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April 30, 2012

Area 407

(2011, Dir. by Dale Fabrigar & Everette Wallin.)

OK, I'm gonna be pretty blunt here. The only thing anyone really cares about when it comes to these found footage films is the ending.  Go out there and find someone who doesn't like Paranormal Activity or The Blair Witch Project or The Last Exorcism, and dollars-to-donuts they'll probably mention the ending.  Last night, when I kickstarted a copy of Area 407, I joked that I was watching another found footage film because I didn't know how this one ended abruptly.  (OK, I was only half joking.)

You guys know I'd never go Mr. Spoilerman on you - I'm not about to throw any kind of plot details at you - but I'm gonna start out this review by talking about the ending.  Not the ending itself, but my reaction to the ending.

Basically, here's what happened: I'm sitting here, watching Area 407, having a good enough time with its standard found footage cliches, when the ending happens.  As soon as the sudden final reveal happened, I screamed out a profane exclamation...and I kind of started doing one of those wimpy "get away from me slap fits" that people do when they're kind of scared but mostly excited.  You know, like when a cute girl gets you in a tickle fight when you're in grade school and you "fight" back in a manner that wouldn't harm a pillowcase.  I'm not proud of my response to this ending, but it was so unexpected and unlikely that I was basically giddy about how silly it was.  I think maybe that should be an insult, but I was honestly kind of thrilled by the utter ridiculousness of this ending.  Like, the fact that this movie dared to go where it went was so welcome to me that I've been randomly laughing about it - and my extremely ridiculous reaction to it - off and on throughout the last 24 hours.

Let's back up a minute, before my silly smirk about this ending overtakes my mind entirely and sends this review into a massive derailment.  The plot! Ah yes, the plot....

Area 407, from directors Dale Fabrigar & Everette Wallin (Why do these movies always need two directors? They already make the actors hold the camera!), follows a few folks with awful bad luck as they're involved in both a plane crash and a good old fashioned night stalking.  Thanks to two vociferous teenage girls, there happens to be a camera on the plane/crash site, which means the night of tension and drama is documented for our viewing pleasure.

To be perfectly honest, there's not a lot of original stuff going on for Area 407.  It's got a few well drawn characters - the angry fella played by Brendan Patrick Conner stands out - and plenty more that are boring and standard.  The fact that the film is controlled, at least in storyline, by two young girls who aren't old enough to drive will certainly grate on some viewers, but I was less annoyed by them than the other dull survivors.  There's adequate amounts of shouting and everyone is covered in blood and shadows and darkness are used as well as they are in other found footage films, but none of it's really unique.

And yet, I found myself having a lot of fun as I soaked up what was going on on screen. The formula has usually worked for me, and I was very receptive to another go with them as Area 407 went on.  It didn't do anything with incredible flair, but it never felt inept either.  I shouted at the screen a little bit, trying to figure out just what the creatures that were chasing the plane crash survivors were, and primarily found myself interested in finding out what would happen next.

Area 407, to me, played like found footage comfort food.  It's got more faults than it probably should, but it gave me the thrills I needed, all the way up to that ridiculously enjoyable - or maybe just ridiculous - ending.  This isn't a best of the year candidate by any means, but I'll gladly watch it again.  If you're not looking for something earth shattering - and if you're prepared for an ending to a horror movie that will showcase things you loved in second grade - you might find yourself enjoying Area 407 like I did.

If you're interested in the film, you can check it out via IFC Midnight On Demand services, and other digital outlets like ITunes & Amazon.  There are worse things you could do.

(PS - Don't look up the trailer, there's spoilers in there!)

April 29, 2012

The Mike's Top 50 Horror Movies Countdown: #38 - Pontypool

Previously on the Countdown: Number 50 - Happy Birthday to Me  Number 49 - Prince of Darkness  Number 48 - House on Haunted Hill  Number 47 - The Monster Squad  Number 46 - Hellraiser  Number 45 - The Fog  Number 44 - Creature From the Black Lagoon  Number 43 - Zombie  Number 42 - Tales from the Crypt  Number 41 - Bubba Ho-Tep  Number 40 - Phantom of the Paradise Number 39 - Dog Soldiers
(2008, Dir. by Bruce McDonald.)
Why It's Here:
The zombie genre has been pretty much ruined during the last decade, despite fantastic outliers like the Dawn of the Dead remake, The Walking Dead, and (depending on who you debate) 28 Days Later.  The films by Danny Boyle and Zack Snyder that I mentioned above - which propelled both directors to mainstream success and critical acclaim - also led to a slew of boring or inept or even insulting zombie flicks.  Hidden among them is a true treasure, Pontypool, which turns a radio DJ's booth into ground zero for the zombie apocalypse.  Led by dynamite turns by Stephen McHattie and Lisa Houle (a real life husband/wife team), Pontypool provides a thoughtful and unique perspective on horror that is extremely welcome.
The Moment That Changes Everything:
As McHattie's Grant Mazzy often repeats, Laurel-Ann Drummond - a young war veteran who now helps at the studio - is the pride of the small town of Pontypool.  When she becomes directly involved with the infection - and when Mazzy has to recount what he's seeing to his listeners and the viewers, the film really starts to hit home.
It Makes a Great Double Feature With:
Really I just feel like the best thing to go along with Pontypool would be the amazing radio production of War of the Worlds that the great Orson Welles put together back in the day.  I suppose Spielberg's movie would be equally apocalyptic, but the radio connection to Welles' harrowing account of the story was too good to pass up.
What It Means To Me:
Pontypool, like many of my favorite recent horror films, is groundbreaking, original, and interesting.  Those qualities are missing from so many modern horror films, but it's a favorite for more reasons than just its uniqueness.  Pontypool is like a good book, letting us imagine much of the horror as it's told instead of shown, and that opens up a world of possibilities for the horror lovin' mind. 

The Raven

(2012, Dir. by James McTeigue.)

The final known days of Edgar Allan Poe are...reinvented, perhaps is the word? The Raven; a modernized twist on the classic author that seems kind of like a cash in on the success of the recent Sherlock Holmes updates.  One part horror tale, another part prime-time murder mystery, The Raven offers John Cusack as the legendary author and more references to Poe's work than you can shake a stick at.

The film opens with a title card explaining how Poe was found ill on a Baltimore park bench in 1849, and states that much of what occurred in his final days is "a mystery."  That's about the only tie to reality, so anyone expecting a Poe biopic should steer elsewhere.  This isn't the first film Poe had been fictionalized and tied in with his work - for example, Jeffrey Combs got to play the tortured artist in a Masters of Horror episode for Stuart Gordon - but The Raven certainly works to cover as much of Poe's work as possible while telling the tale of a copycat killer who fashions his crimes after Poe tales.  Many of Poe's most famous stories are involved, though the story mostly just refers to them and doesn't re-enact many parts of Poe's macabre visions.

