Category: Fantasy Movies

Bizarre Holiday Viewing from New Zealand: 1981’s The MONSTER’S CHRISTMAS!

OK Are you reeeeeally looking for something to watch that’s truly off the beaten path to this holiday season?! Look no further, the 1981 lost classic ‘The Monster’s Christmas’ all the way from New Zealand will stuff your stocking with some truly bizarre yuletide treats!

 This is a genuine bonafide oddball all the way from New Zealand that sort of feels like a fucked up version of HR Pufnstuf. The monster’s Christmas features some pretty genuinely impressive fully disturbing creatures for a kid’s Christmas special. I mean take a look at this guy hes one of the most frightening things I’ve seen probably in the last decade! 

 That’s “Mr. Nasty” the creepiest henchman of an “evil” witch who is obsessed with exercising, who lives inside of a mountain deep within a beautiful natural cavern. But I guess I’m jumping ahead little too quickly here. Our story starts out on Christmas Eve with the cutest little New Zealander you’ve ever seen, who just happens to be reading a book called ‘The Monster’s Christmas’ to her Teddy bear before bed. If this is a real book, I need to find a copy ASAP!

However it doesn’t take long before she’s awoken by a noise in her living room and instead of finding Santa there’s a giant green cyclops monster with a smokestack on the top of his noggin and some sort of creepy floral oozin’ eye. She agrees to help him out with the evil wicked witch who threatens the monsters world. The little girl quickly decides to go on a bizarre little adventure that ends up being almost like a travel video to some spectacular New Zealand locales that masquerade quite nicely for the monsters world. Only one thing, she’s got to get home by Christmas day!

 This is probably one of my favorite new discoveries especially for Christmas viewing in 2022. Filled with some beautiful locations, a wondrerful main character and even a few charming little songs thrown in for good measure. But let’s be honest here it’s mostly about the freaky ass monsters presented on screen! They’re all pretty awesome and it’s a crime this little holiday special doesn’t have a HUGE cult following. I think it’s ripe for a fancy ass blu ray release – Vinegar Syndrome are you game or WHAT?

Ok so as I mentioned before Mr. Nasty is one creepy character, he’s some sort of strange hybrid of a human, a mole and a bat. He is a truly terrifying creation but he’s completely loyal to the wicked witch, who by the way has her own complete personal gym inside of her cave! And believe me she gets some great use out of it!

She’s quite charming as she spends most of her free time trying to get fit and is dressed to the nines in regal 1980s aerobic garb! Pretty much everything about this little 45 minute feature is utterly bizarre and hits all of the right beats to make something truly obscure that is an absolute must add to your Christmas viewing! I’d say this one’s perfect for the kids although Mr. Nasty, be warned is quite the embodiment of a living breathing nightmare. He sorta steals the show..

If you’re a fan of obscure bizarre yuletide viewing I highly recommend tracking The Monster’s Chtistmas down and watching it this year. I just found a full version of it is available now on YouTube or you can add it to your collection by getting the dvd which I highly recommend. If anyone has an extra copy of the VHS please send me one!  Oh yeah, thank you New Zealand!

 

 

‘VIOLENT NIGHT’: A Killer Santa You Can Really Root For!

As far as modern holiday horror goes there’s a clear over abundance of yuletide garbage out there being mass produced as of the last 10 years. I don’t know what triggered it but it seems every year the floodgates open with a slew of sub par cinematic Christmas sludge. Well this year we’ve got a killer Santa Claus movie, but this time with a Kris Kringle that you can really get behind with some holiday cheer!

From director Tommy Wirkola, who helmed the highly entertaining “Dead Snow” franchise and also the equally enjoyable ‘Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters’. ‘Violent Night’ is easily just as fun as his previous films, part Die Hard, part Home Alone with a little bit of Santa’s Slay thrown into the mix for good measure. We get the real deal Santa Claus who’s feeling a bit down on his luck getting thrown into a truly “violent night”. He’s forced to use his unique supernatural yuletide abilities to defend a wealthy family trapped in their mansion from a gang of vicious criminals led by John Leguizamo!

