Category Archives: 81-90%

Underworld: Blood Wars (2016)

“Protect the bloodline” or “Every bloodline must end” which feels like they aren’t sure what the film is about

Directed by Anna Foerster
Starring Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Lara Pulver, Tobias Menzies, Bradley James, Clementine Nicholson and Charles Dance

With the vampire covens on the verge of annihilation in the face of the Lycan onslaught, the remaining vampires suddenly really care about the fact that Selene (Beckinsale) killed the elder Viktor (Bill Nighy) back in the first movie, while the Lycans want the blood of her daughter, Eve, in order to become super-hybrids. Erstwhile ally David (Theo James), brings an offer of amnesty from the Eastern Coven, who want her to train their Death Dealers to be less shit. She accepts, but is betrayed by the elder Semira (Pulver) and her goon Varga (Bradley James) who want to drain her superblood, before being saved by David and his father Thomas (Dance), who sacrifices himself to get the other two away from the coven.

Continue reading Underworld: Blood Wars (2016)

Summer of Lovecraft: City of the Living Dead (1980)

This is the zombies' patented 'squeeze the brain out of the back of your skull' attack.
Buckle up, kids; this is going to be a rough one.

“From the bowels of the Earth they came… to collect the living.”

Directed by Lucio Fulci
Starring Christopher George, Catriona MacColl and Carlo De Mejo

The Story

There are vestiges here of ‘The Dunwich Horror’, but only in the broadest terms – Dunwich, horror, gateway to Hell.

The Film

Mary (MacColl) apparently dies of fright during a seance, but is rescued from a premature burial by reporter Peter (George) and describes her vision of a priest committing suicide in a town called Dunwich. Her medium, Theresa, explains that this was prophesied in the Book of Enoch, and that the priest’s suicide opened the gates of Hell. If he is not destroyed by All Soul’s Day, the dead will rise and destroy the living.

summerattemp2

Continue reading Summer of Lovecraft: City of the Living Dead (1980)

100 Million BC (2008)

100_million_bc

“An elite mercenary team. Sent back in time. They will not return … Alone.”

Directed by Griff “Louie Myman” Furst
Starring Michael Gross, Christopher Atkins, Greg Evigan

An elite team of Navy SEALs (not, as the poster says, mercenaries) are sent back in time to when dinosaurs roamed the earth in order to rescue another team of Navy personnel who were sent back in time to when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Together with professor Frank Reno (Gross), they wander around the jungle, getting et one by one, until they find the stranded sailors, among them Reno’s brother Erik (Christopher Atkins) and former love interest Ruth (Marie Westbrook). The survivors return to the modern day, but a hungry T. rex follows them back to Los Angeles, where it rampages through the city until yet another version of Reno turns up, having time-travelled from the 40s, and sends it back where it came from.

Continue reading 100 Million BC (2008)

Ultraviolet (2006)

Ultraviolet

“The Blood War is On”

Directed by Kurt Wimmer
Starring Milla Jovovich, Cameron Bright, Nick Chinlud and Michael Fichtner

In the wake of a plague which turns humans into superhuman ‘haemophages’, a Blood War rages between the vampires and the military medico-religious establishment known as the Arch-Ministry. When the Arch-ministry develops a new weapon to wipe out the remaining haemophages, they send their greatest fighter, Violet (Jovovich) to intercept it.

Continue reading Ultraviolet (2006)

Blade Trinity (2004)

Are these three the Trinity? Because I always thought the members of a trinity were supposed to be equal.
Are these three the Trinity? Because I always thought the members of a trinity were supposed to be equal.

“The Final Hunt Begins”

Directed by David S Goyer
Starring Wesley Snipes, Jessica Biel, Ryan Reynolds and Dominic Purcell

A cadre of savvy vampires seek out the first vampire in an attempt to increase their own power and destroy their nemesis, Blade (Snipes).