The plot is catchy enough, though there's little depth to the script and I would have liked a little more focus on the crimes and a little less of Cusack and the police inspector played by Luke Evans playing Poirot. It's a repetitive game - body, clue, chase, repeat - that is most interesting when the Poe tales that inspired the murder are relayed by the distraught author.  The chase scenes are effective enough - there's a lot of pounding music and some fine camerawork whenever the action picks up - and the film doesn't skimp on the violence (even if it does often settle for computer-generated blood).

The cast do what they can to salvage the simple tale, and are probably the film's biggest asset.  Cusack is fine in the lead, though there are some moments where the snarky angst we've come to expect from his comedic roles shines through and takes the film to a modern place.  Evans is a nice addition, an actor who seems somewhere between Orlando Bloom and Joseph Gordon-Levitt on the "I'm young and have slick hair and maybe I can act" scale, growling plenty of lines that add to the tension when the chase picks up and playing off Cusack well.  The gorgeous Alice Eve (She's Out of My League is still one of the rare romcoms I can dig, so I salute her) shines as the woman Poe desires, as does Brendan Gleeson as her disapproving father.  None of the performances are great, or even very good, but they all fit into the roles that the film requires and no one is out of place.  A misstep in casting could have sunk the film entirely, but these four leads all meet expectations.

Director James McTeigue, who once wowed me with V for Vendetta, takes charge of the production, though the pacing feels a little bit off to me.  I have to wonder if there was some control taken out of his hands before the final cut was approved, because there are times when The Raven just doesn't flow quite like I'd expect it to.  The film all builds up to a final reveal that is frankly a disappointment, though the film's biggest problem might be that there was nothing in the script that could lead to a satisfying ending.  If you have a murder mystery that focuses primarily on four or five characters - and if you are shown that none of them are the killer by the final act - you're setting the viewer up to scoff at what you do reveal.

The Raven is watchable and entertaining enough, but there's really little that stands out about it.  Those with a knowledge of Poe - I hate that I have to type that, because I'm implying that there are poor souls who don't know the writer's dark masterworks - will find some enjoyment in the nods to his life and works, yet that and a serviceable cast are about the only reasons to recommend this movie.  Fans of powerhouse actors in period mysteries - think From Hell or those recent Holmes flicks - could enjoy The Raven in passing. The more I think about the movie, the more I think I might have enjoyed it a tiny bit too. Yet it mostly made me want to read some Poe or watch some of the beloved Poe adaptations that Roger Corman produced in the '60s.  If the best a movie can do is inspire you to find something better, I can't get entirely behind recommending it.

April 28, 2012

It's a Horror To Know You! (via!)

If you didn't know, the folks over at Kindertrauma are pretty much the bee's knees. With more horror knowledge than at least 37 states and a willingness to dig up the dirt on any trauma that a viewer has stuck in their mind, they have horror covered like a first round cornerback. (I'm watching the NFL Draft, apologies for the mixing of passions!)

So, when they put together a little horror fan questionnaire (which you could go find and take by clicking right about HERE), I jumped at the chance to join the cool horror kids' party.  With no further ado, let's do this.

It's a Horror to Know You! - The Mike; From Midnight, With Love
1. What is the first film that ever scared you?
I can't really remember my first reaction to The Phantom of the Opera, but when I consider that I'm still afraid of the reveal of Lon Chaney's gnarled face, I find it hard to believe that it didn't scare Little The Mike.  One of the first scares I do really remember came from Pumpkinhead.  
Fun The Mike Story: I remember being absolutely terrified of a fella with a huge jack 'o lantern mask at one of those dreaded small town "Haunted Hayride" events when I was 8 or 9 years old (if  you've never gotten in on a small town Haunted Hayride, you're SOOOOO missing out.  They chase you with real chainsaws!), so the title Pumpkinhead alone gave me willies.  So imagine my surprise when the grotesque monster and the dark setting were even worse than that literally pumpkin headed townsperson!  I refused to revisit the film until deep into my teens.
2.What is the last film that scared you?
Much like a gimmicky haunted house, the gimmicky Grave Encounters got under my skin quickly.  Everything in this found footage film seems slightly off and incredibly uneasy and just creepy.  The film's most successful when it stalls and lingers just before creeping us out, and I might have taken a couple of breaks during tense moments the first time through.  Good times.
More recently I was creeped out again by a repeat viewing of Absentia, which creeped the heck out of me last summer and still carries some scares on home video.  It might be the most effective "scary" movie of the last five years.
3. Name three horror movies that you believe are underrated.
In no particular order:
  • The Devil Rides Out - This one's been my baby for over a decade now, but I never get tired of singing its praises.  Christopher Lee vs. the occult in the funky late '60s!
  • Horror Hotel/The City of the Dead - A little more Christopher Lee. This one came out the same year as Psycho and Peeping Tom and - though it's not as expertly crafted - features some similar twists.  It's atmospheric and creepy, too.
  • Rogue - It's either the follow up to Wolf Creek or just-another-giant-reptile-movie to many, but I really think Greg McLean's Rogue is as good as any giant monster movie in a long, long time.  And the effects are Jaws good.  Yeah, I said JAWS.
 4. Name three horror movies that you enjoy against your better judgment.
  • Dead Snow - I think I'm supposed to call this nazi zombie flick out for being full of cliches and stupid characters.  But I just can't do it.  It's fun.
  • Dr. Giggles -  Parts of this thing are PAINFUL to watch. But man, Larry Drake as a psycho dentist is just plain GOLD.
  • The Devil Within Her/I Don't Want To Be Born!/Sharon's Baby - The combination of Joan Collins and Donald Pleasence and Caroline Munro should not be this...bad. But when you have a demon baby and a dwarf sex curse...well, you've got something incredibly watchable.
5. Send us to five places on the Internet!
OK, this one's hard to narrow down. Am I really supposed to pick just five great places to read great stuff?
Fine. Off the top of my head, here's five. If you're not one of them and I love you, I still love you!
  • Fascination With Fear - Christine always has something good to say about something good.  She's one of the few still fighting on behalf of old-school Gothic horrors while still appreciating a good bit of gore, and she also rocks.
  • Planet of Terror - Cortez the Killer is a straight-up warrior when it comes to breaking down the latest in indie horror.  Always a great read and honest perspective, for better or worse.
  • All Things Horror - Mike and Chris are also great champions of indie horror, and I never grow tired of their reviews and rants.  Plus they do everything in their power to bring indie horror to theater screens, and I can't commend that enough.
  • Daily Grindhouse - There's about 10 billion things to love about this fast paced haven for all kinds of midnight pleasures.  Lists, interviews, trailers, news, DVD coverage - they have it all, and they know how to use it.
  • Atomic Domino - I've just recently found this baby blog, but it reminds me that I need to spend a lot more time on sci-fi here. To the point and effective, Dominique has a great style going for her and I look forward to reading more.
Oh, and of course, I need to mention KINDERTRAUMA! Oh wait, I already did.  But hey, head over and tell them they're awesome anyway, and check out plenty more It's a Horror to Know You posts from horror lovers like you today!

