Someone's in the house. He's watching. He's creeping round, only you can't see him. He's watching you from the walls. He's right behind you now. Looking over your shoulder. He wants the remote control. He's a bad boy. He wants to watch bad movies. Bad bad Ronald...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

TV MOVIE: House on Greenapple Road

It's TV Movie of the Week time!!

CSI may think it’s the show that brought gore to the small screen. That’s because they didn’t see the opening scene of the made for TV movie House on Greenapple Road. With the backdrop of sweet melodic 70s muzak, little Eve Plumb (fresh in our minds and hearts as little Jan Brady) skips through pristine suburban streets towards home. She dances in, calling out her mother’s name—but she doesn’t answer. She sweeps into the kitchen, hoping to find her mom baking some tasty cookies, but she’s not that either. Unfazed by the puddles of blood and crimson hand smears that cover the walls, little Eve Plumb trots out the back door and across the way to her Aunt’s house.

Mind you, this is 1970’s television! This is an era when a gun shot victim would bear no visible wound—they’d just grab their belly in pain (always aim for the gut!)—and the utterance of “hell” would send parents scrambling to cover their kid’s ears. The most blood (in B/W, unless you were lucky enough to have Color) you’d likely see on the ol’ Quasar would be from the corner of the mouth of some sucker who just got punched.
That's sooo psycho!

House on Greenapple Road, like many other TV movies, was a pilot for the Burt Reynolds vehicle Dan August. Don’t look for the future Cosmo centerfold as the lead detective in this movie, though. That honor went to Christopher George (Grizzly). Obvioulsy they wanted to go a different route for the show, since George lacks that smart-ass charm that Reynolds was famous for. George does do a great job with his more gruff and bitter take on August, who is investigating the disappearance of the promiscuous wife (Psycho’s Janet Leigh) of a spineless salesman (recurrent TV guest star Tim O’Conner). Naturally, August has his run-ins with an unrelenting press, who clamor to collect every sensational detail, and with a fellow lawman (the even more gruff Ed Asner). The movie moves through flashbacks that inventory the various lovers turn suspects (amongst them is the fantastic William Windom) who August tracks down in search of the victim’s killer… as well as her missing body. He even shares a tender interrogation scene with his new bride, the sexy Lynda Day George (Mission Impossible).
Paperback Cover
This is a solid effort from the other genius TV producer (the other being Aaron Spelling) Quinn Martin. You always knew you were in for solid ride when you saw that familiar tag “A Quinn Martin Production.” Some seasoned film and television veterans were at work on Greenapple Road, including director Robert Day and writer George Eckstein (his script based on a novel by crime author Harold R. Daniels).

Blu-Ray Giveaway Winner!!

Congrats to Mitch Dolan for scoring a Blu-Ray copy of FROZEN... AND a Frozen special lip balm stick.  Don't forget to apply liberally, or else!!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

REVIEW: Frozen

Frozen... left out in the cold.

There's a shared phenomenon common amongst all who've either strapped on a board or snapped into skis -- and that's the stalled chairlift.  It could be that some doof fell trying to get on or off the lift, or some technical glitch.  Whatever it was, if you've ever visited the ski slopes, you know the feeling.  You're 30 feet in the air, your toes are getting numb, and their itching to angle down the slope -- the minutes seem endless waiting up there for the lift to continue up the hill.  But in Frozen, they're asking you to imagine what it's like to be, not just hung up for a few annoying moments, but stranded up in the air, lights shut off, patrons and staff all gone, and the resort shut down... for a week.  Now, that would be a real drag.

It's a terrific idea for a fright flick. Some of the best thrillers have taken place in such limited settings.  Rope, 12 Angry Men, Lifeboat, Cube. These films used the feeling of isolation, abandonment and entrapment to heighten the suspense.  In Frozen, three college age friends decide to take one last run down the mountain before the slopes shut down.  They convince the attendant to turn the lift back on, only to have it shut down by another attendant while the threesome is only halfway up.  Abandoned, the kids try to flag down an aloof snow groomer, stave of frostbite and a pack of hungry wolves.  But most of all, they try and contain the mounting jealousy and issues between themselves.
Get me outta this movie!
 Like I said, it's a killer idea for a good film.  Only problem is, Frozen's director and writer Adam Green doesn't have near the talent of the makers of those other one-location films to pull off the gimmick.  It certainly isn't for lack of enthusiasm.  He and his fellow crew members speak of the film's premise with such excitement that you can feel their energy and passion for the project.  It's the same vibe they gave out with Green's previous genre flick Hatchet.  Green and co. touted that as the second coming of the 80s slasher flick, and promised that their bad guy would join the ranks of Freddy and Jason in horror film notoriousness.  That flick turned out to be a weak sppof of the real deals.  But again, you couldn't help but appreciate their enthusiasm. 

