Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Return of the Living Dead

This is a great zombie movie that came forth from the 80's with dazzling intensity. This film has absolutely no affiliation with George Romero or his legacy of zombie films (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, and Land of the Dead). To keep from stepping on Romero's toes, the idea and the execution of such were radically changed and some view this new interpretation to be much more sinister and scary. To name just a few of the changes: unlike Romero's films, which explained that the brain of the ghoul must be destroyed in order to kill it. In Return of the Living Dead there is no way to kill the zombies, only by reducing the body to ashes proves successful in killing it. In other words, if you chop up a ghoul into several pieces, the pieces will still come after you. Also, Romero's zombies were very slow and unsteady, in contrast to Return's zombies which can run like hell and are strong. The story starts with two employs named Frank and Freddie who work at a medical supply warehouse. Freddie (the trainee) asks Frank what the weirdest thing he ever saw was at the medical warehouse. Frank explains that in the 60's, several canisters that were intended for a military destination were accidentally sent to the warehouse by mistake and are now residing in the warehouse basement. As Frank explains, the army was developing a chemical substance called Trioxin to spray on marijuana fields or something and the substance accidentally leaked down into the morgue and made the corpses move around as though they were alive. The army put the corpses in airtight canisters and accidentally sent them to the wrong place. Why the army wasn't notified is anyones guess, and therefore the canisters have remained at the warehouse ever since. Frank and Freddie go down to the basement to check them out. After bumping into a canister, it cracks and spews chemical gas right into their faces, knocking them unconscious. While unconscious, the gas slips into the ventilation system and brings many biological samples to life, including everything from butterfly displays to a ballistics cadaver. They call Burt, the owner of the warehouse. After some serious bitching, he decides that they must destroy all the evidence around the warehouse and keep their traps shut. Burt's friend Ernie (they were named Burt and Ernie on purpose) runs the crematorium across the street. They convince Ernie to let them use his crematorium to get rid of the evidence. He reluctantly agrees. When the smoke from the burning bodies rise up from the chimney, it carries the chemical with it, mixes with a bad storm coming and produces acid rain that drenches the local cemetery making hundreds of corpses come alive and slither forth from their graves with only one thing on their decaying minds... live brains. A group of Freddie's friends that are waiting for him to get off work are hanging out in the cemetery to pass the time and are therefore at ground zero when the shit hits the fan. They freak and try to find Freddie at the warehouse, but have no luck since he's at the crematorium. Instead they come face to face with the slimy corpse that has obviously recently emerged from the canister that Frank accidentally cracked. Eventually, most of them end up boarding themselves into the embalming room where Frank and Freddie are getting really sick, as well as a very stressed Burt and Ernie. Swarms of zombies are outside and every attempt by the police and EMT's fail while trying to figure out what's going on, much less help those trapped inside the funeral home. After realizing that Frank and Freddie are not breathing and have no pulse, yet are still very much alive and conscious, it's assumed that they are slowly becoming one of the zombies that are now roaming outside in search of some tasty fresh brains, and are therefore locked in the chapel for safekeeping. Wanting desperately to figure out what the hell is going on, they capture a zombie (well, the upper half of a zombie) and are surprised to find out that they can hear and speak. When asked why they ate brains, the zombie explains that it hurts to be dead, they can feel themselves rotting and live brains are the only thing that relieves the pain. After several unsuccessful attempts to escape and the police blockades being overrun, the remaining few survivors see a number stenciled on the side of the canister that housed Mr. Green and Slimy. They call the number, it turns out to be the military who explain that they have been waiting for this call for some time and have a plan devised to deal with it. Unfortunately, the plan is to nuke the entire area (in this case, the entire city of Louisville, Kentucky) thus leaving no margin for the survival of anything. Just before the nuke, we see Frank, who is a zombie but has not yet been overcome with a taste for human brain consumption. He commits suicide by throwing himself into the crematorium. This again releases the Trioxin into the atmosphere, turning to acid rain and starting the cycle all over again. Really great zombie flick with just the right amount of shock, gore and even some rather unexpected comical scenes. A must see for any zombie fan.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Children of the Corn

