Ancient Evil 2: Guardian of the Underworld (2005)

Ancient Evil 2: Guardian of the Underworld (2005)
AKA Anubis: Guardian of the Underworld, Anubis: Rising

Starring Victoria Campbell, Adam Lipskey, Don Sandeen, Noel Francomano, Christopher Kann, Alex Whall

Directed by D.W. Kann

Expectations: Super low… looks so bad.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


I don’t know where to begin, or even what to write about this movie. It’s not that I’m so checked out on it that I can’t bear to think about it; it was actually OK. It’s also not that nothing worth writing about happened, because there were definitely B-Movie moments galore. I just can’t drum up the motivation necessary to pull these thoughts together into a cohesive review. The film wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I expected, nor was it especially good. Instead it fell squarely into that dreaded middle region of indifference, and when the movie in question is so obscure that no one you know will have even heard of it (or care to hear of it), it’s hard to make even myself care enough to write this damn thing. But I will soldier on and do my best.

Despite that big “Ancient Evil 2” on the headline, this is not actually a sequel to the David DeCoteau film I reviewed last week. Had it been, I’d be far more interested in it! Anyway, it is one of those lovely “sequels in name only” and the level of quality here has sunk from low-budget to the no-budget realm of shot-on-video, amateur horror. Surprisingly, this is never an issue as the filmmaking is actually of a high-enough quality that you’re focusing more on the actors and the story than how it always feels like you’re watching someone’s painful home videos.

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Gong Tau: An Oriental Black Magic (2007)

Gong Tau: An Oriental Black Magic [降頭] (2007)
AKA Voodoo

Starring Mark Cheng Ho-Nam, Maggie Siu Mei-Kei, Lam Suet, Kenny Wong Tak-Ban, Teng Tzu-Hsuan, Kris Gu Yu, Hui Siu-Hung, Jay Lau Gam-Ling, Kam Loi-Kwan, Fung Hak-On

Directed by Herman Yau

Expectations: Moderate. I love the black magic, and curious to see how a modern, CG-era film can bring the elements together.


Oh boy, did I have high hopes for this one. I may not have expected a whole lot, but I held onto the hope that a 2007 film could push the boundaries much further than an ’80s Shaw Brothers film could, and while that definitely could be the case overall, it is definitely not the case with Gong Tau. This is unfortunate because all the basic pieces of the black magic movie are in place, but instead of compiling them and assaulting the audience with wild, magical antics, Gong Tau instead chooses to try for a more realistic approach. While this might sound like it could take the black magic film into new and interesting territories, it just obscures the awesome of the magic and surrounds it with a whole lot of boring.

Gong Tau‘s story is remarkably similar to Bewitched, probably my favorite Asian horror film from what I’ve seen so far. A policeman travels to Thailand and has an affair, and when he has to return to Hong Kong, he promises that he will return. He doesn’t, and it sends his life into a spiral thanks to the girl’s connections in the black magic world. Kinda. This is one of the stories being told in Gong Tau, and it is ultimately the most important one, but before you get to it you have to wade through a bunch of meandering stuff that is of varying importance. Where the Shaw films presented the setup for why the magic is being laid on its victims up front and at the beginning of the tale, Gong Tau tries to layer it throughout and make it something of a mystery as to who is doing these things to the policeman’s family. While this may work for a first time viewer of a Chinese black magic film, I knew what was going on the whole time, so their obscure storytelling and pointless wondering led me to somewhere a black magic film should never venture: the land of boredom.

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Father’s Day (2011)

Starring Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy, Conor Sweeney, Amy Groening, Garrett Hnatiuk, Brent Neale, Kevin Anderson, Meredith Sweeney, Zsuzsi, Lloyd Kaufman, Mackenzie Murdock, Billy Sadoo, Falcon Van Der Baek

Directed by Astron-6 (Adam Brooks, Jeremy Gillespie, Matthew Kennedy, Steven Kostanski, Conor Sweeney)

Expectations: High, this is supposedly nothing but awesome.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


Oh, Father’s Day, I want to love you. The hype surrounding you was so great, and I thought for sure you’d live up to it. Unfortunately, it never crossed my mind that you would fall into the trap that so many modern exploitation movies fall into: you’re more of a style reproduction than an actually good movie. Oh well. I hate to say it, but Father’s Day is not the genre revolution I expected, it’s just another in a long line of wannabes. Father’s Day does set itself apart from the generic crowd of retro-inspired films, though, by actually being low-budget and full of money-stretching ingenuity; I just wish it added up to more than what I got.

