I just got done reading the ‘ALPHA FLIGHT: True North’ Marvel Comics one shot and it got me a bit excited about the possibility of an ongoing series. Yeah Alpha Flight has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid in 80’s and after the first John Byrne series it’s never been quite the same, so hearing that a new one shot was coming out made me decide to head up to ‘Cosmic Monkey‘, (Portland Oregon’s best comic book shop), to grab a copy and see for myself. It’s been a few years since I bought new comic books, I quit a while back cold turkey, as their just too damn expensive and many of them don’t grab me like they used to honestly. However, Alpha Flight always gets another chance!
So ‘True North’ was a pretty decent little dive back into the lives of the diverse Canadian superhero team, it features three short stories with various members of the team. The first featuring classic Alphans Talisman & Snowbird as they travel to a remote area of in the Arctic Circle to investigate a supernatural presence. It’s an intriguing little tale that could have really spanned the whole issue. I definitely enjoyed the artwork in this one by Max Dunbar as well.
The next story is a small slice of life featuring everyone’s favorite little person badass ‘Puck’ and the fish woman ‘Marina’ as they walk a lonely beach on a sunny day. Puck shares a story from his past and the two of them spend some time bonding. A neat little short overall but I wasn’t a real big fan of the artists depictions of Puck and Marina, who basically just made them look like a short guy and a green woman devoid of most of her fish like qualities. The last story features Heather Hudson aka ‘Vindicator’ as she hides from the Canadian government for crimes committed while under the mental control of long time Alpha Flight villain ‘The Master of the World’. It’s a pretty interesting short story too and also features her husband James ‘Guardian’ Hudson with plenty of underlying relationship drama bubbling below the surface. Overall this one was nice refresher of just what an Alpha Flight ongoing series could feel like in 2019.
The other members were missed though, classics like Sasquatch & Shaman weren’t even in it at all and Northstar and Aurora only spoke a couple lines. I was hoping for a cool one shot with the whole team showing their current relationship as a team, but regardless it was still a pretty good teaser, even if it was priced at whoppin’ 5 bucks! DAMN!! I’ve always thought the team under the right writer again could be developed into a great modern series. The team’s super diverse cast has a lot of rich history to explore. ‘True North’ strikes some good chords but I’m not sure it was really quite compelling enough to drum up the magic needed to push Alpha Flight into a new ongoing series. I’d like to see Wolverine return to the team and maybe bring some drama into Heather and James’ rocky relationship. It’s always been softly suggested he might have some feelings for Heather. You never know! I’m also still hoping for an Alpha Flight movie as well, I think they’d be an instant hit in the MCU!
I’ve been checking out a lot of 1980’s and 90’s foreign horror movies lately and the ones from Hong Kong are most definitely the most outrageous of them all. 1992’s ‘Wizard’s Curse’ is certainly proof of that, a mix of raunchy sex comedy, horror, fantasy and action all rolled into one big weird ball. A pair of “on the run” criminal lovers rumored to be practitioners of dark magic are hunted down by local police lead by a taoist priest. Using his own unique supernatural abilities he aids the cops, managing to personally slay them both. Soon after, a local cult leader resurrects their spirits into a one shared physical body, granting them superhuman powers & leaving them thirsting for human brains. They set out on a mission, to track down the priest for revenge and seeking to eat the brains of a virgin to gain ultimate powers of evil. This sets into motion a chase as the priest battles them to protect his daughter and the life of a tuff guy virgin cop who becomes entangled in the case.
Yeah it’s a weird one. It features Ching-Ying Lam better known for his role in the iconic ‘Mr. Vampire’ movies of the 1980’s as the even tempered ass kickin’ priest. The bad guy & girl share one body, change sexes at random & wear a totally 80’s leather clad outfit that’d make ‘The Terminator’ jealous. They rip though Hong Kong eating brains and murdering people with a huge glowing phallus, that’s used most of the time like a super powered snake like battering ram. There’s some really great 80’s style fx work going here, creepy moments and some frenetic action sequences keep Wizard’s curse moving at a brisk pace. Together (literally) they make a unique villain and the camera tricks utilized to make inhabit the same body are a lot of fun as well.