"Children of the Corn" was originally a short story in Stephen King's book Night Shift. Many movies have been based on King's novels and short stories, likewise many of the movies suck. This one I hold as an exception. It's actually very well made. It has a great idea, good plot, decent acting and a really creepy religious atmosphere that Stephen King has often employed amongst his many works, both books and film. Plus, the idea of killer children always fascinates me. Anyway, the story starts off with a hell of a massacre in a little coffee shop in the rinky dink town of Gatlin, Nebraska. As a creepy child preacher watches through the window as all of the children suddenly employ everything from knives to poison in killing everyone in the place. A young boy named Jobe witnesses the massacre, yet is left alive. This happened everywhere in Gatlin that day. All the adults have been slaughtered by their children under the commandment of the boy preacher named Issac. Isaac has been given what he believes to be direct orders from God himself, by name referred to here as "He Who Walks Behind the Rows". A sentence from the Bible that reads "And a child shall lead them" is one of the supports for the convincing of children that adults should not live. These children often gather in the cornfield and with pitch forks and scythes (chanting "Kill Kill Kill") they listen to Isaac's preaching and obey every word he says. On the day of the slaughter, Jobe's sister Sarah suddenly has a talent for precognition (she sees the future). She often draws pictures that are scenes that are soon to happen. Three years later, Burt and Vicky, a couple traveling through Nebraska get lost amongst it's bland back roads that are nothing but road and corn fields as far as the eye can see. Suddenly a child stumbles into the middle of the road, and because Vicky and Burt are looking at a map trying to figure out where they are, they don't see him. They hit him head on and his bloody mangled corpse is truly a sight to behold. Burt is a doctor and while examining the boy's body, he notices that his throat has been deliberately slit and was probably already dead when he stumbled out onto the road. They put his body in the trunk and go in search of help. By the way, the boy (Joseph) was murdered by Malachai, who is sort of the enforcer among the child cult, answering directly to Isaac. Because Joseph tried to flee and get help. Isaac preaches "Joseph fled this happy place because the worship of me is no more upon him, so take you his life and spill his blood, but let not the flesh pollute the corn. Cast him instead upon the road. And so it was done, Joseph the betrayer was cast out". While trying desperately to find a town, so that they can report Joseph's murder, Burt and Vicky get lost and end up in the barren town of Gatlin. Quickly they realize that it's a ghost town with the exception of a few mysterious children running around. Because Sarah has the "gift of sight" she is coveted and protected by Isaac, even though she and her brother Jobe are often caught playing which is evidently a big no-no among satanic child cults. "God" has given Isaac the vision that outlanders are to come soon and that these outlanders will be unbelievers and profaners of the holy and must be sacrificed as an offering to please He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Isaac's vision is confirmed by Sarah's drawing of a car upon the road. Burt and Vicky start realizing that this town is definitely strange, but do not yet know how much danger they're in. Burt goes to the town hall to look around. He notices biblical graffiti everywhere as well as some disturbingly vandalized religious pictures. While Burt is checking out the town hall, Vicky is accosted by the children, dragged to the corn field and is tied to a cross in a crucified position. Since no adults are to be allowed to live, they must offer themselves to "The Lord" on the first day of their 19th year. When a child named Amos has to "leave", Isaac is told that this is the opportune time to offer the blood of the unbelievers. Malachai eventually gets sick of worshipping Isaac and decides that he can deal with the god of hell all on his own. The children remove Vicky from the cross and put Isaac in her place. Using Vicky as bait, they lure Burt into the corn field. He and Vicky break free as He Who Walks Behind the Rows comes forth as a thundering red cloud to take Amos. Isaac is taken instead, comes back possessed and kills Malachai. Burt, Vicky, Sarah and Jobe (who have all sorta bonded by this time because Sarah and Jobe hate having to worship a prick like Isaac) hide in a nearby barn. The rest of the children follow. I guess after seeing so much death and how Isaac was so easily betrayed, they figure that this whole murderous cult thing is for the birds. The wind rises and billows of flaming clouds fill the sky, "The Lord" is evidently coming forth to take everyone because he's pissed that the sacrifice of the outlanders didn't occur and that the children have seen the truth in that they were deceived by a false god feeding his appetite on the blood of sacrifice. Before his slaughter, a policeman tried to defeat the monster but was