Posts Tagged ‘Conspiracy


The Beast Within (1982)

beastwithinposterI’m not quite sure where to begin with The Beast Within. I sort of assumed, just by its name, that it was a werewolf movie, but it’s not that at all. After having watched it, I’m still not exactly sure what it’s all about. I also assumed that Ronny Cox would play a huge dick in it, because that’s what Ronny Cox does. But he doesn’t! He plays a normal dude! In fact, he plays a dad very concerned about his son. See what happens when you assume? Anyway, I’m not sure The Beast Within will overturn all your expectations, but it certainly is different than your typical horror flick.

The plot is super convoluted, which is one of the film’s shortcomings. If I were to go in-depth not only would this be a 2,000-word blog post, it would also be rife with spoilers. So I’ll do my best to keep it short and sweet. During their honeymoon, Caroline and Eli (Cox) MacLeary run into some car trouble. Eli runs to get help, leaving Caroline and their dog with the car. The dog sees something in the woods (because everyone has car trouble while they’re near the spooky woods) and bolts. Caroline of course goes after the dog, and is mauled and raped by someone… or something.

Caroline and Eli do some digging.

Caroline and Eli do some digging.

Seventeen years later, their son Michael is having some serious medical issues. Fearing they might be genetic, the couple must come to terms with the fact that Michael is the result of Caroline’s rape. So like any loving pair of parents they head to the town where it all went down to look for any information on Michael’s biological father. When they get there, they are confronted with nothing but spooky folks who refuse to cooperate, or even acknowledge that anything bad ever happened in their town. Luckily, Caroline finds a lead while fishing through the library’s old newspapers. Strangely enough, the folks tied to Caroline’s mysterious lead start dying horfiffic deaths, and Michael is becoming less and less like himself…

Yowza, this movie is so all over the place, and so strange! As I said before, the plot is circuitous and confusing and just generally batshitty, and it’s more than a little distracting. I think if it had been simplified even just a little bit, it

The beast within finally comes out...

The beast within finally comes out…

would have made a world of difference. That being said, I still admire how much this movie tries to cram into its 98 minutes, and I certainly didn’t find myself bored or exasperated by it, and for me that’s always a bonus. It even has stuff it wants to say about small-town nepotism and the beasts we all become once we grow into adults, even if it’s done a little clumsily. The performances are all pretty good too; even old Ronny Cox is convincing as a normal dude, which I never thought I’d say. But probably the best thing The Beast Within has got going for it is the practical special effects; damn, that shit looks good.

Apologies for this rather ambiguous post, but I don’t want to give too much away. This movie was fun in large part because I didn’t know what to expect, and I hate it when I accidentally fall down the trap of wasting paragraph upon paragraph detailing the plot. I think this movie is definitely worth your time, so long as you have patience enough to deal with a rather mystifying plot and a weird obsession with locusts.


Slam Dance (1987)

On those nights when Q and I simply can’t agree on what to watch, and neither of us have strong feelings one way or another, inevitably we turn to the bowl of shame. The bowl of shame is where we keep our cull* list, so when we turn to it, we’re indecisive, desperate, or both. In our younger days when we were more vital and resilient, we’d

The bowl of shame.

The bowl of shame.

watch the cull list through, with no breaks for “good” movies. But perhaps we’ve been scarred by too many duds to attempt to live through such an experience again. At any rate, the bowl sits there mocking us, and some evenings we just can’t resist. The night we chose Slam Dance I recall being particularly whiny and inconsolable, for what reason, I don’t know. I thought the title seemed promising, and knowing it was written by Don Opper of Android fame made it all the more enticing.

Unfortunately, the movie is pretty exhausting straight from the get-go. C.C. Drood (Tom Hulce) is a cartoonist keeping his head just above water. He lives in what looks like a large shower, though by all accounts it is his apartment. Maybe it looks like shit because it’s just temporary: he and his wife Helen (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) are taking a break, and the guy needs a place to hole up for a while. That’s what happens when you get frisky with a call girl named Yolanda (Virginia Madsen).

