Friday, February 11, 2011

Buddha Man Academy!

The new movie reviewers. Call them shiny yellow slobs. Call them auric jerks. Call them gold headed and gross. Just don't call them when you're in trouble.

Bo and Luke.

Part of the 2010 Halloween Film Festival

My Bloody Valentine  (Paramount, 1981)  Way back when I was in junior high (or middle school, whichever you prefer) I regularly read Fangoria magazine, and being quite the gorehound at the time I really enjoyed the feature articles that basically showed all the gruesome deaths in each and every horror movie coming down the pike before I could even get to the theater. For the record: I read few magazines anymore, because most of the ones I would read are $9.95 per issue - the same or more than the cost of a paperback book I would spend a lot more time reading; I am no longer as much of a gorehound - I don't avoid it, but I also don't watch a movie because of it either; and wow, do I no longer care for spoilers of any kind - I don't even like it when TV shows give you two minutes of previews of a show you're about to watch - and that goes for old shows like The Dukes of Hazzard ("Tonight, on the Dukes!") or new shows like Hell's Kitchen.
    But I digress.
    Actually, I hadn't even started talking about the movie at all yet, can you digress if the lengthy paragraph preceding the digression is in fact, a digression?
    But I digress.
    One of the articles I was very fond of was the feature preview for My Bloody Valentine, a Canadian addition to the post-Halloween bevy of holiday horror movies, and definitely one that prompted a lot of "what's next? Groundhog Day?" jokes since those two holidays took place in the same month. Well, after perusing the article and reading about all the horrific death scenes and seeing pictures of most of them in blazing color in the magazine, I got driven over to Toler Cinema in Benton Illinois one Sunday afternoon to see this cinematic epic. The story is set in the small Canadian town of Valentine Bluffs, a coal mining burg forever and ever. But 20 years before, two mine supervisors, in a hurry to get out of work and get to the annual Valentine's Day Dance (a big deal in Valentine Bluffs, as you might imagine, eh?) forget to check some piece of equipment, and soon there is an explosion and cave-in, trapping several miners below. Rescuers finally dig down to where the men are, and are shocked to find the only survivor, one Harry Warden, giggling maniacally as he chews on the remains of his fellow workers. Harry busted out of the asylum he was being held in one year later, and gave those two supervisors a very special Valentine: each other's hearts, carved out with a pick axe! As they carted Harry back off to the loony bin, he swore more vengeance on the town if they ever dared hold the Valentine's Day Dance again. Now, it's twenty years later, and the mayor (and mine owner) is ready to try the dance again. Then he gets a box of candy warning him not to let the dance happen - a box with no candy in it...there's a human heart in there! Blech! Then someone pops up in town in miner's gear and offs a couple of the locals. The mayor and police chief keep the deaths under wraps, but cancel the dance. The young miners in town don't take this lying down, however, and plan their own private Valentine's Day party out at the mine instead! And what a wonderfully creepy place for that miner to show up and starting bumping everyone off one by one! Is it Harry, escaped from the asylum and making good on his promise of revenge? Or someone else? Well, in the end it didn't matter much to me, because imagine my utter surprise and disgust when I realized in the middle of the movie that the Motion Picture Association of America was the real slasher here, and they had gotten to the movie before I could - none of the graphic death scenes in the Fangoria article were intact in the movie! All of them had been shaved to a few fleeting seconds, and one was edited so poorly you couldn't even tell what had happened to the victim! Appalled by this, and judging mostly by my adolescent love of the graphic gore effect, I notched MBV onto the "negative" side of my movie scorecard and went on with my life.

Judy hated her dentist.

    Some years later, I'd purchased the DVD release of the movie out of the $5 bin at Wal-Mart, and watched it as part of the 2008 Halloween Film Festival ™ to relive old times. And to my surprise, it turned out the movie was much better than I remembered it, since I could watch it objectively, knowing the gory parts were chopped to bits. The movie moved, had interesting characters, decent acting, a couple of clever plot twists, some jump scares, and my fave, a sense of dread. So I mentally erased the "negative" score and chalked it in as a "positive" instead. If only they could have dug up those censored moments and integrated them back into the movie...
    They dug up those censored moments and integrated them back into the movie!
    Yes, it was a double dip with a second DVD release a couple of years later, but I had to have the movie in its more complete form. And because I'd recently shown the not-bad remake on Blu-Ray to my family movie pals (Hi Sandra, David, and April!) the original got programmed into the 2010 Halloween Film Festival ™ Family Day on October 30th, along with The Tingler, Satan's Little Helper, and a couple of Kolchak episodes. I have to say it was really very cool to see those nasty bits glimpsed in the stills in Fangoria finally back in the movie where they belong - and the movie just came off looking even better, combining all those positives I mentioned before with some truly gruesome and graphic death scenes. At the end of the movie (which has a "sends chills up my spine" moment I won't spoil) everyone watching with me agreed - terrific little flick, and preferred over the admittedly slicker and bigger budgeted remake. I couldn't agree more, so check this one out!

