Hello everyone from the land of self quarantine! Damn!! I really hope all of you out there are staying safe safe, staying home and keeping your damn sanity. With all that being said, I guess some good can indeed come out of all this isolation? On the bright side there’s now plenty of time to watch as many movies, tv shows & read as many comic books as humanly imaginable. But let’s face it, the hard part is finding the quality entertainment to pass the time. So my question to you all: what should I be watching to take my mind off of all of this damn craziness? One can only watch so much of the depressing anxiety inducing news! So please let me know in the comments what the hell I might be missing out on!
I’d say the best thing that I’ve seen since this stinkin’ self quarantine began was a movie called “Good Boys” from 2019. It’s easily one of the best damn comedies of the last 5 years, no doubt about that. It follows the adventures of three tween boys as they go on a “desperate” mission to recover a lost drone they used to spy on their teenage neighbor in hopes of learning how to kiss for an upcoming “kissing party”. Of course along the way they get into a shitload o’ mischief and meet more than their fair share of ridiculously shady characters. It kind of reminds me of ‘Superbad’ with 12 year olds. Make no mistake, this by no means is a kids movie though, but the kids in it are full on comic geniuses. One of my new faves for sure. So check it out if you’re looking for something that’s likely to put a smile on your face in the times of pandemic. It won’t disappoint!
Otherwise the movie pickins have been pretty slim to be honest. I checked out a couple horror movies from the 80s that were filmed in my home state of Wisconsin, both of which ended up being interesting for that reason to me but easily could cause drowsiness to the average movie fanatic. Oddly, both I believe were released by Troma films at some point in time. First was ‘Blood Hook’, a semi-promising 80’s fishing slasher flick and second was the super snoozer ‘The Capture of Bigfoot.’
Both appeared, from their cool VHS covers to be epic horror flicks, but I quickly found myself nearly nodding off or having those wicked thoughts of god damn Corona weaseling it’s way back into my mind. Not a good sign. I am though, very intrigued with movies that were filmed in Wisconsin, especially horror movies which there really aren’t many of in the land of cheese.
The Midwest was not exactly the epicenter of groundbreaking filmmaking especially in the 80s. But if you’re from “America’s Dairyland” both of these are definitely worth a peek for that fact at least I suppose?
I did though check out a cool movie from 1989 called ‘Vampire Buster'(AKA Ninja Vampire Busters), a sweet Hong Kong horror comedy. It follows an haunted urn containing a wicked demon that mysteriously ends up in Hong Kong after being auctioned off to a rich Tycoon. Of course things go off the rails when the evil is accidentally released from it and wastes no time to begin possessing innocent people. Luckily the owner of the urn, “The Vampire Buster” is hot on its tracks, arriving in Hong Kong with his supernatural abilities and smooth ass martial arts moves in full effect.
Lots of cool 80s visual-effects going on here and some genuinely creepy moments, along with a hefty dose of well landing comedy make ‘Vampire Buster’ one of the standouts in my recent binge of Hong Kong horror viewing. Much of how entertaining it is largely relies on Kent Cheung’s (who stars as the magical demon buster) charisma and highly impressive martial arts skills. For a man of his stature he surely has some truly impressive feats of agility, bringing to mind the legendary Sammo Hung. Track down ‘Vampire Buster’ and I even advise watching it with the English dub track as it’s pretty well done and the voices for once I feel actually enhance the movie’s charm. That being said there was not one damn vampire to be seen in ‘Vampire Buster’….Ok now what have YOU seen that’s worth a watch during the pandemic?
I finally got a round to checking out 1989’s ‘Saga of the Phoenix’, the wildly entertaining sequel to ‘The Peacock King’ from cult classic Hong Kong director Lam Ngai Kai (Riki-Oh). If you’re a fan of ‘Riki-Oh’ I highly recommend checking out the director’s other work and while ‘Saga of the Phoenix’ isn’t as shockingly violent, it’s easily just as wild and crazy as anything he’s ever done. In the sequel we follow once again, the exploits of the two magical monks Lucky Fruit and Peacock but more so this time the “Hell Virgin” Ashura who in the last movie caused some major problems, almost destroying mankind as we know it while under the enchantment of the devil. Ashura though still loves the mortal world and eventually is granted permission to live there for 7 days, only if she makes a promise to stay out of any mischief that might interfere with the human world. She gladly accepts and quickly hunts down a weird gremlin creature named “Genie” when arriving on Earth. Peacock, Lucky Fruit and 3 bad ass nuns are also then sent down to chaperone her visit, but of course the wicked “Hell Concubine” has other plans, to send her evil minions there as well to try and corrupt her once again.
