Wow, my mind has officially been blown by Panos Cosmatos’ second feature film ‘Mandy’! I was lucky enough to catch it this crazy ass flick last Sunday evening at Cinema 21 here in Portland with a rowdy packed theater. I’m damn glad I decided to make a run to the cinema rather than renting this online ‘cuz in my opinion that’s the absolute best way to see this one for the first time. After watching the steaming pile of crap that was ‘The Predator’ at a matinee Friday, a movie like Mandy was a complete and total breath of fresh air. I guess the best thing to say here is this movie may not be for everyone, but if you’re ready to take one of the craziest mind bending cinematic journeys of the last couple decades then you’re gonna fucking love it. Hell even the poster is awesome!
Mandy is a completely insane revenge flick set in the early 80’s and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed before. I’m so used to seeing big crappy Hollywood blockbusters in the theater, so this was a bit of of a welcome shock to my noggin. The whole movie plays out like an uncomfortable fever dream, with Nicholas Cage as a logger named “Red” who lives out in the Pacific Northwest with his beautiful but eerily mesmerizing girlfriend Mandy. They live a quiet, serene life in an incredibly strange home in the middle of the woods, with large glass walls that bring to mind elements of a real life fairy tale. Everything’s dark yet overly drenched in vibrant hues of reds, purples & thick lush colors creating a surreal landscape that feels like a dream put right on the screen in front of you. It’s a spectacle to behold and it’s clear from the start that Red & Mandy have been through a lot together, sharing a truly special bond in their secluded life. Mandy works at a nearby convenience store, wears cool heavy metal tees and loses herself in fantasy novels while Red spends his time chopping down trees with his chainsaw. The two of them are pictured intently watching 80’s horror flicks together (NIGHTBEAST!), chatting about what their favorite planets are, showing they’re living a rather sweet, simple and innocent life together at this point.
Well shit majorly hits the fan when a crazy van full of uber religious cult members roll into the area and their leader spots the oddly beautiful Mandy walking on the road one day. The cult leader is seemingly hypnotized by her and quickly declares that he must have her for his own. The first hour of the movie is pretty slow moving but in the best way possible, though we don’t get much backstory, we do get a clear picture of the love Mandy & Red share for each other, which makes what follows all that more intensely heartbreaking. I don’t want to spoil anything here, but let’s just say this cult goes the full distance to send Nicholas Cage into a fully batshit crazy journey that’s part Evil Dead, part Hellraiser and part LSD drenched revenge fantasy. I know people have a sort of ironic love for Nicholas Cage these days but seriously Cage fully shines here in easily one of his best performances of his career. He’s awesome and not in some ridiculous sort of way. The movie goes to some truly bizarre places, the violence plentiful and there are a ton of oddball surprises all along the way.
The movie even has a sense of humor as well, though it feels like an unsettling waking nightmare most of it’s run time, there’s something truly comforting about having Nic Cage there with you as your guide through the mayhem of it all. It gives you a sense of hope that just maybe you’ll make it out of it all alive somehow. There’s also a strong heavy metal vibe to film, not just in it’s imagery but also in the score, which is completely breathtaking in it’s thunderous doom metal delivery through the hellish otherworldly landscapes. The music here is incredible and liley half of the charm of why Mandy works so damn well honestly.
There’s also cool hand drawn animated interludes that bring to mind the 1981 cult classic “Heavy Metal” in the best ways possible. Add in amazing practical fx work, crazy gore, epic weapon crafting, chainsaws, Goblin Mac & Cheese (just wait and see), drugs galore, demonic cenobite like bikers and a sweet ass cameo from Predator’s Bill Duke and you’ve got yourself one truly freaky epic horror masterpiece unlike anything you’ve like ever seen before. I can’t say enuff good things about this movie, it’s still floating around in my head four days after viewing it. I can though easily say that Mandy thus far is my favorite movie of 2018!
