Tagged: practical effects

Movie Review: Indie Creature Feature ‘Book of Monsters’!

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!

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VHS Verdict: 1988’s Bizarre Horror Fantasy ‘Magic of the Universe’!

1988’s ‘Magic of the Universe’ (Originally released as ‘Salamamgkero’ in 1986) is one HELL of a bizarre horror adventure! Shot in the Philippines and chock full of dark creepy tropical locations, you surely get a lot more than you bargained for with an odd film that clearly must have had a pretty decent budget to work with. The plot itself is pretty sweet & simple, a talented circus magician named Jamir while doing his seemingly routine disappearing act to an eager crowd, accidentally makes his assistant/daughter disappear not only into thin air but from our reality entirely.

Perplexed, Jamir decides to search for answers, heads off in search of a creepy, mysterious shaman whom he’s heard rumor of residing deep in a nearby forest. The Shaman mixes him up a concoction of some sort from the severed head of a monkey (some serious ‘Temple of Doom’ tones here) and then ventures into a danger filled alternate dimension, to try and rescue his lover & kid sidekick who also go missing shortly after his daughter does. I’m guessing the monkey brain drink (some sort of DMT type concentration) opened some sort of portal, enabling Jamir to cross over. Once on the “other side” he discovers his loved one are captives of a powerful witch named “Mikula” who’s got a huge, sweaty pulsating head and commands a grotesque army of freakish animal people minions, swamp monsters and a plethora of gooey, gross things that go bump in the night.

The whole romp is a giant, cheezy ass fever dream, full of fog, colorful yet dark sets draped in blue & pink lighting and of course some unsettling puppet creatures. One in particular is “Globo”, a weird ass gremlin type puppet with a tv screen for a stomach. Globo’s even featured in the opening credits as “himself” as they decided to show every actor in their role, with their characters names in the opening credits of the movie, something you’d expect normally at the very end. There’s so much weird shit going on here once Jamir heads off into the alternate dimension that whatever story it’s supposedly trying to tell becomes utterly lost, making the whole thing seem even more dreamlike with every minute that passes. There’s even a weird ass party / dance scene with a full band that curiously resembles GWAR in all their monster glory. I guess I’d say this flick also brings to mind a more demented & confusing version of ‘Labyrinth’ and I mean that in the best way possible. Also at a lean running time of 84 minutes the pace rarely lags, there’s easily enough eye candy to go around here to keep horror fans guessing what oddities will present themselves next onscreen. It’s main villain, (the witch Mikula) is pretty damn entertaining too, I never got tired at looking at her fleshy bulbous head bubbling and come the end of the movie you get some great gooey, 80’s style neon action in the final battle.

If you’re a fan of weird ass cinema ‘Magic of the Universe’ definitely won’t disappoint, it’s tropical, humid nightmarish sets are worth the price of admission alone. Director Tata Esteban is fully ambitious here with his grand horror fantasy vision, perhaps not the most easy to comprehend but hey, this is a perfect movie to check out with a few too many drinks & a gang of trashy cinefiles on a Saturday nite! No one will need to pay too much attention to plot either! It’s available to watch on Youtube or you can also hunt down the dvd version of the movie on a horror double feature! I’m certain there’s a VHS copy of this one out there somewhere still but it’s probably a challenge to track down. I watched this one from my Netflix DVD service (yeah, I still do that! For movies like this!) Check it out if you’re feelin’ crazy..  

 

Brightburn’s Evil Superman, Rambo & The Dark Crystal Return!

Damn! Nostalgia is running rampant today, but first I wanted to report my thoughts quick on Brightburn, which is currently in theaters! I checked this one out yesterday at a matinee and was pleasantly surprised by this nasty little supervillain origin story. If you’re a fan of Superman you’re sure to find this one quite intriguing. If you’re a horror buff you’ll just might get a kick out of this unique creepy “superhero” tale. Brightburn is essentially the origin story of Superman but instead of him growing up to be the beacon of good we’ve grown to love he goes the opposite direction and gets real nasty to the human race. Once the main character kid realizes (around puberty) that he’s got superhuman powers developing, he quickly decides he’s superior to all humans and sets off on a villainous path of small scale destruction. Playing with people like an evil kid with a magnifying glass on a sunny day around an anthill.