Though I’ve heard many seem to think this one is more “kid friendly”, probably because the gremlin character “Genie”is focused on quite a bit. Though we follow Ashura and him running around Hong Kong in the 80’s having fun (which I totally dug), it’s still got plenty of downright bizarre scenarios to behold that I think places it in a league all of it’s own and quite a worthy sequel. There’s also the inclusion of a brother and sister human duo that befriend the main characters and the brother just happens to be a madcap inventor of an inter dimensional time machine. Go figure! There’s a few hints of romance and of course the three nun protectors all decide to go for a dip in the human’s swimming pool after their outfits get shredded in battle, donning swimsuits for the first time in their rather “sheltered” life. There’s also some pretty perplexing plot choices surrounding the character of Genie that just kind of have to be seen to be believed. The character which is a mix of puppet and stop-motion animation has got plenty to do here and is given more than his fair share of moments to shine and even scare.
Sure there’s a lot going on here in a movie with an admittedly flimsy plot, the good thing is that the majority of it all is one helluva good time. Bleeding sweet 80’s fashion & locations, outrageous characters, wild sets, puppets, stop motion animation, giant monsters and plenty of neon lasers to behold, it’s hard not to at least be enamored by all of the eye candy. There’s also a splash of martial arts action thrown in the mix to keep the action going at a steady pace from Lucky Fruit and Peacock. Sure there’s lot’s of logic issues with the plot & the dialogue (translations likely) can be a bit incoherent at times but there’s more than enough outrageous charm throughout to easily satisfy fans of directors like Steven Speilberg, Sam Raimi & Peter Jackson’s 80’s and early 90’s work.
If you’re a fan of weird 80’s fantasy, action & horror you definitely need track down The Peacock King & The Saga of the Phoenix. It’s jam packed with all the things I love so much about that era of film making. Lam Ngai Kai (aka Ngai Choi Lam) is easily the best cult director out of Hong Kong for the time, it’s a shame he completely disappeared from film making after 1992. Perhaps he decided his body work couldn’t be topped? Thankfully he’s left behind a truly unique legacy of outrageous films that have yet to be explored by a huge portion of American cinemaniacs.
Here’s a pretty neat little modern throwback horror movie I took a chance on recently that turned out be quite a bit of fun. ‘Book of Monsters‘ is a low budget British creature feature that clearly makes it’s best attempt to harken back to the gory glory days of 80’s horror flicks like ‘Evil Dead 2’ & ‘Night of the Creeps’. It takes place on the main character, Sophie’s 18th birthday, when she reluctantly decides to throw a birthday party at her house. Her and her two friends are hardly the cool kids in school and aren’t even sure anyone will actually show up. To their surprise the birthday bash attracts a whole crew of unruly teens and even a few of the school bullies. Well it doesn’t take long before some weird supernatural shit goes down due to meddling with a necronomicon type of book. A full on bloodbath occurs when some creatures emerge from another dimension, invade her house and begin to slaughter the rowdy party guests. Sophie and her pals must band together to fend off the attack and protect their classmates from monster carnage.
It’s a simple story to follow and with a short run time of 84 minutes it’s a perfect party movie (literally) to watch on a Saturday nite with a gang of old school horror fans. One of it’s strongest parts is the protagonist Sophie, who’s a totally likable heroine who struggles with self esteem, teenage sexuality and the strange events of her past which tie into the supernatural events that occur. She’s also one of the only gay horror hero’s I can really recall seeing and they present this aspect of her character in a way that doesn’t feel fully forced into the narrative. Sure we got some bigoted bullies and typical teen jerks but those were always prevalent in the 80’s teen horror movies that likely inspired this one.
Now onto the horror aspect of things, though I liked the movie, I’ve got to admit I’m a bit tired of the ‘evil book/necronomicon’ angle of things, it feels pretty played out and I kind of wish they’d have used a different reasoning for the summoning of the monsters. Hardly a complaint really as once things get going here it’s pretty fun & action packed. The monster & gore effects are pretty ambitious for the most part. For the budget they had to work with they deliver a fair share of cool practical fx work avoiding for the most part cgi entirely (if my memory serves me correctly). The monster designs are pretty good too, one looks a bit like it was ripped out of M. Knight Shyamalan’s the village, one’s like a standard slasher dude and the other is kind of like a “Natasha Henstridge” Species/cenobite type-o creature. They all do a decent amount of gory, goopy damage too & it’s all executed in a fairly cartoonish way so it could easily be digested by the light weight horror fans. Oh yeah some evil garden gnomes are thrown in as well, that with a little more budget could have been far more crowd pleasing- but still an “A” for effort. There’s lots of chainsaws and general ass kicking done by the three female leads and even though most Hollywood blockbusters are trying to currently shoehorn girl power into movies ‘Book of Monsters’ does it in a tasteful way that doesn’t feel like it’s blatantly pushing some agenda for brownie points.
