From the Archive – Blast (1996)



Directed by Albert Pyun
Starring Linden Ashby, Andrew Divoff, Kimberly Warren and Rutger Hauer

Based on a story that might have been true if we hadn’t made all of it up, this is a rather tacky entry into the Die Hard sub-genre by Hawaiian bad movie auteur Albert Pyun.

Jack Bryant (Ashby) is a janitor working the pool complex at the Atlanta Olympics as work furlough after a prison spell for an undisclosed crime. But once he was a contender, a Tae Kwon Do bronze medallist in Barcelona, until an injury in his winning match sidelined him. But, fate deals him a chance at redemption when the US women’s swim team – coached by his ex-wife, Diane (Warren) – are taken hostage by mad terrorist Omado (Divoff), who has had a couple of bad missions and wants to prove to the terrorist community at large that he’s still got it. With all of the security guards dead, only Bryant can save the day, with the external assistance of European Security Consultant, Colonel Leo (Oscar-nomine and Golden Globe-winner Hauer).

What’s wrong with it?

Well, to start with the obvious, this is an absolute knock-off of Die Hard, just set in an Olympic swimming pool. Man tries to talk to his ex-wife, ends up the only man left free in a terrorist controlled building. He has to take out the terrorists one at a time, while his wife gamely tries to protect the other hostages. Damn it, we even have our hero limping around – from his old injury, rather than from walking on broken glass, but still – and the wife’s slime-ball coaching partner selling everyone out for his own freedom, then getting shot by the bad guys anyway.

Alas, Linden Ashby – while an affable and fairly charismatic lead – is no Bruce Willis (not that Willis was before Die Hard), or at least is not given a John McClane of a role (for starters it’s been done before now). Moreover, Andrew Divoff – the genie in Wishmaster – is certainly no Alan Rickman, and Rutger Hauer is in pigtails.

What’s right with it?

Good question. Not much really. This film fails to deliver on almost every level.

How bad is it really?

Bad, but not to the point of being actively painful, which is pretty much damning with faint praise.

Best bit?

Nothing is interesting enough to spring to mind.

What’s up with…?

  • The Olympic security contractors responding to terrorist threats by issuing security passes without photos?
  • The intro which claims the story is based on events which could have been true if a terrorist threat against the Olympics hadn’t been nipped in the bud, and the janitor had been a kung fu bad-ass? It’s frankly pretty silly.
  • The meticulous terrorist a) gratuitously gunning down potential hostages for shits and grins, and b) stating that the two janitors unaccounted for ‘aren’t important’? He’s rigging the whole building to explode if anyone tries the doors, and he reckons two people wandering around ‘aren’t important’.
  • The terrorist with a detonator hidden under his skin, having somehow got it in there without leaving a scar?
  • Rutger Hauer’s pigtailed euro-soldier security consultant?
  • Albert Pyun? I mean, here’s the thing: He keeps making films that are this close to being pretty good, and yet in the end they almost inevitably blow.
  • The ‘freelance terrorist’? It’s like a career for this guy, and the Olympic hit is designed to take out the President, more or less so he can put it on his CV. There’s also some concept of a terrorist community, like Al Quaeda and the Real IRA get together on weekend retreats and swap tips on bombing and AK-47 maintenance.


Production Values – For a film about terrorist bombers, even the explosions are kind lame. The props budget was also plainly very limited, as the terrorists all run around with handguns; not an Uzi or AK-47 between them, and those things are pretty easy to get hold of… So I understand. The camerawork borders on competence in a way that really only aggravates. 13

Dialogue and Performances – Workmanlike performances fail to cover a pretty patchy script, and Andrew Divoff sadly comes off as more of a sleaze-bag than a terrifying, cold-blooded terrorist. Everyone suffers from the inevitable comparisons to Die Hard, which is the fault of the script for creating such direct parallels more than the actors. 16

Plot and Execution – The plot loses points, big-time, for being almost a scene-by-scene rehash of Die Hard, only nowhere near as good. The execution has Albert Pyun’s trademark moments of genius, punctuating acres of cack-handed misdelivery. 15

Randomness – Pretty low-level, except that the whole plot makes no damn sense. 8

Waste of Potential – Die Hard plotline, a little Tae Kwon Do; it could have been good. Not great, mind you, but certainly an enjoyable ninety minutes in which to disengage the old brain. But no. 16

Overall 68%


From the Archive – The Lost World (1960)


“150,000,000 Years Ago or Today?”