 Santa though has gotta sober up quickly, as he spent most of the evening drinking at a dive bar rather than delivering presents to kids on his “nice” list this Christmas eve. However all the action doesn’t necessarily fall just on Santa’s shoulders, we also have a little girl named Trudy played by Leah Brady who’s hell bent on helping Santa and her family annihilate the greedy criminals as well from inside the mansion.

That’s where the “Home Alone” aspect of this film really takes shape and boy does it deliver some bloody boobie traps! Brady is totally charming in the role and really helps make this little adventure memorable. Like much the director’s previous work this one is equal part comedy as well as action while managing to not let anything slip into a total farce. Yes, there’s plenty of legitimate thrills to be had here and really fun colorful characters that really help drive this film. John Leguizamo shines as the big baddie and it’s been soooo long since I’ve seen him, his presence was truly a welcome addition to the mayhem. David Harbour though steals the show as Santa Claus, I’ve always felt he has a special onscreen charisma and it really continues to shine here in the role. There’s also some pretty neat little twists and turns in the plot, some concerning Santa himself that makes for a uniquely intriguing back story to jolly ol’ elf.

What was most surprising was the inclusion of Beverly D’Angelo (of Christmas Vacation fame), who for the 1st quarter of the movie I was left scratching my head trying to figure out where I’d recognized her from?  It’s been so long since I’ve seen her in anything and she does look quite different these days. It’s quite nice to see some of these actors in a major motion picture this holiday season!

The action sequences are also really well choreographed and filled with some pretty over the top gore, Violent Night definitely doesn’t skimp on the red stuff! There’s a lot to love here and the movie also showcases a fair amount of heartfelt family holiday drama, it’s not simply just another hack and slash. 

I highly recommend seeing this on the big screen and I definithey will be returning to it next year if not maybe one more time in the theater this year! Violent Night is THE wild holiday flick of 2022,  Don’t snooze on this one!

 

Hong Kong HALLOWEEN: 1990’s A Chinese Ghost Story 2!

I’m making this post assuming that obviously everyone has seen the legendary 1987 Hong-Kong horror romance action hybrid ‘A Chinese Ghost Story’?! No?! Well It’s often referred to as the “Chinese Evil Dead” and that’s a great comparison. So If you haven’t seen part one you definitely need to check it out ASAP, but even so you can still watch part 2 without having to know much about the original!

‘A Chinese Ghost Story 2’ continues right after the events of the 1st movie but this time puts the romance a bit more in the back seat and the action/monster mayhem a bit more front and center! This 1990 Hong Kong horror hybrid follows a wandering scholar as he as he continues his outrageous supernatural adventures while trying to find romance simultaneously.

Along the way he encounters cannibals, escapes prison, hides out in haunted temples, fights off an amazing giganto (animatronic puppet) tree troll, meets the reincarnated woman of his dreams, teams up with a wild martial artist turned sorcerer, faces a gigantic flying centipede (ending up inside of its stomach) and even manages to perform a rap song while taking a bath in pool of rainwater. And that’s just the shortlist of this radical spectacle!

 As you can probably tell thus far, there’s really never a dull moment within it’s entire 98 minute run time. It’s filled with charming, colorful characters, amazing sets/landscapes filled with lush vegetation, roaming fog and spooky blue lighting in nearly every scene.

It’s also jam packed with awesome neon 80s animated lightning, some over the top martial arts and even manages to sneak in a little sweet romantic plot amidst all the magnetic mayhem. Better yet this one has some pretty on point comedy that shines through even despite the rudimentary but often incredible subtitles…

This is just a great big ball of fun. It’s equal parts fantasy/adventure/horror and comedy all stuffed into a juicy blender. I really think a great double feature would be to show both parts 1 & 2 back-to-back. I’d go as far to say this is probably the strongest horror franchises in all of Hong-Kong cinematic history. I have yet to see part 3 but from what I understand and these 2 are pretty much the cream of the ghostly crop.

So if you’re looking to get out of the American pumpkin patch this Halloween I highly suggest a trip to Hong-Kong’s golden era of of supernatural horror! These will not disappoint to deliver enough spooky, highly ambitious trick-or-treats from the Far East!

Humans & Mushrooms MERGE in MATANGO!

