Posts Tagged ‘Magic

12
Oct
15

Puffball: The Devil’s Eyeball (2007)

Just a little over three years ago, I packed a bag and housesat in the middle-of-nowhere Montana for six weeks. With not much else to do, Q and I decided we’d watch at least a movie a day. Montana was also the catalyst for me to start blogging again; I’d actually started this blog a few years before that but let it languish, wilt and die. Anyway, we brought a giant binder of DVDs with us, and many DVDs went unwatched (like I said, giant binder). It occurred to us that October would be a fine time to pluck Nic Roeg’s Puffball: The Devil’s Eyeball from the binder and watch it.

Set in the Irish countryside, Puffball centers around Liffey, a young and successful architect who has taken on a project renovating an old, dilapidated cottage. She and her boyfriend Richard are eager to get started, when he unfortunately gets called away on business in New York. Luckily, they bone on an ancient rock (which is actually an altar to Odin, as explained by Donald Sutherland) before he heads out of town. Unluckily, the condom breaks. While Richard’s away, Liffey discovers she is pregnant, and she is not happy about it.

A slice of country heaven.

A slice of country heaven.

She has more than that to be unhappy about, though. Liffey’s closest neighbors are well-versed in ancient Druidic magic. Molly, the matriarch of the family, believes the baby Liffey is pregnant with was actually meant for her own daughter, Mabs (Miranda Richardson), who has been trying to get pregnant with a little boy for quite some time now, for reasons the film will cram down your throat. It’s not working out, and the local doctor refuses her fertility treatments saying she’s just too old to be a new mum. But Molly isn’t worried, she is fairly certain that her knowledge of magic, coupled with Mabs’ daughter Audrey’s natural powers can get the baby back to the right family. A little penis mushroom here, a little tainted alcohol there and voila! The baby will be in the right womb.

Nosy neighbors.

Nosy neighbors.

Well, unfortunately Molly and her witchy cohorts aren’t as in tune with Liffey’s pregnancy situation as they think. The lines get a little crossed, and their meddling causes some seriously bad mojo for everyone involved. Most of this is happening without Liffey even realizing it. But, in the end, Liffey decides to keep her baby, much to Mabs’ dismay, which leads to a very unsettling argument/labor situation that is DEFINITELY not something you want to watch if you are eight months pregnant!

Too old to breed.

Too old to breed.

I’m still not sure how I really feel about this movie. It definitely made me very uncomfortable, but how much of that has to do with my own pregnancy and imminent labor I can’t be sure. Certainly the idea that there are forces outside of us working to influence the outcome of a pregnancy is a terrifying one. What I for sure don’t like is the insatiable I-need-a-baby-now attitude that defines Miranda Richardson’s character. Sure, the film makes no bones about why Mabs feels this way, and I guess this was necessary to contrast Liffey’s I-definitely-don’t-want-a-baby-but-oops-accidentally-got-pregnant thing, but it really made me feel as though the filmmakers, or perhaps Fay Weldon, the author of the novel on which the film is based, think there are only two categories of women: those who wish to spawn, and those who don’t. That sort of dichotomy leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Life-changing sonogram.

Life-changing sonogram.

I have other problems with the film as well, but I’m afraid they’re mostly due to the budget Roeg had to work with. The film is very cheaply shot and reminds me of a throw-away television production. Sometimes I’m able to overlook stuff like this, but here I found the cheapness distracting. I also felt a lot of the special effects, which were also distractingly cheap, were used in very heavy-handed ways. I am sure there are other ways to convey a fire from back in the day to a film’s audience than showing the present-day object with flames overlaid on top. Over and over again. Oy. We get it.

Somewhere deep inside Puffball there is a good movie. Maybe even a great movie. But as it is now, I am not sure I liked it very much at all. It is thought-provoking, which is of course a positive thing, but there are so many smaller problems with the film that they take away from my ultimate read of the thing. Also, don’t be too excited to see Donald Sutherland’s name in the credits; he is only in two short scenes and that made me sad, too. For the most part though, the other actors do a good job of pulling their weight; they just don’t have much to pull.

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10
Oct
15

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.

13
Apr
15

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?