Ching-Ying Lam never disappoints with his kung fu either, he’s one of the best and there’s some incredibly fun supernatural kung fu battles to behold. However the movie is also entirely unsure of what it wants to be as it’s littered with sex & dick jokes when you least expect it. A lot of these Hong Kong horror movies of that era go lots of different directions and while it certainly makes things interesting this one could have really benefitted by keeping the raunchy comedy to a bare minimum. Also watching the movie with it’s rudimentary english subtitles leads me to believe the comedy may have played better if I’d have actually understood the language they’re speaking. My bad.
At the end of the day though, I definitely do recommend ‘Wizard’s Curse’, if even just for it’s sheer absurdity alone. Though it was released in 1992 it feels one hundred percent 80’s. Lots of neon, cool clothing, real stunts and a ton of 80’s FX work make it a unique little movie that never gets sleepy. It’s also filled with plenty of non PC “comedy” mostly revolving around sex yet never ends up being overly offensive some how. I liked the role of the virgin too being the wise crackin’ cop instead of the priests daughter, who regularly spends her time dodging super creepy advance & ploys from mega douchey men. The movie’s finale is pretty fun too as the Taoist Priest is forced to team up with his hilarious ex-wife who’s also a bad ass magician. And of course the movie’s final moment gag hinges on an over the top sex joke. If you’re looking for an utterly odd hybrid horror movie check this one out, it’s got a lot of weird ass shit going for it, if that’s your cup of tea!
Ok it’s summer time and I’m gonna admit, I’ve been slackin’ on the blog lately! I’m sure you all’ve missed me sooooo much right?! Well anyway I’m throwing down some mini reviews of some of the movies I’ve checked out recently this last coupla’ weeks! So with out further adieu!
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)
I really enjoy when a new Tarantino movie drops at the theater, let’s face it, he’s really one of the only big filmmakers that puts out interesting often risky movies to the mainstream these days, love him or hate him. Most bigger Hollywood movies are far too safe and generally feel like their plots have been drawn up by researching what’s been trending on Twitter. Well ‘Once Upon a ‘Time in Hollywood’ doesn’t follow the rules and it’s super refreshing for that simple reason alone. This one feels like a slice of life in a long gone era of movie stars with a very loose plot that ties up in a bloody bow by it’s stunning finale. It’s filled with colorful unique characters and some familiar faces from Hollywood’s past. The Bruce Lee scene has a lot of controversy around it, mainly concerning his portrayal not being accurate to real life. But hey, c’mon it’s a Tarantino movie, does anyone really think it’s going to be a damn biopic?!! Tarantino hit’s another home run more or less in my opinion with a movie that’s truly a breath of fresh air in a barrage of mindless, soul-less Hollywood cash grabs!
Slaughterhouse Rulez (2018)
This is the latest Simon Pegg / Nick Frost horror comedy if that means anything to anyone anymore in 2019? Well surprisingly this neat little creature feature was actually a pretty sweet little spur of the moment rental from Redbox. Basically a kid heads off to a snooty private school out in the middle of nowhere England. There he finds that a fracking company is digging deep in the nearby forest looking for natural gas and accidentally frees a gang of hungry monsters from the earth’s crust. Nick Frost plays a hippie activist guy who’s looking to shut down the frackers and Pegg plays a pathetic teacher at the school obsessed with his ex co-worker Margo Robbie, with whom he had a brief fling with. The movie’s got some neat practical creature fx, good action sequences & pretty decent humor as well. Not nearly quite as awesome as their previous team up flicks but most definitely worth a watch for monster movie fans.
Beyond the Seventh Door (1987)
Here’s a pretty sweet 80’s movie that’s def worth a watch with a gang of rowdy cinefiles and a case of beer! Starring Lazar Rockwood(what a name!), who somehow manages to capture that same moronic charm as The Room’s Tommy Wiseau! Yep, Lazar is quite a guy to say the least and this movie’s a long lost gem of a bad movie. Basically Rockwood is an ex criminal who’s looking for a big time heist teaming up with his ex girlfriend and plans to bust into a nearby mansion to get the ultimate goods! There he and his “girlfriend” face “seven deadly curses” each…behind a door together masterminded by an evil billionaire in a wheel chair! James Wan clearly used this as the template for the damn ‘Saw’ franchise-I just know it! Anyway there’s some truly idiotic stuff going on here, and Lazar is in the thick of these dangerouschallenges! He’s the hero you never knew you needed and he’s clearly got the most sex appeal to seduce a woman in the most awkward of moments. Check this out if you dig movies that are truly so damn bad that they’re awesome!