The Wicker Tree

(2010, Dir. by Robin Hardy.)

39 years later - heck, it's been six years since the remake came out! - Robin Hardy's sequel to The Wicker Man is finally seeing the light of day.  Distributors have spent the better part of the last decade (at least) promoting the original film with one critic's quote that called it "The Citizen Kane of horror movies", and for good reason.  But as I look at The Wicker Tree, it's really hard to see that film - which was truly a one of a kind horror/musical/parable - in the background.

Hardy tries very hard to recapture the same balance that he did in The Wicker Man, but Edward Woodward and Britt Ekland are not walking through that door any time soon.  A digitally enhanced Christopher Lee shows up for a 20-second long cameo, but that's about the only thing that connects the film to its predecessor.

The plot is pretty similar to the '73 film, though everything's blown up a little bit to modern standards.  This time we have two young born again American evangelists, a wholesome God-Pop singer and her "cowboy" boyfriend, heading to the Scottish countryside to spread God's word.  It's pretty obvious from day one that the two youngsters are targets of the society, who are now "ruled" by a nuclear power plant owner who compares himself to Mr. Burns from The Simpsons.  (I'm not even joking. Can you imagine a reference to a TV show in the '73 film? Pop culture has infected EVERYTHING.)

Newcomer Brittania Nicol - to date this is all she's done on film - takes the lead as the Christian songstress, and, along with Henry Garrett as Steve the Cowboy (they'll repeat the word cowboy about 7,348 times to make this point clear to you), presents an "aw shucks, look how naive we are" front that is painful for the viewer to endure.  The characters are one note and ridiculous, even when the film haphazardly tries to draw on their past and present "sins", while the people of New Summerisle - from Graham McTavish as the Patriarch to the aptly named Honeysuckle Weeks as the oft-nude poison fruit of temptation - are laughably over the top.  Even the extras overact grandly, and I often found myself laughing at the people on screen simply because they looked so ridiculous as they tried to sell this story.

I don't know if I'd call the original Wicker Man subtle, but its certainly not as blunt as this awkward sequel.  There's little to no suspense - even if I hadn't seen the original film and/or the remake I'd know that these "pure" characters are, for lack of a better word, screwed - and the satirical approach to religions of all types is handled without any semblance of a delicate touch.  Scenes like the one that reveals our pop star's impure past career inspire more unintentional laughs, and the use of a church hymn in two different roles during the second and third acts had me rolling my eyes.  Music was a key part of the original film, but that too drops off here - the use of music within the film is as annoying as anything else The Wicker Tree throws at us.

I can't believe I'm typing this, but the most unfortunate thing about The Wicker Tree is that its mistakes aren't even memorably bad.  Neil LaBute's over-the-top remake of The Wicker Man has at least made an impact and brought attention to the original thanks to an awful script that Nicolas Cage turned into a pop culture phenomenon.  I'm in a minority, but I've championed that film for its unintentional comedy value before, despite the fact that I know it misses the point the original made.  The Wicker Tree misses the point just as badly, but there's no way I would even recommend someone pick up this film if they enjoy such ineptitude. 

By the time The Wicker Tree rolled into its truly ridiculous (and still very over-the-top) final scenes, I was physically upset that I wasted my time on this movie.  It's not the worst thing I've seen, but it's got next to no redeeming qualities - I can't think of an example of one right now - and it's clear that Hardy doesn't have the same vision that he did when he made The Wicker Man.  By bringing the story to modern times and playing off of modern born again stereotypes, The Wicker Tree becomes grating and unwelcome quickly. 

If you're a fan of the original, avoid this one at all costs.  If you're not acquainted with that film, don't start here either.  And if you're a fan of Cage's Wicker Man and its hilariously clumsy ways - you're not going to find them here either.  This might be the rare film that truly has no audience...and that's probably a good thing.

April 26, 2012

Midnight Movie of the Week #121 - The Machinist

There's nothing quite like a slow-but-sure descent into madness, especially when a talented filmmaker knows exactly what buttons to push.  And when that director is paired with a star who's at the peak of his game, the results can really be something special.
That's what I found this weekend when I (FINALLY) sat down with Brad Anderson's The Machinist.  You know how you sometimes hear that a movie's so great, and then you hear that a movie's so great some more, and then you hear that a movie's so great until you decide "Dang, I don't even want to see that movie right now because people say it's so great"?  Well, I do.  And enough people told me how great The Machinist was that it landed a spot on my backburner while I toiled away watching less cool stuff.
After all, we've seen 'heavyweight actor deteriorates rapidly as the world around him screws with his mind" plenty of times before.  It's a concept that can lead to a cinematic home run (The Shining), an uneven mindtrip (Jacob's Ladder), a cliched borefest (Secret Window) or even something worse.  Luckily for me - and for you, if you haven't seen it yet - The Machinist is a lot closer to home run status than those other films are.
Bale stars as factory worker (obviously) Trevor Reznick, who spends his free time drinking coffee, eating pie, and having sex with a prostitute (played in classic "But I have a heart of gold!" fashion by Jennifer Jason Leigh).  The one thing he doesn't do is sleep, claiming it has been a full year since he last slept.  I know that I get pretty loopy when I haven't slept for a good 18 hours or so, so I can't really imagine what a year would be like.
Anderson must have a much better imagination than I do, because his vision of what a year without sleep could lead to is dark and fascinating.  As Trevor begins to wonder about the places and people around him - including an ominous bald dude named Ivan - we can see the man slip further and further into confusion.  Bale deserves nothing but praise for the performance - devoting himself to the role so much that he lost an incredible amount of weight to appear sufficiently worn out - and the range of emotion he shows as Trevor is as good as anything the actor has done in the big budget films that would make up the rest of his career.
You can't really talk about the plot of The Machinist without getting too spoilery - like I said, this kind of film doesn't have the most original concept when you get down to execution - but Anderson keeps it feeling clean and interesting throughout.  A wonderful musical score by Spanish composer Roque Banos is sufficiently Hitchcockian, and there's a definite parallel that can be made between this film and Vertigo at times.  The Machinist is almost voyeuristic as it shows Trevor learning more about Trevor, and seeing the story develop feels perfectly macabre.
The Machinist is as good as advertised because the director and the star knew how to turn a simple story into something that feels like a feature length episode of The Twilight Zone.  If you're up for a late night mind-bender with production values through the roof and dynamic performances, The Machinist should not let you down.