Directed by Irwin Allen
Starring Michael Rennie, Jill St John, David Hedison, Claude Raines

Professor Challenger (Raines) leads an expedition onto the lost plateau, including diamond-hunting adventure Lord Roxton (Rennie), ‘London’ reporter Malone (David ‘I’m in all Irwin Allen’s films, and I’m oh so American besides’ Hedison), a vengeful helicopter pilot and rival academic Professor Summerlee. Enter spoiled rich-girl Jennifer (St John), in pursuit of Roxton, and her kid brother, to keep things turning over.

Cue a series of daft outfits on Jill St John; attacks by monitor lizards with bits of plastic glued to them, stalking through miniature terrain; a monster fight (lizard vs. alligator); a gratuitous native bint in a very short frock; a cannibal tribe; a lost blind white guy with some helpful hints; and a big explosion at the end as the plateau erupts.

What’s wrong with it?

Starting small, Jennifer Holmes is an insult to all respectable spunky love-interests, being a useless shrieky tart, who turns out not to be there for love, but because she wants to marry Lord Roxton’s title. After he turns out to be a mercenary git, she starts clinging pathetically to Malone. The gratuitous native bint saves everyone’s lives, but is so gratuitous that even when they meet the blind white guy who knows her and speaks her language, she is not given a name.

But these are small quibbles, compared to the – for want of a better word – dinosaurs.

Literally, the alleged dinosaurs are lizards – or in one case an alligator – with plastic frills and horns glued on, shot against small terrain. They look terrible. To add insult to injury, the frilled monitor is described by Challenger as a ‘brontosaurus’, and he later declares the aquatic one with horns a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

What’s right with it?

The Lost World has a certain hokey charm, and a few unusual angles in its vengeance sub-plot (Roxton abandoned the blind man’s expedition, and the pilot’s brother was killed), but really there’s not much else to it.

How bad is it really?

Pretty naff really, but not intolerable. Plenty of stiff upper lips, and a little two fisted action.

Best bit?

Tough call. For amusement value, the natives getting their funk on to the crazy plateau beats is a hoot, but the monster fight – for which I’m pretty sure they just let the lizard and the gator go to it, then threw them both off a shelf – just takes the prize.

What’s up with?

  • The vicious vegetation? Faced with an unseen monster, the party flee screaming into the bush, where Jennifer is set upon by some kind of vicious vine.
  • The party’s total lack of gumption? In the above scene, at the first sign of anything, they flee from their camp, with no kind of plan, leaving their helicopter – the only way off the plateau – to the elements, and the monsters.
  • The random chase through the spider web, ending with Malone busting a cap in the big, green-screen spider’s ass and running past it?
  • Malone, Roxton and David splitting up to search, all getting lost, then Jennifer finds Malone three feet from the camp, but they can’t find their way back?
  • “Look! A lake of boiling lava. And the natives have dammed it.” WITH WHAT? It’s boiling lava! The stones should melt, the log set up as a lever should just catch fire, and when the lava drops into the lake, it should instantly turn to superheated steam, filling the cavern and flash-boiling the useless buggers to death.


Production values – Pretty lame monsters, and some unconvincing lava. Oh, and the world’s worst superimposed giant tarantula. 18

Dialogue and performances – Aside from the immense non-Britishness of the British characters, the playing is pretty good, but the script gives them very little to work from. 13

Plot and execution – A slim plot goes a long way in this film, which sheds most of Conan Doyle’s material for a good monster fight and chase through the lava caves. Still, the pace is pretty good. 12

Randomness – Monsters appear out of nowhere quite a lot, and there’s the attack of the shrubs of course. Probably a 12, but for the lava dam. 16

Waste of potential – Conan Doyle’s story has had a dozen interpretations on film, most of them better than this one. Even in its day, dinosaur effects could be done better. This was a blast from the past even in the sixties, harking back to the black-and-white days of MST3K favourite, The Giant Gila Monster. 18

Overall 77%

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%

From the Archive – Zoltan: Hound of Dracula (1978)


Aka Dracula’s Dog; I shit ye not, my friends.

