LOVE AND MONSTERS: A Sweet Escape from Reality into the Monsterpocalypse?!

One of the sweetest, feel good movies in recent memory, ‘Love & Monsters’ came as a totally welcome surprise! And that’s all being said as someone who’s normally pretty tough on newer horror/fantasy/sci fi movies. Love & Monsters which came out last year may not have the most original plot but it more than makes up for any shortcomings with its impressive special effects and it’s truly heartwarming adventure. I guess I’d at first glance describe this as having somewhat of a “Zombieland” type of a thing going on and it might be easily dismissed as just some wimpy copycat. On the contrary, Love and Monsters buries ‘Zombieland’ (and especially the sequel), with what I think are just plain more likable characters who embark a much more compelling and colorful adventure in general.

Roughly seven years after the Earth was subjected to a mysterious monster invasion, the rather cowardly Joel Dawson has been living underground with a small pod of people trying to avoid what lurks above. He spends his time reconnecting over the radio with his high school girlfriend, Aimee, whom he was separated from when the tragedy hit and also cooking his signature soup for his crew. When the feelings of isolation and cabin fever finally get the best him he decides to muster up the courage to head to the world above. Seeking to finally reunite with his lost love who resides 80 miles away at a coastal colony, as he surmises that there’s nothing really left for him underground anymore. As he heads out alone he soon realizes he’s hardly prepared for the dangers all around him in the outside world. Mutant monsters are hungry and lurking around nearly every corner.

One of the high points here is the inclusion of charming canine character named “Boy”. Lifting a bit from ‘A Boy and his Dog’ (minus the weird sex plot) in a much sweeter way, we get the best of both world’s here for this little apocalyptic adventure. ‘Boy’ proves to be the show stealer here imo and his bond with Joel makes dealing with the dangers a bit less frightening, all things considered. The two make an excellent team against the creatures and it’s clear that they both need each other more than they likely ever realized for piece of mind in a crazy world. He also meets a few other interesting characters, a pair of wandering scavengers, Michael Rooker along with the ruff and tumble little girl named ‘Minnow’. Joel soon learns the tricks of the trade from them and has to make a big decision on the outcome of his journey. One of the best scenes involves a strange AI intelligence, who brings even more unexpected meaning to his travels.

The whole thing is a great exercise in escapism during these real life uncertain times we all face at the moment. It also shows just how important real human (and animal) connections will hopefully always be to us here on the planet as we move forward. As we’re feeling isolated to certain degrees currently, Love and Monsters showcases some parallels to the current state of affairs. I guess we can all at least be relieved that big mutant monsters aren’t waiting to chomp us to bit when we head outside at least?

Let me get to the monsters here as well, I was half expecting some sort of chintzy fx work here to spoil the damn party. Not the case, the creatures here though mostly CGI are a treat to behold and for the most part are pretty convincing threats to our heroes. As a HUGE fan of monster movies I think it hits that sweet spot quite nicely. There’s also some cool plot twists and of course some admittedly hokey ones that otherwise might not have worked without such strong characters at the forefront. If you’re looking for “Calgon to take you away” (80’s kids you know the reference) from the worries of the real world, I can’t think of a better new fantasy adventure flick to visit than ‘Love and Monsters’, easily one of my faves of 2020!

‘TRAMPA INFERNAL’: Freddy Krueger meets Rambo in this 80’s Mexican Horror Gem!

It seems like cult movie connoisseurs are finally catching wind of just how awesome some of the 1980’s Mexican horror flicks truly are! Just a couple months ago Vinegar Syndrome released Ruben Galindo jr.’s three nearly forgotten creepy classics, ‘Don’t Panic’, ‘Grave Robbers’ & my personal favorite ‘Cemetery of Terror’. I’ve been yammering on about those same movies right here, years before Vinegar Syndrome got wind of them. Not to toot my own horn too much but hey give me some damn street cred! So I’m here to give you the scoop on yet another 80’s Mexican horror cult classic that I’m certain must get a fancy ass blu-ray release ASAP. 1989’s ‘Trampa Infernal’ AKA ‘Hell’s Trap’, is definitely worth tracking down!

