Groom Lake (2002)

groomlake_2AKA The Visitor

Starring Dan Gauthier, Amy Acker, Tom Towles, William Shatner, Dick Van Patten, John Prosky, Dan Martin, Rickey Medlocke, Duane Whitaker, Brenda Bakke, J.T. Colosa, Debra Mayer, Chuck Williams

Directed by William Shatner

Expectations: I’m a big Star Trek fan, so I’m oddly and probably misguidedly excited for this one because of Shatner.

On the general scale:
halfstar

On the B-movie scale:
onehalfstar


There’s no way around it: Groom Lake is not a good movie. It fails at nearly every turn, in spite of having many intriguing elements with potential. Even if you do manage to care about the characters and what happens to them, nothing really comes together well enough to form a cohesive experience. I remember having similar feelings the last time I watched the Shatner-directed Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, so I suppose the two films together form some kind of evidence that if you’re not suited to the task of directing and telling stories visually, it doesn’t really matter how much money you have.

The film opens with a tow truck making its way over desert roads towards a butte. Mystical lights, similar to the Aurora Borealis, shimmer in the sky over his destination, and the driver, Dietz (Tom Towles), is intent on seeing just what the hell is up with all that. When he arrives, he jumps onto the back of his truck and approximates Arnold’s “I’m here! C’mon! Do it!” speech from Predator, telling the presumed alien ship, “I’m here, you son of a bitch!” The son-of-a-bitch alien does not respond; the lights merely dissipate and leave some sparkly residue on the man’s hands.

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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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Puppet Master 5 (1994)

Starring Gordon Currie, Chandra West, Ian Ogilvy, Teresa Hill, Guy Rolfe, Nicholas Guest, Willard E. Pugh, Diane McBain, Duane Whitaker

Puppet Cast: Blade, Jester, Pinhead, Tunneler, Six Shooter, Torch, Decapitron, Totem Demons

Directed by Jeff Burr

Expectations: Fairly high, because I enjoyed the last one so much.

On the general scale:
onestar

On the B-Movie scale:
onehalfstar


Oh Full Moon, why do you forsake me? Puppet Master 4 satisfied me from end-to-end and I was sure that the concurrently shot sequel would be another equally satisfying series entry. Hey, it worked for Trancers 4 & 5, right? Unfortunately, it doesn’t work here as Puppet Master 5 is two steps down in every way. They really had nothing to go on in this one, seemingly packing all the good stuff into Part 4 and dredging up whatever bullshit was stuck to the bottom of their shoes for this one. Puppet Master 5 is not without its fun moments, but like a thumbnail umbrella in a rain storm of shit, they are almost unnoticeable.

Puppet Master 5 picks up with our new puppet master, Rick (Gordon Currie), in police custody for the murders that the demon totems performed in the previous film. He gets out on bail and goes back to the hotel to retrieve the rest of the puppets and then… I don’t know what. The end goal is never really spelled out. Meanwhile, the new leader of the A.I. project takes three goons (including Christopher Guest’s brother Nicholas Guest) to the hotel to retrieve the puppets for himself. Alongside all that, Sutekh the Egyptian demon transfers his life essence into a final totem demon and sends it through the pyramid portal to the hotel. Shockingly, all of these masterful elements combine to form a tour de force train wreck of a movie. Who would have guessed?

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