Category Archives: 51-60%

Transformers (2007)


“Their War. Our World.”

Directed by Michael Bay
Starring Shia LaBoeuf and Megan Fox, with the voices of Peter Cullen and Hugo Weaving

High School loser Sam Witwicky discovers that his new car is actually an alien robotic lifeform, and becomes embroiled in a battle between the heroic Autobots and the monstrous Decepticons (and some Marines, a dodgy government agency, a number of extras who then disappear for no adequately explained reason, and Jon Voigt.)

What’s wrong with it?

The short answer is that it’s the people. Transformers is a film about brave American badasses and some robots what help them, more than it is about the robots themselves. To take an example, during Ironhide’s heroic slow-mo barrel roll, the camera’s focus is on some random hot chick who plays no other part in the movie. Did Bay really not think anyone was there to watch the robots?

Also, despite the quality of the CGI, the action is often too cluttered and frenetic to follow.

What’s right with it?

This film has the best plot of the franchise, as little as that is saying, and manages to only be crassly insensitive towards fat people, Asian call centre operators and black nerds, which by the standards of the series is pretty good going. In addition, the Transformers themselves look awesome, and the stompy robot bits are actually pretty damn good.

John Turturro and Jon Voigt know pretty much what the film is worth and are good fun to watch because they are clearly having fun with it.

How bad is it really?

Transformers is a lot of fun, provided you aren’t looking to engage your brain too much.

Best bit (if such there is)?

The arrival of the Autobots is a well-done montage that builds tension and expectation for the awesome that is never quite delivered on.

What’s up with…?

  • Optimus Prime shanking a Decepticon through the skull-pan with his energy sword? This is way more commitment to a philosophy of total war than I was expecting.
  • All the bloody humans?
  • Bumblebee peeing on John Tuturro? Seriously, that was not needed.
  • The evac run into ‘Mission City’? Why arrange to evacuate a mission-critical object, by chopper, from a heavily-populated area with many tall buildings, under enemy fire, rather than, say, just running flat out until you can meet up with an armoured division coming the other way?


Production values – Okay, fair play, the effects are magnificent, if occasionally a little too busy. 6
Dialogue and performances – Lamentable comedic episodes punctuate the necessary and slightly leaden exposition, with Jon Voigt occasionally providing a voice over when the film itself is not entirely clear. The actors give the material a hundred times what it is worth. 12
Plot and execution – In all fairness, this film has a plot which mostly makes sense, at least on its own terms. 8
Randomness – Robopee. The gratuitous city run. The comedy call centre operator. In fact, any of the comedy. The people. Stick with the robots. 14
Waste of potential – There could have been more focus on the Transformers, and should have been. On the other hand, we can clearly demonstrate that it could have been worse. 12

Overall 52%


Solar Attack (2006)


“Prepare for the Apocalypse”

Directed by Paul Ziller
Starring Mark Dacascos, Joanne Kelly and Lou Gossett Jr.

Billionaire science maverick Dr Lucas Foster (Dacascos) is attempting to prove that greenhouse gases are a thing when his manned space plane is destroyed by the impact of a massive coronal mass ejection from the sun. Working with staff at the Solar and Near Earth Laboratory, including Foster’s ex-wife, Dr Joanna Parks (Kelly) and sacrificial ethnic Patel (Sugith Varughese), Foster must convince the President (Gossett) of the danger and then persuade a Russian submarine commander to launch nuclear missiles at the polar ice cap before the CMEs set fire to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and turn the Earth into a fireball.

What’s wrong with it?

Solar Attack is unbelievably silly. It’s science is terrible and its politics laughable, surpassed only by the cheapness of the effects. Substantial chunks of the film’s hour and half running time are given over to pointless set pieces intended to drum up the tension, including a submarine chase, the partial destruction of SNEL (in which the film’s only Indian becomes one of only two named casualties; the other is, admittedly, a white man) and a stand-off inside the sub in which the poor man’s Tony Stark inexplicably busts out some of Dacascos’s kung fu.

What’s right with it?

It’s only ninety minutes long and never has a chance to get slow.

How bad is it really?

It’s disaster movie knock-off filler, really; neither any good, nor bad enough to be interesting.

Best bit (if such there is)?

The hilariously overdone submarine chase.

What’s up with…?

  • Coronal mass ejections causing… well, any of the things that they cause in this film?
  • Submarines tapping into phone cables at unsafe depths?
  • The gratuitous action scenes? It’s not as if they’re any good even.