“There’s more to the legend than meets…the throat!”

Directed by Albert Band
Starring Michael Pataki

When Russian soldiers accidentally rouse Dracula’s seneschal, and his angry pooch, Zoltan the vampire dog, set out for the USA, to track down the Count’s last living descendent, whose blood is needed for his resurrection. A police officer from Romania also travels to America, in order to warn the unsuspecting Michael Drake (Pataki) of his peril. Drake is on a caravanning holiday with his wife, children and two Alsatians.

What follows, is 90 minutes of abject boredom, as Zoltan – a big, mean-looking Doberman – bites one dog after another, creating a veritable army of rather unconvincing vampire dogs. Finally, all are destroyed except the mewling vampire puppy, which crawls about over the end credits like he thinks he’s getting a sequel.

What’s wrong with it?

Fundamentally: Nothing happens. I think one person may be bitten in the whole film. The rest is a series of shots of the Drake family searching for their missing pets, and Zoltan giving other dogs hickeys.


What’s right with it?

Not a damn thing.

How bad is it really?

Zoltan belongs to a class of seventies horror movie that set new heights in terror: The modern day fashion horror. In these films, there were always lots of horrible trousers, and nothing much happened beyond someone getting killed or laid every fifteen minutes. Unless you count the dogs, there isn’t even that much happening in Zoltan, but there are plenty of terrifying fashion mistakes.

Zoltan is a staggeringly bad piece of film-making, that fails even to raise the unintentional chuckles of Lust for a Vampire.

Best bit?

Don’t make me hurt you.

What’s up with…?

  • This bastard, piece of shit film? I mean seriously? It looks like the crew have gone out into the wilderness and improvised the whole thing with a bunch of really piss-poor actors – who have no idea how to do improv – filmed exactly the length of film they needed, and shown it as is.
  • The vampire dogs?
  • The vampire puppy at the end? This is scary now?
  • Zoltan giving the pooches the Christopher Lee ‘mesmo-stare’ before he bites them? He frankly lacks Lee’s charisma, and is besides, a frikking dog.


Production values – Well, the vampire dogs are occasionally spray-painted grey, and have glowing eyes. There’s also a little red-paint blood, but not much. 16

Dialogue and performances – Difficult to say, given that most of the characters are dogs, but pretty awful. Even the dogs don’t really convince, and their motivation is basically: “You’re a dog”. 17

Plot and execution – Big yawn. Sort of ‘dog bites dog; and then another dog’. No tension, no scares, no horror; no interest. 20

Randomness – Not much, aside from the dog. The film really doesn’t have enough ideas to even aspire to randomness. 8

Waste of potential – There might be some mileage somewhere in Dracula’s attack dog, but one can’t hold out too much hope. Nonetheless, there must have been a better film in it than this pile of pants. 12

Overall 73%

From the Archive – Lust for a Vampire (1971)


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?


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!


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%

From the Archive – The Mummy Returns (2001)


“The most powerful force on earth is about to be unleashed by the two people who should know better.”

Directed by Stephen Sommers
Starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, Patricia Velasquez and The Rock

In the dim and distant past, a mighty warrior named the Scorpion King (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) sells his soul to the god Anubis (in this film, very much playing the part of Satan), and leads an army of jackal-warriors to conquer the known world.

Back in the now, Rick and Evie O’Connell recover the Bracelet of Anubis, which affixes itself to their son, Alex (Freddie Boath), and grants him a vision to lead him to the secret Oasis of Am-Sher where the Scorpion King and his treasure lie. They are attacked by forces working for the evil Curator of the British Museum (Alun Armstrong) and the reincarnation of Imhotep’s (Vosloo) lost love, Ankh-su-namun (Velasquez), who seek to resurrect the Mummy so that he can go to the Oasis, defeat the Scorpion King, gain command of Anubis’ army and destroy the world.

