Ghoulies IV (1994)

ghoulies4_3Starring Peter Liapis, Barbara Alyn Woods, Stacie Randall, Raquel Krelle, Bobby Di Cicco, Tony Cox, Arturo Gil

Directed by Jim Wynorski

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:
onestar

On the B-movie scale:
threestar


Many moons and black magic spells ago, I reviewed the first three films in the Ghoulies franchise. I purposely chose to avoid Part 4, based on my highly negative reaction to the third film and the bothersome idea that the ghoulies of Ghoulies IV were actually dudes in suits and not puppets. Five years of writing for Silver Emulsion has cured my brain towards B-Movies far more than I could have ever imagined, so I felt it was finally time to take on Ghoulies IV. I even re-watched the other Ghoulies films in preparation and didn’t completely hate Ghoulies III! (It’s still shitty, but I was able to have fun with it this time.)

Even with these multiple years of thick B-Movie watching under my belt, I still entered Ghoulies IV with trepidation. The first two films in the franchise hold a special place in my heart as they were somewhat responsible for sending me down this B-Movie path, and I feared that Ghoulies IV would further trash the Ghoulies name as the third film had. But then the film opened with an explosion that ripping a door from its hinges, thru which a leather-clad buxom female emerged, and within a matter of moments she’s thrown a ninja star into the forehead of a well-meaning security guard. I was instantly won over — explosions and ninja stars are a quick way to my heart — and I am pleased to report that the rest of the movie continued this trend of tightly packed B-Movie thrills.

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Quick Takes: City of the Living Dead, Night of the Demons, Not of This Earth

gates_of_hell_xlgCity of the Living Dead [Paura nella città dei morti viventi] (1980)
AKA The Gates of Hell
twohalfstar

Starring Christopher George, Catriona MacColl, Carlo De Mejo, Antonella Interlenghi, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Daniela Doria, Fabrizio Jovine
Directed by Lucio Fulci

Take a moment to consider the film’s title along with its poster art. Zombies, right? Wrong. City of the Living Dead really isn’t much of a zombie movie. Not in the traditional sense anyway. I’m somewhat unsure what the actual plot was, but the gist is that a priest kills himself and becomes a zombie mage, which somehow also opens the gates of Hell. These gates being open doesn’t really lead to the zombie hijinks you might expect, though, as City of the Living Dead is dreamy, haunting and supernatural where other movies would just go for your standard horror shocks and zombie kills. The plot is so nonsensical and chaotic at times that it makes it hard to get through, but I still enjoyed it for the most part. By far my favorite aspect of the film is the incredible gore, which really must be seen to be believed. There’s not much of it overall, but boy do they make up for lost time! I don’t want to spoil anything, but I definitely won’t be hankering for any pig guts and organ meat any time soon!

nightofthedemonsNight of the Demons (1988)

Starring Cathy Podewell, Amelia Kinkade, Linnea Quigley, Alvin Alexis, Allison Barron, Hal Havins, Billy Gallo, Lance Fenton, Philip Tanzini, Jill Terashita, Harold Ayer
Directed by Kevin S. Tenney

Despite its legacy and name recognition, I wasn’t really feeling this one until the 2nd half (which is pretty much non-stop entertainment). Demons in a haunted house chasing a girl dressed as Alice in Wonderland is as fun as it sounds. Dope Steve Johnson FX work too. The lack of any likeable characters is what made the first half kind of slow and boring, and I was surprised just how trashy a movie it was overall. If I didn’t know this came from the same director as Witchboard, I’d never have guessed it in a million years. Witchboard feels like solid, classic horror filmmaking, while Night of the Demons feels amateurish and naive in comparison. Two completely different types of movies, though. I really should hunt down some more of Tenney’s movies to see which style is the more prominent in his career.

not_of_this_earthNot of This Earth (1988)
onehalfstar

Starring Traci Lords, Arthur Roberts, Lenny Juliano, Ace Mask, Roger Lodge, Rebecca Perle, Michael DeLano, Becky LeBeau
Directed by Jim Wynorski

Man, Not of This Earth is some high level B-Movie shit. You need nerves of steel, forged through hundreds of horrendous B-movies, to make it through this one. Bad acting, bad writing, bad everything abounds, although Traci Lords — in her first “mainstream” acting role — is actually really good and easily the best actor in the film. There’s also some stock footage from other Roger Corman-produced films, and even though I haven’t seen the movies they came from, the sections stuck out as being completely unrelated to anything else in the movie. The behind-the-scenes story is great, and without a doubt more interesting than the movie itself. Notable low-budget director Jim Wynorski bet that he could remake Corman’s original 1957 film with the same budget (adjusted for inflation) and the same 12-day shooting schedule, and he did it (in 11 days)! As a low-budget experiment, it’s interesting, but as an actual movie it’s kinda boring. It’s not without its delights, though most of them come from Traci Lords and are prurient in nature. I also got a kick out of seeing Roger Lodge, the host of Blind Date, playing Lords’ love interest. Watching this makes me really curious to see the original, as this one is so trashy and ’80s that I have a hard time understanding what the ’50s movie must be like.

Final Voyage (2000)

Starring Dylan Walsh, Ice T, Erika Eleniak, Claudia Christian, Rick Ducommun, Heidi Schanz, John Koyama, Jonathan Fuller, Stephen Macht, Michael Bailey Smith, Thom Adcox-Hernandez, Beau Billingslea

Directed by Jim Wynorski

Expectations: High after Stealth Fighter.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


Final Voyage is the perfect example of a great movie on paper. A Titanic-sized boat filled to the brim with wealthy socialites and a vault full of their unspecified riches. Ice T leading a crack team of thieves onto the boat to steal said riches. A John McClane-esque character guarding former Playboy Playmate Erika Eleniak of Under Siege fame. And Jim Wynorski, director of the incredibly awesome Chopping Mall and last week’s Stealth Fighter. With these elements at its disposal, Final Voyage should be something to see, and it was these very reasons that swayed me to include it over other Ice T films. Unfortunately, it’s kinda middle of the road, mostly composed of poor action and boring dialogue.