April 24, 2012

The Mike's Top 50 Horror Movies Countdown: #39 - Dog Soldiers

Previously on the Countdown: Number 50 - Happy Birthday to Me  Number 49 - Prince of Darkness  Number 48 - House on Haunted Hill  Number 47 - The Monster Squad  Number 46 - Hellraiser  Number 45 - The Fog  Number 44 - Creature From the Black Lagoon  Number 43 - Zombie  Number 42 - Tales from the Crypt  Number 41 - Bubba Ho-Tep  Number 40 - Phantom of the Paradise
Dog Soldiers
(2002, Dir. by Neil Marshall.) 
Why It's Here:
When I need a bad-frickin'-a-double-crooked-letter horror movie that's packed with action, gore, and macho dudes doing macho things: I need Dog Soldiers.  It's the Predator of werewolf films, taking a tough as nails platoon of soldiers and dropping them into a dangerous countryside during the wrong part of the lunar cycle.  When the film takes on full-fledged siege picture status as the survivors try to defend a remote farm house - well, that's about the point when I start fistpumping and slapping fives (even if there's no one else around).
The Moment That Changes Everything:
Dog Soldiers pretty much starts on a high note and stays there, but I have to mention the wily side character known simply as "Spoon", who puts up a fight that should make little guys around the globe proud.  As we wade through thick accents and wonderful practical effects, we have to take notice of Spoon's encounters with lycanthropes and smile.
It Makes a Great Double Feature With:
Predator and Aliens do similar things quite well (and might be better movies), but they're sci-fi and this is a horror list.  So how about a dose of 28 Days Later (or its pretty good sequel, 28 Weeks Later) to keep the military and British horror theme going?  Dog Soldiers moves at a much quicker pace than that film, but both are frenetic enough to keep viewers on their toes while they're both thrilled and chilled.
(Alternate Choice: Want a "his and hers" werewolf bonanza? Pick up this one and Ginger Snaps, enjoy a bit of military massacre and a bit of teenage girl coming of age.  With lots of extra hair.  Everyone goes home happy!)
What It Means To Me:
Dog Soldiers has been one of those movies that I try to push on everyone I know since the day it was released on DVD.  Comparing it favorably to the films I just mentioned might sound crazy to some, but I'll gladly jump into the battle alongside Neil Marshall's fabulous debut film any day of any week.  It's one of the most watchable movies I know.

April 23, 2012

Book Review - The Testament of Judith Barton by Wendy Powers & Robin McLeod

I don't think there's a more hypnotic movie than Vertigo.  Alfred Hitchcock's tale of deception and desire in a surreal San Francisco setting has kept me fascinated for most of my adult life, and would easily rank as one of my three or four favorite films.  So when I got offered the chance to check out a new take on the tale, I dropped my "Hey, I don't know how to read you guys!" defenses and jumped at the opportunity to spend more time in the film's world.

That opportunity presented itself in the form of a new novel, The Testament of Judith Barton, which is told from the perspective of the female character who is the center of attention throughout Hitchcock's film.  Let's not kid ourselves here - Jimmy Stewart is the man, but it was Kim Novak that really drew our stares. So the chance to spend more time with her got me to light up my Kindle, hanker in to my recliner (which has a Vertigo poster right above it), and start turning the pages as fast as I could.

Despite how many times I've seen Vertigo - it was enough times to write a film history term paper on it more than a decade ago, and that number's gone up since - I'm not sure I ever really thought too deeply about Judy Barton, the small town girl from Salina, Kansas who became the key ingredient in the macabre plot. (I suppose talking about Judy Barton herself is kind of a spoiler for the film, but a) her name's kind of in the title, so it's inevitable, and b) if you haven't seen Vertigo in the last 54 years, there's probably no hope for you anyway.)  In my mind, I think I believed that Judy Barton was a lost soul by the time we were introduced to her in Vertigo.  I caught the back story about who she really was and where she really came from, but she was still just a pawn in a rich white guy's plans. (More on that guy later.)

This testament leaves few stones unturned, tracing Ms. Barton back to her hometown and her childhood.  After a brief introduction set in the middle of Vertigo's dangerous plot, the authors' decision to backtrack to her teenage years surprised me, but the first act of the novel quickly won me over by creating a whole new world and a strong sense of hope around a charming young girl.  Interactions between young Judy and her father - a hard working man who taught her a lot about life - and her older sister - an aspiring teenage actress with dreams of Hollywood - felt incredibly fresh and got me to take another look at the woman who I knew from Hitchcock's film. There's a lot of growth in the character as her early years are chronicled, and I really enjoyed what the authors' did to build Judy Barton into a sympathetic small town woman.

The second act moves from Judy's hometown past to San Francisco - and what I would call "the present" in Vertigo's universe - and it's then that the book gives a fresh coat of paint to another key character from the film.  But it's not the guy you'd expect - Jimmy Stewart's "Scottie" Ferguson really gets the short straw here - it's the devilish Gavin Elster.  The man who brings the two leads together is kind of an afterthought in the film, played only briefly by Tom Helmore. (BTW, is there a movie that relies more on its two stars than Vertigo? It's like the '91 Chicago Bulls of movies, except Kim Novak is about 12 zillion times hotter than Scottie Pippen.)  The Testament of Judith Barton, on the other hand, gets plenty of miles out of the Elster character, who I started to picture as a snarky fella in the vein of Laurence Olivier's character from Rebecca.  We know the character is a bad man once we've seen the movie, but this book really reminds us just how sinister the character who set up his wife really could have been.

I have to admit that I got a little disappointed as the book moved through the events that we saw in Vertigo.  I enjoyed the build up and I enjoyed gaining a better understanding of who Judy Barton was and how she got caught up in this awful situation, but re-tracing the steps that led to the film's finale was a slight buzzkill.  There were still some nice reveals inside Judy's mind, and the fact that we're drawn so much closer to her character makes the events that unfold even more heartbreaking than they were on film.  I should commend the book for these steps, and it's only fair that they remained faithful to the film.  Maybe I'm just let down by the final act because I really didn't want Judith Barton's story to end the way I knew it would.

The Testament of Judith Barton is at times a little too cute when it makes sly references to the film - a direct nod to Kim Novak had me struggling to decide between rolling my eyes or snickering at the twist - but there are also times when words that were spoken by Ms. Novak took on an entirely new meaning in my mind.  I'm not going to sit here and say that everyone who loves Vertigo will fall in love with this book, because I know how protective us nerds can be about our classics sometimes.  The book also acknowledges that it varies from the French novel that inspired Hitchcock's film (D'entre les Morts, if you're keeping score at home), but I'm definitely OK with Powers & McLeod's alternate take on Judy Barton's mind.

In fact, this Hitchcock nerd was more than pleased to scroll through The Testament of Judith Barton.  It might not be the most ground breaking novel, but it got me thinking about one of my favorite stories and opened my eyes to new perceptions of something I thought I knew completely.  That's worth a lot in my book, and I found myself unable to put The Testament of Judith Barton down.  I think there's a lot of entertainment to be had from the novel for even those who don't adore every minute of Hitchcock's film, too.