Just as Hatchet was in love with being the "return of the slasher flick", Frozen is in love with the mere simplicity of its own predicament.  Unfortunately, the gimmick doesn't evolve into much more than just that.  The three main players aren't very interesting, and the predicaments they face are either overwrought or underplayed.  The effort is there, as Green attempts to make his characters more dimensional, and create tension through their tenuous relationships. But again, they're just ideas of what more evolved characters should be.  There's hints of tension between the friends, when one guy tries to bring back the old days, before his best bud had the girlfriend.  But it never plays out with any real emotion.  In fact, the entire first act comes off more as a teen comedy, with pranks and witty banter.  So when all those personal tensions finally explode later in the film, at a very crucial moment, the idea of an emotional avalanche turns out to be about as moving as a soggy snowball.

You can just see Green's list of gimmicks ticking off as you watch, but those ideas don't amount to anything that we can care about.  The guy putting the girl in a veritable headlock so she can't watch her lover being eaten by wolves. The girl's hand freezes to the safety bar as they sleep, and her flesh tears as she pulls it off.  But why doesn't she tell anyone about it?  And why didn't her injury have any effect on their fight for survival?  Why do they all just sit and whine about regrets instead of doing something to get the hell off the lift?

I understand that Green was trying to create a more inward tension with all the contemplative dialogue, and with the tense friendships issues.  And I appreciate that.  I love character studies, so I dig it when personal quirks and personality issues get in the way of things.  These characters are people, and people fail miserably at shit all the time.  But in the end, it's gotta mean something.  It's gotta draw the audience in on a real gut emotion level.  So, when the two remaining friends have a petty argument about whose fault it was that the third died in a failed rescue attempt, and who was the real friend and who wasn't, it's downright tedious.  Like much of the emotion in this film, it comes off as terribly forced. When the fallen guy is being eaten alive by the wolves, the other dude holds the girlfriend's head, preventing her from looking, and all we really hear is the two of them crying and sobbing.  This misses the mark by a mile!  This isn't a teenage love story.  It's a horror flick! Let's feel the flesh being ripped as well as the hearts being broken. (For a good laugh, check out the alternate edit of this sequence with the boyfriend screaming "Don't let her look!" as he's being eaten).
Hey, where's all the tension?

Outside of the attempts to capture our emotions, Green's imagination for frightening scenarios is as limited as the settings.  He spent his load trying to create inner turmoil, but did very little at creating outward suspense.  His idea of mounting tension is by having one of the guys talk about how he heard somewhere that the ski lift cables are sharper than knives, and... well, gee, I guess I'm supposed to be shocked when the other dude gets his gloves torn when he attempts to shimmy across one.  Green also dips into the killer-wolves well a whopping three times.  It barely worked once, so when the pack reappears, I couldn't help but wonder how many more times they'd be back.

I really do get disappointed when you come across these flicks that create buzz on the mere idea of the premise.  It really does take more than a gimmick to capture the audience.  And with such a strong gimmick as was in Frozen, I wish that Adam Green had the sense to hand off the premise to someone with more talent at storytelling.  I'd love to have seen Frozen as a nice taut white-knuckle ride.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

CONTEST TIME: Win a Blu-Ray Copy of FROZEN

Stuck on a chair-lift at a closed down ski resort?  Got nuthin' to do?  Bored of watching the frostbite eat away your cheek?  Well, why not enter this here contest!!

That's right.  You can be the proud owner of your very own Blu-Ray copy of the upcoming release Frozen!  But wait!  Whoa whoa!!  Before you go shussbooming down the slopes in a fired up hurry, don't forget to apply your lip balm.  Yes!!  That's right.  Not only do you get a hi-def Blu-Ray copy of the new Adam Green flick, but you also snag a one of a kind stick of Frozen Lip Balm (for promotional use only -- lip balm will not protect you from stalled chair-lifts or bad movies).

