VHS Verdict: ‘Saga of the Phoenix’ Brings the Monsters & 80’s Mayhem!!
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.
VHS Verdict: 1990’s Undead Frat Boys & Slimy Little Puppet Devils!!
I had a little double feature “party by myself” last night consisting of me, a bottle of wine, my cat, some weed and two horror flicks from the late early 90s. Always in hopes of discovering a lost and forgotten gem! This can result in one helluva fun evening alone or an early night drifting off on the couch to some boring cinematic trash. Luckily for the most part it was the first. I started my first glass of wine off with a movie from 1990 called ‘Pledge Night’.
I’ve been wanting to check this one forever, mostly because I’d heard that Joey Belladonna from legendary thrash metal band ‘Anthrax’ had a role as the supernatural slasher ‘Acid Sid’ and his band even provided the film’s soundtrack. Unfortunately the measly minute and a half he actually appears and the bad ass metal soundtrack his band drummed up doesn’t make this a lost 80s horror gem. Pledge Night instead spends most of it’s run time being a dumb frat boy comedy. Basically putting it’s characters through ‘Hell Week’ in a series of gross out initiations for the first hour. By the time the horror aspect kicks in it’s a bit too late in the game and “Acid Sid”, the evil supernatural hippie frat boy fails to deliver the scares despite being a pretty cool looking villain. Instead he cracks lame one liners after each of his kills and we come to find Joey Belladonna doesn’t even actually play the character in his hideous slasher form but rather in a short flashback. There’s a few neat gore scenes sprinkled amidst the potty humor but overall Pledge Night fails to deliver much of anything entertaining to the table. It merely left me wondering what connection Anthrax actually had to this damn movie? If this’d been the second feature I’d have probably tapped out early on the couch for some zzz’s.
Next up was a 1993 horror flick called ‘Little Devils: The Birth’ from the director of 80’s cult film ‘Rawhead Rex’, starring Marc Price who played ‘Skippy” on ‘Family Ties’ and also starred in the awesome ‘Trick R’ Treat’.
Luckily this one had a better cast & some pretty likable characters to at least keep me invested in the ridiculous plot. It basically plays out as a second rate ‘Ghoulies’ knock off but fortunately had enough charm to justify staying up well past midnight to polish off the rest of the bottle of wine. We follow Price’s character,a struggling writer who rents a room from his crazy sex-obsessed older landlady and shares the house with his weird ass neighbor who’s up all night creating demon dolls from some glowing sludge from the local mausoleum. He also meets a beautiful exotic dancer and the two of them fall “madly” in love while simultaneously discovering that evil “little devils” are running rampant, killing people around his rental unit. This by no means is a good movie, it appears to have been shot on video, the special effects are pretty atrocious & it’s run time is about 20 minutes too long.
All that being said it somehow managed to keep me entertained for it’s entire damn duration. The comedy works here quite well and there’s definitely some decent chemistry amongst it’s cast. The little devil’s themselves are nothing to write home about and are probably the least exciting thing about this movie. They for some reason run around killing people with miniature flame throwers and in comparison make the puppets in the ‘Ghoulies’ look like academy award winning works of special fx wizardry. However despite it’s flaws this ‘Little Devils: The Birth’ had enough going for it to recommend for at least one solid viewing. At the end of the day Marc Price makes it worth an hour and forty minutes of any fan a trashy cinema’s time.
VHS Verdict 1991: ‘Cast A Deadly Spell’ – Forgotten Monster Noir!
Up until last night I’d never even heard of the HBO movie ‘Cast A Deadly Spell’ from 1991, but I was lucky enough to run across a VHS copy of this one recently. It immediately peaked my interest, the box had some quotes on it comparing it to ‘Ghostbusters’ & ‘Roger Rabbit’ with monsters instead of cartoons. Sign me up already! The movies a ton of fun and filled with some sweet totally 80’s style fx work as well as an equally impressive cast. It really perplexed me as to why I’d never even heard of this one as it’s something I would have totally dug back in ’91. Hey I think it’s better sometimes seeing a lost gem from way back in the modern era anyway…it takes me way back…
Anyway this cool movie stars Fred Ward as H.P. Lovecraft (seriously, how have I never heard of this movie?!) a private investigator, who hired to track down the legendary book, the Necronomicon. Lovecraft is one of the only people who’ve chosen not to use magic of any kind making his little quest all that much more difficult to accomplish. It’s a full on 40’s noir, placed in a time when witchcraft has been fully exposed to the general populace and things that go bump in the night are far more common than ever before. We’ve got a bunch of neat monsters, werewolves & zombies along the way as well as an awesome scene with some pesky gremlins by way of rad old school puppetry. Hell, we even get a random unicorn that enters the equation into this unique little horror noir comedy.