Part of the 2010 Halloween Film Festival

Satan's Little Helper  (Screen Media Films, 2004)  Writer/Director Jeff Lieberman is an interesting guy. He started out in movies co-writing Blade. Not the vampire hunting Wesley Snipes movie, the cool 1973 cop-vs-psycho flick. After that he made scads of industrial films and commercials and also wrote and directed a handful of really neat horror flicks, like Squirm, Blue Sunshine, Just Before Dawn, and Remote Control '88. He always went back to his industrial films and commercials though, because they were so lucrative for him. He stayed there too, until finally returning to the feature world with this cleverly titled horror flick. The cover of the DVD shows a creepy grinning demon face, and I assumed this would be a supernatural flick starring that creature. Not quite. Out in some small island community, little Douglas Whooly walks around playing the videogame Satan's Little Helper on his Gameboy/DS thing all the time, making his little video avatar assist ol' Scratch in killing scads of people for points. His flighty mom (Amanda Plummer - Needful Things) doesn't seem to think there's anything wrong with this. Both are excited to go pick up Douglas's sister Jenna (Katheryn Winnick - Amusement and current Blog Hottie #1!), coming home on the ferry from college for her annual trick or treating with Douglas, who might be a little slow for his age, and who is often heard to say he's going to grow up and marry Jenna. His sister. (Creepy!) Douglas is therefore most unamused when Jenna turns up on the island with Alex, her recently acquired main squeeze. While Douglas then sulks and plays his game more, Mom, Jenna, and Alex get caught up in preparations for the big Halloween party that night at the mansion of the island's resident rich buzzard and don't notice when Douglas wanders off. Somewhere out in the neighborhood, Douglas sees what appears to be a neighbor in costume and mask (the one from the DVD cover) setting up a little Halloween gore tableaux in the yard. Did I mention the kid is a bit slow? Well, he thinks it's a fake Halloween thing, but the viewer figures out pretty quickly the big creepy guy just offed somebody and is playing with the corpse. Douglas gets very excited when he thinks the big creepy guy looks like the Satan from his videogame and asks if that's who he is. The big creepy figure looks at him for a moment, then nods. And at that point this movie took off for me, with several wonderfully chilling moments as Douglas and "Satan" start heading around the island, killing random people which Douglas believes to be faked by his new pal. Then the rotten kid gets it into his head that "Satan" would be the perfect solution for that boyfriend problem he's got back at the house, and shortly after, through some plot complications Alex is nowhere to be seen, and Jenna thinks "Satan" is Alex in his Halloween costume, acting strangely frisky. But, it must be the costume and the holiday affecting him, right? And all through it, the evilly grinning "Satan" never speaks...


I thoroughly enjoyed this scarepic, as I have most all of Lieberman's movies. It is by turns quirky, scary, funny, raw, and chilling, and although it is very low budget and starts to get a bit out there in a few scenes toward the end, it never goes completely off the rails, and comes to a conclusion that may not be the end of the story, but is the end of the movie. The cast is pretty good, with Plummer the most recognizable face, but everyone does a decent job in the performance category. Little Alexander Brickel is more than slightly miscast as Douglas, as Lieberman has indicated in interviews that  Douglas was supposed to be like five or six years old in order for him to be hoodwinked so easily by the silent psycho, but no one would want to see a kid that young in the role considering what goes on in the movie, and Brickel is clearly more like ten years old. But like I said, it just makes him seem fairly slow and doesn't mar the movie. I'm going to let the strange miscasting of the Whooly family paterfamilias slide, since I'm assuming it was for a reason, even if I don't know what that reason was. He's pretty young for the role, though, whoever he is, and a slick of gray in his hair near the temples doesn't age him much. But he's not in the movie much either. Finishing out the cast, special kudos go out to Katheryn Winnick, smokin' hot and just wonderful as Jenna, and especially to Joshua Annex, absolutely perfect in the role of "Satan." He doesn't need dialogue. The guy is scary. Top marks. If you don't mind your horror films on the low budget and irreverent side, you really should check this out. You could pair it up with the not-bad Amusement for a Katheryn Winnick double feature!