29
Oct
14

House II: The Second Story (1987)

Note: Hi! This is Mike Q, and I’m not the one who usually writes here. I got this guest-spot because Katy’s fallen behind in writing up movies of late, so I’ve been called in to do some of the titles she doesn’t especially want to deal with.

Perhaps ten years ago, I got into a conversation with a co-worker about Weekend at Bernie’s II (1993). I listened incredulously to his description of the plot: a voodoo witch puts a curse on Bernie’s corpse, such that it dances towards a buried treasure whenever music plays near it. The hapless friends tasked in the first movie with pretending their friend is still alive now are tasked with keeping the world from finding out that their friend is a boogieing zombie. It seemed hard to believe that there was a movie out there that would live up to the promise that description offered for over-the-top hijinx. When a while later I got my hands on a copy, I found out that, indeed, Weekend at Bernie’s II didn’t. A while later, though, I found myself in a situation where I was watching through a healthy backlog of movies at a clip, and made a double feature of the Sean Cunningham-produced House (1986) and House II: The Second Story. While House didn’t do a lot for me (it couldn’t settle on a tone, and seemed like its best bits were done better in Evil Dead II — sorry, Fred Dekker!), House II was a revelation: THIS was the zombie buddy-comedy that I’d been hoping for all this time… the Weekend at Bernie’s II  that delivered on its promise. We watched it again for Katy’s first time as the 25th movie in the 31 Days of Horror.

house 2 thai

A Thai poster. Not as cool as the disembodied hand ringing the doorbellon the VHS jacket, but more in line with what this flick holds in store…

In the 1950s, a couple that lives in a creepy house give their baby away for safekeeping just minutes before a nightmarish figure (voiced by Fred Welker, using the same voice he used for Darkseid on Super Friends) kills them both. In October of 1986, that baby, now grown, comes back to claim his birthright. He is Jesse McLaughlin, an up-and-coming artist, and he and his music-biz girlfriend Kate have come to make the family mansion into their new home away from the city. Before too long, they’re joined by Jesse’s meathead “entrepreneur” best friend Charlie (Fright Night‘s jonathan Stark) and his aspirant rockstar girlfriend. After only a few minutes have passed in screentime, Jesse explains that he’s named for his great-great grandfather, who was a bandit in the old west, and who built the house they now live in. Seems the elder Jesse had found one of the legendary Mayan crystal skulls along with his partner,  the ominously-named Slim Razor. When great-great Jesse absconded with the skull, Slim felt he’d been cheated. The younger Jesse and Charlie figure that there are big bucks in it for them if they can find the skull, and rashly decide it must have been buried with the elder Jesse. Why not dig him up? So they do, the night before Halloween… and that’s when the REAL fun begins.

Look! It´s a prehistoric bird...

Jesse, Charlie, and a prehistroric bird

I won’t say too much more, but it should come as no surprise that the elder Jesse isn’t dead at all — he’s been kept alive by the mystic powers of the skull, and is played delightfully by Royal Dano. Grandpa Jesse explains that the house has been designed as a temple for the skull, and that it acts as a gateway to alternate universes. They all have to work to keep it out of the wrong hands… This state of affairs — zombie grandfather, dimensional gateways — is something the fellows decide is best kept from an increasingly incensed Kate (who’s being egged on by her lecherous asshole boss, played by a young Bill Mahr), and leads to all sorts of wacky cross-time adventures. This movie at times feels like the pilot for an especially zany Sunday-afternoon adventure show of the sort produced by Sam Raimi in the ’90s, by way of a multiple-camera sitcom of the same period. It’s stupid, and even childish, but never really mean-spirited or cruel.  It gets away with its increasingly outrageous twists through charm and goodwill, and some moments that feel really heartfelt in the midst of the silliness. It’s no surprise, perhaps, that Slim continues to be a threat, but Cheers‘ John Ratzenberger’s guest appearance as an electrician with a helpful sideline comes as an unexpected delight. While, sure, it isn’t horror in the strictest sense, this seemed like a nice break from the gialli that we’d most recently consumed. Even Katy, who holds the ’86 House in high regard, was charmed by this one.

onset_house2

The whole House II gang… at least, all the regular humans

Don’t expect anything groundbreaking, scary, or intellectual here — it’s dumb laughs. But, like the Japanese House (1977) that I prefer to imagine this is the sequel to — this movie has nothing to do eith either other than its loose haunted house premise — this film is made all the better by virtue of its light spirit and easy demeanor.