The story of Father’s Day is not one that holds up to scrutiny, and it feels almost like it was made up as shooting went along. It kind of begins as a serial killer horror film, with “The Father’s Day Killer” dismembering, eating and having necrophilic fellatio from his current victim’s severed head. If nothing else, this opening certainly sets a tone. Anyway, I say it “kind of begins” because this is more setup than anything else, as Father’s Day isn’t really a “hunt the serial killer” movie, it’s first and foremost a deranged comedy. At times it’s also a simple exploitation film, and at other times it’s a wildly imaginative fantasy. To label this as one specific genre is doing it a disservice, though, as it’s really a kitchen-sink type of film.

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Tales from the Hood (1995)

Starring Clarence Williams III, Joe Torry, De’aundre Bonds, Samuel Monroe, Jr., Tom Wright, Anthony Griffith, Wings Hauser, Michael Massee, Duane Whitaker, Brandon Hammond, Rusty Cundieff, Paula Jai Parker, David Alan Grier, Corbin Bernsen, Roger Guenveur Smith, Lamont Bentley, Rosalind Cash

Directed by Rusty Cundieff

Expectations: Low, I’m not an anthology fan. I do love the poster, though.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


I’ve never been one for horror anthology films, but my love of Tales from the Crypt, and my ideas that this would be a fun, black version of that, won me over and led to me giving this one a shot. Well… it ain’t pretty. There’s not a whole lot that’s good here, but thankfully, what’s good is excellent. But those excellent bits I’m referring to are the FX, which realistically are about 1% of the actual runtime. Everything else is just painful, or boring, or both.

The film opens with a title sequence that involves the camera slowly moving around a skeleton decked out in locs, a bandana and smoking a fat blunt. While I found this funny, and therefore kind of expected something of a horror comedy from the film, I was sorely disappointed when the first tale began with extreme, racially charged violence from a group of asshole white cops. It’s not really offensive as it takes stereotypes and plays them up for the purpose of crashing them down with giant horror payoffs, but it was still jarring. I’m willing to buy into the movie for those payoffs, but no matter how hard I tried I was unable to get involved completely in any of the stories except the final, Clockwork Orange-inspired one (which coincidentally ends with the worst payoff of the entire film).

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Doctor Mordrid (1992)

Doctor Mordrid (1992)
AKA Rexosaurus (Germany), Invasori dalla IV dimensione (Italy)

Starring Jeffrey Combs, Yvette Nipar, Brian Thompson, Jay Acovone, Keith Coulouris, Ritch Brinkley, Pearl Shear, Murray Rubin, Jeff Austin

Directed by Albert Band & Charles Band

Expectations: High. This one should be a load of fun.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


If anyone reads the teasers I put at the end of these series reviews, I have a redaction to make. Last week I claimed that I’d be reviewing Doctor Mordrid, “the closest the world has ever come to an actual Doctor Strange movie!” This is actually untrue, as it seems there was a real, sanctioned TV movie in 1978. Maybe at some point I’ll get around to tracking that one down, but for now you’re stuck with the Full Moon rip-off. What’s interesting about this film, though, is that Charles Band held the license to the Marvel character while in pre-production for the film. The license expired before actual production could begin, and the rights reverted back to Marvel, but Band being the ever resourceful filmmaker decided he could switch everything around and still crank out a fun intergalactic sorcery movie. He fulfills every promise except the fun, so while Doctor Mordrid is a total disappointment to me, it still manages to be marginally enjoyable due to a whole host of impressive practical FX work.