If you want to find out about Judith Barton on your own, feel free to head over to the book's website, which offers the plot synopsis, a sample, and the all important purchase links.  At an incredibly reasonable price ($3.99 at Amazon or Barnes & Noble!), there's no reason fans of Hitchcock or Vertigo shouldn't check this book out and see what they think about her journey from Salina to San Fran.

April 22, 2012

The Mike's Top 50 Horror Movies Countdown: #40 - Phantom of the Paradise

Previously on the Countdown: Number 50 - Happy Birthday to Me  Number 49 - Prince of Darkness  Number 48 - House on Haunted Hill  Number 47 - The Monster Squad  Number 46 - Hellraiser  Number 45 - The Fog  Number 44 - Creature From the Black Lagoon  Number 43 - Zombie  Number 42 - Tales from the Crypt  Number 41 - Bubba Ho-Tep
Phantom of the Paradise
(1974, Dir. by Brian De Palma.)
 Why It's Here:
Because no list is complete without a little music, right?  Brian De Palma's rockin' take on two classic horror tales - The Phantom of the Opera and Faust, together again for the first time - isn't going to scare many viewers, but it's still got a devilish and macabre kick.  Other De Palma horrors have more horrifying tones - Sisters and Carrie probably should have been on this list, but if I had to pick one DePalma horror that I enjoy the most I'd lean slightly to the Phantom.
The Moment That Changes Everything:
From the moment the Caligari inspired backdrop to the Paradise's stage is shown and "Somebody Super Like You" begins to play, the Phantom's quest for love and revenge hits top speed and never looks back.  Also featuring the talents of Gerrit Graham's ridiculous Beef character, this sequence sets up the film's final thrills perfectly.
It Makes a Great Double Feature With:
I already mentioned the horror films that DePalma made around this, Sisters and Carrie, and it makes far too much sense to me to list them here.  All three films are radically different in story, but they feature early DePalma at his crazy best.  They also all have been Midnight Movie of the Week selections (Here's Sisters, Here's Carrie, and Here's Phantom) - and I'm still kind of debating with myself that they deserve this spot on this list too.
What It Means To Me:
DePalma's work has long been one of my strongest connections to the darkest side of cinema, with his always sinister and often perverse films always providing some dark thrills.  I guess I'm giving Phantom the slight edge over his other films just because it's a bit more rewatchable and because I'm a sucker for "re-imaginings" of famous horror tales.  Phantom of the Paradise always gets my toe tapping and a provides a few big laughs, all while bringing the battle between humanity and Satan to our attention in a unique way.  

April 19, 2012

Midnight Movie of the Week #120 - Bio-Zombie

Bio-Zombie (or Sun faa sau si, if you prefer Cantonese) follows the adventures of Woody Invincible and Crazy Bee, two young pirates (in the selling fake DVDs sense, not in the "Arrrrgh!" sense) who face off against a slew of zombies in a Hong Kong shopping mall.  Any comparisons between the film and George Romero's masterful Dawn of the Dead - which shares zombies and malls with this film - should probably end right there, but there's still plenty of fun to be ahd with this madcap horror comedy.
Our two young heroes - who are somewhere between Bill & Ted and Lloyd Christmas & Harry Dunne on the intelligence scale - are out for fun, sex, and cash when they unknowingly set loose a biologically enhanced zombie virus (although is it really a zombie if it's a virus? I'll let you decide) in their mall.  This leaves the pair, alongside a few other stragglers, facing off with green skinned fellas after the shops close for the evening. 
These two slacker characters do a lot for the film, primarily establishing how irreverent the script is from the opening scenes.  The beginning sequence seems to set the film up as a Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of itself (and if you watch the DVD with English dubbing you might think you're watching Most Extreme Elimination Challenge) as the duo mock the opening credits, and the tone doesn't get more serious until after a Grindhouse-esque scene in which the biological weapon (which is conveniently disguised as a soft drink) and its effects are revealed.
Even after the creatures are revealed, there's very little fear at work in Bio-Zombie. The low budget film shines in other areas, however, particularly through the effective creature makeup.  It's a very minimal film in that regard - sometimes it looks like they just threw a couple of huge pustules on dudes, other times it looks like they ran faces through cheese graters - and one probably won't mistake this for the work of Tom Savini.  In fact, the biggest problem most viewers will have with Bio-Zombie probably has to do with how amateur it looks.
I'm not sure if it's the budget, the camera, the DVD, or something else - but this movie (released in 1998) looks about 10 years older than it actually is.  If it weren't for these video game style stat cards that show up right before the final battle gets funky, I might have assumed this was a lost Return of the Living Dead sequel.  That's not necessarily a bad thing either, I just want you all to know how odd and kind of bizarre this movie is.  Maybe I don't get it because I'm not Hong Kongian....I don't know.  The point is it's out there.
That all said, the bottom line is that Bio-Zombie is a ridiculously fun little film that should win over some viewers.  The side characters are effective caricatures of horror stereotypes, the leads win us over with their bumbling ways, and there's enough action and playful humor to keep things moving along.  There's absolutely no depth to the film whatsoever - unless I feel like giving some credit to the sly message from the fatalistic final shot - but I'm OK with that.  Bio-Zombie works on a Mallrats-meets-Romero-in-Hong-Kong level, and that's good enough for me.

April 17, 2012

FMWL Indie Spotlight - Simone/Date Night: Two Short Films by Joops Fragale

Romance and desire take macabre turns in the two short films that will feature in our Indie Spotlight this evening, a pair of short tales from director Joops Fragale. 

First up, let's talk about Simone, the first (chronologically, that is) of the two films Mr. Fragale submitted for our approval.  The approximately 17 minute tale follows a young woman - named Simone, obviously - who wakes up in a strange bed with little memory of the previous night and nothing but a glass of vodka to greet her.  Much of what follows is her quest to piece together the events that led to her current predicament, which slowly reveal a romantic encounter with another young woman...and something more.
Jennifer Ward stars as the title character, and does a good job of appearing completely perplexed through most of the film.  A majority of the film follows her as she reacts to her surroundings with no one else around, but the actress never goes over the top or presents herself poorly.  The rest of the film has her interacting with a young woman played by Erin Nicole Cline - an incredibly cute and pretty darn talented young woman who we'll talk about a little more in a couple of paragraphs.

Simone's twist is what really makes or breaks the film, and I'm still slightly on the fence about it.  I kind of expected the film was going in one of two directions as it first hinted that something wasn't quite right, and the one that made more sense definitely won out.  But I feel like my concerns about the twist have more to do with the execution than the idea, and I'm willing to bet that the limitations of the budget made it near impossible to do more with the final few reveals than Fragale and crew accomplished.

On the other hand, Simone is a well crafted little story that bounces between last night and this morning quite well, and the actresses do what they can - including an incredibly revealing scene between the sheets - to keep the viewers eyes on the screen.  The whole package looks great and is edited with an extremely professional flair, and the end result left me wanting to see more from Fragale and crew.
Which leads us to Date Night, a 15 minute short in which Ms. Cline returns as a young woman who just wants to stay home and read a magazine despite her friends' insistence. 