Continue reading Blade Trinity (2004)

Sharknado (2013)

Sharknado_poster

“Enough said!”

Directed by Anthony C, Ferrante
Starring Tara Reid, Ian Ziering and John Heard

A massive hurricane creates tornadoes which sweep sharks into the air, raining them down on Los Angeles. The early beach massacre gives way to an apocalyptic road movie, as Champion surfer and bar owner Fin, together with his Australian bessie mate Baz and inappropriately forward and bizarrely badass barmaid Nova hit the road – driving past street sharks, which are a thing – to try to rescue Fin’s family from the squamous tide.

What’s wrong with it?

Hoo-boy.

The film opens with sharks fleeing a tornado and then being sucked up into it. There’s no build up, just straight in there, killing any sense of tension.

Then there is a scene featuring a shark-fishing crew who become the first victims of the storm, but not before engaging in a bit of scenery chewing negotiation with a Japanese shark fin buyer and a gratuitous shoot-out when the buyer tries to steal back his deposit and flee… into the ocean?

Bad dialogue is rattled off at a ridiculous, staccato rhythm, when you can hear anything over the bad sound mix, while woeful green screen shots try to menace people, but fail by virtue of clearly being somewhere else. To try to imply cause and effect, the film cuts wildly back and forth, to the point of incomprehensibility. Our hero shouts a warning to the beach, but it’s ignored, largely because the two shots are clearly taking place in different time zones.

Fin’s insane drive to heroics leads the film at a crawl through a series of increasingly unlikely set-pieces, encountering a dizzying cast of extraneous characters, most of whom get eaten by sharks, usually after flagging their death with some piece of bad dialogue.

The film tries so hard to be tense that the number of threats it piles in becomes ludicrous, and the denouement is pure insanity.

What’s right with it?

It pretty much is what it is.

How bad is it really?

So, it’s bad; there’s no denying, but seriously…

In the Simpsons episode ‘Brother from Another Series’, Krusty the Klown explains the principle that a pie in the face gag is “only funny if the sap’s got dignity”. To get any meat and mileage from critiquing a film, the film needs to have some sort of cinematic dignity. It’s basically impossible to write a proper bad movie review of a film which gives this little of a fuck about itself. Besides, even watching the thing is more attention than it deserves.

Best bit (if such there is)?

At the end of the film, it flashes up the credit ‘fin’. That was quite funny.

What’s up with…?

  • It’s a film about sharks in a tornado; it feels kind of pointless to mention anything else.

Ratings

Production values – I swear, in this day and age they must have tried to find effects this bad. The CGI is terrible, and impossibly poorly blended with the live action. 17
Dialogue and performances –  Bad dialogue, poorly performed and half-concealed by sound effects. 15
Plot and execution – A mad series of set pieces, linked roughly together by the antics of a series of stock characters. 17
Randomness – It’s called Sharknado20
Waste of potential – This is pretty much the greatest film ever made about sharks in a tornado, but so little effort is given that it still squanders what potential it had. 16

Overall 85%

Captain America (1990)

799_captain-america-90-1341178136

“The Original Avenger” (I imagine this one was added for the rerelease)

Directed by Albert Pyun
Starring Matt Sallinger, Scott Paulin and Ronnie Cox

Huge, but polio-crippled patriot Steve Rogers is enlisted for a special programme and injected with a special serum, developed by Dr Maria Vaselli, transforming him into Captain America. After Vaselli’s murder by Nazi agents, Cap is sent to take out a war rocket built by Nazi super soldier Red Skull, an Italian piano prodigy kidnapped and injected with an early version of the formula. Cap proceeds to get beaten like a red-headed stepchild and tied to the rocket, managing to deflect it into the arctic ocean and becoming frozen until the 1990s. Waking, he has to battle the Red Skull again, now working as an agent of the military-industrial complex to sabotage a major environmental treaty.

What’s wrong with it?