With a lean runtime of 74 minutes, this one’s never a bore and frankly never skimps on bringing everything you love about the 80’s slasher front and center in a way they can only do south of the border. Director Pedro Galindo III introduces us to a a couple of ultra competitive rival macho men, who make a bet on catching and killing a wild bear that’s been tormenting the countryside. Of course they gather some friends for this sweet camping trip & when they arrive to their destination it’s clear that the forest is housing something much more sinister than a damn bear. We’re introduced to one hell of a slasher villain, he wears the glove of Freddy Krueger, sports a mega creepy emotionless mannequin mask with a wild hairdo and carries an arsenal of firearms with him wherever he damn well pleases.

This asshole’s copletely compelled to kill anyone who steps in his freaky neck of the woods. Yeah the plot is pretty damn flimsy just the way I like it sometimes. We’ve got a pretty sweet gang of colorful characters who go head on into battle with this weirdo, along with some well executed inventive kills mixed with plenty of action and a handful o’ cool explosions to boot. Plus who doesn’t want to spend some action packed time in 1980s Mexico? Sign me up any time! Oh Yeah and the amped up 80’s fashion sense is worth the price of admission alone, this gang of campers can sell me cool vintage clothes for my vintage shop any day of the week. So moving on, this here turns into one deadly game of cat-and-mouse that really benefits from the beautiful setting of Mexico’s woodsy backdrop. It’s fierce villain who appears to be some sort of ex-soldier with an extreme case of PTSD is bound to generates his own cult following here in the US amongst fans of icons like Leatherface and Michael Myers. This guy’s a total badass! See for your damn self:

He’s kinda got an Owen Wilson type o’ thing going on? Well director Pedro Galindo, I can only assume must be related to Ruben Galindo jr. The Galindo’s must have had some sort of stranglehold on the horror genre back then there as they’ve put out some pretty excellent movies. Pedro Galindo III also has a couple other movies on my radar, ‘Panico en la Montana’ and the sequel to ‘Vacations of Terror’. So if you’re longing for something different in the horror genre, take a trip to Mexico in the 1980s and make sure to check out ‘Trampa Infernal’. There’s a whole treasure trove of cool horror films just waiting to be discovered by American audiences from our friendly neighbors. So you heard it here first Vinegar Syndrome, Arrow, whoever! Jump on this one ASAP as it’s another true forgotten cult classic..

WILLY’S WONDERLAND: Can Nic Cage Survive ‘FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S’?

I’ve been looking forward to this new Nic Cage horror flick for a long time and the trailer for ‘Willy’s Wonderland’ has finally dropped. Sure like the 2019 ‘Banana Splits’ movie this one is essentially another version of the ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’, which has been in developmental cinematic hell for years. ‘Banana Splits’ was pretty underwhelming, so I’ve been hoping that this Nic Cage lead film would get it right as I do quite love the idea of the creepy ‘Chuck E. Cheese/Showbiz Pizza’ style animatronic cartoon characters coming to life at night and causing bloody chaos. So yeah, we have Cage here hired as a handy man at a cursed amusement park where the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” scenario busts wide open. Check out this sweet poster! 

From the trailer I’ve gotta say I was a teensy bit let down, I know this isn’t academy award fare we’re dealing with, but after starring in the incredible ‘Mandy’ I’ve high hopes for Nic to return with another modern horror classic. This however, from the trailer at least looks kinda chintzy, reminds me of something Cage churns out quickly to pay his mound of back taxes rather than a quality B monster movie. Of course I’m checking it out when drops but I was hoping for a thicker atmosphere of spookiness and the general vibe of it all feels slightly like a flimsy Cage cash grab. Even the cinematography feels a bit cheap at this point. But hey I guess having high hopes for another ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’ copycat should NOT have been that high! Dammit Cage please prove me wrong here! What do YOU think?!

 If you wanna go down the animatronic cartoon character rabbit hole from way back in the day for some real chills check THIS out:

And this for the WHOLE history on the restaurants from yesteryear that inspired ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’: 

The MCU Meets The DCEU: The TRUE Secret of the Multiverse Movies?!

I’ve got a prediction here, and remember peeps you heard it HERE first at my measly little “hobby blog” (as John Campea would call it), that it’s no coincidence that BOTH the MCU & The DCEU’s new agenda seems to be the “multiverse” idea. I mean the MCU casting supposedly three different Spider-man actors from the past movies (Toby, Andrew and Tom Holland) & then hearing the news of The Flash going to the multiverse where we have at least Affleck and most exciting Michael Keaton BOTH as Batman sounds suspicious. I’m calling it here, the MCU & the DCEU are going to meet in the finale film’s after credits scene of all this multiverse stuff. Sound crazy? Well maybe you forgot THIS classic comic back from 1981?