But what happens when that call girl is found murdered? Obviously the cops and the murderers try to pin it on a doofus cartoonist, right? Of course! Drood finds himself in a web of, well, very bad things, and not even Good Cop Benjamin Smiley (Harry Dean Stanton) can seem to shake him out of it. Who’s behind this whole thing? Is it Detective Gilbert (John Doe), who seems pretty clearly hellbent on blaming Drood for the whole affair, and then some? Or what about Drood’s shady art dealer Campbell (Adam Ant); maybe he’d like to put Drood away for good so he can keep on banging his wife? Or, I don’t know, maybe it’s the lesbian madam who was in love with Yolanda?

Even the cover is annoying.

Even the cover is annoying.

Ultimately, who fucking cares? I certainly didn’t give a shit who lived, died, or lied in this movie. I did learn a few things, though: 1) I don’t like Tom Hulce. 2) I don’t like Virginia Madsen. 3) Don Opper should stick to movies about robots. 4) Harry Dean Stanton can’t save every movie he’s in. 5) Perhaps I should stay away from anything billed as an “erotic thriller.”

I can’t put my finger on exactly why this movie was so irritating. Perhaps it was simply that it thought it was way more clever than it actually was. There’s sort of this Doppelgänger thing going on, and that’s not interesting. And crooked cops aren’t really interesting. And philandering husbands aren’t interesting. And lesbian call girls are perhaps the least interesting thing of all. Maybe this movie might have been, like, subversive if it had been made in the 1950’s or something… but for 1987 it just looks like a coked-out mess. Gladly putting this one on the discard pile. Sorry, Don.

*Q and I have decided it’s time for a great cull; an early spring cleaning. We have a large number of movies we have not yet seen. Are these movies any good? This is the question we are out to answer. If it’s no good, out it goes.


Capricorn One (1977)

When Q attempts to market a “serious” movie to me, I’m usually very disappointed. Especially when that movie purports to be space-themed; I’m used to my space science fiction being goofy and low-budget. No Gravity or Interstellar for this gal, please! So when he told me Capricorn One was, ahem, serious, I tried my best to get out of watching it. But, as you’d think I’d have learned by now, Q usually knows what he’s talking about, and Capricorn One, as serious as it is, is definitely well worth your time!

O. J. Simpson and Sam Waterston wanna know, what's the big idea?!

O. J. Simpson and Sam Waterston wanna know, what’s the big idea?!

Fifty seconds before lift-off to Mars, the astronauts of Capricorn One are instructed to leave the shuttle. Fifty seconds later, the shuttle takes off – without anyone inside. Astronauts Brubaker (James Brolin), Willis (Sam Waterston) and Walker (O.J. Simpson) demand to know what the hell is going on.  Kelloway (Hal Holbrook), a NASA bigwig, sits them down at a table and tells them they’ve been removed from the shuttle because at the last minute, it was discovered the company who built the life support systems majorly skimped; the fellas would’ve been dead in three weeks.

So, why not just cancel the mission for today, fix the problem, and resume at a later date? Well, when the president tells you not to botch another mission or else Congress is going to defund the Mars program entirely, the last thing you want to do is admit to another botched mission! Instead, wouldn’t you create an elaborate hoax to convince the President, and the millions of Americans who adore you, that you’re on Mars? After all, it’s really important to keep Americans interested in NASA and its various exploratory programs.

Mars on Earth.

Mars on Earth.

Never quite sure if they should, or can, keep up the charade for very long, the astronauts do it anyway. After all, their families’ lives have been threatened if they don’t follow through with the plan. The blissfully ignorant American public eats it up, except for one guy, the troublesome reporter Robert Caulfield (Elliot Gould). But he can’t get anyone to take his ideas seriously. How can he and three little astronauts take on the American government?