Abducting the boy, Imhotep’s forces set out, pursued by the O’Connells, Evie’s still-dissolute brother, Jonathon (Hannah), the Medjay warrior – Fun Facts to Know and Tell: Many people watching the original heard ‘magi’, to the point that the Danish subtitles translate it as ‘wise men’ – Ardeth Bey (Fehr, whose character was only named in the credits of the first movie), and Rick’s former partner, Izzy, an aviator with a rocket-powered dirigible. Bey claims that a mysterious Masonic tattoo – which Egypt nut Evie has never apparently made anything of – on Rick’s wrist marks him as a Medjay; a holy warrior against darkness. The heroes track the bad guys to the Oasis, where Evie is killed and resurrected, so that she can battle Ankh-su-namun while her husband goes toe-to-toe first with Imhotep, then the Scorpion King – a big, bad CGI – and Bey and his fellow Medjay battle the ‘only kill them if you cut their heads off’ Anubis warriors. The heroes win, the Scorpion King and the Anubis warriors are dragged back to hell, and Izzy rescues the rest from the collapsing Oasis.

What’s wrong with it?

1999’s The Mummy was a superbly-crafted piece of action-adventure fluff, but despite reassembling the same cast and crew for the sequel, Stephen Sommers fails to recapture the spirit of the original. The plot winds with excessive complexity for its depth, and a lot of the best set-pieces are just recreations of scenes from the original, like the killer wave that is just a damp version of The Mummy’s sand wall. The pygmy mummies in the hidden Oasis are just plain random, and smell like velociraptors as they pursue hapless idiots through the long grass. There’s also just a whole bunch of crap that one feels might have come up during the course of the first movie.

The end credits kind of sum up the film’s failings. Where The Mummy closed with a gentle, dignified tune, and the credits fading in and out on ancient walls, the sequel ended with a mess of flashing screens and over-zealous music. Also, Alan Silvestri’s score just falls terribly short of Jerry Goldsmith’s original.

What’s right with it?

Some of the set pieces are very nice, and there is some good action going on. The performers are all pretty decent, and even the sproggly Boath isn’t too annoying. Oded Fehr as Ardeth Bey once more snags the ‘coolest moment in the movie’ award for the flying scimitar Anubis warrior decapitation.

How bad is it really?

The Mummy Returns falls firmly into the category of ‘not bad, but could do so much better’. The plot is convoluted in a way that only detracts from the film’s highlights, landing this effort with a ‘could do better’.

What’s up with…?

  • Rick and Evelyn still doing the Tomb Raider thing? Do they not learn? Still, at least this is done knowingly.
  • The sudden appearance of a tattoo which marks Rick as a Medjay? OK, I checked, and he does have that wrist covered all through the first film, but still…
  • The pygmy mummies?
  • The Scorpion King’s astounding crapness? The rest of the SFX is pretty solid, but he just looks like a big plastic scorpion. Actually, a Ray Harryhausen big plastic scorpion might well have looked better.
  • The rocket-powered dirigible? I mean, normally I’d be all in favour of rocket-powered dirigibles, but this one felt a little gratuitous (and may in fact have been a blimp after all).


Production Values – Generally speaking, pretty damn good; which just makes the Scorpion King look that much lamer by comparison. 7

Dialogue and performances – The problem with the script of this film is not in its dialogue, which is generally speaking pretty snappy. The actors also do the lines justice, giving credible and charismatic performances. Given that pretty much everyone was reprising a role they had played before, it is perhaps unsurprising that they seem very comfortable with their characters and relationships. 5

Plot and execution – The Mummy Returns has a major plot problem. Not that there’s too little, but that there’s too much. The movie dashes around from place to place, and in the first viewing at least is actually pretty confusing. The basic gist is simple enough, but it rambles so much that you get lost, and at times just stop caring. 13

Randomness – Sacred tattoos, pygmy mummies, rocket-powered dirigibles. Yeah, this film has some randomness. 16

Waste of Potential – As the sequel to a far superior film, The Mummy Returns clearly wastes some potential, but this is somewhat alleviated by the fact that it is struggling against the law of diminishing returns. Besides, at least it did not try to be a sequel with none of the original cast. 10

Overall 49%

From the Archive – Antitrust (2001)



Directed by Peter Howitt
Starring Ryan Phillipe, Rachel Leigh Cook, Claire Forlani and Tim Robbins

Computer genius Milo Hoffman (Phillipe) and his friends invent a new uber-compression algorithm for data transmission, and are invited by Gary Winston (Robbins) – the head of the world’s largest computer firm – to work for him on the development of his new universal software. The friends decline, but Milo accepts, and becomes a yuppie overnight, as well as Winston’s personal protégé. He works on the programmes, and keeps being fed new bits of code, until he starts to become suspicious when his best friend is murdered in his home.