Well if it does sound crazy, THAT’s exactly why I think it’s going to happen and think about it, what kind of after credits scene would shock every one after the big ass CGI finale. Think about this- The Flash and the multiple Batmans meeting the Peter Parkers at the end of this phase, or even some of the DCEU’s villains meeting an MCU villain from another dimension? How much hype would the next phase generate? I remember a couple crossovers a couple times back in the 80’s or maybe you’ve forgotten ‘DC Versus MARVEL’ in 1996? That shit was a big damn deal and I’m betting high on something like that taking place cinematically sooner than later. Think of the $$$$$ potential here-there’d be nothing bigger.

This multiverse plot line put forward at the same time by both studios is either the most lame copy cat cinema plan or it’s the event that blows the lid of of both franchises. I think there’s really no other event that could top this idea and for the studios to NOT take advantage of this with some secret back door deals would be actually ludicrous. Something is cooking true believers and remember you heard it at U-Dork first! Count on it! MCU Meets DCEU-suck it Campea!!!

Movie Review: THE LAUGHING DEAD is a Cheezy Ball of Top Notch 80’s Horror!

So if you’re like me, feeling a little blue these days and looking for some solace in cinema to pick you up, I recommend checking out this gory, gooey, giant ball of cheesy 80’s horror goodness, 1989’s ‘The Laughing Dead’ a whirl. I’m always out searching the Golden Era of horror for forgotten gems, and have had plenty of misses throughout the years- but this offering from the Thailand born S.P. Somtow pretty much brings everything that I love about the genre and mashes it into one big package. Somtow’s debut film, which he also wrote, directed, scored and executive-produced is an ambitious project from someone who was first and foremost known for several standout horror novels during the 1980s and 90s. I guess this’d be his ‘Maximum Overdrive’ (Stephen King’s first shot behind the camera).

So he finally took a stab at filmmaking here with the Laughing dead and though the movie was panned way back when, I think it’s time that it finally gets the respect it deserves. The plot is quite a doosie: Father O’Sullivan is a Catholic priest who has recently lost his faith and has arranged a bus trip to the Mayan ruins of Mexico, bringing along a cast of truly hilarious characters for the adventure. However lurking around the ruins is an evil doctor who seeks to transform himself into the Mayan Lord of Death by kidnapping innocent children & ripping out their hearts. Yeah the guy is one evil son of a bitch with major ass maniacal plans for himself and the unsuspecting locals.

Well Father O’Sullivan leaves Tucson, AZ in a cool beat up tour bus and picks up a sweet cast of characters including hilarious new age couple and most importantly an ex-nun whom he had a most scandalous affair with. Oh yeah and her and his unsuspecting son, who’s got the most incredibly filthy mouth you’ve EVER heard on a kid! This kid’s droppin’ f-bombs like nobody’s fucking business making it quite clear from the start that the tone here isn’t to be taken too incredibly serious. Yeah I really enjoyed the characters in this one, the new age couple are a great addition, as I’ve never seen characters quite like this in a horror flick that work so well. They bicker and argue but also dabble with fancy ass crystals and weird-ass meditation techniques and actually add something to the story. Charming characters can make a super low budget movie legit and it’s got some pretty charming ones at it’s heart to root for.

Another thing that’s great about it is every damn thing that’s jam packed into this sweet little production. Firstly the unique plot and setting in 80’s Mexico separates this one from the usual genre fare of the time and when the shit begins to hit the fan you’re definitely in for a spooky unpredictable treat. Exorcisms, zombies, gore, mystical magic and radically cheezy monsters are all on the table here. There’s even a beheading scene that sends said head flying straight into a basketball hoop mid game! Though the tone is quite playful, it for the most part plays the horror and weird ass plot points pretty straight and even manages to give all the characters their moments to shine, at least those who make it out alive! If you dig something like ‘Evil Dead 2’ or say ‘Re-animator’ you’re bound to be charmed by the Laughing dead and all the ridiculous scenarios sprinkled throughout.

