen scenes lifted right out of that film.  The actors and actresses are all great looking, the gore is quite nice, and cheesiness is perfect for B movie fans. Stupid and campy?  Maybe, but that's fine with me.  "The Last Shark" (the best fish film ever shot in Malta) is available on YouTube.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Blood Freak, Turkeyman vs. Marijuana

As the 1960s became history, the fight against illegal drug use shifted into high gear.  Even before President Nixon created the DEA, a half human, half turkey being was already on the fight.  Alcohol, pot, LSD, and even regular cigarettes...all of them...poison (according to our film today)!  Perhaps the quirkiest anti-drug effort in U.S. history, 1972 "Blood Freak" seems to be a hippie response to a seedy side of hippy culture. Filled with pre-marital sex, nudity and gore, this low-budget goody earned an X rating from a very judgmental MPAA.
Poor Herschell (Steve Hawkes).  He is a semi-clean cut schmuck trying to walk a noble path.  When the sultry Angel (Heather Hughes) breaks down on the side of the road, our good motorcyclist comes to her aid.  Angel is all Christian and quite the evangelist. She invites Herschell home and finds him a job at a turkey farm.  Uh oh, Angel's addict sister, Ann (Dana Cullivan) has a case of sister rivalry and goes after Herschell.  When Herschell rejects her, Ann gets him addicted to pot.  Now Herschell is hooked on marijuana, Ann, and Ann's supplier.  The next day, the poor schmuck shows up for work at a turkey farm.  The scientists at the farm ask Herschell to eat the turkeys they injected with a chemical to make them bigger and tastier.  A hungry Herschell chows down.  After convulsing, he wakes up with a turkey head and thirsting for the blood of nubile babes.
Now a monster turkey-man, our schmuck grabs some great looking babes, hangs them upside down, slits their throats, and drinks their blood.  He attempts to see Ann, who at first is horrified, then she has pre-marital sex with him.  Not wanting to hurt Ann, Herschell runs off to feed on more babes.  As Ann enlists the help of mind numbed users to stop her mutant boyfriend, Herscell gets more violent and sadistic.
Where will the carnage end?  Is our turkey-man a hero or a monster?  Can a half man, half turkey find love in a world of free sex?  Has our turkey-man evolved into a crass metaphor for the Nixon Administration and the DEA?  The actresses are beautiful, the gore is spurting, and f/x are quite hokey in this B movie which can be found on YouTube.  If you have been thirsting for a Thanksgiving horror film, "Blood Freak" is it!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Border Patrol, Gotta keep them out!

They're coming!  No, not the refugees or disenfranchised citizens of a bordering nation.  Exactly who they are is never made totally clear in 2016's "Border Patrol."  This short film tackles deeper issues than who we are keeping out, or what the wall is there for.  Yeah, there is a wall guarded by a border patrol unit here, but in this short film, the border may have already been crossed, and not the geographic one.
The invaders are an ominous sort, and to many of us...we'll see them as monstrous.  No spoilers here, but it is obvious our border patrol agents (Kyle Turner and Stan Alto) are desperately trying to preserve something.  Armed with sniper rifles and desire, the oncoming horde seems no match for our marksmen.  Following today's news it is easy to view a border as a line separating two countries. Director Dee McCullay (who did the screenplay for the story written by Andrea Dean Van Scoyoc) may have something else in mind.  Perhaps a border in our own psyche.  In other words, a wall inside our own minds which separates our humanity from being the monster that stirs deep in our subconscious.
This short poses some uncomfortable questions most of us will never have to answer.  Beautifully shot in the wilds of Ontario, "Border Patrol" will leave you with an uneasy sense of who we can become if all that we love and know evaporates into an apocalyptic nightmare. To view "Border Patrol," click on this link Border Patrol .