Actually, Satan's Little Helper qualifies as a double feature all on its own...

And if that's not enough to entice you to check it out - how about this moment as Jenna mistakes "Satan" for a randy Alex in costume...


Moving on!

Coy and Vance.

Charge of the Model T's  (MGM, 1977)  I have developed a great and nostalgic fondness for the years 1977-1979, and watching movies made in those years is like looking through a great window back in time, even if the movie is a period piece set long before then. Now this particular movie first came onto my radar when it aired on Showtime somewhere around 1979-1980. But when I saw it starred Louis Nye (Sonny Drysdale himself!) and Arte Johnson (TV's Laugh-In), I presumed it to be a knockoff of the Tim Conway/Don Knotts comedies that were popping up around that time like The Prize Fighter and The Private Eyes. And even at that tender age, the idea of dropping a level of comedy quality (as most such knockoffs do) had me picturing the movie as a mugfest full of desperate slapstick and corny one liners and I promptly started a program of not watching it that continued for thirty years.

I couldn't find a good picture, so here's the poster instead.

    Then, we recently added the cable channel MGM/HD to our cable lineup - and those guys show all kinds of crazy movies from the MGM vault in widescreen with 1080 dpi picture and stereo sound. And as I mentioned, I'm now actively watching just about any movie made in those three years, so there I go watching this flick! The movie turned out to be somewhat different than I had it pictured - it's actually a distressingly gentle G rated comedy about young army guy Matt Jones (John David Carson - Empire of the Ants) and his travails serving in 1918 during WWI near the Mexican border. As the movie opens Matt travels to his new posting in his Model T, with a couple of not particularly funny comedy bits along the way. When he finally arrives, he discovers his new home is a lot like camps like this in other such movies: crotchety boss Captain Mundy (John Doucette - the sheriff in the original True Grit); lovely local lady Coral (Carol Bagdasarian - daughter of The Chipmunks' creator Ross); goofy Doc Bailey (Johnson); and Nye as a mysterious neighbor calling himself Fred Smith who has a suspicious accent part of the time. But he does make a new friend in Private Hanson (Jim McCullough, Jr. - son of the director, and writer of the movie) who shares his love of Model T's and actually has a Model T club going with several other enthusiasts in the area. From there, the movie meanders about slowly, with Matt and Coral romancin' a bit and Fred Smith revealing himself as a German spy trying to encourage the local Mexican guerillas to make trouble on the border, thinking that the American war effort in Europe will be thwarted by the need to send more troops to Oklahoma. And if that doesn't work, he has the RS-4; it's kind of a Model T tank with mounted cannon. Eventually it turns into the Model T's against the RS-4 in a sequence forced to serve as the climax simply because it was closest to the end credits, not because of any noticeable action or excitement. Most of the time the movie seems to be forgetting the comedy, then it will remember and throw in something just about as desperate as I surmised it would be three decades back, like the familiar TV face of Herb Edelman (TV's Big John Little John) as the lead Mexican guerilla (?);  Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez (Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood) as his henchman; or Nye in drag. So, it's terminally slow, the comedy is laidback to the point of nonexistence, and the action is sparse to say the least. But it is squeaky clean and safe for family viewing. It's just that you'd have to hate your family to make them watch it, even in 1080 dpi. Skip it mightily!

I think that will complete the first round at the Academy. And always remember - some days you just can't get rid of a bomb!


  1. aha! I see two nice choices there, man! Great MBv review, and same goes to that weird Black comic, Satan's Lil' Helper!

    Check out my review on these two little gems:



  2. Kaijinu - thank you for the kind words - yeah, I like both of these movies a lot! I'm going to go check out your links now - and I definitely recommend to anyone stopping by to drop by Kaijinu's blog Sticky Red: A Bodycount Compendium for some hella good horror movie blogging! Links above!