With a little nifty hacking, Milo discovers that Winston has been keeping tabs on every garage hacker in the world and stealing their ideas. He also tracks ways to dispose of his people if they betray him, such as planting Milo’s girlfriend Alice (Forlani), who turns out to be an ex-con, and noting his fatal allergy to sesame seeds, or knowing that the office babe’s abusive stepfather could be framed for her murder. Enlisting the assistance of Lisa (Leigh-Cook), said office babe, Milo tries to avoid the security manager, find and steal the evidence, and use Winston’s own satellite system to broadcast it to the world.

He gets the goods, but Lisa turns him in to Winston’s goons. However, with the aid of the honest security chief, his old buddies, and his surprisingly OK girlfriend, he pulls a fast one, and the message goes out. The day is saved, Milo slips off with his girlfriend and open source rules the world.

What’s wrong with it?

It’s really boring. Nothing much happens in the first hour of the damn film, and not even in a good, tension-building kind of way; just nothing happens. He goes to work, he does his job, flirts a little with the office babe. That’s pretty much it. In the second half, the action is piled on so fast that nothing makes sense, especially when you’re still trying to adjust to the shift in pace. The plot is also contrived beyond belief, with Winston having cameras installed in the garages of all promising young hackers. ALL OF THEM! Not to mention setting up the girlfriend to be in just the right place at the right time.

What’s right with it?

Well, on the plus side, no one ever talks in l33t-speak.

How bad is it really?

Bad. Achingly, bone-warpingly dull. Please note that I was unable to name a single character in this film without looking them up on the IMDb! Moreover, it’s just a retread of every hacker conspiracy theory in the world, even if it does feel the need to throw in a few ‘Bill Gates is a half-arsed evil emperor’ jibes. I didn’t even pay for this film, yet I felt ripped off that I surrendered two hours of my life to watch it not be remotely involving.

Best bit

Hum…Little sticks out really.

What’s up with…?

  • With his labyrinthine plots and tentacled-beast-like control of the universe, how come Mr Winston has no idea that his chief of security is suspicious of his motives and willing to betray him at the drop of a hat?
  • The auto-switching pictures? This is a potential plot device introduced early, but never used to any real effect. The pictures shift at one point in order to alert the viewer to Winston’s presence, but since he steps into shot a second later, there isn’t much need.


Production Values – such as they are – this being a techno-thriller rather than a sci-fi movie – production values are OK. The world almost invariably looks very dingy though; not sure if that’s deliberate or just bad cinematography. 10

Dialogue and performances – most of the actors in the film are actually pretty much OK, and Tim Robbins is – as usual – very good. Unfortunately, they are given the most uninspiring pap to speak that their skills go pretty-much for naught. Even the dramatic conspiracy revelations fail to grip. 16

Plot and execution – the essentials of the plot of Antitrust could be etched on the back of a silicon chip. There’s a grand total of about one real twist, and that a pretty lame one. But more than this, the pacing of the non-plot is bad. Great bouts of nothingness slide by, with far less panache than is achieved by the French auteurs the director may be trying to emulate. In short, it’s dull, and it’s directed in such a way as to make it more so. 18

Randomness – Aside from the wackiness of the whole plot, there’s not a huge amount of sudden randomness. 4

Waste of Potential – There’s still mileage in the evil empire techno-thriller, but even The Net was better than this. 15

Overall 63%

From the Archive – Hemoglobin (aka Bleeders) (1997)


It’s in the blood

Directed by Peter Svatek
Starring Rutger Hauer and Roy Dupuis

Way back when, Eva van Daam (described by the narrator as ‘one of the great narcissists’) screws her own twin brother as its the nearest she can get to screwing herself (as you do), thus getting her entire noble family booted out of Holland. They emigrate to the New World, perhaps hoping to find tolerance for their weird, incestuous ways in Fife, Alabama or something, where the family peters out and vanishes. Henceforth the movie drops any trace of potential which this premise might have held.

