Looking for a ridiculously entertaining Halloween “party movie” this year to watch with a group of friends and a few cold ones? Well look no further, ‘Empire of the Dark’ from 1990 is one helluva great time for a gang of rowdy cinefiles. It’s written, produced, edited & directed by it’s star, the highly unlikely action hero Steve Barkett! Yeah Barkett’s vision here is obviously to put himself smack dab in the middle of full on ridiculous, over the top action, horror, drama and ultra cheez’d out romance. As the true jack of all trades in front of and behind the camera Barkett admittedly has a certain undeniable charm about him, an almost vintage Shatner-esque way of moving through the mayhem. He’s certainly NOT your typical action hero, the slightly out of shape, sweatpants wearing, ass kicker doesn’t need to fit the mold as he’s clearly got enough passion in the project to prove all the naysayers wrong. At least he tries his damndest!
Everything about this movie is highly ambitious, as he clearly didn’t have a gigantic budget, he fully utilizes every trick in the book to attempt to make this one as epic looking as possible. Sometimes it actually works too, he’s got monster cult members, a huge stop motion/puppet demon and a few set pieces that have me scratching my head wondering just how the hell he pulled some of this all off at all. The plot too is pretty sweet as well, we’ve got heroic policeman (Steve Barkett of COURSE!) who steps through a time vortex to a different dimension to save the woman he loves (whom he was having an affair with) and her newborn baby from a “sinister” satanic cult.
He escapes the cult saving only the baby, leaving his lover behind to die and we flash forward 20 years later. Barkett is now an ex-cop master swordsman, who still longs for his past love. That doesn’t stop him from being quite the ladies man of course, Barkett has surely got some pick up lines that wouldn’t fly today. We follow him as he slowly becomes convinced his lost love is somehow still alive and that the sinister cult has indeed returned to wreck havoc in the small town. From this point on things get even more ridiculous in the most charmingly idiotic ways. Bad sword fights, a terrible training montage, “steamy” sex scenes, supernatural encounters and utterly moronic dialogue make this one the perfect Halloween party movie.
Barkett clearly had a solid vision for this little ridiculous adventure as it’s jammed packed with “interesting” characters, some surprisingly solid special fx for the time, babes, monsters and even some sweet gore. Barkett even goes the distance with the romance making sure his character has plenty of it on display as well as some solidly stupid attempts at drama. The whole thing is a giant damn ball of idiotic fun, a full on Steve Barkett vanity project that was a true pleasure to watch for the first time. If you’re a fan of stuff like ‘Troll 2’ or ‘The Room’ then you’ve got to hunt this one down, it’s a better great bad movie than both!! Grab a copy on dvd HERE!!
Ok so here’s an idea for the next “live action” ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ movie that’s reportedly on the horizon. First, how about making it actually LIVE ACTION?! Cuz’ after re-watching the two classic 1990’s TMNT movies it’s come crystal clear what the direction this franchise needs to take for it’s planned “reboot”. The next movie, like the recent sequels to Halloween & Terminator, needs to be a DIRECT sequel to the 1990 classic! Ignoring everything but the first movie (maybe the second). It’d be the perfect move to reinvigorate the cinematic franchise, bring back those classic Turtles from that movie, bring back the suits, bring back Judith Hoag (who’s maybe somehow cuter today than she was back then) as April O’Neil and even Elias Koteas as Casey Jones!
It’s time to go back to those original characters, another cheap revamped CGI version of these classic characters is NOT what people want. Imagine the excitement of making a sequel to the OG TMNT, with the Jim Henson studio working on a new version of the Turtles suits, that look very similar to the classic designs but using the more advanced animatronics of today. Imagine a modern Turtles movie that actually utilizes real choreography & real martial arts, a concept like that is UNHEARD of in Hollywood blockbusters and people would be blown away to see what could be done today with the right talent behind it. You could even get the original voices of the Turtles back, yeah get Corey Feldman too to put the icing on the cake.
The plot could be an awesome “fish out of water” tale as well, here’s a quick idea, the original Turtles & their Master Splinter 30 years ago ventured further below the surface, far beneath the sewers of New York, where they disappeared and were never heard from again and for reasons unknown to the few who actually knew of their existence. There they’d, embarked on a dangerous mission and in result of it became trapped in some sort of suspended animation, kinda like the mosquito in the tree sap from Jurassic Park. Whatever you need to do to explain where and why they’ve been missing….Meanwhile April O’neil & Casey Jones (who remain friends or maybe even lovers?) have moved on with their lives and almost question whether their incredible experience with the Turtles & Master Splinter back in 1990 ever really happened at all. Something thaws the Turtles out of their extended slumber and they soon make their way back to the surface, finding a much different world 30 years later, eventually reunite with their two old friends to once again & face a new threat to the city. Who knows maybe April & Casey even have a kid now, Casey Jones Jr, boy or girl who take up his crime fighting mantle?!