Captain America is a big hero, for big stories; like punching Hitler in the face. After a brief foray into his WWII adventures, in which we discover that Captain America went on one mission, which he royally screwed up, this film pits him against the Red Skull and… a bunch of hip Italian Mafia slackers led by his evil, but personality-free daughter, working for a group of industrial magnates who might as well be battling Captain Planet as Captain America.

Pitching towards the more family end of the market, it nonetheless opens with the brutal murder of a family, and the agonising transformation of a young boy into the Red Skull; pretty strong stuff, even if not shown in graphic detail. It’s also harder to hate the Red Skull when his evil is due to a flawed formula, and correspondingly harder to admire Cap when the implication is that his heroism likewise derives from the perfected serum, rather than his own courage.

As we go on, Steve’s ex-girlfriend and her husband are killed, as is President Ronnie Cox’s best friend, and just about anyone else that crosses Cap’s path without being the leader of the free world or the designated love interest. This would be bad enough if not for the fact that most of them die because Rogers can’t be arsed to stick around and protect them, wandering off to some plot dump while they get butchered.

Did I mention that Red Skull’s legion of doom is five hip young kids who seem to have escaped from a Madonna video?

What’s right with it?

Environmentalism was topical at the time, and it’s interesting to see a film at least in which America leads the way in that regard. The WWII section is actually a highlight as well, and its a shame they didn’t go all historical.

How bad is it really?

Man, this is bad, and all the worse for seeing what could be done with the material.

Best bit (if such there is)?

On seeing the Cap for the first time, Red Skull declares that he is delighted to have a chance to practice his English. He then proceeds to kick him around the room while reciting his language exercises: “Where is the pen of my aunt? The pen of my aunt is on the table!”

What’s up with…?

  • The Red Skull’s ineffectual mod squad goons? Who thought that would be threatening?
  • The environmental slant? I guess it was super topical at the time, but it’s an odd choice for Captain America.
  • The Red Skull being an eleven year old piano prodigy from Italy instead of a committed officer of the German Reich and HYDRA member?

Ratings

Production values – The historical costumes are not terrible, but the fight scenes suffer for their budget and the villains lack menace due to their hip, modern get-up. 15
Dialogue and performances –  The dialogue tops out at nothing special. Most of the performances are adequate, but Matt ‘son of JD’ Salinger in the central role is both a low point (although apparently he’s a shit-hot playwright; who knew?) and the bulk of the screen time. The love interest fails to be remotely memorable. 14
Plot and execution – Shambling, shambolic and inconsistent in tone, with a poor sense of purpose not helped by the tacked on environmental message, which could honestly be a pace-holder for any issue. Moreover, the film simply has no real stakes, the ultimate threat being that things stay much the same as they are already. 18
Randomness – The mod goons; the Italian piano prodigy; the string of deaths which Cap barely even seems bothered by. The fact that the President managed to snap a shot of Captain America flying past on a rocket on the camera he had in 1943, when he was eight16
Waste of potential – In spite of its limited budget, any comparison to the recent Captain America films show this to be inferior, not only in terms of special effects, but of plot, characterisation and fundamental grasp of what might make a superhero film interesting. 18

Overall 81%

Gabriel (2007)

Gabriel-2

“Far From Grace”

Directed by Shane Abbess
Starring Andy Whitfield and Dwaine Stevenson

The souls of the dead go either to Heaven, or to Hell, or to Purgatory, here depicted as Gotham City with the shine buffed off, locked in perpetual darkness because the Light is losing the eternal battle over the fate of the city’s souls. The last Arc Angel (sic), Gabriel, is sent down in human form to restore light to Purgatory with a pure heart, dauntless faith, and a pair of silenced .45s, but the Fallen are waiting for him.

What’s wrong with it?