There’s some cool scenes as well that up the movie’s horror factor with some impressive unexpected gore. There’s weird super powered gangsters, voodoo priests and plenty of that classic style animatronic monster mayhem to behold here. It’s also got it’s fair share of comedy though too and it in ways really is a bit like a horror version of ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’. Director Martin Campell went on to direct more recent stuff like the god awful ‘Green Lantern’ movie and ‘Casino Royale’. Along side Ward is also Julianne Moore, Clancy Brown & David Warner which is a pretty star studded cast for just how relatively forgotten this movie is today.
The movie spawned a sequel as well in 1994 but I haven’t heard to many good things about that one. There’s never been an official DVD release of the movie, but it certainly deserves one. The movie is available to watch on Amazon and a few other online platforms, so if you’re looking for a little lost nostalgia this one’s a cool little forgotten gem of a movie…
Stranger Things: Please Use Practical Monster Effects!!
Stranger Things Season 2 finally dropped this Halloween and damn was it good! So much fun and such a total and complete trip down memory lane. The show plays off of the wonder filled nostalgia of the 80’s and almost perfectly captures the magic of movies like Poltergeist, E.T., The Goonies and The Lost Boys to name a few.
This show couldn’t possibly get any better at delivering the ever so sweet 1980’s cinematic magic could it? Well I say it could do the job way better, after watching the second season it was apparent once again that this show could really up it’s game by ditching a lot of the shoddy CGI effects it uses for it’s monsters.
The show sure looks and feels like an 80’s Amblin flick, that is until they introduce us to the other worldly monsters. Then it quickly becomes very apparent it’s 2017 and that some questionable CG has entered my 80’s fantasy! So for season 3 of the show, I think they could do better, to really recreate that magic of old, it’s time for the show to incorporate practical creature effects! Puppetry, makeup, animatronics!
Imagine the creatures on the show if they had the feel of E.T., The Gremlins or Pumpkinhead?! The CG takes me out of the moment, the realism fades quickly and I imagine how much more effective the experience would really be if it just gave this tweak to say 75% of it’s fx work. That alone would give us the ultimate nostalgia trip, let’s face it, fans would go nuts for this and especially those who are real fans of the genre the show’s replicating. So help me spread this idea #strangerthings80sfx & Let’s demand that 80’s special effects magic be utilized for the next season!!! They’ve come a long way with practical fx work and blending with CG or using CG to eliminate wires & puppeteers would take the show to a whole next level of 1980’s love….
Fans of ‘Gremlins’ & ‘The Dark Crystal’ Should Check Out ‘We R Animals’!!
Here’s something totally awesome for anyone who’s a fan of movies like ‘The Dark Crystal’ & ‘Meet The Feebles’. Check out the ‘We R Animals’ trailer, a new movie you can fully support on Kickstarter. This project looks totally bonkers and like ‘Meet The Feebles’ boasts an R rating as well. All the characters are played by animatronic puppets bringing to mind a bit of a Gremlins feel as well to the whole thing. This project has been in the making now since 2010 but now seems to be looking like it’s gearing up to get very serious soon.
Here’s the crazy synopsis:
“We R Animals is the story about a bunny who’s never experienced love, who lives in a shady old circus but wants to get out. One day her dream comes true when she manages to escape and meets an old sweet lady called Alice. But her happy new life won’t last long. A criminal cat who runs a business where he shoots cute animal videos for the web now wants the bunny in one of his videos and therefore kidnaps her. It’s a nasty business where he earns big money on ads, while treating his actors like shit, often drugging them and doesn’t care if they die.
What happens next is a fun twisted r-rated ride with violence, ninja cats, soviet collie cyborgs, vicious dogs, vampire bats, revenge and magic.”