The classic 1990 Turtles would have a blast trying to fit in to modern times and of course the original April & Casey reuniting with them would be heartfelt cinematic gold. I’m certain this formula, with a more ironed out plot would be a HUGE hit and could re-start the Turtles franchise in a bold, nostalgic and exciting way. They need to give the fans something special this time around. The TMNT formula was never broken and the last thing people want is the Michael Bay era to rear it’s head. There’s a cinematic hit ripe for the picking and Hollywood needs to get creative and jump on it!!
I for some damn reason checked out this shoddy sequel to the 1990 horror flick ‘Mirror Mirror’ the other night & the one surprise greater than anything this film could muster up was Mark “Incredible Hulk” Ruffalo in his first “real” movie appearance! So ‘Mirror Mirror 2: Raven Dance’ came out in 1994, though it really feels much more like a mid 80’s movie with it’s special fx work/plot. It starts off pretty strong actually, showing a lot of cheezy promise, that is if you’re a fan of low budget 80’s horror stuff. We’ve got creepy nuns in a convent along with a “terrifying” giant vintage mirror that’s some sort of portal to another dimension of evil. It emits that 80’s style energy electricity fx I love so much, all over the damn place turning a bunch of nuns into piles of burnt ash, it’s admittedly a pretty sweet opening making me for a second think I’d unearthed some sort of forgotten gem of a horror flick!
Well we then switch to “present day” 1994 where we meet a bad ass alternative rock band on tour, who seem to be channeling the Red Hot Chili Peppers and for some reason they’re rehearsing for a gig in town at the old church. There’s a random teenage girl there hanging out with them, who ends up being the main focus of the movie and of course the douchey band members can’t resist uncovering the giant haunted mirror & are sadly destroyed all too soon by the evil mirror’s supernatural energy blasts. I was hoping these idiots would be present most of the movie but alas…Anyway Roddy Mcdowell also stars in one of his most boring roles and the movie slogs along at a snail’s pace until Mark Rufflo emerges as some sort of “mysterious” character who might be evil but it also some sort of “sexy” love interest. That actually was pretty unexpected!
Throw in a weird crazed handyman, a useless subplot with a greedy stepsister trying to extort some big money from the main character and eventually about 30 seconds of a pretty cool monster, more energy bursts from the mirror and well….ah…ok…who gives a shit, let’s not waste anymore time trying to explain this crappy ass mess, so here’s Mark Ruffalo’s first movie appearance in this boring pile of shit waste of time horror flick!!
I’ve been hearing lately that the ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ movie franchise is going to again be rebooted after the shit show of the Michael Bay era of the reptilian heroes in a half shell. So it sparked me to revisit the original 1990 movie the other night which I hadn’t seen in probably 20 years or so. I was amazed at how well that movie has aged, seeing it in theaters back in the day I’d enjoyed it but kind of dismissed it as “kid stuff” at the time as my older brother in the 1980’s collected the original indie comic series and I’d had the chance to read them as a kid. If you’re aware of the TMNT early beginnings you’ll remember that it started off as a dark, gritty & violent comic series. I was blown away back then at the sheer oddity of the characters and the equally bizarre story lines of the originals. When I decided to revisit the 1990 TMNT film I’d forgotten just how dark that original movie actually is, especially considering today’s climate of safe moviemaking. The movie is almost closer to an R-rating than it’s original rating of PG. There’s kids smoking & drinking alcohol, robbing people, the foot beating up April O’neil, Raphael beaten into a near coma by The Foot and a badly beaten and bloodied up Splinter strung to a fence. It’s actually a pretty dark and gritty movie with the addition of the comedic surfer dude Turtles to lighten things up.
So currently we’ve got these new “TMNT” flicks, a big bloated Michael Bay produced, soul-less mess of CGI, uninspired storytelling and poor character development. The current franchise just hasn’t been connecting with fans the way they’d hoped, mainly with the amount of money that the films have made. Now they’ve got plans for a brand new reboot and it’s never been more clear just what this franchise needs to do: go old school.