You might ask, “How did Full Moon ever get the license to produce a Marvel Comics film?” Well, this was 1992 and Marvel was still in the period of finding how best to bring their stable of characters to the cinema. While DC was making popular movies based on Superman and Batman, Marvel licensed out Captain America to notable low-budget filmmaker Albert Pyun who made a bunch of Full Moon movies, some films starring Ice T, and a more recent film titled Bulletface. Anyway, also around this time Roger Corman got the license for the Fantastic Four, and apparently Band got the Dr. Strange rights. For some reason, Marvel bet hard on low-budget, whimsical takes on their characters and boy, did that pay off! As I’m inclined to connect unrelated things that may have influenced one another, I’d love to believe that this period of Marvel’s cinematic history led them immediately to shelve any attempts at filming their characters until they could pull it off right. Enter Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, and the rest is history. But enough about Marvel’s misguided licensing practices of the early ’90s…

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Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death (1989)

Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death (1989)
AKA Piranha Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death, Jungle Heat

Starring Shannon Tweed, Bill Maher, Karen M. Waldron, Adrienne Barbeau, Brett Stimely, Barry Primus, Jim McKrell, Paul Ross, Vicky Varner, Alan David Gelman

Directed by J.F. Lawton (as J.D. Athens)

Expectations: Low, but I hope it lives up to the comedy of its name.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


With a name like Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death, you pretty much know what you’re getting. The film delivers everything it promises except the death, but that’s ok because there’s always the ever-present threat just looming around the corner. What I didn’t expect was a satire of political and pop culture of the late ’80s, or a comedy remake of Apocalypse Now with elements of Indiana Jones and 2001 thrown in for good measure. It’s a wild concoction to be sure, and one that only a select crowd will be able to enjoy.

Feminism professor Shannon Tweed is recruited by a couple of Army men to venture into the uncharted avocado jungle that covers a good portion of California’s east side. Her mission is to find out what happened to Dr. Kurtz, a noted feminist author and thinker who was sent into the jungle to make contact with the Piranha tribe of cannibal women and stop them from killing and eating anyone who comes to pick an avocado. Why is this important, you ask? Well these days the avocado isn’t such a big deal, but in 1989 the world hinged on avocados, and with a shortage in America, the Soviet Union was quickly broadening the avocado gap.

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Batman & Robin (1997)

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, John Glover, Elle Macpherson, Vivica A. Fox, Vendela Kirsebom, Elizabeth Sanders, Jeep Swenson

Directed by Joel Schumacher

Expectations: High, but also incredibly low. I’ve been looking forward to watching this one a lot.

On the general scale:

On the B-Movie scale:


As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to appreciate different things. Philosophy, screaming into a pillow, and shitty movies all spring to mind initially, and while I’d love to say that Batman & Robin brings all three of these pastimes together, alas it only touches on the final entry. So yes, Batman & Robin is a shitty movie, let’s just get that out of the way. You agree, I agree, we all agree… but what I’m here to tell you today is that Batman & Robin rises above its inherent shittiness to create a very over-the-top, very comic book film. Looking back on this initial series of Batman films, it’s clear they are simply big-budget versions of the campy Adam West TV show, and this is never more clear than in Batman & Robin.

Where this quality is somewhat subdued or obscured in previous Batman films (especially Burton’s), Batman & Robin presents itself immediately as the trashy film it knows itself to be. Most other shitty movies would make you sit through 90 minutes of mediocre, trying plot until you get to that realization, so you should only be blaming yourself for your bad Batman & Robin experiences. Anyway, it opens with a “suiting up” montage complete with close-ups of Bat-Asses and Bat-Crotches, and then proceeds into a lengthy intro battle with Mr. Freeze where our caped crusaders eventually hit buttons on their utility belts that make ice skating blades pop out of their boots, which of course leads to Robin playing hockey with Freeze’s minions. The action quickly moves into space (yes, space, as in no one can hear you scream) and we’re treated to a very James Bond style intro complete with Batman & Robin surfing down from space on the exploded doors of the space pod’s escape hatches. After a scene like that, how can anyone but a 12-year-old boy take this shit seriously? Yet there are numerous serious reviews of this film floating around. Lighten up, punks, this one is directed strictly at the fun-lovers, just like the Batman of yore.

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