Raised on the farm with his step parents just like good ol’ Clark Kent, he starts off as an innocent nerdy kid right up until his 12th birthday, basically deciding to go on a killing spree, off-ing nearly anyone who gives him a dirty look with his new found ass kickin’ abilities. I wasn’t sure what to expect here, but luckily this is a pretty sweet “smaller budget” mainstream horror movie, unlike anything in the genre I’ve ever really seen before. I guess it might be a good companion piece to say, ‘Split’ which turned out to be a supervillain origin story in disguise. However unlike ‘Split’ this one’s R-rated, so there’s some pretty disturbing gory moments sprinkled about that really took me by surprise & some pretty nice visual fx work as well. It’s tense, well acted and deserves a sequel, as I’d love to see what happens to this evil little maniac next. It definitely exceed my expectations and if they do make a sequel hopefully humankind can figure out some way to put this pint sized supervillain in his damn place!

Next we got a new trailer for the final installment of Rambo! Titled “Last Blood” we get to see just what the hell John Rambo’s been up to since the last extra bloody installment from 2008! Yeah Stallone is back again as the iconic anti-hero and this time it looks as if he’s single handedly (of course) going to battle against a powerful drug cartel. The trailer looks promising, maybe not quite as wild as the last go round, but still, for his age it seems Rambo’s got one more damn fight left in him!

Next is the big one, the trailer for ‘The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance’! I never thought I’d ever really see the day we’d actually get a prequel to the beloved 80’s Jim Henson puppet masterpiece. I’m pretty impressed with what we’re seeing here, as it does feature some stunning puppetry. As great as it all looks I’m going to say honestly I’m a bit surprised with how CGI heavy it is as well. I’m not disappointed because I think practical fx and CGI used together tastefully is the best way to pull things off. Also it’s 2019, I hardly expect any mainstream production to go fully practical. Anyway this looks great if haven’t seen it yet check it out and if you have watch it again!!

‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ Trailer Brings Nostalgia & some Un-Special FX!

Today the trailer dropped for highly anticipated (?) sixth Terminator film in the franchise! I’ve definitely not been very excited for this one, the last three Terminator movies have been majorly disappointing, so why the hell would this seem like a good idea to try this all yet again? Well, it’s supposed to negate all of the movies of the franchise everyone hated AND bring back Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor for another round of battle against the angry machines. I guess that’s enough to get fans to check it out right? The trailer looks like it’s trying to borrow a bit from T2’s winning recipe but one thing that’s got me perplexed is just how bad the special fx here look. How is it T2 which came out in 1991 appears to have better visual fx than a movie that came out almost three decades later? The CGI on display here looks like it was ripped straight out of a video game, I’m thinking that ‘Dark Fate’ is showing just how much this franchise is missing an FX wizard like the legendary Stan Winston working on it.

This trailer for the most part seems passable, and will likely be better than ‘Terminator: Genisys’ but still I’m not seeing enough here that truly feels like it’s bringing something fresh to the table for the franchise. I’m willing to give it all a fair shot but damn, that terrible song playing during the trailer isn’t exactly helping bring that classic vibe to the table either. A variation on the original Terminator score would have been much better here than some bad “edgy” ballad. A lot of current trailers make this bad decision to try and insert some crappy song in them and ultimately end up killing the excitement for a movie. It is pretty damn cool to see Linda looking all bad ass again and of course seeing Arnold is always a good thing. I’m hoping that this time around they give him a different role, becuz him being an aged Terminator reminds me way too much of ‘Genisys’ at this point.