Hey fungi enthusiasts! If you’re looking for something truly stange & spooky to check out this Halloween season (and I know you are) then look no further- It’s time to take a trip of the sea shores of Japan to an uncharted incredibly creepy deserted island in 1963’s psychotronic horror: Mantango! I’m going to admit I haven’t really explored a lot of 1960s horror especially from Japan. However I’m a huge sucker for “stranded on an island” movie concepts and this one looked like it hit all the right beats from the trailer I saw. Essentially it’s like a demented episode of Gilligan’s island and much of the movie actually does actually kinda feel just like it, in all the best ways.

Visionary director Ishiro Honda paints an incredibly atmospheric nightmare landscape on the open sea, with a band of tourists on a fancy yacht who find themselves in the midst of a violent sea storm. Tired and hungry they take refuge on on a mysterious exotic tropical island infested with strange colorful mushrooms. There’s something extremely unsettling yet whimsical about the whole endeavor as the crew struggles to get along and and also find food that’s safe to eat there.

The most of the characters here I found to be a bit on the bland side, but it really doesn’t matter much because the beautiful bizarre portrait on display here of the island itself ends up as the true star of the entire show. The quietness of the foggy remote island lends much to the impending dread in the thick air as soon our cast of characters find themselves with hungry bellies, drawn to consume the beautiful fungi. It’s like they’ve spent the week in the garden of Adam-and-Eve but instead of colorful fruits instead enticed by mind altering fungus!

Matango is somewhat of a slow burn, but it’s a really fun “trip” right from the get go. All of the set pieces from the on the ship and especially the island are truly a spectacle to behold. It really makes me miss real practical sets, as many of the movies now in the fantasy genre just resort to bad CGI green screen backdrops. Being made in 1963, everything has that special  earthy but put together carefully by hand look to it of that era, looking like some high budget theme park attraction, blanketed in roaming fogs.

There’s also some some legitimately creepy visuals to behold, every bit of Matango’s landscape looks like at any moment could come alive and grab you. As the tourists become more restless and frustrated it’s clear something sinister has taken hold of their psyche. And while the movie secondary moniker is ‘Attack of the Mushroom People’ I would say that’s a bit of a stretch here. There’s really Not a helluva of a lot of “attacking” going on until maybe the movie’s final 10 minutes, but it’s definitely worth the wait once the mushroom people do arrive.

Even by today’s standards these creatures look quite incredible, feeling like something materilized from a strange fever dream. Matango has definitely peaked my interest in Japanese movies from this era, this is a cool little mind bending bit of eye candy that’s that is most definitely worth a watch this Halloween season if you’re in the mood for something truly unique! I got it on blu ray recently from Far East Flix!

 

1980s Cine-MAGIC From Japan: The STARDUST BROTHERS!

I’m willing to bet you’re just like me and never heard of this near “forgotten ’til now” 80s gem from Japan: The Legend of The Stardust Brothers! This incredible movie from 1985 is most definitely one of the most unique oddities I’ve stumbled upon in quite sometime. An incredibly ambitious musical gem, packed with practical effects and eighties fashion that will likely knock your neon socks right off!

It tells the tale of  two struggling rival musicians: one a rowdy punk rocker and the other an egotistical wanna be popstar who meet a mysterious man while sharing the same bill  at a seedy night club. He offers them the contract of a lifetime, claiming that within one week, if they follow all the rules, the two of them will be rocketed to full blown pop super stardom. That is as long as they join forces, from that point on become The Stardust Brothers and tell the world they are indeed real bonafide brothers.

Now admittedly I’m not a real big fan of musicals, there’s only a few that I really love (Popeye, The Wizard of Oz & Little Shop of Horrors immediately come to mind). However this one has now EASILY made the list as a must watch and it’s something I’ll be watching over and over again. Essentially it’s the wildly unpredictable story of the bizarre rise and fall of this pop duo. It’s firmly glued together with a series of incredible little musical vignettes that are a visual and sonic feast.

A sweet mixture of punk rock, powerpop & some cool new wave numbers, connecting a series of incredibly ambitious music videos within one insane narrative. There are touches of the supernatural as well as a ton of amazing special effects, stop motion & practical monster effects that really impress, especially if your a fan of the 80s. It’s also filled to the brim with some of the best Japanese fashion of the era to go along with the catchy songs. As I write this, their theme song is still stuck firmly in my brain. I’d love to get my hands on some vinyl of the soundtrack. Aside from the cool music, luckily it’s got a pretty unique story that blends elements of scifi, horror and even a bit of romance. It’s unexpected twists and turns deliver a frenetic, action packed finale that will  leave you pondering the events of the entire film. Its all done with a heroic dose of heart too.