They also pull out a trove of sweet 80’s practical fx too, throw it on the wall and most of it sticks. So there’s lot’s of eye candy to behold as well as some great attempts at drama. Nope it’s not all just monster nonsense either, I love how Sumtow manages to give the movie some real heart, even if it’s done with some seriously subpar acting skills, it’s just a giant ball of cheezy fun that hit’s all the right beats and imo has all the right moves. It was never officially released in the USA so I really hope that someone like Vinegar Syndrome or Arrow pick this little comedic horror gem up and give it a proper release. It desperately needs one. The director’s career pretty much ends right here but damn I wish he’d have given it another shot behind the freakin’ camera. I found a decent copy of it on dvd on Ebay or it’s also up on Youtube but it doesn’t look quite as good. Check it out if Covid’s got you down, by the time the movie ends you’re bound to have a smile on your face if you like 80’s cheez as much as I do.  

U-Dork Returns to the MOVIE MELT Podcast to talk 1987’s BLOODY NEW YEAR!

So I’d say one of the weirdest damn holiday horror flicks of all time has just got to be 1987’s ‘BLOODY NEW YEAR’! Have you seen it?

Well whether you have or not take a moment to check out the Movie Melt podcast as we talk about some sweet under appreciated odd ball movies and get straight into the new year with this classic slice of weird-o 80’s British horror film.

It’s easily one of the most surreal and ambitious micro budget movies I’ve seen a long time and it’s perfect for the holiday seasons, if you’ve seen it you likely know how bizarre this wild little flick truly is! Check out MOVIE MELT and this episode for Bloody New Year!

THE MAGIC CRYSTAL: Hong Kong’s Killer 1986 Cynthia Rothrock Kung Fu Sci-Fi Adventure!

So you’re in the mood for an ass kickin’, science fiction, martial arts packed 80’s adventure? Look no further, ‘The Magic Crystal’ from 1986 delivers the damn goods and THEN some!! It also delivers the iconic action star Cynthia Rothrock in one of her earliest roles doing what she does best, throwing the  beat down on the wise guys. This Hong Kong production filmed largely in Greece, has some truly stunning locations and makes good damn use of them, following a stylin’ cool guy mercenary (Andy Lau) who’s hot on the trail of an alien artifact, you guessed it, a magic crystal. This green crystal which actually looks more like a glowing green glob also houses an alien within it shimmering surface. 

Of course there’s an evil mastermind named Karov (Richard Norton), who’s also head of the KGB and also full on martial arts maestro who’s dead set on acquiring the magic crystal for his own villainous plans. This huge dude is so bad ass it almost always requires at least two kung fu masters to take him on and even then he usually ends up on top. He also wears some awesome evil black studded outfits while he does his sinister business and is just a plain awesome bad guy here.

Andy Lau soon meets up with a small cast of colorful allies, Cynthia Rothrock being one of them, who help him on his pursuit for the alien artifact. Luckily for the mysterious crystal it ends up in the hands of a little boy who quickly discovers what’s actually inside of it. From here the movie goes in another different direction as the kid forms a bond with the alien and we end up with a sorta E.T. type of thing going down. Yeah the crystal even grows a creepy glowing finger and shares some of it’s “ancient wisdom” and “power” with the kid leading them on a bit of an adventure of their own.

The whole movie is simply a delight to behold. With it’s fun sets, beautiful greek isle locations, endearing characters, pulpy villains and that oh so sweet era of the mid 1980’s for it’s ambitious story to take place in. The action is top notch as well and though the movie is jam packed with bone breaking stunts and martial arts it’s definitely not simply just a kung fu flick. In fact the final third of the movie plays out more like an Indiana Jones adventure as our band of heroes delve deep into trap filled caverns and tunnel slides for our characters to glide down to more even more danger.

It actually kinda feels like this flick might have been where Spielberg got his idea for ‘Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’! Hey you never right? There’s so much fun here to be had, the classic 80’s fx in play and a ridiculous paper mache alien that could have used a bit more work still come off as charming. Cynthia is also right on top of her game here as well and it’s fucking awesome to see her in some of these Hong Kong productions where she looks right at home in their frenetic bone breaking action sequences. The kind that US productions never could seem to replicate but never stopped trying. I checked the movie out on Blu Ray, though it sadly wasn’t an official release (it desperately needs one!), you can watch the English Dub on Youtube and get the scoop about the flick from Cynthia herself right here below,   

 

Comic Cover of the Week: Batman’s DEADLY 1973 New Year Holiday Special!!

