Dr. Alien (1989)

dralien_2Dr. Alien (1989)
AKA I Was a Teenage Sex Maniac, I Was a Teenage Sex Mutant

Starring Billy Jayne, Judy Landers, Olivia Barash, Stuart Fratkin, Raymond O’Connor, Arlene Golonka, Jim Hackett, Robert Jayne, Julie Gray, Scott Morris, Linnea Quigley, Michelle Bauer

Directed by David DeCoteau

Expectations: Not much.

On the general scale:
twohalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
threehalfstar


Looking at the poster, it would be easy to assume that Dr. Alien is nothing but ridiculous, low-budget trash. Even with that weird alien face, it doesn’t look especially interesting to me. But over the last six years of reviewing films here at Silver Emulsion, one truth has continued to resonate: Keep an open mind. It’s a good piece of advice in general life, as well; being closed off to the unknown corners of the world doesn’t allow for much personal growth. I’ve also come to look forward to the David DeCouteau movies, as they are generally some of the better and more interesting offerings among the Full Moon catalog. So I started Dr. Alien hopeful and optimistic, despite not expecting much.

When the film ended 80-some minutes later, with a big grin plastered on my face and my commitment to pursuing artistic, creative endeavors bolstered, I was shocked. Dr. Alien might be one of DeCoteau’s best films; it’s certainly one of my favorites. Sure, it’s got all the dumb jokes and female nudity you’d expect of an ’80s sex comedy, which will definitely turn off some viewers (and keep the film out of the Criterion Collection), but it is a real achievement on DeCoteau’s part to craft a film that satisfies on both a lowbrow and intellectual level. Perhaps I’m overselling it, as the morality only comes in at the end, but regardless, the film excited me thoroughly. I expected sex comedy and nudity, but to leave the film reinvigorated in my appreciation of art as a vital component of the human experience, that’s something special.

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The Occultist (1989)

occultist_2The Occultist (1989)
AKA Maximum Thrust, Waldo Warren: Private Dick Without a Brain

Starring Rick Gianasi, Joe Derrig, Richard Mooney, Jennifer Kanter, Mizan Kirby, Matt Mitler, Anibal O. Lleras, Betty Vaughn, Kate Goldsborough, Doug Delauder

Directed by Tim Kincaid

Expectations: Moderate, but hopeful.

On the general scale:
halfstar

On the B-movie scale:
onestar


The Occultist was Tim Kincaid’s final film for Empire, and to be honest I held back on reviewing it for a while. It was the film Kincaid made after the wonderfully bad Mutant Hunt, so I guess I assumed it would be of a similar quality. The Occultist even features the star of Mutant Hunt, Rick Gianasi, who went on to later star as the title character in Troma’s Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD. What could go wrong? Apparently everything! Or nearly everything… as bad as The Occultist is, it is not without a couple of truly memorable charms.

The plot didn’t make a lot of sense. Perhaps I missed some key dialogue or something else along the way, but honestly I was confused from the first moments. The film opens with a group of men on a pier overlooking the ocean. This scene cross-cuts with a scene inside an industrial warehouse of a “voodoo dance/skinning an innocent man alive” party. Here’s where I got confused: the guys on the pier are apparently watching the voodoo get-together from where they are… and they don’t like what they see! What? How are they looking inside? Are we to believe that this dark, dingy locale is actually an open-faced building on some island? I just — I don’t even know what to think. But whatever, it’s a B-Movie so I gave them the benefit of the doubt that maybe these guys could see these voodoo shenanigans from their vantage point.

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Deadly Weapon (1989)

deadlyweapon_1Deadly Weapon (1989)
AKA Killer Kid

Starring Rodney Eastman, Kim Walker, Gary Frank, Michael Horse, Gary Kroeger, Barney Martin, Sam Melville, Joe Regalbuto, William Sanderson, Ed Nelson

Directed by Michael Miner

Expectations: Not much, but it’s a remake of Laserblast so hopefully there are lots of explosions!

onestar


Most films hold their secrets back from the viewer, but Deadly Weapon reveals quite a big one right in the opening moments. Through on-screen text we learn that the entire film takes place in the mind of a 15-year-old boy. So any and all incredulity can be attributed to this, and boy does this movie go over the top! But while whatever we’re watching is supposedly only inside Zeke’s mind, I feel like there was also a more mundane version of the events playing out in “real life.” Nothing in the movie suggests or references this, I just chose to interpret the film’s exaggeration of everything as what they looked or felt like to Zeke in a heightened, hallucinatory state, similar to how a kid and an adult will remember the same event somewhat differently.

Zeke is an outcast kid who is bullied and beaten down by everyone in his life. He’s powerless against these people, but one day he finds an Army crate in the river outside of town. And what might be inside this crate? Well, some dumb ol’ office supplies are on top, but hidden underneath them is an experimental ray gun! Now Zeke’s got the power to fight back, and that’s exactly what he does! If that sounds at all familiar, it’s because Deadly Weapon is a remake of one of my favorite Charles Band films: Laserblast!

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Cemetery High (1989)

cemeteryhigh_1AKA Scumbusters, Hack’em High, Assault of the Killer Bimbos

Starring Debi Thibeault, Karen Nielsen, Lisa Schmidt, Simone, Ruth Collins, Tony Kruk, David Coughlin, Frank Stewart, Kristine Waterman, Michael Citriniti

Directed by Gorman Bechard

Expectations: Bechard’s other movies have been pretty good, so I’m hopeful.

On the general scale:
halfstar

On the B-movie scale:
onestar


Ah man, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie this bad. Cemetery High is awful, but in this case there’s something of a story that might explain why it came out as bad as it did. I don’t claim to know any specifics, but when the film’s director posts a public message on the film’s IMDB page stating how much he detests the film and how it was re-edited and drastically changed in post-production, you know something’s not right!