This young woman - listed only as She in the film's credits - has her evening turned upside down rather quickly when she finds a young man sitting on her couch.  He - that's what they call David Fuit's character in the credits too - is a little awkward and might only speak in movie quotes at times, but it appears he's also quite charming.  Things move pretty quickly after they meet - for better and for worse.

This one night, two character tale might not make complete sense at first - there's a fundamental question to the situation that one would think She would ask immediately and repeatedly until she figured out just how this dude showed up on her couch - but once you're along for the characters' ride it's easy not to look back at the mechanisms of the plot.  Like Simone, there's a sexual interlude in this film too, and once again this seems to be the point where halfway-kinda-normal gets turned on its head.  

There's a lot of dark comedy at work in Date Night, which culminates in a final scene that actually had me laughing at how sly the film was.  The twist isn't unpredictable, but the director again handles everything with incredible skill - the editing stands out once more - and the stars do a fantastic job.  Fuit is uncomfortable in the best way as the appearing man, while Cline pours out the innocent charm with ease.  The end result is a short horror tale that's really fun to watch.

Now that I've talked a bunch about these two fun little films from a talented young director, it would probably be a good time for me to point out that you can get more info on both films over at the website for the production company, 386FilmsHeck, you could even watch Simone or watch Date Night over at that site if you wanted to.  And I think you should want to.

April 15, 2012


(2012, Dir. by James Mather & Stephen St. Leger.)

I'm willing to bet that Lockout will not be one of those sci-fi movies whose DVD comes with a bunch of comments from scientists and "experts" about how they made the science "real".  It's pretty evident throughout the film that filmmakers James Mather & Stephen St. Leger - who were working on their first feature from a story by action maestro Luc Besson - didn't care much for bringing scientific realism into their film.

Astrophysical properties and things like the law of gravity are just some of the real world concepts that are thrown out the window in Lockout, a rather thoughtless action film that takes "check your mind at the door" and runs with it.  Y'all should know by now that I'm far from the most discriminating viewer in the world, so it's little surprise that I'm cool with that mindset.

Lockout takes on the Snake Plissken formula, sending a badass dude named Snow - played in a surprising turn by generally serious thespian Guy Pearce - to a maximum security space prison where the President of the United States' daughter (Lost's Maggie Grace) has become a hostage to a rioting prison populace of killers and madmen.  Unlike Plissken, we get a lot of background into just why Snow is a fugitive and how he's getting to Space Station Shawshank (my name, not theirs), though Snow's background is really never developed outside of a title card that conveniently lists him as "Ex-C.I.A."

Pearce's dialogue consists entirely of one-liners and sarcastic quips, all of which he delivers in an exceedingly dry manner.  It's slightly tedious, but it fits with the ridiculous premise and fast-paced story.  The hero's tone is a departure from silent heroes (think Jason Statham in the Transporter films) or mature professionals (Liam Neeson in Taken) that have filled other Besson-scripted works of the last half decade, and I think some audience members will be put off by the smug hero.  The rest of the cast is pretty standard: Grace does damsel in distress with an edge, European dudes with tattoos and scars do villains, and Snatch's Lennie James and Fargo's Peter Stormare play the cops dealing with Snow.  None really stand out in positive or negative ways.

The biggest problem with Lockout is probably how carefree the whole thing feels, bouncing from one plot turn to another with ease and never really taking any kind of time to make the film feel like something anyone should be invested in.  It's not violent or bloody enough to hit a cult cinema home run either - this film absolutely must have been neutered down to a PG-13 by the studio, even leaving an exploding head on the cutting room floor.  It's about 100 minutes of Pearce being smug, people getting punched and shot, and ridiculous set pieces that involve space battles and people going out airlocks. That's all it is. 

When I look back on that last sentence, it's easy to see why I had fun with Lockout.  It's a mindless action flick with a successful lead that looks really good.  It has absolutely no depth and will drive people who judge movies based on whether or not they could happen in the real world mad with anger, but it's a formula film that achieves its goals.  I don't recommend going out of your way for Lockout, but it's probably worth a rental. 

The Mike's Top 50 Horror Movies Countdown: #41 - Bubba Ho-Tep

Previously on the Countdown: Number 50 - Happy Birthday to Me  Number 49 - Prince of Darkness  Number 48 - House on Haunted Hill  Number 47 - The Monster Squad  Number 46 - Hellraiser  Number 45 - The Fog  Number 44 - Creature From the Black Lagoon  Number 43 - Zombie  Number 42 - Tales from the Crypt
Bubba Ho-Tep
(2002, Dir. by Don Coscarelli.)
Why It's Here:
I feel like this list is waaay heavy on lighter/more comedic horror filcks so far, but it's darn impossible to find many horror movies that are more rewarding than Bubba Ho-Tep.  Anchored by what is undeniably Bruce Campbell's best traditional acting performance, it's one of the most unique horror films thanks to its ability to balance drama, comedy, and scares in one well-drawn script.  I've argued since day one that Bubba - despite its sensational plot - is the rare horror movie that's rooted in real human drama, and I still think there's a lot of people out there who don't give Bubba Ho-Tep enough credit for what it does.

The Moment That Changes Everything:
The first showdown between The King and a "big bitch cockroach" is a terrifically fun sequence in the tradition of the Evil Dead films.  When Campbell utters a fine one liner at the end of the battle, the whole audience is alerted to the fact that it's about to get FUNKY.

It Makes a Great Double Feature With:
If there's one film that has captured a similar quirky balance of character and splatter since Bubba, it's the soon-to-be-worldwide indie hit Some Guy Who Kills People.  The stories couldn't be more different, but there's a willingness to share the lead's inner fears and embarrassing secrets that makes both films so accessible and even a little sweet.  If you're a fan of Bubba, you should definitely be keeping your eyes out for this one.

What It Means To Me:
When it was just a blip on the horror radar - if it seems like that was a decade ago, it's because it was(!) - Bubba Ho-Tep mostly meant the return to prominence for Mr. Bruce Campbell, who many of us nerds were dying to see back in a leading horror role that mattered.  To me, Bubba Ho-Tep passed those selfish expectations with ease and became something truly special.  There are few horror films out there that make me smile and feel at peace like this one does.  Those aren't horror's biggest goals most of the time, but in this case they are worth lauding.

April 14, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods

(2011, Dir. by Drew Goddard.)

To many of us in the horror lovin' community, The Cabin in the Woods has been a real life version of the golden ticket from Willy Wonka for the last several years.  As you can see from the poster I've shared right over there (<-------------), the film was originally set to release in early 2010.  Despite the powerful name of writer/producer Joss Whedon, the film sat on a shelf for nearly three years after shooting finished, partially due to studio struggles and partially due to studio idiocy.  It's become so anticipated that I had nightmares last night about missing the screening I planned to attend tonight. It takes a lot of hype to make a horror nerd have nightmares about missing a movie, but Cabin pulled it off.