Production values – Shockingly bad, from the CGI spaceplane to the almost cringeworthy sight of orange slow-fire creeping in a steady, even front across the sky. 18
Dialogue and performances – The actors pretty much hit their marks and pick up their cues; more than that is hard to say. The writing is blandly bad, with the pointlessly hostile head of SNEL as a stand out. 14
Plot and execution – The plot is ridiculous, but at least the film sticks with it for the most part and eschews random sex and violence. 14
Randomness – The film is completely at odds with all real-world science, but sticks to its own premise well enough. 8
Waste of potential – For bargain cable fare, this was entertaining enough. 3

Overall 57%

Death Race (2008)


“Get ready for a killer ride!”

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring Jason Statham,  Tyrese Gibson, Joan Allen and Ian McShane

Following the complete breakdown of the US Justice System in 2012, prisons are now for-profit organisations showing pay-per-view blood sports, the most popular of which is Terminal Island Penitentiary’s Death Race.

With ratings falling and masked fan favourite Frankenstein dead, prison director Hennessy (Allen) has former driver Jensen Ames (Statham) framed for the murder of his wife in order to bring him in as the new Frankenstein. Despite his reluctance, and with the help of pit boss Coach (McShane), Ames must try to win just one race to earn his freedom, but for the prison there is no profit in the loss of their star driver.

Faced with hostility on and off the track, and the inevitable double-cross from Hennessy, Ames struggles to emerge the victor of a game with no winners.

What’s wrong with it?

Originally conceived as a remake or sequel and eventual pitched a s kind of thematic prequel to Death Race 2000, the already broad satire of the original (think of an episode of Whacky Races, but one where the course ran through populous areas and Penelope Pitstop scored points for every civilian she ran over) is boiled down to ‘they bet on people dying, yo’ under Anderson’s deft hand. In addition, by switching from a cross-country to a circuit race, the film loses much of the variety of the original, and sacrifices tension for close-up action.

Apart from the blood and rust coloured graphics of the Death Race online coverage – which kind of makes you wish they’d included form Starship Troopers-style infomercials and newsreel to break the monotony – the palette is extremely grey, and unless you’re a pretty serious gear head there isn’t much to pick between the various armoured, led-spewing cars on the track. Only Machine Gun Joe’s (Gibson) immense Dodge Ram really stands out.

The female navigators – of whom only Case (Natalie Martinez) has any character, or indeed lines – are there purely to sex things up visually, which would be bad enough, but when they are then shot, gored, crushed or burned to death during the race, they are left as nothing but voiceless, dead sex objects. A major plot point revolves around Hennessy suborning Case with the promise of her freedom, but this is not developed by giving them any scenes together, leaving the film to fail the Bechdel test on all levels.

Finally, the other drivers don’t really go much beyond stereotypes: Angry black guy, cool Chinese guy, neo-Nazi thug, crazy Latino etc.

What’s right with it?

The race scenes are okay, with the driving bits significantly better than any part where the cars are shooting at each other, where the film signally fails to present any kind of ‘dogfighting’ in favour of lots of straight lines and flying brass.

The plot, although ludicrous, is pretty consistent and, with a couple of exceptions, makes sense in its own mad world.

The main cast is well put together. Statham is typically likable as Ames, McShane’s institutionalised Coach makes for a great mentor  figure and Allen is an effective and nicely atypical villain.

How bad is it really?

There’s a fair bit of dumb fun to be had with this film, but for the most part we’ve seen it done before, and better. It’s not terrible, but it doesn’t quite earn its nastier moments and the hypersexualisation of the mostly-doomed navigators is uncomfortable to say the least.

Best bit (if such there is)?

Realising that he is dead, Triad driver 14K, whose previous dialogue has all been in dubbed Chinese (which language or dialect, I could not say), lets loose with an English language ‘Fuck me’… which is subtitled into Chinese . What can I say; I like subtitle humour.

What’s up with…?

  • Case getting her release papers in advance of her betrayal? It hardly seems Hennessey’s style.
  • The sudden introduction of the Dreadnought into the race? It’s like throwing a tiger onto the ring in the middle of a heavyweight boxing match. Sure, it’ll liven things up and probably get you a short-term boost to your ratings, but it’s not going to please the fans, especially the betting public.
  • Mask aside, anyone mistaking a curvy, five-foot-eight Latina for Jason Statham?
  • Likewise, anyone not checking a package being sent to the warden of a prison from the inside, before putting the bomb on her desk?


Production values – Moderately slick, with some good explosions, but the muted palette confuses at times. 11

Dialogue and performances – The main cast are solid, especially Allen and McShane, but the support is highly variable. The absence of dialogue of any kind for the background female characters is telling. 14

Plot and execution – The plot is extremely basic, but largely consistent. The execution falls down on the lack of variation in the race scenes and in particular the failure to do anything with the shoot-outs that isn’t having one car drive in a straight line behind another car driving in a straight line. 13

Randomness -Surprisingly sound. There are no complete left-field moments and nothing completely incomprehensible. Only Hennessy’s uncharacteristic and ultimately self-defeating generosity towards Case, and the complete failures of security in the last part of the film stand out. 12

Waste of potential – Well, the pedigree isn’t great. Death Race 2000 is a cult classic, but not all that good of a film. It is a shame that we couldn’t get more satire from such a rich vein as pay-per-view and the morality of viewing dangerous sports, but ultimately if this film has an overall sin, it is in being just okay in a much duller way than 20009

Overall 59%

From the Archive – X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)


“Take a stand.”