Sounds like a trip huh? I’m pretty excited to see the final product here. So many movies these days simply resort to CGI which is totally cool but it’s also really nice to see an inspiring “hands on approach” being utilized for a project as unique as this. The puppets look absolutely stunning & the sets look mindbending. The Sweden based writer and director also got the dude from “Kung Fury” involved recently as a producer on the project. Support this one if you can!
Ho-Ho-Holiday Horror Movies You May Have Missed!
It’s December 2016 is a time for some serious holiday celebration! Sure I’ll be watching a ton of the usual classics like Santa Claus: The Movie, Elf, Rudolph, Gremlins etc etc. However I’m going to be busting out the Christmas horror movies again this of course and hopefully here I’ll be able to give you a few ideas of some movies to check out if you’re feeling like mixing it up a bit this year. We all know about the classics like Black Christmas, Silent Night Deadly Night, last years instant classic Krampus. Well here’s a few you may have never heard of but you should definitely seek out this season!
3615 code Pere Noel / AKA ‘Deadly Games’ (1989)
A true lost & forgotten gem of a movie. If you search the net for Christmas Horror movies, you for some crazy reason won’t find this one on any of the lists. However this french film, which I first saw last year, is easily one of the best Christmas horror movies of all time. It’s a rare one and finding a version of it with subtitles can be pretty difficult, I got a copy off of Ioffer.com.
Searching this one out is totally worth it though as it plays out like the ultimate 80’s Amblin style “Home Alone” hybrid of a film. It screams of the 1980’s and features a super cool kid obsessed with action movies who lives in a gigantic castle style mansion. During a snow storm on Christmas eve, he finds himself home alone with his grandfather where the house becomes under siege by a crazed maniac who is convinced he’s Santa Claus & is hell bent on punishing all those who’ve been naughty. This one deserves a proper release and then it rightly deserves to be a new addition on ALL Christmas horror lists.
The Christmas Tale (2005) Continue reading
The 12 Other Movies That Surely Inspired Stranger Things!
“Stranger Things” is the series to binge on this summer, I absolutely loved it. Secondly it’s very obvious that The Duffer Brothers are fans of The Goonies, E.T., Poltergeist, Gremlins, Close Encounters and fully succeeded in replicating the nostalgic vibe of those movies for the Netflix series this summer. They gave us that special feeling we’ve all missed for so many years, especially if you grew up in those times. People are already clamoring for a second season, so what are we all supposed to do in the meantime? Well I’ve put together a list of some movies that I think likely were an inspiration to the hit series that you might have totally missed out or haven’t seen in a while!
Most of these flicks follow the “Amblin” formula. Amblin cranked out a lot of the spooky 80’s Speilberg style movies. It was a formula that seemed to put kids on dangerous adventures, most often supernatural ones, usually in small towns or the suburbs and most often trying to prove to their parents some crazy story to be true with often times unlucky results. These stories were filled with wonder and most of all they were so undeniably fun to watch that to see a series like Stranger Things in this day and age is a breath of fresh air. So here today in response I’d like to honor 10 of the lesser known movies you’ve gotta hunt down if you dug Stranger Things as much as I did.
1. The Gate (1986) To say they weren’t influenced by this movie when making Stranger Things would be a crime!!
‘Krampus’ is Easily One of the Best Christmas Movies EVER!!
My Christmas wishes were answered yesterday as I headed off into the chilly night with a bunch of friends to check out Michael Dougherty’s holiday horror flick ‘Krampus’! I’ve been waiting for a proper Krampus movie for ages and the wait is finally over folks, this movie was awesome. Dougherty has proven he IS the master of holiday horror as now he’s got two incredible movies under his belt, his first being ‘Trick ‘R Treat’ from 2007 which has already become a cult classic. So why did I enjoy Krampus so damn much?
First it’s the perfect movie for the season at hand as it has a true heart of gold at it’s core. We start out seeing a crazy sort of Black Friday shopping experience on screen where insane Christmas shoppers fight in slow motion in greedy hordes for their gifts. It really kinda sets the mood for the rest of the movie, Christmas has become ugly. No one really has the holiday spirit anymore and our main characters who’re basically your average modern day family have forgotten what’s really important in life. We’ve got a great comedic cast here to and once all the relatives arrive for Christmas dinner it’s evident they’re in for a long weekend.