Here's what to do... Just show/tell me why I shouldn't be pissed that the summer is ending at that winter is fast approaching.  Pictures, stories, videos... yours someone else's, found, whatever!

Go to the Bad Ronald FaceBook Contest page and post 'er there.
I'm gonna win!  No, I'm gonna win!!  Giggle giggle

PEEPHOLE REVIEW: Sharktopus! Syfy Goes Shark Crazy

Here we go again!  Another shark-buster washes ashore the SyFy Channel, with another washed-up celeb tied to it.
If you're not expecting much -- and, I believe that if you're turning to SyFy for your entertainment, you're not -- then you're in luck!  Sharktopus should delight you.

Like all their other (fallen) star-studded beast pics, this SyFy flick is filled with more cheese than a Pizza Hut stuffed crust pizza. This time around they've corralled Eric Roberts (do these guys' agents call SyFy to try and get their careers boosted. now that these beast-cheesers are so popular?) as the what-ever-happened-to? big name draw. Roberts plays a scientist who's created a shark/octopus monster mash-up for the Coast Guard-like folks to try and help them curb the offshore drug smugglers.  Naturally things go wrong and loads of people get squished and eaten by the behemoth beast.
I'm not gonna knock the acting on this small screen screamer, but I will say that in keeping with these SyFy cheapies, the acting is about as shabby as you can get.  The dialogue is just classic cheeseball ("They're just boobs. They're not gonna get up and dance or anything.") and the action is, especially the kills, designed to make you groan with utter guilty pleasure.  Of course, what would a beast blockbuster be without the babes and bikinis.
Sharktopussy! Can you believe she's the scientist?  [co-star Sara Malakul Lane]
It's not gonna keep you out of the water, or in stitches.  But, it'll do for a couple laughs.

Monday, September 13, 2010

PEEPHOLE REVIEW: Nunsploitation Double Feature!

School of the Holy Beast has got a little something for everyone across the genre board. For fans of Nunsploitation you've got your nubile nuns struggling to hold onto virtue. You've got Gothic mystery and bloodletting for the Horror fans. For the Sexploitation groupies, there’re chicks playing with switchblades and with each other. And S&M for fans of that kinda stuff.

And then there's the exquisite young Asian beauties for all the… well... anyone.

Yumi Takigawa (Virus) plays Maya, a free spirited girl who (accompanied by a backdrop of awesome music that you could only find in the 70s) sets out on a pleasure binge before going off to a place where she hears that "women aren't women." That would be the Sacred Hearts Convent.

It's not sexual guilt that drives the orphaned teen to the nunnery, but an 18-year long quest to find out what happened to her mother who died there many years ago. Answers to the mystery don't come easy, because the Mother Superior and her Sisters are busy repressing their own sexuality and having the young nuns run around topless and flogging each other bloody. With help from the rebellious Matsuko – a fellow nun who openly denounces the Immaculate Conception and taunts the other Sisters with digs like "You look decent, but you all just want to get laid" – Maya ventures to uncover the mystery of her mother's death, while trying to avoid the same horrendous fate.

Besides capturing the obvious miles of silky flesh, the cinematography is brilliant, imaginative, and often times poetic. Director Norifumi Suzuki gained notoriety with his salacious entries to the Japanese Sukeban – or teenage girl deliquent - genre which, although released as exploitation flicks, were well oiled vehicles of social commentary. Suzuki doesn't fail to live up to the cause by ripping into the hypocrisy and corruption of the Church with a film hailed as Japan's most shocking Nunsploitation flick.