Cemetery High began its life as Assault on Killer Bimbos, and it was a dark, black comedy about a group of women killing scumbag men. For some reason, Band decided that the title should be used on another movie, one that it doesn’t really fit at all (especially after seeing how well it would’ve fit Cemetery High), so that’s how Assault of the Killer Bimbos got its name. Band apparently also wasn’t fond of the dark tone (which makes sense, his films are rarely dark), so he set about re-editing the film and re-shooting a bunch of stuff to make Cemetery High the “masterpiece” it is today! Gee, I can’t imagine why Cemetery High ended up as the final film in the relationship between director Gorman Bechard and Charles Band!

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Grotesque (1988)

grotesque_1Starring Linda Blair, Tab Hunter, Donna Wilkes, Brad Wilson, Nels Van Patten, Sharon Hughes, Michelle Bensoussan, Guy Stockwell, Charles Dierkop, Chuck Morrell, Lincoln Tate, Robert Z’Dar, Robert Zoller

Directed by Joe Tornatore

Expectations: I hope it’s… grotesque!

On the general scale:
onestar

On the B-movie scale:
onehalfstar


Grotesque is not a good movie. It’s quite hard to get through, and even a cast boasting genre favorites like Linda Blair and Robert Z’Dar can’t spice it up past bland. I could barely stay awake, and took multiple breaks to slap myself in the face. Part of the film’s problem is that it has almost no tension whatsoever, plus it’s one of those movies that can’t decide what it wants to be. I’m chuckling to myself as type this, though, as the film’s identity crisis is also why I ultimately didn’t end up completely hating Grotesque.

Grotesque doesn’t obscure how boring it’s going to be either; right from the first second I immediately wanted to snuggle into a pillow and count some sheep. An elderly woman dreamily narrates while we take in a dark, nighttime exterior shot of a house. This lasts nearly three minutes and by the end of it I felt ready to start collecting Social Security. But Grotesque has a trick up its sleeve; this Gothic, dreamy opening was all a big ruse! We were actually watching a rough cut of a film being shown to some studio execs, and now the real movie can begin!

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Hey Look at This! – Celluloid Wizards in the Video Wasteland

Celluloid Wizards in the Video Wasteland is a documentary about Empire International, one of my favorite ’80s B-Movie studios, and it’s currently looking for some funding on Kickstarter. In general I’m not one to write posts about Kickstarters (I’d have A LOT to write about if I was!), but in this case I felt like it was my duty. As you may be aware, I’m years deep into a review series of the entire Empire International/Full Moon/Charles Band catalog. So naturally when a documentary is proposed, focused specifically on the most cinematically interesting period of Band’s career, I’m interested. Oh, and it has “never-before-seen footage, production stills, and rare glimpses at the motion pictures that were in development when the studio was dramatically seized by the bank”? Sounds fantastic!

The Empire years were home to some of the best films that Charles Band had a hand in making, including classics like Re-Animator, Troll and Trancers, as well as lesser-known Silver Emulsion favorites like Ghoulies 1 & 2, Ghost Warrior and Robot Jox. Producing a plethora of varied, imaginative films in just a few years, Empire ended up going bankrupt while still in production on many films. This led directly into the creation of Full Moon at the dawn of the direct-to-video market, as a last chance effort by Band to save his company. These years are ripe with great films, and I imagine the stories about making them are just as great. I mean, as a fan of FX work how can you not get excited by this rare shot from behind-the-scenes of Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond!

9d5f0229d04b4c6edba11599afc232e6_original

I’m specifically interested in the company’s implosion, and I have high hopes that Celluloid Wizards in the Video Wasteland can shed some light on exactly what happened and why. I’ve heard it was due to the ever-growing budget for the amazing stop-motion and FX work on Robot Jox, but I have my doubts that this was the only factor. There were also many films announced, or cancelled somewhere along the line in production that I hope to hear more about, too.

So what are you waiting for? Check out the Celluloid Wizards in the Video Wasteland Kickstarter!

Transformations (1988)

Transformations-1Transformations (1988)
AKA Alien Transformations

Starring Rex Smith, Lisa Langlois, Patrick Macnee, Christopher Neame, Michael Hennessy, Cec Verrell, Benito Stefanelli, Donald Hodson, Pamela Prati, Ann Margaret Hughes, Loredana Romito

Directed by Jay Kamen

Expectations: Moderate, but it’s ’80s so it’ll have cool FX work, right?

On the general scale:
onestar

On the B-movie scale:
threestar


I often say, “The future is now,” because I’m so amazed with technology and how different things have become since my youth. But now I feel cheated because in the version of the future shown in Transformations, everyone drinks out of glasses with neato twisty straws built into them. It’s really quite impressive, but like any great advancement for humanity such as this, we must also deal with the ever increasing dangers of the world. And in this version of the future, humanity’s greatest threat is a ferocious alien demon STD that transforms its host into a gooey, hairy monstrosity that conveniently has the power to transform itself into an object of desire to lure its next victim into bed.

This is exactly what happens to our main character, a rollicking space smuggler named Han Solo Wolfgang Shadduck (Rex Smith), but you can call him Wolf. He’s been flying around the galaxy alone for far too long, and it’s his birthday. His friends from Earth have sent a video message and apparently planted a present on-board before he left. They won’t tell him where it is, instead they just scream “TREASURE HUNT!” and laugh. So when a beautiful woman appears at his cabin door, he assumes she’s his StripperGram present, ignoring all logic and assuming she’s been hiding in a cargo locker surviving on nutritional paste all this time. But whatever, this is a horror movie, and what’s a horror movie without a dumb character doing something dumb to allow the audience to have some horrific fun?

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