Directed by Brett Ratner
Starring Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart and God knows how many other people (see ‘What’s wrong with it?’)

In this third and final installment of the X-Men films, a company produces a ‘cure’ for mutants, to the horror of Professor Xavier and the outrage of Magento. There follows a series of flashy set-pieces and some vileness from Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil, while Jean Grey reappears apparently alive but psychotic, we discover that the Professor has no scruples and new guy Beast deals with politics. There’s a flying bridge and a big fight, Rogue wonders if she wouldn’t be better off with the cure and Vinnie Jones…is.

What’s wrong with it?

It’s a mess.

I mean, really, there’s just too much going on and the director fails to make us give a toss about any of it. When Professor X gets vaporised halfway through the film I thought: holy crap. Then I realised I’d thought it, not felt it. Professor X just got vaped and I didn’t care. When we find out Scott’s been killed, I could hardly muster a cheer!

The removal of the Phoenix Force from a version of the Dark Phoenix saga also creates serious problems within the film. I understand why it was done; the Phoenix Force introduces a huge amount of backstory, too much for a single movie. Unfortunately, the consequence of removing it is that instead of Jean Grey being a woman fighting – with the assistance of her mentor – against the influence of an external force that wants to manipulate her powers and personality for its own alien purposes, she becomes a woman unable to control her own strength without her (male) mentor performing psychic surgery on her without consent.

This is not good for her character, and it is not good for Professor Xavier’s character; she is made weak, he is made… well, pretty damned evil.

What’s right with it?

Well, it looks pretty, I guess.

How bad is it really?

Not terrible, just really, really disappointing. I liked the first two; I really did. This was just…blah.

Best bit


What’s up with…?

  • Professor Xavier carrying out impromptu psychic surgery to make people be the way he wants them to be? Um…why is there a problem with the acceptance of mutants if he can and will do that?
  • Professor Xavier turning out to be a complete monster, rearranging people’s brains and possessing people to extend his own life? That was a bit left-field.
  • All the bloody plots? Were they worried we’d get bored? They were right, but…
  • Rogue’s big dilemma? Would you be better without being an uncontrolled psychic vampire who can’t kiss her boyfriend without killing him? That might have been a big struggle, if she hadn’t been cranked into training with a field team, where her powers were of no use whatsoever.


Production Values: No complaints, if a little over-reliant on spectacle. 3

Dialogue and Performances: Decent to good performances can’t hide a pretty cliche ridden script. “I’m the only one who can stop her!” Blah. 11

Plot and Execution: That big scene where Magneto makes all the trucks pile into one another. That’s your plot that is. 17

Randomness: Split personalities? I mean, okay, you’re trying not to talk about the aliens, but still. And the flying bridge? 10

Waste of Potential: Did you see the other films? 18

Overall 59%

From the Archive – Darkman III: Die, Darkman, Die (1996)



“One fights for justice. The other for power. Only one can survive.”

Directed by Bradford May
Starring Jeff Fahey and Arnold Voosloo

Faceless vigilante Darkman – aka Dr Peyton Westlake (Voosloo) – crosses paths with ruthless mobster, Peter Rooker. In revenge, Rooker’s henchling-cum-mistress, Dr Bridget Thorne tricks Darkman so she can implant him with a pain inducing device, in order to study him and find out why his tactile insensitivity  gives him superhuman powers.

There are some fights and stuff, culminating with a warehouse battle to save Rooker’s wife – with whom Westlake has fallen in love – and daughter. Then Westlake sacrifices his chance to look properly normal by using his only sample of perfected synthetic skin to repair the kid’s face, which was burned by natural gas in the fight. Bless.

What’s wrong with it?

Die, Darkman, Die is a ham-fisted follow-up to a ham-fisted follow-up to a Sam Raimi film that wasn’t exactly subtle to begin with. Voosloo chews on the scenery like he’s trying to stop his incisors growing down to pierce his own chest, and sad to say he’s the actor in the bunch. The plot also lacks tension and is overly sentimental.

Once again, I’m having real trouble remembering the character names in this one.

What’s right with it?

The basic premise of Darkman remains good: A scientist hideously disfigured and isolated from the world uses a talent for mimicry and masks of synthetic skin to fight crime, aided by the psychotic strength granted him by the severing of his central nervous system.