If ‘Book of Monsters‘ had been released in 1987 it’d have been a bonafide cult classic, it’s a nice switch from all the shoddy CGI & digital blood of modern horror movies. It leaves the door open for a sequel and I think if it gets one with more cash behind it, there’s a possibility the second installment could very well end up as a modern day cult classic. For the meantime though I think the best crowd for ‘Book of Monsters’ are those who miss the glory days of 1980’s schlock, goofy gore & teen horror flicks!
I never even knew a movie existed where Charles Bronson and Will Sampson (Chief Bromden from ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’) teamed up to battle a giant albino monster buffalo up until a couple weeks ago. But yeah ‘The White Buffalo’ is just that, a wild west adventure flick that channels ‘Jaws’ in obvious ways but alsogives a lot more to ponder upon later. This 1977 action flick features Bronson as Wild Bill Hickock who’s haunted by nightmares of a vicious monster buffalo, so much so that he’s developed a bad habit of grabbin’ his pistols during the dreams and randomly firing it in real life while he’s in a deep slumber.
The visions intensify and soon Bronson’s on a cross country quest to track down this pesky monster. There’s some great action in between of course where Bronson kicks a ton of ass and gets into some crazy saloon shootouts, cuz let’s not forget what he’s best known for, over the top ass kickin’ action. Meanwhile the awesome Will Sampson plays the legendary Crazy Horse, who’s daughter happens to be slaughtered by the giant buffalo in a bloody massacre on his settlement and it inspires a quest of revenge against the beast.
I really dig this forgotten gem, from the cool sets to the atmospheric gothic journey when Bronson heads off on into the mountains in a stage coach, to the drama between Hickock and Crazy Horse as they try to come to terms with the white man’s dominance in the world. Of course my favorite part of this 70’s horror/action hybrid is the threat of the giant beast looming in the mountians, which I read was inspired by the success of ‘Jaws’. The creature appears within an almost dream like landscape, even when outside of Bronson’s nightmares.
The giant beast is actually pretty well done I think, considering the times, using animatronics and puppetry and well placed camera angles. there’s some pretty bloody and intense scenes later as well when the duo finally confronts the albino behemoth. Considering the movie had a PG rating back then at least it gets nice and dirty when it needs to. We all know those 70’s “PG” rated flicks can feel a lot more like an R rated movie in modern times. The movie definitely works best showcasing the unlikely alliance between Bronson & Sampson and does it’s best to show what sort of bonds and trust can develop against a greater threat. I had a blast with this one and it’s easily become one of my favorite Bronson movies! Track this one down, it’s a unique little largely forgotten monster flick!
So there’s a damn big ‘split’ (no pun intended!) in movie goer’s opinions on M. Night Shyamalan’s latest movie ‘Glass’. The long awaited sequel to both ‘Unbreakable’ and ‘Split’ has caused a ton of debate online, some think it’s the perfect end cap to Shyamalan’s “Eastrail 177” trilogy other’s think it’s a boring waste of two hours. For me I found it to be a compelling end to the saga, in fact I saw the critics bashing this movie so hard that I was truly expecting the worst going in. I mean Shyamalan’s let me down before in big ways (The Happening, The Last Airbender anyone?) so I was fully prepared to begin my next phase of “hatin’ on the guy” once again. Luckily he stuck to his guns and in my opinion delivered a smart, tense & mysterious movie that feels right in line with ‘Unbreakable’ & ‘Split’. He definitely subverted my expectations, not in the same way Rian Johnson did with ‘The Last Jedi’ but in a way which I’ve come to appreciate early on in M. Night’s career. I was hoping that it would avoid trying to be a “Marvel” movie, something it seems all big Hollywood productions are desperately trying to replicate using a somewhat, imo, tired film making style, mixing their usual “witty banter comedy” with gigantic bloated CGI battles, that at this point makes me begin to nod off in theaters.
