Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

invasion-poster1Starring Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Larry Gates, King Donovan, Carolyn Jones, Jean Willes, Ralph Dumke, Virginia Christine, Tom Fadden, Kenneth Patterson

Directed by Don Siegel

Expectations: Very high.

fourstar


I can’t believe it took me this long to finally see Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I think at some point in my youth I did see it, but I was since replaced by a pod-person version of myself, thus erasing the memory of seeing this monumental film. I feel like I’ve actively avoided seeing this film in the years following this proposed switch. Even the other day when I decided to watch it, I only reluctantly picked it because it was expiring from Netflix Instant on October 1st. Well, whatever made me fight the stringent conditioning of the pod-brain I only just realized I have… Thanks! All kidding aside, I guess it wasn’t high on my priority list because I already knew the basic plot from beginning to end. I thought it’d be kinda crusty, too, with slow moments and charming but ugly FX. Boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a straight-up barn burner, even now almost 60 years on. The pace never once lets up. The film opens with Dr. Miles J. Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) raving and screaming like a lunatic, rocketing us out the barrel and into the frenzy of living in a world inhabited by body snatchers. The cops get him to calm down enough to tell his tale, so the movie does the little underwater shimmering thing that they do in 1950s movies and we’re back at the calm beginning of Bennell’s story.

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Piranha (1978)

piranha_1Starring Bradford Dillman, Heather Menzies-Urich, Kevin McCarthy, Keenan Wynn, Dick Miller, Barbara Steele, Belinda Balaski, Melody Thomas Scott, Bruce Gordon, Barry Brown, Paul Bartel, Shannon Collins

Directed by Joe Dante

Expectations: High.

On the general scale:
threestar

On the B-movie scale:
fourstar


Piranha is exactly the type of movie that I love. It’s equal parts genuine horror and outlandish comedy, with a premise so over-the-top and ridiculous that no one could possibly believe it as a plausible story. But then how did stories of piranhas in local waterways filter down to the schoolyard playgrounds of my youth? Piranha is a film that captures your imagination and runs wild. Its pace is quick, rarely coming up for air. The film’s villains may never be visible for more than a fleeting few seconds, but they are ever-present in the film’s atmosphere.

Piranha opens like hundreds of other horror films: a young couple is out at night in the woods looking for a good place to be alone together. These particular kids ignore the “No Trespassing” signs on the chain-link fences they sneak through in their quest. And of course, when they find a pool of water they decide that skinny dipping is the only course of action. What they never considered was that this secluded, abandoned Army installation wasn’t quite so completely abandoned. Shoulda watched more horror movies, guys.

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Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go To College (1991)

Starring Kevin McCarthy, Evan Mackenzie, Eva La Rue, Patrick Labyorteaux, John Johnston, Billy Morrissette, Hope Marie Carlton, Marcia Wallace, Stephen Lee, Jason Scott Lee, Andrew Barach, Matthew Lillard

Directed by John Carl Buechler

Expectations: High. The first two are horror comedy gold.

On the general scale:
 (No Stars)

On the B-movie scale:
onestar


Ghoulies III is a film that offends me on a deep level because it takes something I genuinely love and completely trashes it. It reminds me of the Star Wars prequels in that way, and if there’s one thing you don’t want to do, it’s remind me of the Star Wars prequels. Ugh. As soon as I’m done with this review I’m going to disregard that this film ever existed. On that cheery note, let’s get down to business!

First off, this is a direct-to-video sequel that was not produced by a Charles Band company. As far as I can tell he had nothing to do with this film, although the director, John Carl Buechler, did make a few films with Empire International and did the FX for a ton more. He definitely has the cred to be respectable, so I can’t imagine why he agreed to make this, other than needing quick cash to pay off a loan shark or something. Realistically, there’s nothing terribly wrong here with the FX or the directing, but more with the writing choices and the direction they decided to take the series. After watching this, it isn’t hard to imagine why this is screenwriter Brent Olson’s only credit on IMDB.

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