Gabriel is one of those films that take elements from successful movies and emulates them badly. The film lifts from The ProphecyThe MatrixSin City and Blade, among others, but lacks the money or the talent to pull it off. It’s moody lighting is merely dark, its dramatic music overwhelming and laden with bathos, and its attempted mix of philosophical dialectic and hard-edged profanity comes out swinging wildly from childish potty mouth to dull and incomprehensible rambling. On the rare occasions when the film actually makes a point, it doesn’t seem to know what it is.

There is also an unpleasant aftertaste of misogyny in the fact that the one female Fallen is a pseudo-sapphic bondage queen and the only female Arc, having been beaten by Sammael, is reportedly raped and then forced into prostitution, and survives the slaughter of the other Arcs through pointless apathy.

What’s right with it?

Sadly, the handful of occasions where the film is actually saying something or getting a shot right are quickly spoiled by incompetent handling.

How bad is it really?

Oh my, it’s bad. It’s also, despite its level best efforts to be dramatic, dull as paste.

Best bit (if such there is)?

Perhaps the most memorable scene, in a somewhat horrifying way, is the reveal of Asmodeus’ whore, altered by plastic surgery to look like him.

What’s up with…?

  • The baffled and baffling denouement? ‘Sammael’ is revealed to be the fallen ‘Arc’ Michael, chafing under the authority of the Light. Rallying to defeat him, Gabriel declares ‘the Light isn’t control, it’s choice’, but then inexplicably decides that if he goes back to the Light then an unavoidable cycle will begin again and apparently kills himself. I guess the filmmakers suddenly felt bad that they weren’t sticking it to the man.
  • The terminology? Light instead of Heaven, okay, but ‘Arc’ instead of archangel? What’s up with that? Did they not realise that it has an actual etymology?
  • Everyone warning Gabriel that indulging human passions is how the Arcs lose their strength, then him having redemptive sex with the wingless Amitiel/Jade to save him from his own Fall? Actually, I’d be okay with this if I thought it was about being sex positive, rather than just getting some sex in the movie.
  • The conflicting messages that the Arcs are supposed to provide an example, then when anyone takes hope from Gabriel’s presence they get slaughtered like chumps?

Ratings

Production values – Much in the vein of the great Albert Pyun, bad movie superstar, Shane Abbess appears to know how to make a good film, he just can’t actually manage to do it. On a limited budget he tries to make something memorable and distinctive, but everything is actually derivative, and by failing to recognise his constraints, he produces something ill-lit, mumbling and confused. 16
Dialogue and performances –  Aside from the odd shouty bit, there isn’t much of note in any of the performances, with lines like ‘hello; how’ve you been’ getting the same level of emotion as ‘you were my brother and you betrayed me’. Still; any more effort would have been wasted on the lines. 18
Plot and execution – A mad jumble of ideas and ideologies, plus some stock bad guy nastiness and misogyny. 17
Randomness – The mishmash of philosophies; the sudden reversals; the redemption sex. 16
Waste of potential – It’s hardly an original or the most promising of concepts, but there is a lot of room to have done this better. 14

Overall 81%

From the Archive – The Silent Flute aka Circle of Iron (1979)

flute

 

Directed by Richard Moore
Starring David Carradine and Jeff Cooper

“The film Bruce lee wanted to make”! Screams the box, and I can see why. The film deals with Lee’s favourite subject – the weakness of formal martial arts schools compared to the more flexible style that he developed. Of course, it’s hardly a tribute to the man to cast David Carradine – the man who they got to take his place in Kung fu because they wanted a white guy – in the roles (yes, plural) that he would have played.

Basically, this fluffy-haired rebel, Kord (Cooper) fails to win the right to quest for a book because he doesn’t follow the rules. He tails the champion, who gets killed, then passes all the tests with the help of a blind and cryptic flute player (Carradine). He has to fight a monkey man (Carradine), face death (Carradine) and defeat a nomadic warrior (Carradine) after sleeping with his wife (not, thank God, Carradine), all in order to complete a journey of self-discovery, get to the island of Zetan (Christopher Lee) and win the book.

And that’s it, really.