04
May
14

Troll 2 (1990)

One of my favorite things about keeping this blog is having the opportunity to revisit some of the junk that I’d watched as a kid. Being forced to look at some of them again, occasionally a lightbulb goes off: oh, that’s why I like shit moviesTroll 2 couldn’t be a better example. I was a lucky enough kid to grow up with cable, and cable in the 90’s was chock full of shit movies. Better still, they were played over and over and over and over again. Perhaps I was first drawn to Troll 2 because it was the sequel of one of my favorite movies, Troll, a charming, silly horror/fantasy starring my childhood crush Michael Moriarty. But Troll 2 has absolutely, positively nothing whatsoever to do with its predecessor.

Is it a troll? A goblin? Whatever it is, it wants to eat you.

Is it a troll? A goblin? Whatever it is, it wants to eat you.

The Waits’ are your average American family. Holly is your typical teenaged girl, lifting weights in her bedroom and dancing in the mirror before bed. Joshua is a young, imaginative boy who routinely discusses man-eating goblins with his dead Grandpa Seth. Their parents, Diana and Michael, are a little concerned about Joshua’s attachment to his dead grandfather, and hope their upcoming, lengthy vacation in the country will help the boy get over his issues.

Mr. Waits is so cool even the collar on his PJ's is popped!

Mr. Waits is so cool even the collar on his PJ’s is popped!

Unfortunately, Nilbog doesn’t turn out to be the country haven they’d hoped for. Instead of relaxing family time, the Waits’ are confronted with evil goblins who turn people into vegetables so they can eat them! It’s a good thing Joshua maintained good relations with Grandpa Seth because without his help, his family and friends would be nothing but dinner for the ugly goblins of Nilbog!

Because nothing's sexier than an ear of corn.

Because nothing’s sexier than an ear of corn.

The plot, of course, is unremarkable. What is remarkable about this movie is just what a disaster it is on every single level. The acting is some of the worst I’ve ever seen, and it is across-the-board horrible. The writing is terrible and perplexing; it’s impossible to watch this movie and not wonder what the hell kind of drugs the writer was on. The film takes so many inexplicable, strange turns (corn sex?) that it keeps you baffled for its entirety. The most amazing thing about this movie is that it did, in fact, get made. The cast and crew got together and actually accomplished making what some would call one of the worst films ever made.

Grandpa Seth's knowing grin is almost as reassuring as that double-decker bologna sandwich in your backpack.

Grandpa Seth’s knowing grin is almost as reassuring as that double-decker bologna sandwich in your backpack.

Personally, I wouldn’t go that far – the films that actually deserve that label are far, far worse. Unwatchable, even. And Troll 2 is many things, but unwatchable is not one of them. In fact, it is such an easy pleasure to watch, it makes you wonder if it didn’t actually do something rightTroll 2 is often named as the pinnacle of the so-bad-it’s-good genre. I’m very much a fan of these types of movies, but even after all these years I’m still wondering what it is about movies like this that actually make them worthwhile. I could go on and on about my thoughts on the topic, but considering my next post is going to be written on Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2, I’ll save my deep thoughts for that one! Just know, if you’re ever curious about the weird, cult crap films out there, Troll 2 is a must-see.

24
Jan
14

Lord of Illusions (1995)

Private Detectives: Nothin' but trouble.

Private Detectives: Nothin’ but trouble.

Private detectives are always getting into some sort of trouble; either they’re totally broke or they’re in way over their ignorant heads. It’s probably safe to say Clive Barker’s private detectives fare the worst of all. Just ask Harry D’Amour (Scott Bakula), the gumshoe extraordinaire in Lord of Illusions. He managed to stumble his way into a freaky cult. I mean, like, freaky even for Los Angeles.

Thirteen years ago, a man named Nix (Daniel von Bargen) kidnaped a young girl with the intention of sacrificing her up to Satan (I guess?). His disciples, of course, were totally on board (I mean, that’s what disciples do, right?). Lucky for the girl, some former members

Swann and his fatefully stupid sword trick.