How bad is it really?

In parts painfully bad, mostly during the surprise birthday party scene, where Darkman – disguised as the villain – confuses Rooker’s party guests by acting like a decent human being. Bless.

Best bit?

Darkman’s beat-up old maintenance train that he uses to zip around the subway.

What’s up with…?

  • The kid’s face being burned by natural gas? Note that the gas is not on fire at the time. She simply gets a face full of vapour from a tank marked ‘natural gas’, and comes away all disfigured.


Production values: Not so good. Some decent makeup on scarred Darkman, but mostly he’s just wearing a scarf. The rest is all bullet sparks and some cut-rate wire-work. 9

Dialogue and performances: Oh my lord. Voosloo lays out each and every line as though it were a Shakespearean soliloquy, including lines like ‘My name is Dr Peyton Westlake’ and ‘Hello’. Fahey just snarls like a rabid dog and the rest of the cast are utterly forgettable.19

Plot and execution: Rattles on well enough, but without much energy and an excess of mawkish sentimentality that slows the film right down in the touchy-feely scenes. 14

Randomness: Solid. Nothing ridiculously out there once the premise is established, aside from the heavily acidic natural gas of course. 4

Waste of potential: As with the Turtles, Darkman could – and did – make a better film than this. Even for number three though, this was not a great success. 10

Overall 56%

From the Archive – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)


Directed by Michael Pressman
Starring Paige Turco and David Warner

“Cowabunga; it’s the new Turtle movie”

Following their victory over Shredder the Turtles are ‘resting’ in April O’Neill’s (Turco) apartment (she seems to have bought pants since the last time at least). Then Shredder and the Foot Clan return, stealing the last sample of the ooze that created the Turtles and using it to make two monstrous – if endearingly dim – minions. With the aid of the scientist who accidentally created the ooze (Warner), the Turtles demutate the minions, battling them through a club to a Vanilla Ice soundtrack (Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go!) then tackle a giant, mutated Shredder in the sewers to some kind of conclusion.

What’s wrong with it?

Well, for starters, having left it a week before writing the review, I can’t actually remember very much of the film at all; it were that gripping.

I do recall that the acting was flat, the fight scenes greatly hampered by the Turtle costumes (imagine the Tellytubbies trying to do kung fu) and the plot pretty much non-existent. Then there’s the gratuitous cute, scrappy kid, the terrible Turtle dialogue and the Ninja Turtle Rap. Sheagh!

What’s right with it?

David Warner provides his usual performance as serious person in a silly film with some dignity, and the film has a tiny spark of zany energy, although the Turtlosity was wearing out by this point. The sets – especially the abandoned subway lair – are pretty keen.

How bad is it really?

Bad, no; just not very good.

Best bit?

Shredder preparing to subdue his new minions encourages them to attack him. The giant wolf and snapping turtle run forward, throw their arms around him and cry: “Mama!”

What’s up with…?

  • The scientists just abandoning the ooze that makes things really big? Surely they could sell it to the military even if they didn’t try to use it to solve world hunger, with predictably disastrous results.
  • Vanilla Ice? What is he doing here? Was his career already so far down the crapper that TMNT II seemed like a life-saver? Oh wait; it was.


Production values: Some of the sets are actually really nice and although they hamper the ninjitsu, the turtle suits look okay. However, the snapping turtle and wolf monsters are crappy. 11

Dialogue and performances: Really no-one but David Warner was walking away form this with any dignity. 16

Plot and execution: I have big monsters. Go big monsters; chase the Turtles. Quickly Turtles; fight the big monsters. Ladies and gentlemen; the plot. 17

Randomness: Vanilla Ice. Other than that it all makes sense given that we have four big terrapins as the central characters. 7

Waste of Potential: Considering the mine had already been tapped more than dry by the first film, this one didn’t do too badly. 6

Overall 57%

From the Archive – The Peacemaker (1997)


“This is not a test”

Directed by Mimi Leder
Starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman

When a Russian general steals ten nuclear warheads, a US nuclear smuggling adviser (Kidman) and an Army Intelligence officer (Clooney) must retrieve them, running roughshod over the silly old Russians in order to do so. Then they must track down the Serbian diplomat who plans to blow up the UN building during a peace summit as a warning against international interference in the former Yugoslavia.

What’s wrong with it?

The Peacemaker is actually a rather unpleasant film, in part because it offers crassly simplistic answers to difficult questions. The fact that Clooney’s gun-ho antics not only override Kidman’s caution but also almost invariably prove to be the right thing to do is symptomatic of the basic problem, which is that the film is glossing over the very complex and scary issue of stolen nuclear weapons. The important issue raised by the terrorist’s motive – he blames the enforced creation of Yugoslavia post-WWII for the current troubles, and not without cause – are breezed over by the fact that he ends up a mad-eyed whack-job trying to nuke Manhattan. The fact that Clooney is willing to order a sniper to shoot through a five-year-old to stop him is not dwelt upon.