Krampus has a great cast going for it, Emjay Anthony really shines as Max a young boy who finally gets fed up with everyone’s selfish, negative attitudes and decides to rip up his Christmas letter to Santa chucking it out into the winter winds. Soon after a dark looming storm cloud settles above his neighborhood and hits it hard with one helluva winter storm. This is where all hell begins to break loose. From this point the neighborhood feels disconnected from reality and the way the winter transforms the landscape is a sight in itself to behold. Suddenly odd sinister snowmen begin appearing all around their house. Soon the family is entrenched in a fantastical fight for their lives against an evil hulking force with more than a few frightening tricks it up it’s shaggy sleeve.
The first time we see Krampus is an excellent sequence and form that point on we’re taken on a continuous roller coaster ride that brings to mind the best about movies like Gremlins and The Gate. This movie really feels like a lost movie from the 80’s that Speilberg produced, not directed. In fact this one feels like an old Joe Dante flick. The sets are incredible yet centralized in mainly one location and the monsters are a true spectacle to behold. Feeling a bit like if Charles Band (Puppetmaster/Full Moon) had a big budget back in the 80’s to make an X-mas flick. Also the effects are almost all practical with every bit of CG used exactly the way it should be. The costumes too of Krampus and his crew are quite impressive as well, simply put this one didn’t feel like your average mainstream horror movie and that’s a damn good thing.
Lastly we do have the big baddie Krampus who looks simply amazing, though maybe not quite like what you may have been expecting. My only real problem with this movie was that I really was hoping for more of the actual Krampus and maybe a bit of his true mythology. Most of the mayhem here is brought on by his minions and Krampus is more of an evil presence watching the shit hit the fan than a big bad guy like the Predator or Alien. I was hoping for a game of cat and mouse with the family squaring off directly with Krampus but in the end I really enjoyed the finale equally just in a different way. So that being said, I’m going to say this was easily one of if not my favorite movie this year so far. I’m actually quite happy as well with the PG-13 rating and some of the family friendly tones of the movie, besides with all the ugliness in the world right now it’s nice to have something to warm our hearts a little this Christmas season! I’m already hoping for a sequel where Krampus truly meets his match!
The CRITTERS are Back from the Eighties?!!
It seems the Critters back! There’s rumors going around that Warner Bros is getting ready to revive the 1980’s classic flick with a reboot or sorts. Well we all know that this new version of critters will most likely be nothing like the original movies, but a fan took matters into his own hands and came up with this awesome short film, Critters: Bounty Hunter.
This is pretty rad and it feels just like the 80’s Critters franchise we have grown to love over the years. Jordan Downey put this cool little six minute film together and if Warner wants to get the spirit of the original they should really be taking notes on this sweet little short! This is the type of Critters that we want. I’m starting to feel like the fan made movies are better than what Hollywood is coming up with these days- Check this shit out!
Stan Winston Fans Rejoice for ‘A Gnome Named Gnorm’?!
I love Stan Winston, he made soooo many amazing movie monsters come to life with his genius special effects wizardry! From the Predator, to the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park to the incredible Pumpkinhead! Yes Pumpkinhead is one of my fave monster movies of the 1980’s hands down, and it was also directed by good ol’ Stan! Now let it be known that he really didn’t direct much, The Terminator 2 mini-film for the Universal Studios theme park and the Michael Jackson movie/video “Ghosts” in 1997 I thought was it for him. But I just found out today that he did indeed direct another full length feature film besides Pumpkinhead, so naturally I was pumped to check out his follow-up he did back in 1990! Well it just so happens to be a flick titled “A Gnome Named Norm” starring Anthony Michael Hall and a horny ass Gnome who’s lookin’ too impress the ladies!
Check out the trailer:
Well, now isn’t that something?! It looks like perhaps Winston was the inspiration behind flicks like “Munchie”?
Not quite what I was expecting after motherfuckin’ Pumpkinhead, but hey I gotta say that ‘A Gnome Named Gnorm’ looks like a damn good time!! So this one will go on my list of must watch movies-however this one I may need to view with a gang of friends and a few too many drinks!
You can watch the full feature on youtube too! This movie also went by the name ‘Upworld’, it’s crazy to find movies like this that somehow slipped under the radar!