Swann and his fatefully stupid sword trick.

of the cult were able to shake loose of Nix’s mental grip and return just in time to save her from destruction. One of these saviors was a man named Swann, whom Nix thought of as something of a protégé. Burned by his rejection and stymied sacrifice, Nix casts a spell on Swann which causes him to see things as they truly are, or something. His friends’ faces become monstrous, the world around them liquid and terrifying. He finally snaps out of it, but never forgets the vision. He and the other good guys are able to trap Nix, put a horrifying iron mask on his face and bury him deep as hell.

Back to present day, Swann now makes his living as a famous illusionist a la David Copperfield. His beautiful wife has convinced D’Amour to help protect Swann from the cult members, whom she believes are assembling together for Nix’s resurrection. That’s all well and good, but one thing D’Amour can’t protect Swann from is his own illusions: his newest trick has failed him and he dies in front of his adoring fans. Or does he?
Kruger?

Kruger?

You know, I don’t think I liked this movie very much. It screams 1995 in some of the worst ways. Some of the characters exhibit those black and white extremes that only work if whatever you’re watching is laughably bad (I’m thinking Alien Warrior or Death Wish 3 here). The ones that don’t still manage to make decisions that you’d never make, and that left me frustrated with the movie. Furthermore, it doesn’t help that Nix, the baddest of baddies, is played by Daniel von Bargen, none-other than Seinfeld’s Kruger (if you’re not familiar, he was one of the silliest, dumbest bosses ever portrayed in television history). Now, that’s hardly Clive Barker’s fault, but nevertheless made the movie that much more ridiculous for me.

Speaking of ridiculous, can we stop it with the edgy private detectives already? Look, I like Scott Bakula as much as the next girl that grew up in the 80’s, but even he can’t make this tired stereotype interesting. Snappy comebacks and a persistent sense of curiosity in the face of satanic magic is doubtful to get you very far. Perhaps there are some better examples, but after watching this flick I get the impression that the 1990’s and Noir tendencies really shouldn’t mix. Ever. Unless it’s a comedy.
03
Jan
14

Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988)

Elvira can't help it; she was born this way.

Elvira can’t help it; she was born this way.

I’m a little bit of a late bloomer: it took me 30 years to meet the man I married, 31 years to get my Driver’s License, 32 years until I learned what bukkake meant (ahem, not by experience, mind you), and, perhaps most shocking of all, 33 years until I finally saw Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. In short, my thirties have been wonderful (and educational); I’ve learned that some things are worth waiting for. Elvira is one of them.

Fresh off a Pee Wee’s Playhouse marathon, we decided to change the tune a little bit and flipped on this flick. Lo and behold, John Paragon (also known as Jambi the Genie from the aforementioned Playhouse) has a cameo and co-wrote it! Synchronicity!

Elvira’s job as a bad-movies-on-tv hostess just isn’t doing it for her anymore, so she’s decided to pack it all up and do a show in Vegas. Elvira and Vegas seem a match made in heaven, but there’s a catch: the

She's a little clumsy, too!

She’s a little clumsy, too!

producers need her to come up with a large chunk of cash that she just doesn’t have. Perhaps the estate bequeathed to her by her recently-departed (and unknown-to-her) Great Aunt Morgana will yield the dollars she needs?

Or, perhaps not! Elvira must travel all the way to Fallwell, Massachusetts for the reading of the will, where she encounters her greedy Uncle Vincent and a “Morality Club” hell-bent on getting Elvira’s cleavage out of their chaste town! But when Elvira learns that her Great Aunt Morgana wasn’t just your average old lady, things really get cooking, and Elvira turns the town upside down!

But she sure knows how to put the fun back into that morality picnic...

But she sure knows how to put the fun back into that morality picnic…

Well, a movie like Elvira can really only be one of two things: hilariously stupid or just plain stupid. Lucky for us all, it falls into the first category. It’s chock-full of suggestive puns and cleavage, but benign enough to have earned a PG-13 rating. It’s the kind of movie I would have watched a thousand times as a kid, with half the jokes sailing over my head. It’s exactly the kind of movie I like to stumble upon, and I seriously cannot believe it hasn’t crossed my path until this recently. I can’t say I’m surprised that Cassandra Peterson and the film itself were nominated for Razzies, but the truth is I kind of am: I feel as though Elvira accomplished all the goals it set out to in exactly the ways it wanted to. What’s so bad about bad puns, anyway?




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