I was just so impressed with this movie. Not only is it serious, it’s also over two hours! This is usually a fatal blow to any movie’s potential, but never did Capricorn One start to feel long in the tooth. It had me on the edge of my seat up through until the very end. And, even though we never set foot in space, it’s a great adventure worth going on. Boy, that sounds cheesy; I guess I just can’t hide my enthusiasm for this movie. Maybe it’s just because I distrust everything and everyone and really dig movies about paranoia and vast conspiracies? Yeah, well, okay, it might be that.

Telly Savalas and Elliott Gould in the next installment of Adventures in Crop Dusting!

Telly Savalas and Elliott Gould in the next installment of Adventures in Crop Dusting!

But this movie has much more to offer than a plateful of paranoia; it is extremely well-paced, and everyone (well, almost everyone; I’m looking at you O.J.) turns in a great performance. Waterston is a right smart-ass, and as usual a complete joy to watch. And Gould, well, god dammit Elliott Gould is just as good in this as he is in The Long Goodbye. Look for David Huddleston (The Big Lebowski from The Big Lebowski) as a real peach of a Congressman, and a hilarious turn by Telly Savalas as a renegade crop duster!

I have to say, I’m pretty surprised this movie wasn’t more positively received, and even more surprised I’d never heard of it until Q pulled it off one of the shelves. It’s totally legit! It’s a lot of fun to watch; certainly not a bad way to spend an evening. The only thing that seems like its missing is Tom Skerritt. For some reason I just feel like he should’ve been in this movie… but shouldn’t he be in every movie?


Black Horizon (2002)

HughJanusThe Cull* is off to a very good start indeed. By good, I mean we’re watching movies that are so bad we’re getting rid of them! There is a sense of accomplishment to it, which is really good, because otherwise watching these movies would be a complete and utter waste of time. I do have to admit, though, to wondering why in hell we ever picked up such dreck in the first place? It’s as if used-media stores pump a drug through their air ducts that causes Q and I to be attracted to some of the dumbest looking movies around. And perhaps if we’d noticed Black Horizon was produced by a guy who claims the name HUGH JANUS, we would have put it down for someone else to throw money at. But we didn’t notice… until it was too late.

I admit to being confused by this movie at the get-go: it is very obviously a movie about a failing Russian space station, but starts off with some sort of drug bust. Jeffries (Ice-T) is some sort of Fed who’s gotten himself into trouble right before the bust is about to go down. His good buddy McKendrick saves his ass, and at the end of the disastrous bust they all have a good, hearty chuckle.

Sailor in space

Sailor in space

Once the opening credits roll, we get to the real meat of the film: McKendrick, an ex-Navy salvage diver is going to join Ed Carpenter, a pumped-up Macho man and his crew manning a shuttle to the AVNA space station. Seems systems are failing on the station, but important technology that could save the world needs to be salvaged. So of course you send a navy diver to do the job, right? Especially one that’s afraid of heights, right? Yeah, duh.

Things of course are much more complicated than anyone at NASA could have guessed. First, the space station has just been pelted with meteors – and more are on the way! Their communication system is down, so they’re unable to warn the hearty, brave Americans who are coming to save them that they’ll be in danger. Katherine, the leading scientist on the station, apparently skimped on some necessities while approving the blueprints for AVNA, and now she and her Russian crew are suffering the consequences.

If Dane Cook and Ryan Reynolds had a brother that ate cheeseburgers and couldn't do a Russian accent, it'd be this guy.

If Dane Cook and Ryan Reynolds had a brother that ate cheeseburgers and couldn’t do a Russian accent, it’d be this guy.

But perhaps worst of all, Katherine’s uncle Owen, a mega-capitalist of epic proportions, is hellbent on preventing the salvage mission’s success. Because the space station is such bullshit, if word got out about how shitty everything is his company’s stock would continue to plummet, resulting in the end of his glorious empire. Who cares that his niece is on board? They weren’t that close anyway! And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for Jeffries’ snooping around and general badassery!