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Day of the Animals, When Animals Attack

Poor Susan Blacklinie.  She is always being put on the buffet for the animal kingdom.  In "Jaws," she portrayed Chrissie.  You remember Chrissie, the skinny-dipper who was eaten by the great white at the start of the film.  Two years later, her fate was even more gruesome.  In 1977's "Day of the Animals" she is mauled by wolves, picked apart by vultures, and then thrown of a cliff by those same birds.  The pretty blonde also served as Linda Day George's stunt double in that same film.
The tasty Susan Blacklinie
Ahhh, where would a decade be without it's version of what will end the planet?  Nuclear bombs kept people on edge in the 1950s, Communism in the 1960s, and today...global warming has us ready to relocate to Mars.  But in the 1970s...come on now, any guesses?  Mercury in our Tuna and aerosol sprays were gonna melt our cells and destroy the ozone layer.  In "Day of the Animals," we are warned in a prologue that what we are about to see could happen if we keep using underarm antiperspirant.  Unfortunately for some hikers, led by the hunk Steve (Christopher George), they will see these effects first hand.  The increased radiation makes all the animals up in the California mountains attack.  Mandy (Blacklinie) will be the first to go.
Leslie Nielsen and Michael Ansara
As Steve and his Indian (the 1970s term for Native American) Daniel (Michael Ansara) try to keep the hikers from panicking, a loose cannon ad-executive, Paul (Leslie Nielsen) goes as mad as the pursuing critters.  Paul will turn into a homicidal rapist, as the snakes, tarantulas, birds, mountain lions, and wolves pursue.  A cute side story occurs as Steve falls in love with his real life wife Linda Day George, who plays Terry.  Uh oh, as our campers desperately try to make it back down the mountain to town, they are unaware that the animals have already eaten most of the citizens.  With Steve's group dwindling, and the army on it's way, can our surviving hikers hold out?
Susan Day and Christopher George with Cujo
What begins as a harmless made-for-TV looking PG flick, quickly turns into a gory and dark horror film.  Some of the kills are horrifying and uncomfortable to watch.  Will man emerge still atop the food chain?  Will Mr. and Mrs. George think twice about a family pet?  This film was decades ahead of the hit reality show "When Animals Attack," but the makers of that show clearly had this film in mind.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Up From the Depths, Sea Monster vs. Swimsuit Shoot

Set in Hawaii and shot in the Philippines, 1979's "Up From the Depths" is one of a billion "Jaws" rip-offs.  IMDB bills this one as a horror/comedy, however I don't think comedy was a goal of the film makers.  Directed by Charles B. Griffith, the overly stereotyped characters may indicate a comedy, but in fairness, perhaps the stereotypes are fair.  For example...is it inaccurate to assume that ditzy swimsuit models are shallow and have inflated egos?  With lots of nudity, gore, and a cool looking sea creature, this film is worth a watch.
As the opening credits roll, our star, Sam Bottoms, has his name flashed on the screen over three bottoms of pulsating hula dancers.  A nice start.  Sandy (Dorothy Burham), a buxom, bikini clad diver, is then chewed up by a monster fish.  Her limited remains, and the remains of a shark wash up on the beaches of the Tropical Palace.  Forbes (Kedric Wolfe) wants to keep this all quiet as he must think of the resort's bottom (there's that word again) line.  The beautiful and nubile Rachel (Susanne Reed), is Forbes' assistant, and she believes the authorities should be contacted.  Because Rachel is not with the program, she can't see that the carnage may have been a boating accident.  As the media converge on the resort, a swimsuit model, Iris Lee (Denise Hayes) arrives.  Iris loves nudity, skinny-dipping, and is an airhead.
As our monster begins dining on more beach-goers, Greg (Bottoms) and his uncle Earl (Virgil Frye) see the horror first hand.  Now Greg and Rachel team up to figure out how to fight the fiend and do it behind Forbes' back.  In one heartbreaking scene, the nude Iris Lee is eaten in front of her cameramen, and hardly anyone sheds a tear.  Unable to hide the monster from the press, Forbes is struck with a brilliant idea.  Tropical Resort will conduct a contest...$1,000 to the guest who kills the fish.  As the guests grab spears, SCUBA equipment, flame throwers (yes!), guns, and other explosive toys, Greg and Rachel team up with a scientist who would like to capture the thing alive.
Will pics of Iris' final photo-shoot grace the pages of a major sports magazine?  Will the fiend be taken alive, or will our scientist be added to it's buffet?  Is our big monster fish a mere metaphor for the plight of the proletariat which will rise up against the one per centers, symbolized by the guests at this luxury resort?  The ending is phenomenal and loud.  You may have seen "Jaws" a hundred times, but do catch this Asian rip-off.  "Up From the Depths" is available on YouTube.