Instead he creates smaller scale action sequences that feel real, tense and important when they occur. I’ve grown pretty damn bored with the modern superhero movies and their predictable tropes and overuse of green screens & rubbery cartoony CGI action sequences. Glass feels like it could actually happen in the real world and I was pretty scared Night was going to try and tap into that Marvel-esque money making formula that’s all the rage. Thankfully it feels like a natural progression to what came before it, more like a Christopher Nolan style superhero film than ‘Infinity War’ or ‘Aquaman’. That being said I can see how modern audiences conditioned to the ultra fast paced video gamey CGI action stuff would find plenty of reasons to be pissed off at this one. Its a dramatic supernatural thriller with slight elements of the superhero genre sprinkled about, I think ‘Glass’ will surely satisfy fans of the the two previous installments.
That all being said the movie does have plot points I found a bit disappointing. Not because they were bad moves, but because it didn’t go the way I ENVISIONED it to. The movie sets up the audience for things that might not occur at all and this all works as it feels like the real world as opposed to ‘The Last Jedi’ which is based in 100% fantasy in an established universe spanning back to the 1970’s. Shyamalan’s decisions left me disappointed and heart broken, but not in a way that destroyed the film’s appeal to me. It made me want to go back and watch all three in order and the films third act subverts expectations in ways I never saw coming. It feels like Shyamalan wasn’t merely looking to cash in on his new “superhero universe” but rather had a complete story he was willing to start and end. It was bizarre seeing a movie that didn’t feel like it was trying to tease the next installment. It brought back familiar faces from Unbreakable and Split as well and all of them were wonderful in the roles, I’ve got to admit though the characters didn’t do what I’d originally imagined they’d do. Again, I kinda appreciate that.
A few things that bothered me? Wanting more of Bruce Willis and Sam Jackson interacting, but I guess we got a heap of that way back in Unbreakable and there’s some clear problems with how Jame’s Mcavoy’s character was kept imprisoned in the mental ward where the three of them were locked up in. Minor qualms really, my major being one of the key events that occurred at the end left me perplexed and actually quite saddened. Again never expecting they’d go there and go that direction. So all in all ‘Glass’ is one I highly recommend, I give it an ‘A minus’ as it left me thinking about it a couple days later and left me wanting a second viewing now that my expectations aren’t there. Night delivers a beautiful, tense, realistic superhero character piece that fully enhances what came before it. Check it out, but don’t expect your usual superhero flick!
Been on a VHS binge lately watching tons of old forgotten movies, some are of course are steamin’ turds but every now and again you come across something that’s a total delight! I ran across a copy of 1991’s ‘Children of the Night’ and was fairly certain it was again going to be another crapper, however this one proved to be a totally sweet romp of a horror comedy. I’m a giganto fan of 80’s horror and this one while being from 91′ has still got that great old school vibe and charm coming off the tail end of 1980’s. In my opinion a lot of flicks up through 1994 more or less continue to keep that feel in tact. That being said, I had a good feeling about this one when I’d seen that Peter Deluise of ’21 Jump Street” fame was billed as the star, I watched the shit out of that show as a kid in the 80’s and he was one of my favorite characters from the series for sure. Then I noticed Karen Black also starred and then that the director was Tony Randel of ‘Hellraiser 2’ & ‘Ticks’ fame.
Well I’m pleased to say from the start of this one (which I found out later was actually a Fangoria production) it fully delivered the goods and then some in all the ways I’d hoped for. Playing much more like a horror comedy we get a sweet little story of of teenage girl played by Ami Dolenz (also in ‘Ticks’ from 1993) who lives in a small town and accidentally awakens a wicked vampire lord while swimming in an underground pond below a church. Yeah that’s what she and her buddy do for fun…..well schoolteacher played by Peter Deluise later comes to town to see what’s up and ends up in the thick of a vampire attack where he teams up with the teen girl and a local town drunken preacher played by vinatge SNL alumni Garrett Morris. I gotta say when he arrived it was the icing on the damn cake, he’s known also as “Chocolate Chip Charlie” from the horror classic ‘The Stuff’ from 1985 and in this movie he drives around town at night drinkin’ mad amounts of whiskey in a crazy van that’s got a giant glowing cross spear mounted on the front it it to impale vampires with. By that point in the movie I was already in, but this solidified the deal for sure.