Here’s another pretty neat little creature feature from 1991 I’ve been wanting to see for a while now, well luckily I scored a cool VHS copy of the movie at thrift shop. As I’ve said before my favorite type of horror flick’s a monster movie and that’s exactly what this here is nothing more nothing less. Though released in ’91 it feels like a full on ’80’s movie, with tons of neon, cheezy dialogue and a big savage man in suit Bigfoot type of creature running around the city offing people. Yeah and it also features one of the bad guy henchmen from ‘Die Hard’, Alexander Godunov, who’s the heroic handsome Nordic godly clockmaker monster hunter.
Anyway we’ve got a bunch of fun plot points as a mystic runestone is found in a coal mine in Pennsylvania and transported to NYC, where we all know, the excitement always seems to happen. Soon the runestone displays it’s magic powers and an archeologist becomes possessed by an evil ancient Norse spirit. Of course the dude transforms into a crazed sasquatch called Fenrir that goes on killing spree throughout New York and ends up frequenting art exhibits where over the top yuppies seem to think he’s someone’s hip new art installment. Of course he gets pissed off and wreaks “havoc” in the art community. The creature actually looks kinda cool (some decent animatronics/make up) all things considered and that’s clearly the main draw here with this one. He’s got a sweet no BS attitude and does his best to fuck shit up as much as he can. Way to rep the monsters in the 90’s dude!
That being said, there’s relatively little gore splattered about and the movie spends probably an extra 20 minutes or so too long trying to create “compelling” character development. Most of the while I just was wondering what the goddamn cranky ass creature was doing? Let’s get back to what he’s up to cuz he’s likely pissed off and freaking people out somewhere in the city! I’d have also loved a bit more of the “Die Hard” dude as well, but sadly he’s not given as much screen time as he deserves until the finale, but damn if the guy doesn’t look like a bad ass when he shows up. I dig the final act as well as the characters face off against the creature briefly entering a different dimension. This one’s often confused with Julian Sands movie ‘Warlock’ from 1989 and feeling surprisingly similar at times it’s understandable why.
There’s plenty of fun to be had here if you’re not expecting a helluva lot from ‘The Runestone’ and you dig low budget late 80’s early 90’s creature cheez. This one’s a prime example of an old school horror movie that if edited down to about 85 minutes would be a total crowd pleaser/cult fave. There’s a ton of total gems out there from the 80’s & 90’s that tried to fill their run time to a more “respectable length” adding too much filler, this one for example at 105 minutes does indeed have areas that drag somewhat, some day perhaps I’ll try and edit a few of these down. Either way there’s definitely some fun to be had regardless and it’s most definitely worth a watch if you’re down for some early 90’s monster business!
One of the most wild & unpredictable filmmakers of all time hands down has got to be Hong Kong’s Lam Ngai Kai aka Lam Nai-choi, Most well known for his mega cult classic ‘RIKI-OH/The Story of Riki’ it’s clear this guy is, in my opinion one of the most underrated directors in the horror genre. Imagine if Sam Raimi made movies as consistently awesome as the Evil Dead trilogy, well that’s a good way to sum up this guy’s catalogue of crazy ass films. I’ve been fully surprised at how many people love ‘Riki-Oh’ yet aren’t familiar with anything else this guy’s done.
It probably doesn’t help that he completely disappeared off the movie map in 1992 for unknown reasons. Perhaps he realized he’d unlikely ever be able to top the craziness of his back catalogue of bizarre flicks. I’d love to know what he’s up to today and what I’d love even more would be his return to filmmaking. There’s however, literally zero info on why he stopped his film career and what the dude’s been up to these days. That being said let’s take a quick look at some of his coolest flicks you may not have even known existed! First if you’ve never seen Riki-Oh from 1991 it’s easily one of the wildest action/horror hybrid movies out there and totally on par with the awesomeness of Evil Dead 2. It features some of the most over the top action/gore of all time:
Next is another equally crazy ass flick from 1986 called ‘The Seventh Curse‘ which is like Indiana Jones on acid fighting monsters and exploring some truly epic locations. It features Chow Young Fat in a small role and continues with totally frantic action sequences that never slows it’s pace right to the very end. A true hidden gem of a movie that many 80’s horror fans have completely missed out on over the years. Seek this out asap as it’s more proof this guy’s got chops on par with the likes of early Peter Jackson, Sam Raimi & Don Coscarelli.