killed before he could execute his plan. Jobe tells of a passage from the Bible that the policeman was reading shortly before his murder... "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone and shall be tormented there day and night forever and ever". Jobe also tells that the officer was working with the gasohol still when killed. Burt makes the connection between the Bible passage and the gasohol... fire. Mr. Officer was gonna burn the field. Burt then painstakingly hooks the gasohol to the corn field sprinkler system which drenches the field in a highly flammable substance. A bottle with a burning rag is thrown into the field and quickly burns it down. Eventually the fire makes it to where the demon is and a dazzling performance of his demise, done with rather cheap yet effective digital effects is employed. Burt, Vicky, Sarah and Jobe, make it back to their car which has been vandalized with corn, much like everything else in this creepy little town. Mangled, exhausted and down right pooped, they have no choice to try and walk to the nearest town, one that's not so dramatic. Since Jobe (who was at the coffee shop during the sermon that foretold that every adult was to killed) and Sarah (who was home in bed with a fever drawing precognitive images) also didn't witness the occasion when He Who Walks Behind the Rows made himself known and therefore have no violent tendencies. We never learn what happened to all the other children, but Sarah and Jobe are somewhat adopted by Burt and Vicky. The End. I've had to leave many interesting topics and situations out, which are very intricate to the film's many facets and subplots, but I can only divulge so much information, making it possible to keep some surprises when/ if you ever get to view this masterpiece. I must mention though that a few things did differ from the short story and the film adaptation. The short story follows the basic structure of the movie for most of the beginning, but doesn't have such a happy ending. In the short story, Vicky is crucified and has her eyes cut out and Burt is sliced to ribbons by the children shortly after he figures out what has happened with the boy preacher and the blood sacrifices, he is soon caught and both Burt and Vicky are presented as offerings to the God of Hell. The children then continue to inhabit the corn field awaiting the next set of outlanders that will be offered to the devil by bloody sacrifice. The atmosphere of this film is so ominous that you really feel the emotions of the characters and the dread that they feel as the coming of devil is at hand.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Street Trash

This gory little 80's flick has finally gained some notoriety as a cult classic, primarily due to a recent DVD release making it much more accessible. It's a simple story really, mostly made to show off some new, impressive, and downright gruesome special effects. The basic story is this: A liquor store owner finds a case of some kind of weird booze called Viper that seems to have been hidden in the wall of the basement some 60 years ago. He plops the case of Viper on the shelf and sells it for a dollar a bottle, thus attracting every homeless bum and wino in the the neighborhood. The story loosely follows the life of Fred, a dirty, nasty, stinky bum who other than possessing those qualities is actually a decent guy. Fred lives in a junkyard with his kid brother. The junkyard is ruled by some homeless freak named Bronson, who thinks he's some kind of garbage overlord who holds power over all the other bums in the junkyard. In reality, he's a brutish, sociopathic, schizophrenic, lunatic that thinks he's still in Vietnam. Anyway, Fred buys a bottle of Viper and before he can drink it, it gets stolen by another bum. The other bum drinks the Viper and melts into a psychedelic pile of goo. It's pretty gory, yet has an air of silliness to it because it isn't just blood and guts. It's bright blue, green, purple... an acid heads dream come true. Throughout the movie, poor Fred keeps trying to get a bottle of Viper for himself without it getting stolen. Fortunately for him, he notices that all the people who have drank the Viper turn into slimy rainbow colored puddles. He hatches a plan to kill Bronson the evil junkyard overlord by offering him a bottle of Viper as an offering. Bronson's bitch grabs it from him and takes a sip and soon her boobs are melting all over the place. Bronson obviously sees the plot against him and goes after Fred. Fred throws a bottle of Viper at Bronson like some kind of molotov cocktail and melts half his face. Still undaunted, Bronson pursues, only to be severely decapitated by Fred's younger brother who uses an oxygen tank as a torpedo-like projectile. There are numerous subplots going on as well that are useless to the main story and also have no relevance or even any interaction between themselves. Among them are a mafia restaurant, a game of "keep away" with a severed penis, the hard up junkyard manager fucks a body that washes ashore, and a cop who gets absolutely nowhere. It ain't the best effort I've ever seen and Lord knows the story is dull, dull, dull. But it's worth watching at least once for the special effects which are a delightful combination of gore and comedy. A funny side note to this movie is that it actually tried to achieve some product endorsements and the only company that would have anything to do with this production was a little franchise called Drake's Cakes. Because of it's endorsements and affiliations with the film, Drake's Cakes would send complimentary snacks to the cast and crew every week. After three months, everyone was really burned out on eating nothing but cakes so they decided to save some money and use the cakes in some of the special effects. In one scene, a man grows large and explodes after drinking the Viper and all of his innards are nothing but cakes and red food coloring.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Satanic Rites of Dracula