What’s wrong with it?

In short, it’s a mess; a mish-mash of not-very-interesting fight scenes intercut with waffly philosophy both of which might have been more convincing had they come from Bruce Lee instead of Carradine. It’s not always entirely clear what the point of the various trials is, nor how exactly Kord overcomes them.

At the end of the film, Zetan begs Kord to release him from the tedium of his endless duty. I know how he felt.

What’s right with it?

Not much really. Nothing about this film grabs the imagination or the attention.

How bad is it really?

The Silent Flute does not suck on the level of many bad kung fu movies, but it is almost entirely uninteresting. This is only one for the hardcore bad movie completist; for anyone else it just isn’t worth the time.

What’s up with…?

  • Kord’s fluffy haircut? It never gets tangled, no matter what goes on.
  • Eli Wallach trying to overcome his baser nature by dissolving his lower body in oil? I mean, seriously?
  • Kord and the Blind Man being chased by a group of riders wearing a weird mixture of costumes? THere’s a samurai there, and I think a Mongol…Very odd.
  • Death appearing as a panther man and screaming a bit, then going away?

Ratings:

Production values: Second-rate at best. The filming is overly dark and the ‘special effects’ (mostly involving David Carradine switching between his roles between cuts) are not very special at all. The whole thing looks distinctly cheap. 15

Dialogue and performances: The script is filled with sub-Lee kung fu waffle, and the actors deliver it with leaden solemnity. Only Christopher Lee and Roddy McDowell (as the master of the tournament that rejects Kord) escape with any dignity intact. 18

Plot and execution: A leaden trek through a series of kung fu encounters does not a plot make, and the heavy-handed direction does nothing to alleviate the boredom. 17

Randomness: Bruce Lee films are often pretty weird, but this one takes the biscuit. The Man-in-Oil is the top of the line, but the Panther Man/Death is also a stand-out. 17

Waste of Potential – Bruce Lee made some of the seminal ‘hard’ kung fu movies, and this looks like it could have been another in the vein of Enter the Dragon and Game of Death. As it is, it is nothing of the sort. 16

Overall 83%

From the Archive – Lust for a Vampire (1971)

Lust

Directed by Jimmy Sangster
Starring Michael Johnson and Yutte Stensgaard, and some other people you neither know nor care about

A girl is taken into a carriage by a group of black-clad weirdoes (you’d think the village girls of Transylvania, or in this case Styria, would learn), and her blood is used to resurrect a chesty vampiress.

Itinerant nobleman and author at large, Lestrange (Johnson), turns up in the village, poo-poos the warnings and visits Castle Karnstein, where he is menaced by three random bints from the nearby Miss Simpson’s school for random bints, where respectable girls learn to be random Hammer softcore horror-porn bints in floaty dresses. Blagging a job as an English teacher, Lestrange oils his way about the grounds, makking on new girl Mircalla (Stensgaard) while the gym teacher shoots him dewy-eyed glances, and all in all, pretty much everyone fails to notice that folks are disappearing.

A parade of hapless victims fling themselves onto Mircalla’s waiting fangs, including Lestrange, whom – sadly, since he’s an irritating, oily twerp – she doesn’t kill; just shags to the accompaniment of the horrifying love theme ‘Strange Love’. To cover things up, Mircalla’s equally chesty aunt arrives with her trusty ‘doctor’, ever eager to diagnose ‘a heart attack’, or bump off a nosy policeman.

Then a bishop arrives and they burn down the castle, and Mircalla takes a falling roof-beam through the cleavage.

What’s wrong with it?

In addition to the usual flaws of Hammer horrors – bright red paint for blood, gratuitously plunging necklines, naff dialogue – this film brings us a bevy of new complaints. The necklines don’t so much plunge as hurl themselves over the brink, crashing in a suicidal mania to the floor and leaving many a breast bared, but all in a strangely unerotic way. The lesbian issue is played up, but in a really weird and coy fashion that baffles more than titillates. The sex scenes represent Hammer’s brief and misguided foray into the realms of actual softcore porn, but at the same time that it’s too shallow, plotless and insipid to be good drama, it doesn’t work as porn either.