Black Horizon is not a good movie. It’s not a good movie at all. The plot is very disjointed, skipping and jumping from one setting to another, and using stock footage to remind us whether we’re on earth or in space. The characters are so one-dimensional it hurts, from the badass, macho leader to the sexy, take-no-prisoners chick pilot, to the evil capitalist uncle and, of course, the drunken Russian. It’s almost like the writers took pieces from existing stories and glued them together very poorly, kind of how you’d expect a toddler to complete a jigsaw puzzle.

Ice-T wants to know why they gave him all the worst lines?

Ice-T wants to know why they gave him all the worst lines?

Aside from lackluster writing, the cast delivers us some very flat performances indeed. Look, I want to like Ice-T, I really do. I want him to be a great actor. But here, watching him is just excruciating. I don’t think it’s entirely his fault, he’s obviously not given much to work with, and his character is given all the worst one-liners in the film; a pretty insurmountable fate.

This is just another one of those movies that makes me shrug my shoulders and ask: why? Why bother making something this inept, this derivative, this nonchalant? After a movie like this is over, I always marvel at all the names that roll in the credits, reminding myself that it took all these people to make one giant piece of shit. Needless to say, this one won’t be going back on the shelf. Sorry, Ice-T.

*Q and I have decided it’s time for a great cull; an early spring cleaning. We have a large number of movies we have not yet seen. Are these movies any good? This is the question we are out to answer. If it’s no good, out it goes.


Payback (1995)

It’s been a little over two years since Q and I decided it was time to cull the old movie collection. When you have 2,000+ titles and limited space, this type of slaughter is necessary. Last cull was a bit rough, though, so we’re intermingling this one with a good movie or two – just to keep our sanity. Anyway, somewhere along the line, as I’ve probably already explained in some other blog post somewhere, Q got this thing for Anthony Hickox. To be fair, he’s responsible for a few really enjoyable flicks, like Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, Full Eclipse, and Warlock: The Armageddon. What these movies have in common is that they’re all horror flicks. Unfortunately Payback, today’s selection for the cull, can’t in any way be considered horror.

paybackOscar (Soul Man‘s C. Thomas Howell) and Mac are the best prison friends. Mac’s a little older, and Oscar watches out for him, especially when the evil prison guard Gully gets on Mac’s case. See, Gully knows that Mac has hidden a fuckton of cash somewhere, and he’s hellbent on finding it – even if it means murder! One day, Gully takes it too far, buries Mac in a pile of trash, and ends up killing him. On Mac’s deathbed, he tells Oscar that boatload of cash is his, if he promises to murder Gully once he makes it out of prison. All he needs to do is swipe that little watercolor painting he keeps in his cell, and the secret riches will be his.

But – oh, no! – Gully’s not as dumb as he looks! He’s already taken the watercolor painting! Looks like Oscar’s going to have to find the cash without the clue, and only hope that Gully won’t get there first. Of course, turns out it’ll be difficult for Gully to use his stolen clue; he’s had an unfortunate accident and now he’s blind! Well that’ll make Oscar’s revenge that much easier to exact. There’s just one thing standing in his way now – Gully’s hot wife in a two-sizes-too-small waitress uniform, Rose. Oscar worms his way into their daily life, an easy thing to do since Gully can’t actually see who he is, and ends up working Gully’s restaurant for room and board.

It takes entirely too long for Oscar and Rose to finally bang, but they do, and money is found, and lost, and there are all these very predictable twists and turns, and since no one in this movie is a good person, they’re basically all gonna get their very own, personal ‘payback.’

I suspect the only reason this film somehow managed to score a 5.8 on IMDb is the dripping-hot sex scene where C. Thomas Howell’s ass gets up close and personal with the hood of a car under a barn. Didn’t you always want to see Soul Man getting busy? Oof. Why? Why? Also, I never realized how disgusting handlebar mustaches are until I saw Howell making out in this movie. Shiver. There are a lot of questionable things about this movie, but his casting in the lead ‘badass’ role tops the list for me. How’m I supposed to believe this little guy’s gonna take down Gully’s monster AND seduce his sorta-hot wife? His character also never really seems bought-in to anything, least of all revenge. Revenge should never be wishy-washy!