During the delay, the film's mysterious plot became a very contentious point, and a lot of anxious folks became very upset with other so-called "critics" who were very willing to spill details of the film for their own sake.  This makes me furious.  If someone wants to go to the movies so they can be an authority and tell others what to do, they're worthless to me.  That's not why I'm here.  I go to the movies to get my socks rocked off, and I share what I feel with you all because I want to help you have the same happen.  That's my job here, and it doesn't include spoiling things because I've passed some judgment on the material.

Tonight, after FINALLY seeing The Cabin in the Woods, I feel that it would be incredibly improper for me to even discuss the plot of the film.  It's a one-of-a-kind horror experience, and you will gain nothing from me explaining what it is.  That leaves me with very little I can say about the film, but I simply will not risk ruining the surprises for any interested parties.

There are some things you might want to know about The Cabin in the Woods before you go in.  For starters, you will be happy to hear that Whedon and co-writer/director Drew Goddard show an incredible understanding of what the horror genre is.  It has become common for filmmakers to mimic and call out the conventions of the horror film - Scream and Behind the Mask did similar things with their tones - but what impressed me most about The Cabin in the Woods was how well it used those conventions and then pushed through them to a much different place.

All audiences will probably appreciate the humor that is used throughout The Cabin in the Woods.  There were plenty of moments where I found myself sincerely laughing out loud, and not all of them come from the film's jabs at horror concepts.  Two elder characters do a lot for the film, explaining some of the gags and providing a neat perspective on what the audience expects.

As with most horror movies that are worth a darn, you will not expect the final act.  As the film reached the point that I thought was our end, I was nowhere near ready to see the film go to the places that it still planned to go.  I'm not so sure that all the moves made in the last 20 minutes really worked entirely - there seemed to be a bit of excess for the sake of excess going on - but everything stays true to the story that has been created and the world that the film exists in.

I feel like I'm just beating around the bush as I talk about the film here - and actually, I am beating around the bush - but I can not stress enough that this is imperative.  You need to know as little as you can about the film if you really want to experience the truly unpredictable things that occur in The Cabin in the Woods.  I'm not giving you a trailer, I'm not even using the poster created by the current studio that released the film.  I'd love to discuss what I think the film meant and how much the social commentary made sense, but instead I'm just telling you to go see The Cabin in the Woods as soon as possible. It's one of the most unique things to happen to horror in a long time, and it will make its own impressions on you.

April 13, 2012

Midnight Movie of the Week #119 - Waxwork

There aren't a lot of horror movies out there - especially from the glamorous latter section of the 1980s - that manage to bounce around in setting and style like Waxwork does.  There are other horrors that bring a lot of different horror standards together - like The Monster Squad, for example - but that film and others of its sort settle on bringing everything together in one world.  This film - from writer/director Anthony Hickox - takes a different approach, allowing the viewer to travel into several different horror worlds with several different characters.
The mechanism that allows this freedom is the Waxwork of the title, a mysterious establishment that's run by an eccentric smooth talker (character actor extraordinaire David Warner) and two assistants of extreme heights (one's a dwarf, the other's a good old fashion Lurch from The Addams Family clone).  When our six teenage characters - led by heroic Mark (Zach Galligan of Gremlins fame), seductive China (Michelle Johnson of Dr. Giggles) and mousy Sarah (the always amazing Deborah Foreman of April Fools Day) - stumble into the building for a special midnight preview, they suddenly find that the exhibits are actually portals into the horrifying worlds depicted.  And, if they're not smart, they might be the next piece of the exhibit.
There are plenty of possibilities allowed by the premise.  I'm sure many horror nerds could be disappointed by the lack of time spent on each - references to Jekyll & Hyde, Freaks, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and other beloved horror films/standards are made mostly in passing - but I think Hickox does a fine job balancing everything he can without letting the film get too bloated.  The film does allow us to get up close and personal with some of horror's favorite characters (there are vampires, zombies, mummies, and even a sympathetic werewolf played by Lord of the Rings' John Rhys-Davies), but it's the character who we've seen on film the least that leaves the biggest impact on the viewer.
In the midst of all the supernatural stuff that's going on, the meek and innocent Sarah stumbles (literally) into the world of one of history's most deranged men - the Marquis de Sade.  The renowned 18th Century torturer and sadist is played here by veteran character actor J. Kenneth Campbell, whose sinister performance stands out over those of his peers.  The interactions between the Marquis and Foreman's character - who ends up getting called a whore like 27 times due to her reactions to torture - provide an interesting human horror, while the character sets up nicely as a villain to stand against Galligan's Bruce Campbell-esque (Guess who would play his grandfather in the sequel?) hero.
With its ability to recreate horror staples and a strong balance between horror and comedy, Waxwork doesn't feel as dated as many of its '80s brethren.  The characters don't stand out as anything more than functions of the plot - particularly the Waxwork's evil owner and Mark's occult expert acquaintance (The Avengers' Patrick Macnee) - but when they are realized by actors with the talents of Warner and Macnee they still feel welcome in the film.  The interactions between these characters lead directly to the manic climactic battle, and the film doesn't let down by wrapping everything up nicely in the final scenes.
Waxwork would spawn a sequel a few years later, which retained Galligan and Macnee, lost Foreman, and gained Campbell and Die Hard's Alexander Godunov (who naturally takes on a villainous role).  While that film's still pretty enjoyable in its own right, Hickox and crew couldn't quite recreate the magic that has kept the first film so close to my heart.  Like other '80s cult favorites - think Fright Night or They Live - Waxwork plays off all the viewers' expectations.  It's got chills, gore, comedy, action, and even a pretty strong sexual undertone going on throughout the film, which means Waxwork is still a go to "party" horror film for all adult audiences.  Check it out.
Also....this happens. Creepy!

April 9, 2012

The Mike's Top 50 Horror Movies Countdown: #42 - Tales From The Crypt

Previously on the Countdown: Number 50 - Happy Birthday to Me  Number 49 - Prince of Darkness Number 48 - House on Haunted Hill  Number 47 - The Monster Squad  Number 46 - Hellraiser Number 45 - The Fog  Number 44 - Creature From the Black Lagoon Number 43 - Zombie
Tales From the Crypt
(1972, Dir. by Freddie Francis.)
Why It's Here:
Though the TV series from the late '80s-early '90s gets all the headlines, Amicus Pictures' anthology feature hits all the right notes for me.  Put together by Freddie Francis and featuring great performances from the likes of Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, and Ralph Richardson, it's a great collection of short horror tales that fit together perfectly.  There's a heavy dose of kismetic revenge at work throughout the five stories, with the wrap around that features Richardson as an ominous Crypt Keeper serving as a nice way to keep the film together.