Kai’s got more under his belt too if you want another horror adventure that’s a true spectacle to behold check out ‘The Peacock King‘ from 1988. A totally unique movie that’s also a full on FX extravaganza. This one literally utilizes nearly every 80’s special fx in the book, from stop motion monsters, to animatronic creatures etc. etc. etc. you name it, this movie will take you on tour of the bizarre set to a super fun, dark yet equally light hearted adventure. Check it out: Continue reading
It seems our ol’ pal Ash Williams might be in need of our help, Season 3 of ‘Ash vs. Evil Dead’ just recently kicked off & it seems there’s a serious possibility that the show may not be renewed for ‘Season 4’ by Starz. The show is one of the most pirated out there meaning all of us Evil Dead fans haven’t really been supporting the return of Bruce Campbell in the way he’d hoped we would. I’m fully up to date having just finished watching the most current episode of season 3. I’ve at the moment got a free 7 day trial for Starz, that’ll be over in a couple days and I’m planning on getting a membership at least for a month to watch the rest of the show. I figure $8.99 is way more than worth it for rest of the season, besides I spend more than that to see a movie at the theaters usually for a movie that wasn’t that all that good. So if you’re a real fan of the ‘Evil Dead’ franchise it just might be time to show up for real, cough up 9 bux and support Ash in his quest to stomp out evil!
Now onto season 3 thus far, upon watching the first episode, it felt a bit too familiar to season 2, Ash is now the hero of his small home town, everything seems to be peachy for him again and his companions (starting off a bit too much like the “Jacksonville paradise” season 2 first episode). Of course the Necronomicon appears again, someone recites it’s passages and ‘Deadites’ are back raising hell for the small quaint town. My only initial gripe was that we’re spending yet another season in Ash’s hometown, at least for now & I’d really have liked for Ash and his crew to have been sucked into another time warp similar to ‘Army of Darkness’ to really mix things up. However it was apparent my small gripe would soon be totally erased by just how bat shit crazy and fun everything quickly escalated to. So far season three just might be the best of them all, every episode delivers the wild and crazy gore, monsters & special fx fans have been clamoring for all these years. Continue reading
I’ve been hearing a lot of explanations recently from Rian Johnson concerning the great divide between Star Wars fans & just why people feel the way they do about ‘The Last Jedi’. The most divisive part of the movie appears to be, hands down, the handling of Luke Skywalker. Sure some hate the Marvel-esque humor recently added to the franchise, some hate the Rose & Finn “Casino Adventure” and of course some did really legitimately love it all. Wherever you stand on this, most do actually agree, they’d have liked Luke Skywalker to have stuck around for a while longer, Rian Johnson however has recently stated the reasoning for killing off Luke was to put the main focus on Rey, Finn & Poe. The legacy characters still, according to him, were standing in the way of the new younger generation. Because we all know of course, that’s what the people really wanted, the younger characters front and center in the spotlight….right? Hmmm…..
I’ve wondered myself for a while if this is indeed actually the truth? Of course there’s plenty of room for a new generation of more hip, younger heroes to take the cinematic Star Wars main stage- That’s a no-brainer. I’m all about that, but still there’s a part of me that wonders if there was still room for an older Luke Skywalker, C-3P0 & R2 in the Star Wars universe? As a long time fan I of course will admit, this new series held a lot of excitement because of the return of Luke, Leia, Han, Chewy, C-3P0 & R2D2 and then secondly the new characters. As I think about The Last Jedi, as the Blu-Ray is coming out soon I’m curious what fans would have really preferred, Luke to have died or lived on?