Just how far do you really go to live the life of a superstar without any of the hard work required to get to the top? The Stardust Bros go the distance and the musical journey is definitely a wacky one worth taking. Apparently director Makoto Tezuka tried to catch lightning in a bottle a few years ago by producing a direct sequel, but after doing a little poking around it doesn’t seem like he was quite to able to recreate the neon electromagnetic magic of the first.

In the meantime I highly recommend picking this one up on a newly released blu ray from SRS Cinema. The Legend of the Stardust Brothers is packed with pure charisma, tons of vibrant youthful energy and shows you exactly how inventive some directors in the 1980s were in Japan with a limited budget!  Don’t sleep on this one!

 

Indiana Jones 5: Anthony Ingruber as Young Indy? PLUS Indy Cartoon!

Well ‘Indiana Jones 5′ has officially wrapped on filming and we’re now in the editing phase of the movie, hoping soon to receive a trailer to the finale of the Indiana Jones franchise! I have high hopes for this final installment but i gotta be honest too, I got a mountain o’ worries as well without the original team of Lucas/Spielberg writing or directing.

I’ve heard a LOT of rumors and supposed leaks from the set and I can say from what I’ve heard I was not particularlly impressed.

Many are claiming that Indy will be passing the torch to his female assistant and time traveling to team up with a younger version of himself. Who knows exactly what’s true here I recently watched a video from “Indiana Jones Nerd” that’s claiming Anthony Inguber might be making an appearance as he was rumored on set of Indiana Jones 5?

 So is this true? Probably not!  Hollywood is known for making terrible decisions with their big rebooted cash cow sequel franchises. I went extendively in to my idea of how they could please fans and reboot Indiana Jones perfectly right HERE  utilizing Anthony Ingruber as young Indiana Jones for the 5th installment. I think it’s a pretty solid way to do it but apparently they’ve got other plans, most likely passing the torch on to a strong female lead to continue on as the character. For the record I’m fine with that as long as it doesn’t feel forced and the story’s good. But judging from the Star Wars sequel trilogy I wouldn’t bet a got damn penny on that happening. I’m going as far to say that my gut feeling is Indiana Jones Part 5 is going to be an even bigger disappointment than The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, a movie that admittedly over the years, I think has aged quite gracefully, despite some serious problems with bad CGI fx and his son Mutt being a turn off overall for fans.  Whatever the case color me intrigued and in the meantime let’s not fret too much. Take a look at this incredible animated Indiana Jones vignette from 2016 from Patrick Schoenmaker & take a moment to remember the good old days of classic Indiana Jones….

Anthony Ingruber HAN SOLO Deepfake Will Blow Your Mind!

There was so much hype about the possibility of casting Anthony Ingruber as Han Solo in the Star Wars community that he was actually one of the FIRST people to be given the chance to audition for the role by Lucasfilm. However even though he appeared in the role of a young Harrison Ford in The Age of Adaline, they for some reason chose Alden Ehrenreich….

Bad move! The ‘Solo’ film was a bomb and many were just left unconvinced that Alden was actually Han Solo, he doesnt look or sound like Ford, that’s for sure. Coming across more as Han’s younger stepbrother who was hangin out with Chewy for a couple hours than the iconic hero of the original trilogy.

So many had been left wondering just what could have been with Ingruber as Han Solo. Well peeps the wait is finally over as “Stryder HD” just put out the long awaited deepfake of Anthony as Han! The similarities are down right mind blowing! If this is not proof that if we see another appearance of young Han, Ingruber should be recast IMMEDIATELY, then I don’t know what is! Check this shit out!! P.S. Nice damn work Stryder HD!!

Hong Kong Horror Gems: 1985’s ‘Those Merry Souls’!

Here’s a sweet little Hong Kong horror/action/comedy hybrid from 1985 that really put a BIG smile on my face, ‘Those Merry Souls’. Yeah this all but forgotten flick has some serious star power, featuring the likes of martial arts legends like the charming Yuen Biao & the late horror icon “Mr. Vampire” himself Lam Ching Ying (RIP) together for one spooky comedic action packed romper. 