Only once is there any implication that this problem goes beyond running around and hitting people, when Clooney’s jovial Russian contact is shot, but after a few minutes confusion – in his line, such things would not normally be done – Clooney is up for invading Russia. Moreover, no-one seems to bat an eyelid at the detonation and irradiation of a large part of the Ukraine; the threat of fallout is mentioned, but not even a ‘poor sods’ is uttered in memory of the locals.

Were this a James Bond film this all might be acceptable, but it isn’t. The film aspires to a more serious level, and by so doing exacerbates its own offences. The cack-handed romantic sub-plot – which boils down to nothing more than the fact that Clooney and Kidman are both attractive – likewise serves only to trivialise the proceedings.

It’s also not a good sign that I can’t remember the name of a single character in this film. The contact might have been Vasiliy or Vladimir or Viktor and I think the General was Alexander something.

What’s right with it?

Well, this is the real problem. Extensive thought the film’s flaws are, they aren’t really that bad by the standards of the Bad Movie Marathon. However, this film has fewer redeeming features than almost any other movie ever to gain a  theatrical release. The best that can be said about it is that it is professionally made, but nothing about it shines. Not a goddamn thing.

How bad is it really?

The Peacemaker is a tedious and petty little film, in which the might of America abuses the sovereignty and dignity of all and sundry to save the world for democracy. It’s really, really no damn good.

Best bit?

See above re. nothing shines.

What’s up with…?

  • The spetnaz night vision goggles? I mean, presumably the idea is to give you an advantage by letting you see the enemy in the dark, but he can see you too because your eyes are glowing red.
  • A US Army Colonel smashing and shooting up Vienna with no repercussions?
  • The militant Serbian piano teacher?


Production values – Solid, professional work, but nothing ground-breaking or spectacular, even when the Ukraine is getting nuked. 3

Dialogue and performances Dull dialogue and phoned-in performances down the line. No one seems very interested in what they’re doing here and I just can’t blame them. 13

Plot and execution – Trite, lazy, ham-fisted and uninvolving. There’s a desperate man carrying a nuke around New York in a backpack, and I can’t seem to care. 15

Randomness – More-or-less under control, save for the extreme swiftness with which the leads criss-cross the world and change their clothes. That and the utter lack of consequences for their blatant disregard of other peoples’ sovereignty. 8

Waste of potential – A stolen-nuke action thriller should really be more action-packed – one raid, one car chase, one fight and one foot chase is pretty lame – and more thrilling than this offering. Moreover, the utter lack of good points in this film means that I just have to give it maximum points here. 20

Overall 59%

From the Archive – End of Days (1999)



“Prepare for the end.”

Directed by Peter Hyams
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Byrne, Robin Tunney and Kevin Pollack

A girl born under the sign of the Occulus Dei (Eye of God) is prophesied to be the chosen bride of Satan, mother of the antichrist, blah, blah, blah. While the Vatican debates whether to try and save her or kill her, the international Satanic conspiracy are all over this business like ugly on an iguana, setting one of their own as the midwife and consecrating the kid to the Dark One within minutes of birth.

Twenty-some years on, on the eve of the millennium, young Christine York (Tunney) is plagued by visions, and a Wall Street broker (Byrne) gets possessed by an invisible angel and goes strange. Now the devil incarnate, he goes forth to gather his minions, get laid and claim his bride in the hour before midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Enter Jericho Caine (Schwarzenegger), suicidal but still-mighty ex-cop turned bodyguard and his sidekick, Chicago (Pollack). Hired to protect the broker, Caine’s day goes weird when a priest named Thomas Aquinas takes a shot at his principal. Pursuing the case for no reason whatsoever – especially since the principal has already gone missing – and hampering police investigation in the meanwhile, Caine tracks down Christine and saves her from a pack of Renegade Vatican Masonic Ninja Jesuits.

There follows a series of Satanic shenanigans in which Caine repeatedly refuses to accept that his puny mortal weapons have no effect on the Devil. He resists the temptation to hand over the girl in exchange for his murdered family’s restoration, but is suckered when his detonated buddy appears miraculously unscathed and thus gets himself crucified.

Recovering very quickly, Caine takes out a temple full of Satanists with heavy weapons, blows up the Devil’s host body and faces his true form down in a church. The Devil possesses Caine, but by asking God to give him strength Caine is able to throw himself on the incredibly sharp sword held by a statue of St Michael just at the storke of midnight. As he dies, he sees his family beckon to him.


What’s wrong with it?