First let’s get this out of the way-HAPPY DAMN NEW YEAR! Let’s hope 2021 is leaps and bounds better than 2020, I mean things can’t get worse can they? Well back in 1973 Batman had one shitty ass New Years in issue #247. He and Robin had their hands full trying to stop a weirdo in a holiday sweater who’s planted canisters of nerve gas all around Gotham! Phew I’m glad I’m only suffering from a hangover and not doing THAT today. Check out this blast from the Caped Crusader’s troubled holiday past with this sweet classic cover drawn by Dick Giordano & Gaspar Saladino!

WONDER WOMAN 1984: Diana Was Way More Wonderful in the Actual 80s!

I’m all for 80’s throwback nostalgia, it was the decade where I spent most of my damn childhood for cryin’ out loud. That being said HBO’s “home pandemic theater” holiday release ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ should have really been a dream come true for me. Literally tailor made for someone just like me who still often longs for the good old days and full on nostalgia of the 1980s. However ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ somehow completely misses the mark and simply seems to try an make a checklist of what Hollywood thinks we want to see from that era, it’s the DCEU’s version of 2016’s ‘X-Men: Age of Apocalypse’, which in my opinion supremely failed at what should have been a sure-fire nostalgic hit with the awesome source material they had in their hands.

The funny thing is I’m not quite sure how to pin point just exactly what doesn’t work for me with Wonder Woman 1984. On paper it sounded like a wonder-ful idea to have Diana Prince hangin’ out in that particularly colorful fun filled era of cinema. It just made sense. There seems like so many totally radical scenarios to put her and the supporting characters in, but as the movie slogged by with it’s flimsy plot it was quite clear to me: This was not the 1980s I remember sooooo fondly. I guess the main problem is the plot’s pointlessly random approach to almost everything that occurs in it 2 hour and 30 minute run time. Dressing it all up in wild neon 80s fashion and the whole “fish out of water” approach just doesn’t save this one from being a bit of a stinker. I know Patty Jenkins was attempting to recreate the magic of Richard Donner’s Superman and and in the first 20 minutes it seemed like she was on track. It was soon apparent though it had more in common with say, George Lucas’ ‘Howard the Duck’ than ‘Superman II’.

Something this time around about Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman just didn’t resonate with me in the way it did in the charming first installment. Sure we got the ‘Mandalorian’ himself Pedro Pascal as the greedy “Lex Luthor” type villain who apparently has spent his entire life searching for some ancient magic crystal that grants wishes-why? Who knows and I guess who really cares right? Then you have Kristen Wiig playing the frumpy coworker of Diana’s at the Smithsonian Institute, who’s also set on becoming the next Iconic villain for Wonder Woman. Far from it. Of course Pedro Pascal or ‘Max Lord’ conveniently figures out that the two of them are in possession of and studying his most coveted crystal treasure. Things from there increase to get incredibly uninteresting, the pace slows way down and lets you enjoy the most boring aspects of the 1980s. Oh but wait, we just cannot forget Diana’s ex-lover, Chris Pine shows up, resurrected from the dead and randomly in the body of another man for some reason that I guess is connected to the magic crystal’s wish granting power.

The action scenes are decent, the acting isn’t half-bad and the 80s backdrop was for the most part handled fairly well. But this movie’s bland overly random plot points combined with it’s stereotypically boring supporting characters (mainly two uninteresting villains with ridiculous motivations) had me checking the time counting down the minutes tell it’d finally be over.

We do of course get to see Wonder Woman in a fully CGI final battle against a (for some reason fully CG) generated Kristin Wiig “Cheetah” that harkens back to that terrible final fight underground train sequence in the Black Panther! Yeeehaw! Trust me as someone who grew up in the 80s I can assure you they were much more totally radical than this. As a fan of the first outing this one, as we said in the 80’s this one gagged me with a spoon….I’ll gladly take THIS instead any day!

ELVIRA Mistress of the Dark’s “Rankin Bass” Style Scary X-MAS Short!!

Elvira, ‘Mistress of the Dark’ made a BIG return this last Halloween to try and save the holiday from the pandemic. BUT let’s not forget about a decade ago Elvira returned to Christmas for a little spooky holiday cheer!

We all love the classic Rankin Bass animated movies like Rudolph, Nestor the Long Eared Donkey & The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, well let’s revisit the Elvira holiday short ‘Elvira’s Movie Macabre: Scary X-MAS’ Done in that same classic style from her official Youtube page. Here she heads out in search of a Christmas trees and along the way encounters some horrific holiday creatures: Merry Christmas Eve! See you tomorrow!!