Previously available from Cult Epics, School of the Holy Beast has now been repackaged in a 2 DVD set -- The Nunsploitation Convent -- with Walerian Borowczyk's saucy Behind Convent Walls. Borowczyk already shocked the cult world with his bestiality laced fairy tale The Beast, so with Convent he tackles the Nuns, the story of a zealous, handsome priest, who is the confessor for a convent full of women.  His dubious treatment of the girls in his charge uncovers a snake pit of sexual couplings, both lesbian and heterosexual. Meanwhile, a particularly disturbed inmate manages to poison herself and many of the other novitiates in yet another scandal which is covered up by church authorities. If you've had the pleasure of viewing any of Borowczyk's exploitation gems, you won't be disappointed with this one.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

REVIEW: Avere Vent’anni (aka To Be Twenty)

Young, Sexy and Pissed

Two free-wheelin’ young ladies, Lia and Tina (Italian sex starlets Gloria Guida and Lilli Carati), meet and realize they are both “young, beautiful and pissed off” (as they like to tell everyone they meet), so they decide to pair up and enjoy the simplicity and freedom of the hippie lifestyle in 1970’s Italy. They hitchhike their way to Rome to find a popular commune they’d heard about, where they could stay for free and have all the free love they want or so they would think. When they arrive, they discover that the men are all too stoned to get it on, and that the gals are expected to pay for their lodging. Not having the desire to become cleaning women, the girls are forced to use their natural charms to earn their keep. This only angers the other chicks of the commune who want to be — ironically — liberated from their hippie female roles.

Life at the commune gets even worse as the police raid the joint looking for drugs, and Tina and Lia are sent packing by the fuzz. Back on the road the lovely pair again seeks fun and free love, only to run into a gang of thugs at a roadside cafe. What follows is one of the most horrific and shocking endings in the history of cinema.

This is the notorious film from the Italian crime/thriller director Fernando di Leo that shocked everyone with its no-holds-barred climactic ending that seemed to come out of nowhere. For the duration of the film the audience is treated to what appears to be a simple comedic sexual romp of a pair of sex kittens who just wanna have some fun. Within all the sexual hijinx, though, di Leo has of social and political commentary peppered throughout—nothing to beat you over the head with, but nonetheless it’s present and up for interpretation. There are the hippie women who rebel by displaying their maternal prowess; there’s the commune host who acts more like a salesman than a hippie guru; but most provocative is the back-story of the two heroines, Lia and Tina. 

Both girls proclaim to be free wheelin’, free lovin’ hippies, but each sexual exploit is met by some kind of personal issue. Tina, the more adventurous of the pair, wants boys boys boys! But never seems to want them if they actually want her. She’s really into the seduction part. And then there’s Lia, who divulges that she doesn’t even really like sex, despite her many lovers—both male and female—she’s only into the attention. She learned when she was real young that sex gets attention—even if it’s from some salty old neighbor who molested her—she was into the attention. 

The girls never do find what they’re looking for, and they don’t get the answers to the unasked questions that seem to puzzle them. What they do find is a world that spins around on its own, never living up to their personal expectations, and uses and abuses them without them ever really realizing it. They naively and selfishly pursue their own whim, keeping the rest of the world at an arms length, avoiding the consequences of their rebelliousness and their sexually free lifestyle. Only until they come across a bunch of macho men who have their own problem with keeping within ethical boundaries do they get their wake up call. When the two worlds collide, the horrifying outcome is undeniably ruthless and unsympathetic, but certainly doesn’t seem so out of place with the underlying unspoken commentary. Avere Vent’anni is a twisted little flick with an ending that shakes the viewer up and demands their attention.

Luminous Film and Video Works has released this gem all wrapped up in a nice package, bundling together the two contrasting versions of this film onto two discs—the original Italian version with all the sexual romps intact, as well as the brutal climax in full; and the American version that plays up the guise of sex comedy to full proportions (playing down the violent climax), because us Americans can't handle too much titillation.  We're so silly.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

PEEPHOLE REVIEW: Welcome to Arrow Beach (1974)

Who's Watching!
Laurence Harvey (best known for his work in The Manchurian Candidate) stars as Jason Henry, a lecherous photographer with an inhuman "hunger" for young girls. He shares a lavish mansion – as well as some inappropriately passionate kisses – with his sister Grace (familiar 70s TV actress Joanna Pettet) in the quiet seaside town of Arrow Beach. When a free-spirited hippie chick named Robin (the crystal-blue eyed Meg Foster) decides to skinny dip on Jason Henry's private beach, the gentlemanly letch invites her in for a hot meal, a warm bath (thank you) and a comfy bed. This nubile young houseguest doesn't sit well with Jason's cagey sister, who tries to hide her brother's dark, dirty secret behind a locked cellar door. But what would a horror flick be if the curious young guest didn't wind up trapped in the labyrinthine basement, hunting down the source of a strange whacking sound? The answer falls somewhere between Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

