Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gingerdead Man 2: Passion Of The Crust (2008)

Charles Band... what a guy. If you are familiar with Full Moon Pictures you are familiar with Charlie and some of the stories surrounding him and his movie studio. From successful and now classic horror films like Re-Animator and From Beyond to his successful and cult Puppetmaster series to the abysmal films that make up the majority of his filmography that only a sadomasochist would enjoy, the man has been a part of hundreds of movies. Love him or hate him he gets his movies made and distributed. The GINGERDEAD MAN series may never reach the status of genre classic but they have been entertaining.

GINGERDEAD MAN 2: PASSION OF THE CRUST is a sequel to 2005's original which was directed by Charles Band, 3 years later came this equally as silly movie which was directed by Silvia St. Croix, which is an Alan Smithee type deal. Alan Smithee was a name directors were credited as when they didn't want their name attached to a film. Whoever the director was, they did a decent job making a Full Moon movie. GINGERDEAD MAN 2 has the all of the expected fare and follies. There is plenty of laughs both intentional and not, and plenty of drag in the story during a movie with an extremely modest runtime. 72 minutes of movie is closer to a single hour once the backstory of the original and end credits are accounted for.

The movie follows the titled character, a killer gingerbread cookie possessed by the soul of a murderer. After transferring his soul to another character and being baked back into a cookie in the first entry to the series the cookie is transported to the set of Cheatum Studios' newest picture in a bakery box. Needing a body to transport his soul to the killer cookie finds a spell in one of the movie studio's prop books which begins his rampage of terror. It is up to an aging movie star who is sick and tired of working for a movie studio that makes crappy movies to save anyone that hasn't already fallen victim to THE GINGERDEAD MAN.

Where do I even begin? From a film making standpoint this movie (like most Full Moon movies) is awful. The thing is, that is the point of these movies. Charles Band knows exactly the type of movies he makes. They're silly, over the top and certainly not for everyone. The majority are truly painful to sit through, but occasionally he makes one that is really fun to watch. GINGERDEAD MAN 2 falls somewhere in the middle. It starts out with a corny yet oddly silly fairy tale opening, a song about the cookie to the tune of Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation", and then spends the duration between corny humor, over the top kills and slooooooooow parts. It does have a certain charm about it similar to the first film, that puts it among the better Full Moon movies of recent years.

Is this movie for everyone? Certainly not. You'll know if it is even worth checking out by reading the plot. Some people like this nonsense, most hate it. I gave it a chance with a few drinks and had some good laughs and a decent time. If they could just get someone that could write a solid 70 minutes instead of a solid 35 minutes they'd have a recipe for success (get it?).


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mausoleum (1983)

There are plenty of films that you may have never seen but hear rumblings about from time to time and don't see anywhere but on the bootlegger's tables at conventions. For whatever reason they have notoriety and almost a mystique about them. You anxiously await the chance to see the film that all of your fellow horror fans tell you about, whether they've seen it or not. For years MAUSOLEUM was one such title for me. And while it slipped out of my "Oh my God must see" realm of thinking years ago it has remained in the back of my mind.

Susan Nomed's mother dies when Susan (Bobbie Bresee) is just ten years old. At the funeral she runs away from her new guardian, Aunt Cora (Laura Hippe) and hides in the family mausoleum which is cursed to all Nomed women. Susan becomes unknowingly possessed by the evil within. Now 30, Susan is married and regularly seeing her psychiatrist but with each passing day is losing more and more control. It is up to the psychiatrist to come to terms with the reality of the curse and help Susan before its too late.

MAUSOLEUM is directed by Michael Dugan (who wouldn't direct another movie for 16 years) and he makes it in the true style of the time he was working in. Heavy on tits and gore and short on everything else, MAUSOLEUM is a prime example of what comes to mind first when you think 1980s horror film. The acting is sub par to put it nicely, though this does lend to a few humorous characters. The writing is amateur and the pacing suffers greatly because of it. The story takes 20-30 minute breaks in progression and the movie just plods along between boob shots or gore shots, which more often than not go hand in hand. This movie could easily be 70 minutes long and give us the same result, probably with the same shitty, boring ending. The only real positive are the make up effects from John Carl Buechler (Friday The 13th series, Nightmare On Elm St. series).