Of course, the plot and characters leave a lot to be desired as well. The real bad guys in this movie are as bad as the baddest baddies in an episode of Walker: Texas Ranger. We don’t know why they’re so angry, aggressive and greedy, they just are. They’ll judge a book by its cover and then punch it in the face before you can inhale. This kind of unchecked male aggression is so damn tiresome, and it seems to be everywhere. What’s the deal with that? Payback is just another of those movies about a bunch of shitty people doing shitty things that I don’t care about. When there’s no investment in character or plot development, what incentive is there to watch a film? The five minutes of C. Thomas Howell sex? I mean, I doubt it. There’s not even a lot of boobage in this. It’s got all the elements of one of those sexy crime dramas, but they’re all so half-assed, non-committal and obvious, I’m not sure why anyone even bothered to put this flick together.

So I’m happy to report that our videocassette copy of Payback will be relinquished to the discard pile, making room for something more deserving of my shelf space. Or, let’s be honest, making room for another piece of shit we’ll end up culling in another two years. What can I say, we have a sickness, and we’re not about to seek treatment any time soon.


Deathstalker II (1987)

I’ve never been too interested in fantasy movies. Not that I dislike the few that I’ve seen, it just hasn’t been a genre I’ve sought out. The first time I saw the Conan movies I was nearly thirty, and I definitely enjoyed them quite a bit. And just recently, I watched Krull for the first time – another fun movie! But there was something missing from these movies that kept them firmly in three-star territory, and that is self-awareness, something Deathstalker II has in spades!

Meet Deathstalker: negotiator extraordinaire, incorrigible playboy, King of thieves.

Meet Deathstalker: negotiator extraordinaire, incorrigible playboy, King of thieves.

Deathstalker (John Terlesky) is the king of thieves, scouring the medieval landscape for fortune and fame. Though he likes to come off as a selfish dude, it’s clear he can’t leave a damsel in distress behind, no matter how dim-witted she might be! When Deathstalker sees a peasant girl (Monique Gabrielle) beaten by the King’s guards, he fights back in her honor. After handily beating the oafish guards, Deathstalker decides it’s time for a little menage-a-trois, and hits up the local tavern for some sweet titties and a few brews. But it looks like our peasant girl is in some serious trouble, and desperately needs Deathstalker’s help! He really has no choice but to go along with her and her crazy story about how she is actually a princess, but Jarek the Sorcerer (John Lazar) cloned her and usurped the throne! She claims to be a seer, and promises Deathstalker that if he succeeds in helping her reclaim her throne, he will become a legend!

I never really thought of bananas as part of the sword-and-sorcery landscape, but Monique Gabrielle makes it look good!

I never really thought of bananas as part of the sword-and-sorcery landscape, but Monique Gabrielle makes it look good!

As the duo travel to the Princess’s castle, they encounter many strange things, like exploding dwarves, zombies, and a village of Amazon women! Each time, Deathstalker and the Princess make it out by the skin of their teeth, thanks mostly to Deathstalker’s unfailing charm and, of course, flawless physique! The Princess claims Jarek’s sword skills are superior to Deathstalker’s; what will happen when they make it to the castle? Can Deathstalker come through in the end?!

Sure there's plenty of boobs in Deathstalker II, but they throw the ladies a bone every once in a while!

Sure there’s plenty of boobs in Deathstalker II, but they throw the ladies a bone every once in a while!

Deathstalker II is 85 minutes of pure, idiotic enjoyment. I honestly can’t remember the last time I enjoyed watching a film as much as I enjoyed watching this one. The first time I saw it on VHS, I knew we needed to have a copy on DVD. After the second time I watched it, I had to watch it a third time the next day because it is so much FUN! This movie doesn’t take itself seriously for a single second, and that is the biggest reason for its success. The second-biggest reason is definitely Terlesky’s performance as Deathstalker. He is constantly winking, incorrigible to the max, and let’s admit it ladies, he’s pretty easy on the eyes. Next up is John Lazar’s Jarek, chewing up every bit of scenery he’s given, obviously having a blast.