So first off let’s address the obvious big issue, imo the latest Michael Bay era CGI Turtles look terrible. They’re massive 8 foot tall green hulking humanoid turtles with creepy ass faces and not in a good way. Compare the newest incarnations with the very original designs. They couldn’t be more opposite. Even the Turtles of the 1990 movie do essentially look pretty much like what you’d hope for, sure they’ve been made much cuter but they stay fairly true to the original vision. So let’s face the facts, the original designs of the 80’s weren’t broken so why try and modernize them by making them the opposite of what they were intended to look like? Bring back the smaller classic versions of these characters, go simpler with their general design. It’s a lot easier to digest and most definitely not rocket science folks.
Next I’d say you could go the similar route that many movies are taking by making the next movie a direct sequel to the original or at least setting the movie in the late 80s’ or early 90’s, it’s clear people love that era of film today (Stranger Things, IT anyone?). That being said bring back the suits!! Put real actors in real costumes with modern day animatronics the Turtles could look absoluterly mind blowing. The 1990 movie Turtles STILL look great and that was with a micro budget of 13.5 million dollars for the whole damn film. What they could do now would be incredible, we all want to believe that the TMNT are actually living breathing creatures and the latest movies sadly look like fakey cgi rendered cartoon characters inserted into the “real world”.
Lets get real here and let’s keep the budget low, we don’t need a TMNT movie to be on the scale of an Avengers film, we need a smaller more personal, more heartfelt movie with high stakes like the original. Next let’s get some real martial arts, real choreography and some real stunts again. One thing that blew me away revisting the 1990 movie was the actual real on screen martial arts that were displayed, it was pretty amazing actually and I’d love to see something in that vein in a brand new Turtles movie. It’d be like nothing out there in the mainstream that’s for sure. Lastly I’d love to see a darker more serious storyline, of course an “R-rated Turtles” movie would be my first choice, one that evokes the original comics would be absolutely insane. However, I know that’ll never happen so I think at the very least going as dark as the original movie would be more than good enough. Let’s see the Turtles roaming the city streets at night, jumping from rooftop to rooftop and roaming the dank sewers. Bring on the amazing real life set pieces, puppets and crazy creatures once again, I think fans would go bonkers for a throwback style TMNT. However I doubt Hollywood has the courage to try something as unique and inspired as the original movie. What do you think?!
1992’s ‘Private Wars’ from PM Entertainment is an 80’s action fan’s dream come come true. It’s got everything you’re likely to want from the genre and more which was a pleasant surprise as I wasn’t sure just what to expect when I picked this sucker up randomly on VHS recently. From the cover it didn’t look like anything particularly special but within the film’s first 5 minutes or so it was clear this was gonna be a total spectacle to behold. We’ve got a great cast here as well, one of the films several leads is Steve Railsback (Lifeforce, Nukie), who stars as an unlikely anti-hero, a drunken wild card who from the movie’s fully over the top get go sets up the mayhem that pretty much continues to ensue for the duration of the film. Also equally bad ass is Dan Tullis Jr. who you just might remember for his role as “Officer Dan” on the sitcom Married… with Children. He gives the movie a damn fine does of comedy as well as some sweet ass action!
There’s a lot of stuff to fully enjoy here and luckily the pace of the movie rarely if ever lets up. We’ve basically got a wealthy sinister asshole businessman who’s dead set on getting the inhabitants of an old neighborhood to abandon their homes so he can build a huge boring business center there. To achieve his deviant goals, he bribes the corrupt local cops and uses organized gangs to harass pretty much any woman, man or even child who sets foot near them. There’s an incredible sequence that simply must be seen to be believed where the local gangster thugs go on a crazed rampage ruining kid’s toys, jump kicking innocent side walkers, shoving the elderly people, kicking over full trash cans and destroying fruit stands! These guys mean business and they quickly cross the damn line when they set one of the beloved locals on fire. The neighborhood bands together to unsuccessfully try to stop them and soon they look to employ the skills of drunken fuck up tuff guy Steve Railsback to help the cause.
This one’s filled to the brim eratic action scenes, wild explosions, crazy ass car crashes, kung fu mayhem, charismatic characters and some pretty well timed comedy. There’s an totally hilarious scene where the neighborhood watch gets together to audition locals badasses to help them out that’s totally unforgettable. They also seem to love strapping people to the front of vehicles and the surprisingly impressive stunts and explosions make me totally miss those golden years of action movies before everything was done via CGI. Private Wars has true heart as well and throws some pretty sweet nods to ‘Rocky’ when Railsback finally cleans up his act in order to get ready for the final battle with the greedy developer and his goons. It’s the perfect party movie and is truly a forgotten gem of an action movie that’s sure to put a smile on any 80’s action fans face. Seek this one out, it’s totally worth it!!!
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!
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!