While MAUSOLEUM certainly disappointed it wasn't all bad. Some of the kills were creative and a telekinetic demon bitch was a cool enough villain. There just seemed like a real lack of inspiration from anyone on set. Some movies gain the mystique from simply being unavailable for long periods of time. Or from getting a release which happens to be cut. Or from people that saw it as kids and haven't seen it in many years and only remember that fond viewing of their youth. MAUSOLEUM checks off all three of those. It should get a proper uncut release like the one I watched. The prints are obviously out there and there is a market for the movie since the out of print DVD is going for big, big numbers. Release the movie, let everyone see it and decide that this one probably should have stayed ahem... buried.


Monday, April 18, 2011

The Brotherhood of Satan (1971)/Strait-Jacket (1964)

Here is a quick double entry on a pair of horror films that have little in common and nothing to do with each other that I just recently watched for the first time.

THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN is a 1971 horror film from director Bernard McVeety and written, produced and co-starring L. Q. Jones. It follows Ben (Charles Bateman), his daughter K.T. (Geri Reischl) and girlfriend Nicky (Ahna Capri) who are on a road trip of K.T.'t grandparents house until they see an accident on the side of the road and notify the sheriff of the nearest town. They are mobbed by seemingly the entire town and barely escape. Shortly after they wreck their car and have to walk back to the town for help. It is revealed that much of the town is wrapped up in black magic and have been abducting children for rituals.

The movie is pretty damn awful. It clocks in around 95 minutes but take the away the useless nonsense like dream sequences and conversations that go nowhere and you have a movie of about 65-70 minutes on your hand. Even then it wouldn't be very good because so little happens that it is hard to pay attention, let alone care. The direction is bad, the music sucks and the acting is wooden. The end is pretty much the only part worth watching for a rather creepy Satanic black mass scene.

STRAIT-JACKET is a bit more noteworthy source, William Castle, who directed such films as the original House On Haunted Hill and 13 Ghosts. Lucy Harbin (Joan Crawford) has spent 20 years locked away in an asylum after murdering her husband and his mistress with an axe after finding them in bed together. She comes home to her daughter who is now in her early-mid 20s and is planning to marry her boyfriend soon. It quickly becomes clear that not all is right with Lucy, and perhaps it has spread on to other members of the family or friends. A series of axe murders that are eerily similar to those 20 years earlier occur and its every person for themselves in figuring out who is sane and who isn't.

William Castle is very hit or miss with me. He's well known for his gimmicks that he used to get people to see his movies and some are certainly better than others. I simply find some of his movies to be awful. STRAIT-JACKET wasn't doing anything for me until about three quarters through the movie when it started to turn around. The climax sold me that this was a solid movie. I won't highly recommend it but I will recommend it to someone looking for some psychological horror they haven't seen before.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Violent Professionals (1973) - The Grindhouse Experience Chapter 9

The crime and gangster film was a major player in the international film market in the 1970s with entries from all over the world flooding the market. Audiences worldwide loved to see variations on the mob, mafia, and yakuza movies in violent ways. Sergio Martino had a few entries into the genre among THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS including Gambling City.

When policeman Giorgio (Luc Merenda, Hostel 2) is suspended for shooting and killing a pair of train prisoners who escaped in a spree of murders he is relocated to Milan and witnesses the death of his Police Chief and is hell bent on revenge. Giorgio goes undercover and rises through the ranks of Italian crime to become the driver for the mob as he keeps his cover to allow his vengeance to take down the crime rings of the city that claimed the life of a respected policeman (Silvano Tranquilli of Black Belly of the Tarantula, So Sweet So Dead).