Flash forward to the now, and John Strauss (Dupuis) – a weird, pale, photosensitive guy with haemophilia, mismatched eyes and a mysterious trust fund – is travelling to an island to trace his roots, accompanied by his wife, a trained nurse, and presumably his full-time carer. He is dying of a congenital blood defect, and wants to find out if he has any family who know what it is and how to treat it. No one seems to know much about him, until he meets the old nurse on the island. She tells him that his family – the van Daams, natch – went into hiding underground when the islanders burned their house down because they were so very weird, but that they sent him away because he was different; because he was normal. He does however have these odd cravings, but she won’t tell him what for. She is then killed by a legless troll that leaps out of the cupboard and bashes her spine in.

Hi. This is our villain, not some sort of subhuman lackey. If you thought we were in for vampires, I have to disappoint you.

Meanwhile, the local undertaker and entrepreneur has been accused of making substandard coffins, so the entire cemetery is being dug up and shipped to the mainland for reburial, as you do. Almost immediately, people start to disappear, and the islanders – led by Dr Marlowe (Oscar-nominee and Golden Globe-winner Hauer) discover that the van Daams’ freakish, subterranean, hermaphrodite, troll-thing descendants are responsible.

It turns out that the van Daams became so inbred that they were forced to consume the embalmed flesh of the recently buried in order to survive, because of course horrific inbreeding leads inevitably to a terrible formaldehyde dependency. Now there are no more corpses in the graveyard – that’s right; I said formaldehyde dependency – they have turned to the flesh of the living in desperation – no, not blood, not flesh, formaldehyde – hence the disappearances.

As they hate light, Marlowe gets the islanders together in a lighthouse – and also saves Strauss by telling him about the formaldehyde, and giving him a pickled van Daam baby in a jar to eat – but of course the power goes out. A small number of islanders are killed, before the van Dam trolls’ tunnels collapse, leaving Strauss to rejoin his family and cop off with his hermaphrodite twin sister, and his wife to leave the island with their unborn child. She seems very excited about the pregnancy considering she’s likely to give birth to a congenital formaldehyde drinker, but I guess that’s the hormones talking.

What’s wrong with it?

Well, for starters, there’s the formaldehyde issue. Then there’s the van Daams themselves. Being a bunch of stunted, hermaphrodite formaldehyde eating weirdoes just isn’t nearly as interesting, or as frightening, or as creepy, as them being inbred, anaemic, haemophiliac vampires, and frankly they look like Yoda’s evil twins most of the time. Most of the time, you wonder why the islanders don’t just kick the across the room, since it doesn’t look like it would be that difficult. They barely even manage to be nasty; John the weirdo is a dozen times creepier, with the unknown urges, and the trying to rape his pregnant wife, and the eating of the foetus in formaldehyde.

The villagers, meanwhile, are such a pack of gripless wasters that you just want more of them to get eaten. Even when they have guns, they just stand around and watch their loved ones get dragged away.

The film ends with no real conclusion or closure, and with no explanation of a) how the trolls apparently continue to survive without the formaldehyde, and b) why the islanders don’t have them gassed like rabbits as soon as the film is over.

And there’s bad movie sex. Twice. Including the touching ‘my husband just ate a baby in formaldehyde and he tried to rape me yesterday, so I must have him’ sex scene.

Also, Rutger Hauer provides the acting highlights. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

On a more technical note, as well as the trolls looking naff, the lighting is rubbish. I suppose it’s meant to be moody, but it’s just dark really. A couple of gratuitous sweeping aerial shots aside (I guess they hired a helicopter and wanted to get their money’s worth, said fellow BMM Reviewer Simon Drake), the direction is pretty lacklustre, and while there’s a competent – if occasionally grating – score, the dialogue is so mumbled that two out of three viewers failed to note at all that the wife was pregnant, and I only picked it up by inference.

What’s right with it?


How bad is it really?

This film is an utter and abject turd. There’s a reason that it got its own page on the original site, and that is that not even a Mark Dacascos movie deserves to be on the same page as this stink bomb. I mean, I’ve seen some real tripe in my time, but this film was just stunningly bad. The film is nasty in all the wrong ways, but not even nasty enough to get a decent squirm. It’s also cheaply exploitative, including a gratuitous tit shot on a hanging corpse for crying out loud. There is nothing about this vile piece of celluloid excrement that is done right.