I’m seeing a lot of rumors and news lately about the solo anthology films, we’ve got Rogue One in the bucket, Solo on the way, rumors of an Obi-wan solo movie & even murmurs of a young Yoda movie. One thing I think would have been amazing would’ve been a one shot movie similar to the ones planned I mentioned that featured an ‘Old Man Luke Skywalker’ starring Mark Hamill. Imagine if Luke had lived and had a smaller role in Episode 9 but wasn’t killed off. I think an “Old Man Luke” movie might have been a dynamic idea to present afterwards. For instance what if Luke had created a new Jedi academy and embarked on one last epic adventure with a couple of his pupils and of course C-3PO and R2. Hell, you could even add in Finn or Chewy to the movie as supporting characters.
Just because a character is older doesn’t necessarily mean that people are totally done with them. Especially in the year 2018 and especially when dealing with Star Wars. Ash returned in an ‘Evil Dead’ Tv series, Indiana Jones returned & a much older Wolverine & Co returned for one of the best superhero movies ever in 2017’s ‘Logan’ that was based on the hit comic series ‘Old Man Logan’. Fans for the most part have dug them all (Except for Indiana Jones 4 maybe-damn!) My question is would Star Wars fans have returned for a Hamill fronted older Luke flick? Did Disney Star Wars underestimate just how much people still loved Hamill in the role of Luke Skywalker even though he’s now an older Jedi? I think they dropped the ball big time-I think a Hamill fronted Luke solo one shot movie would have crushed at the box office-am I crazy? What do you think?
I’ve noticed a bit of a trend lately in Hollywood that gives me some hope for the future of sci-fi movies, a slight return to intelligent and engaging genre stories have been slowly materializing on the big screen again. Recent movies like Arrival, Get Out and especially Blade Runner: 2049 have seriously made going to the movies a bit of a different experience in the best way possible. A return to cerebral science fiction mysteries is something I’ve been hoping for for quite some time and the trend continues on with the latest, ‘Annihilation’ in a big way.
Annihilation is quite a mind bender indeed that explores a bizarre alien atmosphere that suddenly yet quietly appears down in the Florida Everglades near a lighthouse on the coast. Referred to in the movie as ‘the shimmer’, this truly strange, rapidly growing area creates a surreal glistening layer to the landscape it encompasses. It’s up to a team of scientists/mercenaries to enter inside it to figure out just what the hell is going on and what happened to the previous team that never returned. A great cast heads this one as well, led by Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh (it’s nice to see her back!), Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny and also Oscar “Poe Dameron” Isaac in a chilling supporting role.
I liked the dynamic of having a fully female team of researchers that enter within the shimmer, as once inside, the movie quickly becomes a full on dream like journey into a beautifully bizarre landscape where it’s uncertain exactly what lies ahead. One of the best things about it is indeed the atmosphere and setting of the Everglades as the shimmer has transformed much of it into an eerie colorful creepy spectacle to behold. It really does feel like you’ve entered into an onscreen fever dream that’s peacefully quiet but at the same time incredibly unsettling.
Of course there’s plenty of danger inside and it doesn’t take too long before shit gets crazy, as quiet and introspective as this movie at first seems it also has some pretty intense scenes that cross fully over into the horror genre. It’s horror elements reminding me a bit at times of ‘Event Horizon’ & ‘The Thing’, there’s plenty to behold inside the shimmer. some unexpected gore and even some genuinely frightening monsters enter the equation. In fact there’s one unforgettably frightening creature that pretty much steals the show and is something born of nightmares. So yeah that’s always a plus for me.
Annihilation leaves a lot of room for discussion once the credits begin to role as it’s finale is so strange it’s likely to leave many leaving the theater scratching their heads. That though I feel is the appeal of a movie like this, it’s got a real story to tell that requires you to pay close attention to detail something a lot of science fiction movies used to do way back when. It seems however that the masses today have a hard time digesting movies like this, most everything today is edited so quickly and largely requires our brains to be turned off almost entirely. Movies these days largely feel as if they’re made for our mega short attention span culture so it certainly feels quite special to enter the theater and be pleasantly surprised by a totally different experience all together. Annihilation like Blade Runner:2049 likely won’t do great at the box office, but if you long for those classic stories of cerebral science fiction they way that I often do, you definitely won’t be disappointed with Annihilation.