Now as you can see the poster here. makes it look maybe like a full on comedy, and in many ways ‘Those Merry Souls’ plays out like one. However it also has a serious supernatural aspect and threat that slowly rears it’s head to the final genuinely creepy action packed finale. This one tells the story of two stuntmen one a wildly talented martial artist and his bumbling whiny cousin who’s obsessed with a beautiful local club singer. Oh yeah and their uncle has recently developed a rare creepy ability to astral project and has been helping people who die find their way to the other side. He helps those merry souls but during his waking life doesn’t remember a lick of it ever happening.

The two bosom buddy stuntmen spend most of their time trying to ridiculously find romance and getting into trouble while doing so, one of the best scenes takes place on a beach where Yuen Biao shines showing his kick ass martial arts skills taking on a gang beach bullies in only his skimpy little swim suit. Biao really should have been an international star, he’s got the skills and a similar raw charisma of Jackie Chan. Things do get a bit dark and scary here though and what starts off like the perfect 80’s Hong Kong buddy comedy morphs into a pretty thrilling little supernatural tale.

This happens when their uncle, while in his astral form is instructed to take the soul of his own nephew when he’s injured doing a wild stunt on a movie set. At the moment of truth though he decides to let him live & spare his soul a mistake that costs him his own life and sets forth an evil entity upon them. In a way it’s a tiny bit Final Destination and when they employ the help of their other uncle, played by Lam Ching Ying, who’s of course got some secret magic skills of his own to ward off evil, things get really interesting.

The film’s finale is joyous as the whole gang along with their girlfriends all face off the evil entity along with their taoist priest uncle in an action packed final showdown. The stakes get high and the action is off the rails bonkers in true Hong Kong fashion as the entity possesses members of the group and soon things erupt into a crazy supernatural kung fu battle.

We even get to see Lam Ching Ying and Yuen Biao go at it full force, which is treat to behold. Bottom line here, ‘Those Merry Souls’ is a damn good time balancing out the comedy, kung fu & supernatural elements in all the right ways, something I’ve noticed many Hong Kong films of this era seem to fail at in my opinion more often than succeeding. If you’re looking to get in 80’s Hong Kong Horror I highly recommend ‘Those Merry Souls’ as the perfect party movie to share with a hungry gang of movie maniacs!

And for fans of Yuen and LamChing Ying check this out too..

4th Best Star Wars Movie ‘Ewoks: Battle for Endor’ Now on Disney Plus!

Ohhhhhhh yeah! Ewoks haters take note-The 4th best Star Wars movie, after the Original Trilogy (or if you’re a prequel fan it might be the 7th best Star Wars movie), has arrived on Disney Plus! Yes 1985’s almost forever lost and forgotten ‘Ewoks: Battle for Endor’ is now on the streaming service along with it’s much inferior prequel ‘Caravan of Courage’. Many OT fans have been severely disappointed by the the “Sequel Trilogy” and have only recently found solace in The Mandalorian, but ‘Battle for Endor’ is OG Star Wars all the way. To give it even more street cred than the “Sequel Trilogy” it was actually written by Star Wars creator himself George Lucas. The whole vibe of the movie screams of the Original Trilogy. 

There’s a surprisingly dark little story at the heart of ‘The Battle for Endor’ and whether you like it or not, OT character Wicket is iconic, played by Warwick Davis once again, is back for a feature length adventure. It’s filled with all the cool creatures, special effects, weird settings and even some of the heart of OT Star Wars that was largely missing in the “Sequel Trilogy”. We’re also treated to some very colorful villains and FYI the creatures in which Nick Nolte’s brilliant character Kuiil rides around in the desert (called Blurrgs), make their first appearance in this Ewok Adventure.

Yeah, thanks John Favreau, I know you too are a fan of Battle for Endor! This also features the late great Wilfred Brimley in a surprisingly spry action packed role. So if you’ve been craving 80’s Star Wars and have never seen this sweet little gem of a movie, by all means now’s the time to check it out! I’m personally hoping that maybe this will inspire a Disney Plus Ewoks series, we can see what the hell the older wiser Wicket has been up to and of course get Warwick in the role!

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!