Best bit?

Ba-ha! Bwahahahahahahahaaaaaa! BWAAAAAH-HAHAHAHAAAAA!


Hem. Sorry. No; there isn’t a best bit.

What’s up with?

Where to start…? Oh yes:

  • The formaldehyde vampires? Not scary, guys. I mean, come on; how could you think they would be? “We have come for your embalming fluid!” Just doesn’t rate alongside “We come to drink your blood!” It’s just not as scary if it can be conveniently shop bought.
  • The doctor telling the freakish John that he needs to eat embalmed flesh, then giving him a baby van Daam in a jar to eat!? I mean, what’s up with that?
  • The gratuitous sex scene, in the middle of the whole “they’re coming to eat us” panic?
  • The title? Why not call it: Formaldehyde? It’s not about haemoglobin; and it certainly isn’t about bleeders; Strauss is the only haemophilliac in the film.
  • How come John turned out normal? And how come his twin sister looked fairly normal, even if she was actually a hermaphrodite? I mean, they were very normal, given that the rest of the family had been deformed trolls for generations.


Production Values – Poor to barely adequate. The lighting is inadequate (no doubt they felt ‘subdued’), the sound balance is for shit, and the direction is poor. Oh, and lest we forget, the van Daam trolls look like Yoda’s evil twin. 17

Dialogue and Performances – Rutger Hauer takes the acting honours (in English), which should tell you how bad everyone else was. There’s bugger all in the way of emoting, and some half-hearted screams. Plus a whole lot of dead frames where the actors stand there and wait for something bad to happen to them, although that’s really the director’s fault, I guess. 19

Plot and Execution – If stunted, hermaphrodite, inbred, formaldehyde-drinking trolls constitute a plot, then my face is red, and this film was down there with the best of them. The execution was still off though, with the pacing being rubbish and the exposition non-existent or nonsensical. 19

Randomness – Inbred, hermaphrodite, formaldehyde-dependent trolls. Lost scions. All the corpses on the island being dug up because they were in substandard coffins. Huh? 19

Waste of Potential – Creepy inbred vampires have a lot of potential in the horror department, but the minute you make them into formaldehyde dependent trolls instead of effete, Byronesque sociopaths, you lose it all, you really do. 19

Overall 93%

From the Archive – Fright Night II (1989)


Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace
Starring Roddy McDowall, William Ragsdale, Traci Lind and Julie Carmen

After the events of the original Fright Night, Charlie Brewster (Ragsdale) has been in intensive therapy, and no longer believes in vampires – in part because of his new relationship with ultra-rationalist psych major, Alex (Lind). Peter Vincent (McDowall) on the other hand, still believes, and lives in an apartment bedecked with crucifixes and other paraphernalia from his movie career.

When Charlie begins to have recurring dreams of slinky stalker vampiress Nadine (Carmen), he questions his newfound rationalism, but eventually is convinced that said vampiress is merely a performance artist. In fact, she turns out to be the sister of the vampire that Charlie and Peter killed in the original Fright Night, out for revenge and tacky erotica. She reveals her plan to Vincent, whom no-one believes of course, and he is hospitalised for trying to stake the vamp on live television after she takes over his show.

Finally convinced of the existence of vampires, Alex springs Vincent, and together they rescue Charlie. The three of them then kill the vamp and her brood in a variety of exciting ways, including a holy-water bug wand, wrapping in an altar cloth, and the old mirror and sunlight routine.

What’s wrong with it?

The whole ‘are they vampires or am I nuts’ routine is reprised – sans imagination – from the original, as are such plot elements as the initially sceptical girlfriend and the best friend being turned into a vampire; except that this time the best friend is barely introduced before he goes bye-bye.

The vast majority of the cast are only so-so at best, and Julie Carmen is pretty wooden and charmless as the supposedly stunning vampiress. Nadine and her coven are also so very, very eighties that it hurts; the hair alone is enough to turn the stomach.

What’s right with it?

Roddy McDowall excels as the quavering thespian forced to get his act together and become the fearless vampire killer he always portrayed, although one can not help feeling that they really should have got Peter Cushing for both movies, as that’s who the character plainly is. … is also quite good as the well-dressed, entomologically-inclined bug-eater.