At the end of the ‘Children of the Night’ day plays a bit like ‘Evil Dead 2’ none of it can be taken too seriously but it’s not a full on spoof either. There’s a lot of cool FX work going on here as well as cool spooky inventive sets and locations. It’s a neat little horror adventure that’s not afraid to add some heart to it either. A lot like gory teen horror comedy that’d fit quite nicely along with 80’s cult classics like ‘Vamp’, ‘Critters’ or the highly underrated ‘Night Life’ from 1989. There’s also some cool ass action sequences and you also get some Karen Black super weird vampire lung moments to ponder upon! If you’re looking for some super fun lost nostalgia to watch with a gang of movie maniacs ‘Children of the Night’ is a prime choice in my opinion!
I’ve been flying through a ton of VHS tapes lately which can be a ton of fun and also a total drag sometimes! A lot of these old 80’s horror movies have pretty impressive VHS cover art, they look like they’re gonna be a lost fucking gem, however you truly just can’t judge a book by it’s cover, or in these particular cases, a movie. Anyway it’s always a gamble and sometimes you do indeed end up with a hidden gem or at least something that’s so damn stupid that it’s a thoroughly entertaining shiny cinematic terd. So here’s the verdict on some VHS tapes I’ve scored recently! CHECK IT!!
Nightmare at Bitter Creek (1988):
Here’s a little movie that turned out to be a ton of fun, we get a psycho killer/survival flick with instead of annoying teenagers, we’re treated to a group of middle age ladies on a camping excursion with a middle aged Tom Skerritt as their hard drinkin’ tuff guy guide. Oh and he also has this rad dog named “Buster” that everyone seems to be a bit too obsessed with. Anyway, they all head of into the woods of the Sierra Mountains, sounds like fun huh? Well there’s also a crazed group of Neo-nazi killers who’re hellbent on shooting everyone in sight roaming around the woods. This one’s got some pretty decent characters (Buster included), super breathtaking locations, creepy atmosphere and for a PG-13 flick a good amount of action & violence especially in it’s final act. Not entirely a horror movie, it’s still got enough going for it to please fans of the genre, I dug it for sure! Here’s the whole damn movie via Youtube:
Here’s another one that was a pretty fun time as well, especially if you like cheezy 80’s ski movies and also idiotic horror. I know I do! So yeah, this one is 80’s as hell, totally over the top fashion, big hair, bad ski moves on the slopes, bad editing, idiotic characters and even a wannabe “mystery” at it’s core. It’s also basically one quarter soft core porno as well, there’s a bunch of “steamy” sex scenes strewn about Iced’s messy story. It’s all in all a really stupidly entertaining watch, directed by Jeff Kwitney who also directed “Amok Train” aka “Beyond the Door III” from 1989 which I love. ‘Iced’ turned out to be a good ridiculous party movie filled to the brim with stupid shit and an opening credits scene that looks like it was put together by a high school AV club. In this case though instead of being a total bore this one delivered enough schlocky fun to make it a fully worth while view. If you like dumb movies, this one surely delivers – and that final scene is a total treat!
I was pretty excited to check this “horror” flick out when I ran across it, basically it’s about some mysterious tombs that are discovered in the catacombs beneath Rome that release an evil force and also stars Donald Pleasance! Sounds like a damn good time huh? Unfortunately this one is a total bore, lots of character development and bland dialogue for uninteresting characters and lots of roaming around in dim caverns. Like lots of it. At one point I decided to watch the movie on fast forward until FINALLY something happened at the end that seemed somewhat interesting, however I’ve already forgotten what it was. This ones a real winner, if you’re having a hard time falling asleep it’ll bore you into a serious slumber. Here’s the trailer, trust me it’s not as cool as they make it out to be..
Here’s a sweet little movie that’s a ton of fun if you’re not expecting a heck of a lot! Invader features a dude who works at an over the top tabloid paper reporting on weird stories who gets involved in a ‘wicked’ mysterious Alien conspiracy. The dude sneaks onto an air force base and witnesses some ultra secret super powered jet being tested and ends up paired with a bad ass military Captain when he’s caught there snoopin’ around. From this point on the movie features a pretty rad “buddy style” team up with the two and really from the start it’s totally entertaining albeit dumb sci-fi romp full of pretty ridiculous action sequences as well as some pretty surprising well timed comedy. I had zero expectations so perhaps that’s why this one seemed like such a fun time? Still there totally were some impressive yet cheezy fx work at hand and the “final boss” battle features some radical old school stop motion animation to look forward to as well! Gotta love it, check this out sometime if you’re looking for a entertaining cheez-filled early 90’s sci fi adventure!