John Lazar, hamming it up with the best of them!

John Lazar, hamming it up with the best of them!

Of course, for every good performance there are some equally bad ones: Monique Gabrielle’s acting is cringeworthy at best, and we get to see her in two different roles! That being said, as bad an actress as she proves to be in this film I thoroughly enjoy her performance here. I think it actually enhances the silliness of the movie in a positive way; unfortunately, Q does not agree! Then there’s Toni Naples who plays the evil Sultana, Jarek’s right-hand woman. She’s pretty awful too; she just isn’t in it as much as Gabrielle. But let’s get real here: we aren’t watching Deathstalker II for great acting, amirite? Both Gabrielle and Naples deliver just about as much as you should expect with lines like these! This movie delivers on everything it should: boobs, swords and sex. What more could anyone ask for?


Frankenstein’s Army (2013)

frankensteinsarmyposterWe blindly bought a used copy of Frankenstein’s Army from a pretty impressive horror section, like, in an actual store. It was one of those days where the stack of DVDs to purchase just got bigger and bigger, and I couldn’t think of a reason why I shouldn’t just throw another one on top. What’s another $3, I thought to myself? That was, of course, before I watched the trailer for the movie. If I’d seen that first, I probably would have put it back on the shelf in favor of something else. The good news is, the movie isn’t as bad as the trailer made me believe it would be. The bad news is, that doesn’t mean the movie’s good. Just a warning, this review is spoiler-y so if you care about that kind of shit, don’t read ahead.

A group of Russian soldiers are searching for some fallen comrades in Germany during World War II. This particular troop is lucky enough to be filmed, so the folks back home can see how the war effort is going, or something. Their search for their lost brethren takes them to a derelict building ridden with nun-corpses where they encounter strange creatures that come alive when met with an electrical current. The soldiers that are lucky enough to survive find out soon enough the man behind the movie camera is there for much more than recording. Turns out he’s actually running the whole operation: there are no fallen comrades; it’s all an undercover mission to bring the mad scientist Nazi Dr. Frankenstein (yes, the great grandson of you-know-who) back to Russia alive, where Uncle Joe can exploit the good doctor’s experiments that bring the dead back to life in robotic, weapon form.

Frankenstein’s Army is a movie constructed around the idea of its strange, monstrous creations. I guess the monsters were pretty cool, but the found-footage style of the film prevents us from getting any really good glimpses of the creatures. I definitely found myself asking what the film gained by using the found-footage format… and I have no answers. If anything, it detracted from the movie’s strongest assets, all while making me want to puke with its herky-jerky movements (not a novel found-footage complaint, I realize, but some movies do it better than others).


Dr. Frankenstein’s Brain Fusion

On top of that, all of the characters are all pretty gross. I never cared if any of them lived or died. Their relationships to each-other don’t offer anything new or interesting, it’s just your typical who’s-in-command-when-the-number-one-guy-dies-at-war conflicts, and the baddest of the baddies is insufferably, annoyingly evil. I was hoping at least Dr. Frankenstein would provide us with one interesting character, but when we finally meet him he’s pretty disappointing, too! Though he’s a little off-kilter (irritatingly, ‘quirky’ is probably the best word to describe him), he’s annoyingly calculated and mechanical (hehe, get it?). I wanted him to be a much more entertainingly unhinged ‘mad’ scientist than he ended up being.

So, what does Frankenstein’s Army have to offer? Well, aside from the few shots of robot monsters (dubbed zombots), not much. Even then, you can’t really see them enough to appreciate the work that went into creating them, which is a damn shame. There’s tons of gross-out gore, including a shot of Dr. Frankenstein attempting to fuse half a gooey Nazi brain with half a gooey Communist brain in all its squishy glory, so I guess if that’s what you’re looking for maybe this movie has something for you. But even still, I don’t find any of it very interestingly done. All in all a rather disappointing purchase that we won’t be keeping.


Old Wave