End of Days’ main problem is its sheer, unutterable stupidity. The plot hinges on everybody, from the Pope to the head Satanist to Jericho Caine being a big dummy. The Vatican, despite vast funds and an international organisation, are way behind in this game. The Satanists, despite years of preparation and a massive head start, can’t complete the relatively simple assignment of getting one girl to the right place at the right time. Even the Devil, despite having all the moves, can’t score.

I guess part of the Satanists’ problem is that they’re too busy being gratuitously evil – seducing children, corrupting justice and generally doing the metaphysical equivalent of pissing in the font – to have any really good contingency plans, such as say escape tunnels. It’s also never explained why – for example – since they’ve been raising Christine throughout her period of moral education, they didn’t just teach her that she was the predestined bride of Satan and Queen of the World. Even if she had to be some kind of innocent, you’d think they could have worked it so Satan rescued her from the Renegade Vatican Masonic Ninja Jesuits, after which he’d be in like Flynn.

Oh, and the whole 666=1999 was a hoot.

What’s right with it?

In a word, the usual suspects. Byrne and Pollack are the real top billers here, but the supporting cast is wonderfully sincere and even Arnie comes off well. The acting here is really very good, so it’s just a shame the script is so very, very stupid.

The effects are also pretty good, with the highlight being the Devil as a floaty, invisible angel and the nadir the Devil as unconvincing horn-ed beasty.

And did we mention: Renegade Vatican Masonic Ninja Jesuits?

How bad is it really?

Well, to be fair this was one of the real gems of the pre- and immediately post-millennial boom of ‘Book of Revelations’ Y2K movies. Now, in part this is because all the rest were so appalling, but End of Days rattles on at a cracking pace, never seems to take itself too seriously, and besides; where else can you see Miriam Margolyes beating the tar out of Schwarzenegger?

Best bit?

The clergy explain to Jericho that in dreams numbers often appear upside down and back to front, so that the Number of the Beast, 666, actually refers to the year of his release; 1999.

Apparently numbers in dreams also miss off the ‘1’.

Alternatively the Renegade Vatican Masonic Ninja Jesuits busting into Christine’s house to kill her and insisting on giving her the Last Rites first.

What’s up with…?

  • Everyone being so mind-bogglingly stupid?
  • Caine killing himself? The devil’s time is up. Even if he got control of Caine’s body, he couldn’t get his pants off in the time left before New Year’s Day.
  • Caine seeing his murdered family waiting for him, wrapped in heavenly light, as he dies? Since the film clearly shows that the Catholics were right, isn’t Caine going to hell as a suicide? Is this saying that he has once more failed as a father and will also be missing his daughter’s school play in the afterlife?
  • The Renegade Vatican Masonic Ninja Jesuits? Masonic Order of the Vatican Knights? Do these people know what Freemasonry is? Are they high?
  • No-one – not one – paying the least attention to the fact that the dead, tongueless, sniper-cum-seer priest is called Thomas Aquinus? Why is he called that anyway? Did they not know there was a famous one?


Production values – Top-notch, with the exception of the crappy devil at the end there. Almost scrapes in very low indeed, but there’s just that element of naffness which can’t be ignored.6

Dialogue and performances – A number of rather talented people – and Rod Steiger – give it their all in this movie, acting their little hearts out, bless their cotton socks. Even Arnie can be seen – once or twice – to emote. Sadly, the script isn’t quite up to this standard, but it’s better than your standard action flick fare, and at least Arnie doesn’t dispatch Satan with a corny kiss-off line. “Hey Satan; go to Hell!” 9

Plot and execution – Oof. What gives here? The plot is a flimsy tissue held together by coincidence and rank stupidity on the part of pretty much all concerned. Still, the direction maintains a certain pace. 14

Randomness – Remember how I said the plot is held together by coincidence? Well, there’s your randomness. Plus, if Renegade Vatican Masonic Ninja Jesuits aren’t random, I don’t know what is. 16

Waste of potential – As noted, one of the very best apocalyptic action thrillers of its time. If only they’d given it a little thought. 7

Overall 52%

From the Archive – Valentine (2001)



“Love hurts”

Directed by Jamie Blanks
Starring David Boreanaz, Denise Richards, and a bunch of pretty young things you’ve never heard of

A group of friends – Kate, Paige (Richards), Dorothy, Lily and Shelley – all blow off the class nerd at a Valentine’s Day dance in 6th grade. Well, all except Kate who says she might dance with him later, and Dorothy, who makes out with him then accuses him of attacking her.

Ah, high school; breeding ground of the psycho. Especially as we later learn that Dorothy’s lie saw the nerd sent to reform school, juvenile hall and so forth.