William Ragsdale is given little to work with, and the skilled light-entertainment actor is pretty much at sea trying to do obsession, horror and blood-craving, but he does get a spirited defence of Dracula’s literary merits to his credit.

Brian Thompson also gives off his usual huge mother-fucker charisma as the hulking, entomologically-precise bug-eater.

How bad is it really?

It’s basically very dull, being little more than a retread of the original with a couple of extra goons, a chick in the lead role and some soft-core neck-licking. As with so many films, it fails to either provide quality entertainment, or to be bad enough to provide some good belly-laughs.

Best Bit

Undeniably, the tooling up scene, where Vincent passes Alex piece after piece of vampire-killing gear, reminiscing misty-eyed over the schlock movie he used each item in.

What’s up with…?

  • Charlie’s room-mate claiming that his bite wounds were hidden with make-up? We’re talking about seeping puncture wounds; not a hickey!
  • Vampires being allergic to roses? Was that in Dracula? I don’t recall it.


Production values – kind of minimalist for a vampire movie, and seriously dated, but not too bad for all that. 8

Dialogue and performances – adequate to good, but pretty lifeless all around. The problem – save in the case of Julie Carmen – seems to be lack of interest more than lack of talent. 14

Plot and execution – the plot is basically a rehash of the original, with a couple of not-terribly-twisty twists. It is laid out in a singularly dull and lifeless fashion, and the action sequences are so limply directed as to generate not the slightest shred of tension. 17

Randomness – aside from the ‘make-up’ excuse, and the usual pick’n’mix selection of vampire strengths and weaknesses, the film’s randomness rating is not unacceptably high. 7

Waste of potential – Fright Night was a perfectly good little vampire comedy. A little dated, sure, but not too bad for all that. Even given the law of diminishing returns, something with a little more vitality than this damp squib might reasonably be expected. 15

Overall 61%

From the Archive – Dark Angel (aka I Come in Peace) (1990)



“Good cop. Bad alien. Big trouble.”

Directed by Craig R. Baxley
Starring Dolph Lundgren

An alien lands on earth and steals a whole bunch of heroine. Then he goes round ODing people and harvesting their endorphins, to take back to his world and sell as the ultimate drug. He is pursued by an alien cop, and by Earth cop Jack Kane (Lundgren) and his ever-so-slightly dodgy FBI partner. That’s more or less it for plot.

What’s wrong with it?

Dark Angel is Men in Black Lite. It’s pretty low on ideas, and more than a little sloppy in execution. Much of it is confusing, and many of the characters don’t have much to do. In particular, the love interest coroner barely shows up for half the film, then gets in on the final chase/fight sequence, only to do bugger all. The fights are fairly duff, mostly involving aliens firing big guns at each other and stuff exploding behind people. Also, the alien drug dealer’s funky heroine injector/endorphin extractor gauntlet just isn’t cool enough to bear showing us the same sequence four or five times.

What’s right with it?

Not much really, although from the studio’s point of view it was probably fairly cheap to make.

How bad is it really?

It doesn’t stink; it’s just really dull.

Best bit?

Dodgy FBI partner tries to remove a spinny disc that just keeps killing from the magnet of a stereo speaker, at which point it zips around the room and breaks stuff. It’s pretty naff, but probably one of the better scenes.

What’s up with…?

  • Jack Kane’s swish-ass bachelor pad? I doubt he paid for that on a cop’s salary.


Production Values – Second – or maybe third – string. It’s all fairly cheap, with even the space guns being all muzzle flare and things exploding, but not too obtrusively naff. 13

Dialogue and Performances – So-so. I mean, not stinky, but nothing particularly distinguished. Kudos for the fact that even the one-line extras do seem able to deliver a sentence with a little feeling. 12

Plot and Execution – Flimsy. Good alien, bad alien; good cop, dodgy cop. Obtrusive non-sex love interest. The yuppy drug dealer who just gets ignored in amongst all the alien stuff, despite the fact that he killed the lead character’s partner. There are a lot of threads in Dark Angel, most of which don’t get much airtime, or have many links to the rest of the story. 16

Randomness – Aside from the oscillating plot elements, there isn’t too much randomness. 8

Waste of Potential – There have definitely been better alien criminal running amok on the earth films made, but there have also been worse. 13

Overall 62%

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