Back with some capsule reviews. These have been in the can for a while, but a mixture of grad school, work, and the hard drive for my desktop computer blowing up it's been a bugger of a time getting some new horror posts up. I have a review for Maniac ready to go, too, but I'm still waiting for my computer to get fixed so I can get some screencaps up (my Netbook doesn't have a disc drive). In these capsule reviews you'll find brief thoughts on the Ozploitation version of Rear Window, a zombie movie penned by the man who came up with the idea for Alien, One of the best worst movies I've ever seen (one that would make Umberto Lenzi proud), and possibly one of the worst horror sequels I've ever seen. Reviews after the jump...
"Who digs a hole in the middle of nowhere?
This line kickstarts what is a great little Australian thriller – about a truck driver named Quin (Stacy Keach) obsessed with a van that he thinks is responsible for the slew of dead female hitchhikers – that is more Rear Window than The Hitcher. So, it only gets a paragraph because it's not really a horror movie, even though the queen herself, Jamie Lee Curtis, shows up half-way into the film. There are some great moments of tension in the film (constructed out of very minimalist effects, after all, the film almost entirely takes place in the cab of a semi truck), but there's nothing here that makes the film a slasher. Thanks to the wonderful documentary about the Ozploitation movement in Not Quite Hollywood, I was able to hear about this film directed by Richard Franklin (Psycho II and the Australian cult hit Patrick), and about how it kind of pissed off the Australian filmmaking community because it used well-known American actors. However, Keach and Curtis are outstanding here essentially playing James Stewart and Grace Kelly, and there are some wonderful taut scenes throughout. However, the pacing is quite deliberate, so be warned: not a lot happens in this film. The ending is kind of a chore, but the set pieces are nice, and the Franklin is able to elicit some good tension out of Keach being confined to the cab of a semi truck (much in the same way Stewart was confined to his wheelchair in Rear Window) for almost the entirety of the film. It's all a slow burn, and at time the deliberate pacing is a chore to get through; however, the good outweighs the bad by a mile as the film is a lot of fun (thanks to the performances) with its classic storyline that pays homage to Rear Window in a respectful way.
Well, here's one of those movies that is so-bad-it's-good. It's like the best of Umberto Lenzi (Nightmare City) and Lucio Fulci, mixed with the cheese of Bert I. Gordon films. So, in other words: it's gloirious. Since these types of movies are never as fun to read about as they are to watch I'll keep this brief:
- The acting is so wonderfully awful, and it just reeks of the 80's. It just may be some of the most wooden acting I've ever seen in a horror movie with a semi-budget.
- Of course the only scientist in town is British, and he looks like a cross between Dario Argento and Jeff Van Gundy.
- The character Phillips, who I think is the town's water deputy or something like that, I couldn't figure it out, is the poor mans Leslie Nielson. He utters brilliant lines like: "You aint got the authority to declare Happy Birthday, not in this town…now get your ass out of here!" Brilliant.
- You know you're in trouble when the director's idea of tension is cutting back and forth between each actor's lines and any kind of reaction from periphery characters. This film has TONS of reaction shots, and they're all gloriously awful.
- There's a lot of cheap blood and guts in this film as the slugs simply sit on top of a victim, make loud snail-like noises, like the silly snails and spiders of Fulci's horror movies, as we see traces of guts through the horde of slugs.
- One of the film's best moments comes when a man in a restaurant starts choking, falls off his chair, and then has his eye explode as a stream of slugs comes flying out of the empty eye socket. It reminded yet again of something right out of a Fulci film.
- Like any good D-grade horror movie the film consists of a lot exposition to not only explain the confusing story, but also to pad the film to an excruciating extent.
I know I'm preaching to the choir when I speak to how entertaining this kind of bad movie is, so, if you're one of those people and you haven't seen Slugs yet, what are you waiting for!
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2:
I have no interest in spending more than a few sentences on this movie. Perhaps I just don't get it, but I didn't find this movie the least horrifying, funny, or clever; and if it wasn't for a hilariously over-the-top (and all too sparsely featured) performance by Dennis Hopper, this would have gone down as one of the worst and most unnecessary sequels ever made. It's an interesting premise as Hooper tries to take the nihilism from the first film and re-channel it to be some kind of jokey, tongue-in-cheek horror movie that features way too much of the cannibal chainsaw family we only briefly saw in the first film. The sequel is at times excruciatingly repetitive and way too long. Despite its great set piece at the end, and the aforementioned great performance by Dennis Hopper, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is just too much of chore to get through with attempts at industry-specific humor that ends up just falling flat on its face. A missed opportunity that shows Hooper really was merely a one hit wonder. (Note: I admit that I am probably one of the few horror buffs that doesn't slurp up and gush all over the original TCM, so take that for what it's worth. Yeah, I may be a bit harsh on Hooper, but I've just never been impressed with the man's abilities as a filmmaker.)
Dead and Buried:
Gary Sherman's (Death Line aka Raw Meat) Dead and Buried is an interesting take on the zombie film. Sometimes great and atmospheric, and sometimes a bit slow and plodding it's ultimately more of a curiosity for hardcore horror/exploitation fans. From a Dan O'Bannon (Alien) screenplay, Dead and Buried begins benignly enough as a passer-through taking snapshots of the beach. When he happens upon a beautiful stranger he begins taking pictures of her. This seemingly serene beginning has your typical soft focused, early 80's aesthetic; however, it turns ugly quickly as just as the poor bastard's about to get some on the beach a horde of creepies come sidling up to him and proceed to set the man on fire. It's quite a jolt, a legitimate shock after the almost comatose tone of the preceding five minutes. The scene of the photag on fire is nicely juxtaposed with the peaceful environmental surroundings. He survives the attack, but by design, as we come to find out that the small town of Potter's Bluff is attacking and murdering people to create a race of zombies.
Now these aren't your typical zombies that plod along and groan and moan for "more braaaaaains"; no, these zombies are simply reanimated corpses…in the voodoo sense. The film is an interesting mishmash of exploitation film and a more cerebral horror film, and it never really takes off despite the film's eerie tone and atmosphere. I like that Sherman tells us immediately who the killers are, and that the mystery is more interested in whether the sheriff of the New England town, Dan Gillis (James Farentino), can catch on that there's something really weird happening under his nose. It's not just the murders, but there's something else going on: Gillis' wife keeps disappearing at odd times of the night and people we've seen murdered keep popping up around town. Dead and Buried is at its best when focuses in on these moments; however, they are few and far between as the deliberate pacing really hurts the film.
There a few standout scenes, though: viewers will recognize one scene where the attractive woman on the beach at the beginning of the film dresses up as a nurse and pays a visit with macabre intentions to the burn victim from the beginning of the film. Quentin Tarantino would late homage this scene with Daryl Hannah in Kill Bill. The other scene is near the end when sheriff Gillis watches an old reel-to-reel of his wife and him making love, and an evil secret is revealed. It's quite an eerie scene as the town's coroner (Jack Albertson) watches with delight as his master plan is revealed. Dead and Buried isn't the greatest horror film of 1981, and it certainly doesn't live up to the talent that worked on the film, but it is a decent enough horror film with some creepy moments as the fog drenched town of Potter's Bluff makes for a good creepy atmosphere. Just be warned, the film is pretty deliberate in its pacing inducing more than a few yawns. (Note: This movie was inexplicably added to the infamous 'Video Nasties' list in 1984. I have no idea why. There's nothing remotely 'nasty' about this movie. Just further proof that people were overreacting to horror films in the 80's.)