Flash forward ten years, and Shelley blows off a dud of a date – just the first in a long line of obnoxious male characters – and heads off for some last minute autopsy revision before her med school finals. She finds a poison pen valentine, and gets her throat slashed by a killer with a nose bleed.

We then follow the four surviving girls, as they pass by a succession of men who are all either sleazy or pathetic or just plain vile. In fact, the only half-way decent guy is Kate’s recovering alcoholic honey, Adam (Boreanaz). Lily dies not long after – shot through the heart with a bow and arrow – but the rest sadly last rather longer. Also going in the ground are Dorothy’s boyfriend – a con man after her money – Kate’s slimeball neighbour, an unfortunate maid, the con-man’s last victim and a lecherous cop.

The last three buy it in the Valentine’s Party dénouement – where Dorothy waxes bitter about her boyfriend dumping her and the fat girl not having a date, again – as does Paige (buys it, that is; not waxes bitter). The lights go out, there’s a lot of tensy-tensy creeping about in the dark. Adam has a drink and gets all creepy stalker and Kate belts him with a bottle.

Then the killer attacks Kate but is shot dead by Adam, and turns out to be Dorothy the bitter fat chick.

Except that as Adam swears he’s always loved Kate, and would never let anything happen to her, his nose starts to bleed.

What’s wrong with it?

Valentine is basically a dull, dull movie, about dull, dull people. And they’re not nice or likeable dull people either. I mean, at the end we discover that Adam is a psychotic killer who’s bumped off all his enemies and got the girl, and it’s hard not to think: “Well, more power to him!” His victims – with the exception of Shelley, whom we hardly see, and the luckless maid – are all, frankly, scum. The men are all, without exception, more unpleasant than send-you-a-scary-valentine-slash-you-with-a-big-knife Adam, and the girls… well, they’re all either spiteful or vapid or in Kate’s case so entirely drippy that you can’t give a rat’s ass what happens to them.

Actually, to be fair to Kate, she shot up in my estimation after she kneed creepy Adam in the bollocks, slugged him with a Champagne bottle then went straight for the firearms.

Back to Adam, he’s also quite a catch, psychosis aside. Having caught the creepy neighbour going through Kate’s underwear and battered him to death with the iron, he not only cleans the place up like new, he also winds the cord of the iron and sets it neatly back on the ironing board. Now there’s not many guys would be that thoughtful about the house.

Also, the stalk and slash scenes are minimal stalk and for the most part single slash. The most elaborate death is the old ‘electrical appliance in the hot-tub’ ploy.

What’s right with it?

Well, there’s a fair amount of decent eye candy on display, although it does rather favour the guys in the audience – there’s more of David Boreanaz on display in the average 42 minute Angel episode than here.

Oh, and Denise Richards plays a vapid slut and gets brutally slain, which is always good value.

How bad is it really?

Almost criminally dull, really. Not actively bad, just a little nonsensical. It’s not at the Mean Guns, monkeys on crack level of randomness, but it never really take the trouble to explain itself.

Best bit?

Really not one.

What’s up with…?

  • The killer’s tool kit? He seems able to transport the widest array of killing devices without being spotted. A bow and arrow at an art exhibition? A drill by the hot-tub? This isn’t even an array of essentially portable knives here.
  • Kate claims she knows Adam’s parents, but the nerd’s folks are supposed to be dead?
  • Dorothy’s repeated whining about being the ‘fat one’? Okay; I get that she’s ‘movie fat’, but still; it’s a bugbear.


Production values – Some understated death scenes, and nothing that screams ‘phoney’. In general the sound and vision is good, even if the content and soundtrack are not. 6

Dialogue and performances – Pretty lame and uninspired. There is nary a memorable quote in the film except for the young Paige ‘ironically’ foreshadowing her hot tub electrocution by saying she’d rather be boiled alive than dance with Jeremy the nerd. 18

Plot and execution – The plot has its holes, but fewer than it could have. It’s a little unclear how Adam manages to dress Dorothy up as the killer and throw her down the stairs on top of Kate without being seen, but otherwise most things add up. The direction however is lacklustre. The film generates little or no suspense, and even the ersatz heroine fails to conjure much audience sympathy. 14

Randomness – Another field in which Valentine scores quite well. Having accepted that there is a psycho killing people because he was victimised at school, everything else more or less fits. 6

Waste of Potential – While some people yearn for the good old days when a girl could be chased screaming through her house for the capital crime of having sex, and no one in the audience would think to ask why she didn’t just call the cops at some stage, I myself am a fan of the more self-conscious horror film. I think that the standard slasher played out; that’s why the irony comes about. What I’m trying to say is that this is an old-fashioned slasher, with little irony to its name, and thus was never going to be the catch of the day, but that by denying us our knowing asides – especially given this is the ‘breakout’ film for an actor with David Boreanaz’ self-deprecating comedic instincts – a great seam of potential is left untapped. 12

Overall 56%

From the Archive – Vampire Circus (1971)



“Human fangs ripping throats – no sawdust can soak up the torrent of blood!”