From start to finish the film is very well paced. After an extremely violent and gun-ho opening 20 minutes the movie never quite reaches that level of violence again however the story and action more than makes up for it. Plenty of shoot outs, car chases and fights to keep one invested in the story which isn't groundbreaking but is capable of carrying the movie. The acting and writing is what someone would expect from an Italian crime film of the 70s, spotty but acceptable and at times even good. The soundtrack is classic for the period and will have you humming along each time a new track kicks in. Sergio Martino is best known for his ventures into the giallo, cannibal and horror fields but this crime film, much like his western Mannaja is a welcome change of pace for him. He is far from perfection but as far as this reviewer goes, his name is usually enough to give a film a fighting chance.

THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS has enough entertainment to satisfy someone that would enjoy bullshit like The Fast And The Furious and enough story for someone that enjoys Martino's giallo The Strange Vice Of Mrs. Wardh (which may be Martino's finest effort). Its not perfect but is more than worthy of mention when speaking of the Italo-Crime genre (and damn, does it have some fine car chases).

On a quick note- The transfer again is from a 3rd or 4th generation VHS with tracking problems, popping and hissing during the audio and an extremely unnatural letter boxed presentation but the movie was still good enough to not worry too much about it. This set proves to be the smelliest shit I've ever come across with presentation in mind. Since the set continues to be awful in its presentation of the movies, I won't even take up your time to express my thoughts on it unless it surprises me and is somehow good. So if I don't mention the transfer or overall quality of the print its because it is awful.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hobo With A Shotgun (2011)

For the past few years fans have been eagerly awaiting the finished product of co-writer and director Jason Eisener's film that some of us first got a glimpse of as a faux trailer during the theatrical run of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse. Four years later and we have the actual feature film of HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN and it doesn't disappoint.

Rutger Hauer stars as the title character who rides into a city best known as "Scum Town" on the rails (as any hobo would) and quickly finds that the town is controlled by a criminal known as The Drake (Brian Downey) and his two sons Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman). The cops are dirty, the people live in fear and the homeless community is constantly exploited for money or dirty deeds. With little more than a dream of buying a lawnmower to start his own business Hobo sees just how nasty the city really is. Sticking up for a young prostitute named Abby (Molly Dunsworth) that is being harassed by one of The Drake's sons, Hobo throws himself into the middle of the dirt and corruption the city is filled with. After the cops help attack him to get revenge for his act of defiance Abby offers him a bed to sleep in for the night and friendship.

After Hobo gathers enough money to buy a mower from the pawn shop he becomes a victim of a hold up while in the store. When the masked men threaten to kill a crying baby Hobo has had enough and grabs a shotgun from the shelf and quickly ends the situation, then turns his attention to cleaning up the city. When no criminal is safe there is plenty of bloodshed and it all leads to a showdown with Drake and The Plague, a duo of heavily armed and armored bikers who look like they came straight from an 80s Escape From New York rip off (love it) and drag coffins behind their motorcycles much like Django.

Where do I even start to sum up my thoughts? From top to bottom the movie is spectacular. It captures the feel of the movies it is an homage of perfectly and gives winks and nods to many genres and specific films. Eisener's direction is great, with a rich color palette throughout and using the few locations in the movie to make it feel much larger than it actually is. The synth driven score is aided by a couple of well placed songs that feels like it was straight from the 70s or 80s. The effects are so over the top at time its ridiculous, but never in a bad way. They're well done and will have you laughing and cheering. Pacing is spot on as well, clocking in at a brisk 85 minutes there isn't much time for a lull in the action or story. This is what Machete should have been. This is closer to 42nd St. in New York during the 70s than Grindhouse could ever hope to be, and I love Grindhouse.

I don't know what else to say except that HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN is a fun fucking movie but serious in tone so it never borders on being hokey. It was worth the 4 year wait and will have endless replay value. It amazes me that this movie was made in 2010 and is getting a wide(ish) release. When it comes to a theater near you, go see it. When you see it on demand on whatever cable provider you have, order it. Buy the DVD or Blu Ray. Just see it. It is worth your time and money.