It's a curiosity why Laurence Harvey picked this project, also known as Tender Flesh, for his directorial debut. The role of the cannibalistic ex-Korean War Vet turned fashion photographer gives the accomplished actor plenty to chew on – and he does a fine job with it – but his direction falls a bit short of matching the intensity of his performance. There are moments of horrific promise, like a sequence that flashes from an unsuspecting Robin eating a "steak" to shots of the victim who supplied the prime cut from his shoulder. And whatever Harvey did to get the brilliantly riled-up performance out of Stuart Whitman (as an embittered Deputy) was perfect. Unfortunately, Harvey became ill after shooting the film and was sidelined during most of the editing, leaving the studio in charge of the final cut. As a result, most of the movie's more horrific moments are left on the editing room floor (a flashback hints that Jason Henry's taste for human flesh was the result of a war-time plane crash, but we never get the gory details), and the sum total of murders seen on screen reaches a whopping one, leaving Arrow Beach more heavy on performances than gore. Still, for fans of obscure 70s "shockers," it’s well worth the 84 minutes.

It's a very rare gem, but you can find it at Luminous Film & Video Wurks

Thursday, September 2, 2010

REVIEW: After.Life (2010)

Happy Birthday Suit Christina Ricci!
There's been a pleasant resurgence of genre flicks that have opted out of the once trendy twisty-turny-try-and-fool-ya plot gimmicks, and are delivering simpler stories that build suspense. The emphasis is a swing back to the story, and away from the storyteller.

But, let me welcome back another horror staple, a once prominent element of horror flicks that sadly went missing in the post-Scream era. Nudity!! It's returned in such a fashion that it's almost a movement. A revolution! Okay, yeah... some movies were a tad overzealous and blatant in their displays (the Friday the 13th and My Bloody Valentine remakes). But, either way... welcome home.

Afterall, what are we so uptight about, still? Nudity is on network TVs across the world, while we still giggle and peek (giggle giggle).

The story follows Anna (Ricci), a young woman unable to find the joys in life. Then suddenly-- she's dead. After a horrific car accident, she "wakes up" while Eliot the funeral director (Liam Neeson) is preparing her body for her own funeral. Anna is convinced that she's still alive, but Eliot explains that her confusion is not all that uncommon, and he's heard it many times form the bodies he's prepared over the years. Creepy, eh?

Well... the premise on paper if a lot creepier than the action in the film. It's not for the lack of the performances. Neeson is as good as he always is, giving the creepy mortician a shade of sorrow [it should be noted that filming had already wrapped on After.Life a few months prior to his wife Natasha Richardson's fatal ski accident, but her tragedy oddly resonates throughout the film and his performance]. Justin Long (on his quest to be in every movie ever made) plays Anna's grief-stricken boyfriend, with the standard long-faced confusion. But -- hello Christina Ricci!
It's difficult to judge a movie like After.Life, when the young starlet decides to parade around full frontal for the entire second act. Did I really enjoy the movie as a whole, or did I just enjoy watching Christina Ricci putting herself on display? The fact is, the nudity was a bit more enjoyable in the end.

The script was clean of overt cleverness, but it lacked genuine creepiness. Eliot's weirdness is already evident in the fact that he "speaks" to the dead. And the element of suspense lies in whether he is telling Anna the truth, that she is really dead and is not being held hostage. But, his wall of snapshots, cataloging the cast of bodies he's prepared and helped usher into the afterlife, is too deliberate and hokey. However, the relationship he broaches with a young student of Anna's (Chandler Canterbury), a budding ghost whisperer himself, seemed a more interesting avenue to exploring Eliot's character.
Director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo (who also wrote the script with Paul Vosloo and Jakub Korolczuk) has an interesting style, using colors or word phrases as motifs. The environments in which Anna lives in, and where Eliot works, are sterile white, brightly lit, or shiny clean. Red is a symbol of death -- or is it life? These are the bits where the direction is solid. But, the building of suspense or mood-- and again, this may have just as much to do with his script -- is lacking.