Directed by Robert Young
Starring Adrienne Corri and Laurence Payne

In 19th-century Serbia, the vampire Count Mittenhaus preys on the children of his peasants, lured to him by the village schoolmaster’s wife, Anna. But the schoolmaster finds out, and after a brief debate on the feudal implications of marching on the count’s castle with pitchforks and torches, they do exactly that. After a nasty brawl in which the villagers roundly prove their incompetence (one going so far as to stake the Count in the groin – ouchy, but not good enough) he gets the traditional stake to the heart, his castle is set on fire, and his accomplice is beaten with sticks and thrown into the castle to burn. With his last breath, the Count promises that his killers and their children will all die, and he will rise again, instructing Anna to find his cousin Emil with the Circus of Nights, who will know what to do.

Fifteen years later, it seems as though the curse has struck, as a plague sweeps through the town. The doctor rides to the capital for help, running the roadblocks set up by paranoid neighbouring villages, just as a mysterious circus arrives in town.

So much for plot. There then follows a series of circus acts which should probably have sent any self-respecting, plague-stricken, superstitious 19th century villagers into a blood-crazed rampage of carnage and stake burning – including a sort of interpretative dance number, a panther that turns into a man, and two acrobats who turn into just pain bats. But no, not a hair on their heads is harmed until after the burgomaster’s daughter has been seduced, two small boys exsanguinated, and a family mutilated by the rampaging panther.

After that, the interpretative dancers show up dead, the schoolmaster’s daughter is kidnapped by the circus leader (Corri, playing the girl’s own long-absent mother, natch) and her father and rather effete boyfriend must race to the rescue before one of the vampires remembers to pull the stake out and the Count rises again.

What’s wrong with it?

This is another early 70s Hammer in the vein (drum roll; cymbal crash) of Lust for a Vampire, and suffers from most of the same problems (although not, thank god, from the Strange Love). The heroes and heroines are all such a bunch of drips that you’d root for the villains if only they were much better. As it is, Emil spends his whole time swanning around in a puffy red shirt and tight black pants that make him look like a waiter in a particularly naff tapas bar, and with a perpetually stoned look on his face. You can’t even hate him, because his victims are all so mind-numbingly stupid that its hard to really give a damn.

What’s right with it?

Well, it has more of a plot than many, although it gets a little lost in the later phases. As with most Hammer horrors, some of the victims and vampires are pretty to look at, if only you could get around how damned vapid they all are.

How bad is it really?

It’s certainly better than Lust or Zoltan, and watched with friends can be quite a laugh. Just don’t expect too much.

Best bit?

Without question, the dénouement, where the floppy-fringed hero wards off the revitalised Count by using a crossbow as a crucifix, then puts the bow over his head and fires it, decapitating the Count with the bow string. Adaptation; improvisation.

Better than killing Dracula by tricking him into crawling through a hawthorn bush anyway.

What’s up with?

  • The fact that – under her magical disguise – Anna hasn’t aged a day, despite not being a vampire (she clearly isn’t as she has to remove the daughter’s crucifix)?
  • Anna and Emil feeding the blood to the Count by pouring it on his chest, and without ever once thinking to pull out the stake? Plainly, Emil is something of the family idiot; hence the perpetual look of bemusement no doubt.
  • The twin-sympathetic-pain-I-die-as-you-stake-my-sister shtick?
  • The Count’s cousin being a bloody circus performer? Is he some bastard scion of the family? And are all this family vampires?
  • More weird camera shots? This time, victim cam.


Production values – Well, the jump-cut man-into-panther and tumbler-into-badly superimposed bat are almost forgivable for the time, but they go and ruin it all with two things. Firstly, a very slickly done cut from Emil’s boots to the panther’s feet as he goes upstairs to maul a bunch of boarding students by way of a distraction, thus showing they could have done better; and secondly, the stuffed panther attack, as a family are mauled to death by an obvious stuffed toy. 14

Dialogue and performances – A fairly drippy ensemble, without a decent ham among them. The dialogue is largely forgettable, but not wincingly bad. 16

Plot and execution – Uneven to say the least. What starts off as a pretty sturdy revenge and resurrection deal becomes mired in the carnival of bizarreness, and ends in a stock bloodbath. 12

Randomness – The interpretative dance routine is pretty random, even if we aren’t supposed to accept it as a 19th century Serbian original. Other than that, it’s mostly strange, but valid. 8

Waste of Potential – Aside from the fraying of plot and atmosphere towards the end of the film, the material is pretty much given its due. 5

Overall 55%