Holy shit, I finally checked this out and as a BIG fan of the comic books and the del Toro movies (even though they aren’t comic accurate) I’ve gotta say, this was one of the worst movies I’ve seen in maybe the last two decades. Going into this I was actually half expecting to like it for the possible campy-ness I’d heard about it. Nope!! This was just a downright powerfully painful experience, It was so bad I couldn’t make it past the hour mark. It’s been a while since I’ve actually turned off a movie because it was truly legit terrible. Sometimes I do it if it’s boring, but this was next level horse shit for sure. Absolutely wretched plot, terrible pacing, fully unlikable characters (trying to be edgy with F-words galore) & beyond shitty CGI fx that look like they were pulled from a bad third rate 90’s horror movie. I just can’t believe Neil Marshall who helmed two of the best horror movies of the last 2 decades (Dog Soldiers & The Descent) fucked this thing up so, so, so damn bad. I was so pumped to hear he was doing the movie and really saddened that he single handedly ruined Hellboy for the big screen for who know how long. This was a fully pathetic attempt at movie making and to be honest I thought David Harbour sucked in the role!!
I’m a big fan of horror anthologies and was pretty excited to check this one out as it’s got a great VHS cover. Well as a lot of 80’s horror anthologies go, most aren’t much to write home about. Nightmares almost falls into that category, like many of these movies they usually deliver one good chapter at least. For Nightmares that one’s the second installment, starring Emilio Estevez who plays a video game obsessed teenager who hangs out in arcades all day blaring punk rock tapes on his walkman. He literally battles an arcade game one night when he breaks into the local arcade late one night. I mean that the video game comes to life and he fights the graphics in real life. It’s a pretty cool little segment that oozes with the 1980’s in the best way. The rest of the stories however are pretty standard made for tv type of stuff 9as that is apparently what this thing was supposed to be, a made for ABC tv Twilight Zone type series that didn’t make it to prime time). The last story’s about an “evil” killer rat and features such a fully terrible finale it’s almost worth the uneventful wait. Talk about the worst evil killer monster rat FX of all time! This one’s got it FOR SURE! Anyway if you just can’t get enuff of 80’s horror anthologies you might wanna check it out at least for the video game segment but Creepshow this one is NOT!
‘Tenement’ AKA ‘Game of Survival’ is the third movie from Roberta Findlay I’ve seen and so far she definitely knows how to serve up the grimy goods in true grindhouse flavor. Yeah, Roberta understood how to make a truly sleazy horror flick that’s for sure. Even though Tenement might be considered more of a low budget action/thriller, it’s got plenty of horror and gore to go around. Findlay surely didn’t give a damn if she offended anyone, even though this came out in ’85 it’s jam packed with scenes that you’d likely not see put to screen in 2019.
Playing off a bit like John Carpenter’s ‘Assault on Precinct 13’ except in a run down inner city apartment building, Tenement features a pretty diverse cast of characters who face off in a violent battle of life or death. The bad apples in this one look like they stepped right out of ‘The Warriors’ and are just about the meanest most over the top street gang put to film. These drugged out leather clad assholes are ready kill nearly anything in sight, and when one of the tenants of the apartment complex tires of them hanging around in the basement he calls the cops, all hell breaks loose. Just when the residents decide to throw a party in celebration of the gang’s arrest, they’re let loose into the night by police. Hellbent on revenge they head back to the “tenement” to get bloody revenge on each and everyone who lives within it’s sweaty spray painted walls.
The film moves at a brisk pace and it’s not afraid to get ugly quick. There’s a shocking brutal scene of rape, beatings, drug overdoses, guttings and that’s just the damn start. As crazy as this sounds at the same time the production quality is pretty low, the acting often pretty flimsy/over the top and it’s all sorta hard to actually take seriously. That all being said, for a female film maker back in the 80’s (and especially today) it’s got more bite than most films of this genre made by men. The action and gore is pretty ambitious and luckily the blood here, looking basically like red paint, tames some of the it’s sheer brutality making it a bit more consumable for genre newbies. I really dug a lot of the characters as well, though some may seem a bit stereotyped but the protagonist, a grumpy loner bad ass hero named ‘Washington’ (a cool add to black horror heroes) gets the job done once the gang begins to wreck havoc on his turf, the tenement. It’s quite glorious actually once the surviving apartment tenants decide to band together and fight back, revenge is well served here for sure and it’s quite worth sitting through the earlier nastiness for some sweet revenge. Also never ever underestimate a pregnant woman in danger!