It’s entirely possible that he’s actually the man who created the Terminator in his own image? That’d feel like a fresh role for Arnold at his age that really hasn’t been explored in the movies. Hopefully they’ll go with that angle to mix things up a bit. I’m also curious where the hell John Connor is these days? I realize they want the focus to be on strong female leads, which has always been prevalent in the franchise, but part of me wishes that Ed Furlong somehow pops up in the movie. I know, wishful thinking as Edward has had a lot of drug related issues these days and last I saw he wasn’t in very good shape to say the least. Still it’d be so nice to see that classic trilogy of characters reunited somehow. Anyway so far it looks like this new Terminator just might be another failed attempt at reviving the franchise, I hope I’m wrong!!

The Next ‘Ninja Turtles’ Movie Should Be a Sequel to the 1990 Classic!!

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!! 

RIP John Carl Buechler: Remembering His Amazing Movie Monsters!!

Yesterday we heard the news of master special effects artist / director John Carl Buechler’s passing & it reminded me once again of just how amazing his work in the industry was and just how many of the movies he was involved with have been a huge part of growing up. From cult classics like Troll, Dolls & The Dungeonmaster to arguably the best installment of Friday The 13th, Part VII: The New Blood to Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade, his work has brought me soooo much joy throughout my life as a movie maniac.

As one of the biggest fans of monster movies, he brought some of the best to the big and small screen. It led me to comb Youtube for some choice clips of his that feature some of my favorite creations of his. They just don’t make em’ like this anymore, Mr. Buechler you will be missed but your incredible creatures will live on forever, that is for sure…

 

 

 

The New HELLBOY Trailer Fails Again to Capture the True HELLBOY Vibe!!

Ok, I went from insanely excited about a reboot of Hellboy to now wishing that Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman were back again instead for a third installment. I loved the del Toro Hellboy movies but also recognized that they really didn’t capture the true tone of Mike Mignola’s visionary comic book series. Visually they were damn near perfect but I’d always hoped for a darker version of Hellboy to appear onscreen as a fan of the source material. I was positive that latest director Neil Marshall was finally gonna deliver the goods. I’m a huge fan of his debut werewolf flick ‘Dog Soldiers’ and his companion piece ‘The Descent’ was just as damn good. From the start, Marshall made many claims that this new version of Hellboy was going to have the feel of the comic books, much darker, gothic and less comedic than del Toro’s lighter take on the series. Well now after seeing both trailers for the movie at this point it seems the new incarnation of Hellboy is more or less the same take on the character we got from the previous films. At least from what the trailers reveal.

The only thing that feels different is the dropping of the ‘F-word’ and some shoddy CGI blood sprinkled about in the trailer. Heck it even seems as if David Harbour is doing a full on Ron Perlman impersonation and the wacky comedy seems just as prevalent (if not more so) here in the two trailers as it was in the del Toro movies. Why even replace Ron at this point if you’re just gonna do the same take on the character? Sure Harbour’s version appears to be not quite as cute visually but it still feels basically just like Ron. The trailer’s got a cheaper production quality as well in my opinion, dare I say a more generic vibe to it as well when you compare it del Toro’s perfect gothic style. 

I was also a bit surprised to see just how CG heavy this footage was, Neil Marshall had originally boasted the movie was going to largely utilize practical effects over digital to give it a more real world feel. Instead I’m seeing a lot of truly subpar standard Hollywood  digital effects at play here and it’s making me miss del Toro’s vision all the more. I’m gonna call it here, a prediction that Hellboy is going to flop. The one thing the first two movies had going for it were that they really stood out from the crowd, while this so far looks sadly like another bland Hollywood blockbuster.

I’d also heard that Mike Mignola, (the creator of the character/legendary artist), stated early on that this movie was much more in line with his vision of the character that the previous installments. I’m not sure as he’d stated that quite some time ago, if perhaps the production somewhat switched gears and now we’re getting a more standard “what you’d expect” from a big Hollywood production. The comic books are are truly incredible and anyone who’s only familiar with the movies might be quite surprised at how different the tone of them are from movies. I’m hoping I’m wrong and that there’s a real Hellboy movie here that hasn’t been presented in these two trailers. I’m still going to see it, but man am I disappointed with what I’ve seen so far. Any other fans of the comic book out there feel the same way or disagree? Let me know!