Quick Takes: Sugar Hill, Survival of the Dead, Escape from Tomorrow

sugar_hill_xlgSugar Hill (1974)
threestar

Starring Marki Bey, Robert Quarry, Don Pedro Colley, Betty Anne Rees, Richard Lawson, Zara Cully, Charles Robinson, Larry Don Johnson
Directed by Paul Maslansky

What do you get when you combine a foxy lady, a murdered boyfriend, silver-eyed voodoo zombies, and some racist, honky motherfuckers? Sugar Hill takin’ out the trash… the white trash! Sugar Hill is one hell of a fun blaxploitation horror film, and definitely one to add to your watchlist if you like your anti-racism films without a hint of subtlety. Sugar Hill has the country’s racism right out in the open, and for my money there’s no better villain to see get theirs than ignorant racists (except maybe Nazis). To see them taken out with a group of voodoo-risen zombies who still wear the rusted shackles of their years in slavery is like getting a dose of cathartic justice with your entertainment. I loved it.

SurvivaloftheDeadSurvival of the Dead (2009)
twohalfstar

Starring Alan van Sprang, Kenneth Welsh, Kathleen Munroe, Richard Fitzpatrick, Athena Karkanis, Stefano Di Matteo, Devon Bostick, Joris Jarsky, Eric Woolfe
Directed by George A. Romero

Survival of the Dead is a sequel to Romero’s Diary of the Dead, featuring the military characters seen briefly in that film. Here they are trying to survive amidst the zombie apocalypse (who woulda thunk it!?), and eventually they get pulled into an old family feud on an island off the coast of Delaware that they’ve heard is free from zombies. Romero’s sensibilities are still rooted in the ’70s and ’80s, so the characters feel like holdovers from that era of film. This endeared the film to me, but I’m sure others would have the opposite reaction. The film is also something of a comedy (hence the family feud storyline), although Romero oddly keeps the overall tone serious, so a lot of the comedy comes off as bad drama. But little things, like a girl who loved horses so much her zombie just rides a horse around the island all day, still have me chuckling. Overall, I liked it. Had some humor, had some gore, had some dope Irish accents. I was satisfied. Is it good? Eh, not really, but I’ll take an OK new Romero movie over most horror movies made these days.

escapefromtomorrow_1Escape from Tomorrow (2013)
onehalfstar

Starring Roy Abramsohn, Elena Schuber, Katelynn Rodriguez, Jack Dalton, Danielle Safady, Annet Mahendru, Lee Armstrong, Kimberly Ables Jindra, Trey Loney, Amy Lucas, Alison Lees-Taylor
Directed by Randy Moore

I greatly admire the ambition of Randy Moore in making Escape from Tomorrow. The film is set in Disney World, and Moore actually shot it there (and Disneyland) without Disney’s consent, during park hours. To shoot a film at Disneyland guerrilla-style is ballsy, but it’s the quality of the camera placements that really amazed me. A lot of it doesn’t look like it was shot on the sly, and certain elements — like characters passing on two trains of the People Mover — must have taken forever to block out amidst the crowds. The fact that the film even exists is impressive enough for me to almost forget that the movie itself isn’t really that good. It’s a shame, but the story of a 40-something father chasing 14-year-old French girls around Disney World because he’s in an unhappy marriage is much more creepy than engaging. And not the good kind of creepy either. There’s also a supernatural bent to the story as it goes on, but none of it makes a single bit of sense. And then the ending comes out of left field, which makes even less sense than what came before it. Perhaps I missed some deep meaning, but I was left to admire the passion that drove the film, instead of the actual film itself.

Cyclone (1987)

Starring Heather Thomas, Jeffrey Combs, Ashley Ferrare, Dar Robinson, Martine Beswick, Robert Quarry, Martin Landau, Huntz Hall, Troy Donahue, Michael Reagan, Tim Conway Jr., Dawn Wildsmith, Bruce Fairbairn

Directed by Fred Olen Ray

Expectations: Low. I’m expecting some low-budget action trash.

On the general scale:

On the B-Movie scale:


Prior to seeing Cyclone, I had heard the name Fred Olen Ray, but I had never seen any of his work. From the stories I surmised that Cyclone would be ultra low-budget and ultra stupid, but instead it was fucking awesome! It’s definitely low-budget, and high-brow motherfuckers will turn their noses up at its ridiculous plot, but in terms of entertainment value, this is one of the better films I’ve seen in the past few months. Seriously. Maybe this is just disappointment and indifference talking after seeing The Adventures of Tintin and Melancholia in the theaters, but Cyclone is actually a really well made and produced film, featuring incredible car stunts, explosions and a bevy of quality actors.

Cyclone tells the story of Teri (Heather Thomas) and her inventor boyfriend Rick (Jeffrey Combs). Rick has built an incredible motorcycle fitted with armor plating, laser guns and missiles, and now that it’s complete he starts receiving death threats. The couple goes out to celebrate Rick’s completion of the project, but instead of a champagne toast he receives an ice pick to the brain. Now Teri’s duty is to protect the Cyclone from falling into the wrong hands, but in a world inhabited by greedy people, there’s no telling who she can trust.

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