One of the best things about this mean little movie is the actual setting itself. The run down apartment building is a dirty gritty mess of a place. The perfect place for an inner city showdown to occur, with no help of course from the local police. A lot of Roberta Findlay’s movies, at least what I’ve seen so far, have this totally sleezy city vibe going on and it she works that angle quite well. When people bring up grindhouse films this one is actually the perfect example of the genre and for what it is this one’s easily one of the best out there. Her movies feel like they were made a decade earlier as well and have much more of of 70’s feel to them in look and style. A dark yet entertaining action packed urban battle that might not be the most digestible piece of cinema in 2019, but it’s surely something you likely won’t forget anytime soon!
I’ve got this new found love for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie from 1990 since watching it for the first time in decades! It was sooo much darker in tone than I recalled. When I saw it back in the day I was a fan of the original comic books, my older brother had a bunch of them in the 80’s along with other cool weird indie comics like ‘Radioactive Black Hamsters’ and ‘Cerebus’ so the movie at the time felt purely like kid stuff. The original comics had an even darker, bloodier and grittier tone to them something I think would be quite interesting to see brought to the big screen some day. Well one of the old TMNT covers crossed my mind from back in the day, issue #10 had bad ass one the folded, front and back. This totally tubular classic was drawn by Peter Laird way back in 1987, an era when they kicked a lot more ass and all wore the same color head bands. One of my favorite vintage Turtles comic covers for sure!
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’d never seen a Roberta Findlay movie before up until a few days ago, but I’m pretty damn stoked to check out more of her work in the horror genre for sure! ‘The Oracle’ is a sweet yet nasty little horror film from 1985 that took me pleasantly by surprise. It really looks more like it was filmed in the late 70’s, even the clothing styles and general quality of the film has a gritty and dirty grindhouse vibe to it that certainly amplifies the charm. Taking place in the seedy areas of NYC during Christmas time (yeah a new holiday horror flick for the books) Jennifer & her asinine hubby move to a new apartment once occupied by an elderly psychic woman and soon stumble upon her creepy ass ouija board ‘The Oracle’ that she often used to communicate with the spirit world.
Jennifer, hyped on her new place, throws a swingin’ housewarming bash and with everyone witnessing, uses “the oracle” to contact a angry spirit of murdered man who demands bloody revenge upon his killers. From that point on the ghostly presence relentlessly terrorizes her & tries to manipulate her into avenging his death. Eventually she complies, but soon the murderers (the dead dude’s ex-wife & greedy biz partner) become suspicious of her snooping, and they re-hire the psycho who’d carried out the vicious killing before to try and track down Jennifer.
There’s a lot to love here with this mean ass supernatural horror romp. it’s got some truly unique characters, a cool female heroine & the killer is equally interesting being a trans/lesbian villain who’s as nasty as they come for horror movie standard of the day back then. The movie doesn’t go out of it’s way to get the point across, but in today’s landscape I doubt that you could present the character at all in the light portrayed in The Oracle. Still it was interesting deviation from the evil traditionally male killers of the 70’s & 80’s. For the obviously low budget it has it makes great use of it’s big city locales & it’s charming, ambitious special fx work. Interestingly enough this film came out a full year before 80’s cult classic ‘WITCHBOARD’.
These two actually have very similar plots and while Witchboard remains the winner here as far as quality horror there’s definitely something awesome about Findlay’s attempt. It’s nastier and carries a sort of sleezy quality that genre fans of B-movies might actually appreciate more when all is said and done. There’s plenty of subpar acting going on here and decent amount of fairly impressive gore to be found. The end of course tries to go the distance with it’s limited FX budget and in my opinion delivers the goods via a sweet little supernatural encounter.
I’m quite curious to check out more of Findlay’s movies, from what I’ve read it seems she dabbled in directing “X-rated” stuff in the 1960’s, 70’s & 80’s before tackling the horror genre with this movie in ’85. I’m curious about her string of movies through the 80’s, her most popular being Tenement. If you’re a fan of trashy 80’s horror you just might dig The Oracle & now you’ve got an excuse to give this underrated gem a whirl during the holiday season too!