Regardless of all the missed potential here, Final Voyage is still pretty enjoyable as a B-Movie thanks to our lead villains Claudia Christian and Ice T. Christian does a great job with the material, making her scenes pop a little more than the rest, while Ice directs the show for most of the movie from the bridge, but you know what that means… he’s not really involved in the action. What. The. FUUUUCK. This is a supreme disappointment for me, especially coming off of Surviving the Game where it was all Ice T icing dudes all the time. Claudia Christian (of Babylon 5 fame) is Ice’s right hand, so she spends most of the movie doing the thug shit that I’d rather see Ice do. I’d also rather see Ice in the John McClane hero role, taking down confident crooks with his self-assured swagger. Oh well, like Stealth Fighter before it, Ice gets a nice villain monologue that somewhat makes up for my disappointment. But don’t get too excited, it’s not nearly on the same level as the previous one, even if a dope slow jam starts playing right as he starts the monologue. The only logical reason for this to happen would be if one of his thugs was carrying around a boombox for this very occasion, and even though I didn’t see that guy, I’m going to assume that’s what happened.

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Stealth Fighter (1999)

Stealth Fighter (1999)
AKA Mercenaires, Nighthawk

Starring Ice T, Costas Mandylor, Erika Eleniak, Sarah Dampf, William Sadler, Ernie Hudson, Andrew Divoff, William G. Schilling, John Enos III, Alex Meneses, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, Steve J. Hennessy

Directed by Jim Wynorski (as Jay Andrews)

Expectations: Super high. I’m more pumped about this one than any other Ice Fest movie.

On the general scale:

On the B-Movie scale:


In the first of her two scenes in Stealth Fighter, Erika Eleniak asks her husband, “You want some ice tea?” Her husband and I both responded to the affirmative, but unfortunately Stealth Fighter is a lot lighter on Ice T content than I would have liked. This saddened me, but the footage that remains is absolute gold, and the rest of the movie when Ice T isn’t around is filled with all kinds of explosions and craziness that only legendary B-Movie director Jim Wynorski could pull together so well. Sure, the majority of the action footage is taken from much larger budget films such as Diamonds are Forever and Flight of the Intruder, but the resulting bouillabaisse lends Stealth Fighter an air of being much more than it actually is. There’s just nothing like giant explosions on-screen, even if they are re-used.

Stealth Fighter opens in the best way possible: a slow-motion shot of sweaty hands coming together for an arm wrestling match. The hands belong to Ice T and Costas Mandylor, a couple of hotshot, rival fighter pilots. Before long they get the call to action, but while in flight Ice T goes rogue, kills his co-pilot and downs the plane. The military and all of his squad mates label Ice as K.I.A. and continue on with their lives, but like a spider waiting to strike, Ice steals the F-117 stealth fighter over 10 years after his supposed death. He’s working for a Latin American terrorist who plans to use it to threaten the US President (played by Ernie Hudson!) into releasing his political prisoner friends. The plot is overly convoluted, but it keeps one cardinal rule close to its heart throughout: awesome explosions always equal shit-eating grins.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Chopping Mall (1986)

Chopping Mall (1986)

Starring Kelli Maroney, Tony O’Dell, John Terlesky, Russell Todd, Karrie Emerson, Barbara Crampton, Suzee Slater, Dick Miller

Directed by Jim Wynorski


As much as I’d like to tell you that Chopping Mall contains some great subtext about rabid consumerism, it really doesn’t. Search deep and you may drag out a few sketchy hints at social commentary, but apart from a short opening credit montage featuring fast food trays, bikini clad models, and other rudimentary symbols of American tawdriness and convenience-worship, it’s really just a fantastic little movie about a bunch of (mostly) unlikable young store workers being hunted down by killer robots. And by golly, that’s all you really need. A lot of potentially great films have been ruined by ambition. Chopping Mall takes ambition and shoots it in the back of the fucking neck with a mini harpoon claw.

Whereas some films come off as slaves to convention, Chopping Mall seems to revel in it. This is a veritable masterpiece of contrived cinema right here folks, and because of this it soars. Who gives a fuck if the plot is more or less directly ripped off from Dawn of the Dead? Who cares if the mall’s sporting goods store seems to only be stocked with high-powered assault rifles and tactical-edge 12 gauge shotguns? The lesson here is a simple one, people trapped in shopping malls fighting shit that wants to kill them is awesome. No need to shy away from that fact. There really is no end to the zany fun to be had here. Testosterone-addled characters spit out goofy one-liners like “Let’s go send those fuckers a Rambogram” while posturing all macho and shit. A pursued heroine has nowhere to hide except for an ill-lighted pet shop… Trying hard to remain silent, escaped snakes and hairy tarantulas climb all over her. About two-thirds of the way through, with the odds stacked against our survivors and no escape in sight, one of them conveniently gets an idea about shutting down “the main computer”. Oh man, THE MAIN COMPUTER! …of course!! Why didn’t we think about that sooner?!

Why the hell not? Allow yourself to be whisked away by convention here. This is the world of Chopping Mall. A world where a few gallons of spilled paint and a road flare can level an entire hardware store. A world where antiquated security drones vaporize a screaming woman’s head into red watermelon spray, raw hamburger, and bone splinters within the blink of an eye. I don’t even think they mention why the robots go apeshit and begin indiscriminately killing people in the first place. I don’t care. I love this movie.




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