The dialogue is even worse than usual, and there aren’t even any decent actors. I mean, sure, we usually give up on the male lead in Hammer horror straight off the bat, but the Doctor is so clearly a cheap Christopher Lee knockoff that it’s pathetic to behold. The supporting cast of assorted cretins is not much to write home about, and while Yutte Stensgaard may be easy on the eye, she’s not exactly much of an actress. I dunno; maybe she’s better in Danish. Also, all of the characters are either lecherous morons or vacuous zombies in frocks, so it’s really hard to feel sympathy for any one of them.

And then there’s the song.

Oh God. Nothing I say can possibly prepare you for the song (note, the video is NSFW.)

What’s right with it?

Not much really. Some of the girls are nice to look at, as is the scenery, but that’s about it.

I suppose at least the vampires are pretty boss: sunlight doesn’t work, nor does fire. You have to stake or decapitate these bad boys; no crawling through a thorn hedge to end this one.

How bad is it really?

Lust for a Vampire set a new standard for bad cheesy horror movies. It is vitally important for those who have seen the likes of Dracula, Brides of same, or Twins of Evil, to realise that this is a whole order of magnitude worse. It’s not quite Zoltan Hound of Dracula, but it’s close.

Best bit?

Well…no.

Actually, okay, the way that the doctor just declaims: “A heart attack!” and everyone seems to buy it is pretty rad.

What’s up with…?

  • Mircalla’s dresses, which seem to be designed to fall off? Oh, wait; I know why they did that.
  • The ‘new exercise routine’, based on Greco-Roman dancing? Oh, wait. That would be the cheesecake again.
  • The ‘vampcam’ shots, where the busty victims are required to fondle the lens?
  • The Strange Love. The Strange, strange love? Now that there can be no explanation for.
  • The bishop who just randomly appears when they need him at the end of the film?
  • The fact that none of the central characters do anything against the vampires? Lestrange just stands there and watches the beam plunge through Mircalla.
  • James (gonzohistory) pointed out in the original version of this review that I “didn’t mention the fact that Mircalla is in fact Carmilla, using the single best vampire disguise name since Dr. Ackula! How could that gripping, subtle plot twist have been overlooked? One might almost think that you were delirious with pain and horror during the film.” Of course, this is actually completely in keeping with the original short story, Carmilla by Sheridan le Fanu, in which she not only goes by Mircalla, but also at another point Millarca. She’s like some kind of crazy secret agent vampire!

Ratings

Production values – It’s a Hammer horror film, with all the production values that entails. Plus it was made at a time when they evidently felt the need to drum up takings by adding a few extra inches to a few extra cleavages, so that lowers expectations along with the budget and the necklines. The blood is red paint, and the flashbacks (usually to what happened a few minutes ago) have a really bad filter on them. 15

Dialogue and performances – Almost universally terrible. The doctor delivers ‘a heart attack’ with some aplomb, but even when the actors manage to scrape up some energy, the dialogue is flat and horrible. 18

Plot and execution – Cheesy bisexual vampire in a girl’s school. Shag, kill, shag, kill, kill, shag, shag, Strange Love, kill, shag, kill, stake, The End. That’s pretty much the plot. 20

Randomness – The vampcam, the Greco-Roman cheesecake, the girls school in the mountains right next to the evil castle where young girls get eaten by vampires. And of course, the strange, strange love. 16

Waste of Potential – This was never going to be much of a film with the concept it has, but frankly it still could have been a thousand times better than it ended up. Just for starter, it’s ‘based’ on Sheridan le Fanu’s Carmilla, and is not just worse than that, but also worse than either of the other two crappy Hammer Horrors ‘based’ on the same short story. 12

Overall 81%