The Moment That Changes Everything:
"And All Through The House" might be the most famous EC Comics tale to make its way into HBO's Crypt series, but I think Francis' version - featuring Collins as wife who offs her husband on Christmas Eve presents the story just as well.  There's something about Ms. Collins trying to scrub blood out of her shaggy white '70s carpet (that's not a euphemism) that sets the tone for the whole film.

It Makes a Great Double Feature With:
It would be easy to throw out one of Amicus' other anthologies, but I feel like a different Francis film fits well with this one.  So let's talk about The Creeping Flesh, in which Francis brings us a healthy dose of Cushing AND Christopher Lee while presenting a creepy . Of course, you could always just team the movie up with the TV show too, but that's just too easy.

What It Means To Me:
When horror of the 1970s is the topic, my mind usually goes straight to the religion based Hollywood productions and slasher-genre-forming independent features that shaped horror's most loved decade.  But Tales From The Crypt has always stuck out as a sort of "farewell" to the British horror films of the '50s and '60s that I loved.  It wasn't pushing horror forward like so many of its contemparies - though it did sport some images that could have come from an early slasher or giallo - but it was still a blast to watch.  If nothing else, it inspired me to say "All in good time..." with a sinister tone A LOT.

April 8, 2012

Supremely Cheesy Cinema, Vol 11: The Being

The ultimate terror takes form - if the tagline is to be believed - in The Being, an incredibly ridiculous piece of '80s horror that served as the debut feature for Blood Diner helmer Jackie Kong.   It's a film that I always remember around this time each year, because it just happens to be set on the eve and day of Easter.  Celebrating the resurrection of the Lord with a movie about a mutated beast that comes from toxic dumping that Martin Landau approved is probably a bit off.  But hey, association is association.
I don't know why, but I love horror movies with streets that look like THIS.
The setting is the small town of Pottsville, Idaho, where the locals are up in arms about recent events. Some of the townfolk are upset about filthy pornography invading their happy community, while others are worried about the contamination caused by a corporate fella (played by Landau, who's long been one of my favorite dudes) who is behind some waste disposal just outside the town.  We learn very early in the film - we're talking pretty much scene two - that these fears are valid, as a slimy creature that leaves a green trail takes out a scared teenager in a vicious manner.
That will definitely lower the car's resale value.
Enter our well bearded, trashy looking hero - Detective Mortimer Lutz.  He's played by producer Bill Osco - a member of the Osco Drug family - but Osco decided he needed a pseudonym for his on-screen persona.  And he created pretty much the best fake name for an awkward horror movie star of all-time: REXX COLTRANE.
He's like Kurt Russell in The Thing, only it's Idaho and he's uncomfortably hilarious.
Mr. Rexx Coltrane - there's no way I'm ever going to pass up the chance to write Rexx Coltrane, so this review might get a little repetitive here - is both the investigator assigned to the mysterious disappearances and one of the first people to encounter The Being and escape, which makes him basically Sheriff Brody from Jaws and Roy Neary from Close Encounters of the Third Kind all wrapped up in one awkward-yet-manly package.  Rexx Coltrane is probably most defined in one fantastic sequence, in which Rexx Coltrane a) accidentally sneaks up on the waitress he is trying to protect/bone; b) helps her to her car; c) notices a Being randomly hurling itself into the car from just off the right side of the screen; and d) jump kicks the door shut so he and waitress/new love interest can run away as fast as they can.  It's one of the best scenes ever, because it contains images like THIS:
Rexx Coltrane knows kung fu. WHOA.
As if the Earth-shattering performance from Rexx Coltrane - who takes on The Being straight through a warehouse based final showdown - wasn't enough of a reason to see The Being, I present another Oscar worthy performer from the film.  That performance comes from little Roxanne Cybelle - the daughter of Kong and Osco/Rexx Coltrane - in the film's most wonderful Easter based scene.
And the Academy Award for Best Performance by the Child of a Director & Rexx Coltrane goes to...
In said scene, little Ms. Cybelle plays Suzie, a toddler stuck in an Easter Egg hunt with much larger and less humane children.  We follow the pantless child around as she reaches for little bitty eggs and has them snatched from her grasp by older children who appear to have no souls.  Undeterred, Little Suzie (who may have had the Tesla song named after her, but I can't confirm that) keeps searching for eggs, wanders into some trees, and finds a hole in the ground that's kind of disgusting.
Worst. Easter. Egg. Hunt. EVER.
That's pretty gross looking, right? If you were a pantless toddler, you'd probably walk away from that, right? Well're not as totally awesome as little Suzie as played by Roxanne Cybelle.  She knows that an Easter Egg hunt is a war - in fact, she probably learned that while she was still in the loins of Rexx Coltrane - and she doesn't give up so easily.  She doesn't walk away from the slimy hole with a baby Being in it.  She goes for the gold like a champion.
What's the worst that could happen?
Naturally, I wouldn't dream of telling you all what happens next (and honestly, I'm not sure what happens next makes enough sense to be explained anyway). All I can say is that this little girl is a superstar, and that she should be lauded through all the kingdoms of the horror realm.  As I rewatched the movie last night, I had to watch this scene a good three times - because there are very few equally excellent scenes involving children in terrifying situations in horror these days.  I kind of want to bottle this scene and put it into a better horror, but I guess it's like that old saying - you gotta dance with who brung ya.
And sometimes you dance with Martin Landau while he carries TWO rifles.
The rest of The Being isn't really as fantastic as these two marvelous scenes - Ruth Buzzi, Dorothy Malone, and Jose Ferrer(!) all add some exquisite cheese to many scenes, but lack Rexx Coltrane's hairy presence - and the plot is relatively C.H.U.D.-dy while not being C.H.U.D., but it's a far more enjoyable film than its 3.0/10 rating on that there IMDB would indicate. Though the film was actually produced in 1980 (with the title Easter Sunday, which I assume was there to try and capitalize on the holiday-themed-horror craze of the era), it sat on the shelf until a brief release in 1983.  Any cinephile can easily see why the film was relatively ignored on the whole - especially if they don't see the appeal of Rexx Coltrane as a laughable star or have a fondness for incredibly slimy creatures - but there's a charm here that a non-discriminating horror fan might recognize.
I'd like to think The Being has an eye for detail...
The Being is darn ridiculous - it even starts with an awesome bit of narration from a movie-trailer-sounding voice over man that sets a tone of ridiculousness - but I can't help being enamored with it.  It's a one of a kind small town horror - you might say it's the Balki Bartokomous to C.H.U.D.'s Larry Appleton (Perfect Strangers FTW!) - and it makes me smile a bunch.  So, in the name of everything Rexx Coltrane and Roxanne Cybelle - go find The Being.  You'll thank (or curse) me later.  Either way - Happy Easter!
This post is sincerely dedicated to the only man who would run to save Martin Landau, but stop near the end to re-adjust his black baseball cap: REXX COLTRANE. May his name live on forever.