This cheesy 70's throwaway isn't really that great of a movie (and that means a lot coming from a cult classic fan like me, who thrives on crap), but still manages to hold up over time. Mostly because of the minor details, such as the title which makes the movie sound as though it could potentially be scary... Vampires and Satanism. It has veteran horror actors such as Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, the heir to the family that destroyed Dracula on what seems like numerous times, depending on how many sequels you've seen. Christopher Lee reprises one of his more famous roles as the very non threatening version of Dracula. We also get to see Joanna Lumley as Jessica Van Helsing, the great great granddaughter, in one of her first movie roles (The world mostly knows Joanna Lumley as Patsy Stone on the super successful British comedy "Absolutely Fabulous") Instead of a big spooky castle, this film mostly takes place in a house with an office setting. Desks, phones, chairs, secretaries... like it's CIA headquarters or something. The "office house" is suspected to be a secret center for espionage, but instead there is something a bit more sinister at work. Satanic rituals are taking place in the basement. Evidently a satanic date of world destruction is only a few days away and there's work to be done in order to carry out the prophecies of Satan. Among the guests at the ritual are many well known, well respected individuals, a nobel prize winning doctor, a senator, etc. As a strange Chinese woman presides over the ritual, sacrificing chickens and the occasional small breasted virgin. Van Helsing pays a visit to his old friend Dr. Kelley (the Satanic doctor) and soon learns that he's been up to no good. He's perfected a devastatingly strong form of bubonic plague (obviously eluding to the source of the world destruction to come according to Satan's prophecies and is to be carried out by his stupid followers). During the visit, Van Helsing is non-fatally shot and the doctor has been killed, hung by his neck from the ceiling rafters. Also, the petri dishes of disease the doctor was working on have ben stolen. There are four regular attendees at this satanic ritual and are regarded by Dracula as the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Apparently Dracula is still pissed off about what the van Helsing family has done to him over the years, so he decides that not only will he kill Van Helsing but he's gonna take the whole damn world along with him. Dracula also see the destruction of the human race to be his own grand suicide to finally escape the wrath of the van Helsing family (and living a rather laborious existence)... you kill the world, who've you got left to feed on? Taking the human race down with him gives him that last piece of vengeance, delightful revenge and a last act of power over all that is evil. The ending is rather simple and boring. Since it was obviously one of Dracula's henchmen (a motorcycling crew of guys in fur vests) that stole the virus, Dracula now holds the power and chooses his four favorite followers to be the spreaders of the plague. Jessica Van Helsing is chosen to be his consort (why he would need one with the end of the world only days away is anyone's guess). She escapes and makes it to the basement where a minion of female vamps accost her. She kills them by turning on the sprinklers, thus melting them (I thought that only happened to wicked witches). Another odd side note is that Van Helsing is creating a silver bullet to kill Dracula this time (I thought that was werewolves). Obviously he got his horror characters confused, therefore Van Helsing's silver bullet doesn't do shit to Dracula. Instead he burns the house down, effectively killing off the petri dishes of disease and all of Dracula's disciples. While chasing Van Helsing through the woods, Dracula gets tangled in a thorn bush. This scene is totally hilarious, you'd think that someone who's lived as long as Dracula would be able to avoid such a dumb mistake. While hopelessly caught in the bramble's grasp, Van Helsing uses this opportunity to grab a stake from a nearby wooden fence and stab Dracula in the heart... again. I'll be honest, the plot idea had potential but the execution of it really sucks. This is about the blandest, boring, most predicable piece of shit. Proving, if anything, that even when you have well established actors in the type of roles that they are very familiar with, it still won't earn any Oscars, or even a good movie make.