Ragdoll (1999)

ragdoll_1Starring Russell Richardson, Jennia Fredrique, Tarnell Poindexter, William Stanford Davis, Danny Wooten, William L. Johnson, Troy Medley, Frederic Tucker, Freda Payne

Directed by Ted Nicolaou

Expectations: I don’t expect much, but I hope it’s fun.

On the general scale:
onehalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
twohalfstar


Ragdoll is a pretty fun, voodoo/black magic themed horror movie, but I wouldn’t hold it against you if you didn’t make it past the first couple of minutes. The film’s lead character is Kwame (Russell Richardson), but Ragdoll starts with a flashback intro, showing us a moment in the childhood of Kwame’s grandma. Her mother — Kwame’s great grandmother — was a practitioner of the black arts, and apparently she made a bad deal with the Shadow Man. Due to this, Kwame’s grandmother witnessed her mother’s murder by an agent of the Shadow Man, in this case, a haunted dress. It’s as scary and convincing as it sounds; it looks like someone is just off-screen with a fishing pole waving the dress around.

I thought this traumatic moment might cause Kwame’s grandmother to live a life free of the dark arts, but no! When we flash-forward to the present day, we learn that dear ol’ Gran is indeed a dabbler in the occult, she just does so with a supreme respect and knowledge of what might happen if she isn’t careful with how she conducts her dealings with the other side. Kwame, though, has had no such trauma in his life, so when his up-and-coming rap group (called KT Bounce) is forced into a managerial contract with a ruthless gangster, Big Pere (William Stanford Davis), he seeks the help of the Shadow Man to fight his battles.

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Remote (1993)

Remote1993Starring Chris Carrara, Jessica Bowman, John Diehl, Tony Longo, Stuart Fratkin, Derya Ruggles, Jordan Belfi, Kenneth A. Brown, Lorna Scott

Directed by Ted Nicolaou

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:
onestar

On the B-movie scale:
twohalfstar


I purposefully don’t do much research so I can come to movies without too many expectations. In the case of Remote, knowing nothing led me to incorrectly assume that the title referred to a TV remote. I imagined a magical remote control as the catalyst to the typical Moonbeam storyline of a kid getting sucked into an alternate world, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In actuality, Remote is more grounded than any other Moonbeam film I’ve seen so far, and the title refers to remote-controlled planes, cars and yodeling Germans.

The storyline is fairly scattershot, but if I had to classify it as something, it’s basically a Home Alone clone. Randy (Chris Carrara) is your typical ’90s whiz kid, and his special interest is in remote-controlled devices. His best friend is a baseball-playing girl named Judy (Jessica Bowman), and they spend a lot of time together flying remote-controlled planes, and racing remote-controlled cars around the duct work in the attic of the sole model house for an undeveloped housing tract. This house is their special hideout, but when a trio of bungling burglars seek refuge there, Randy finds himself trapped in the attic with nothing but his remote-controlled minions between him and the criminals.

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The Shrunken City (1998)

The Shrunken City (1998)
AKA Shandar: The Shrunken City

Starring Michael Malota, Agnes Bruckner, Jules Mandel, Steve Valentine, Ray Laska, Dorina Lazar, Christopher Landry, Lula Malota, Andreea Macelaru, Ion Haiduc

Directed by Ted Nicolaou

Expectations: Moderate, the kids movies are always iffy.

On the general scale:

On the B-Movie scale:


I’ve put off writing this review for the last hour or so after the movie had ended. Usually I start right away, eager to blast out my thoughts into some form of a rough draft. Whenever I hesitate, it’s usually a bad sign. In this particular case, it’s a sign of a film that has left me rather indifferent, but I’ll try to make the best of it. It’s odd too, because I enjoyed The Shrunken City, or Shandar – The Shrunken City! if you’re going by its most recent title (and what it’s known by at a Redbox near you).

Shandar is about the mystical city of Shandar that was shrunken into a glass bottle as a last-ditch effort to save it from the destructive forces of the evil Ood. As a sidenote, has there ever been a shittier name for a villainous force? The Ood? I suppose I could call them the El Ooderino, but they’re obviously into the whole brevity thing so I won’t. Anyway, the city is shrunken and then 26,000 years and a dimensional journey later, it is unearthed by our 13-year-old heroes, George and Lori. The only problem is that by unearthing it, they have also broken its protective shield and now the Ood are back to finally wipe out that pesky city of Shandar. Boy, these guys really know how to hold a grudge. You’d think after 26,000 years they’d let it go.

Continue reading The Shrunken City (1998) →

The St. Francisville Experiment (2000)

Starring Madison Charap, Troy Taylor, Ryan Larson, P.J. Palmer, Tim Baldini

Directed by Ted Nicolaou

Expectations: I hate Blair Witch, so a rip-off probably isn’t much better.

On the general scale:

On the B-Movie scale:


“I love all the ghosts.”

That is one character’s protective mantra throughout the film and it became mine as I tried valiantly to remain conscious through the film’s running time. The funny thing though is that I actually enjoyed watching The St. Francisville Experiment for the most part, it’s just that so little happens and the characters are far too uninteresting to make for an overall pleasing film. So why would I enjoy watching something like this? Well, because I’m a cinematic masochist of course, but besides that if you buy into it just enough it’s pretty easy to have fun with it. I can imagine a group of thirteen-year-old girls renting this for a slumber party and having an absolute ball.

The premise here is simple: there’s a haunted mansion and a film producer has rounded up four college students to go in with cameras and try to document some ghost activity. Everything is presented as if it were a real documentary; there are no opening credits and the film is all shot on handheld video cameras. Anyone that actually watches the movie shouldn’t be fooled past ten or fifteen minutes in, but at least initially it does a good job of selling the documentary “found footage” idea of the picture. Not that that’s original or anything. This film exists purely to shamelessly rip off the success of The Blair Witch Project. That film dropped the year before and Full Moon and company were quick to spring on its success. From my limited research into the found footage genre, this seems to be the first rip-off released after Blair Witch too, so if that truly is the case, you have to give Full Moon credit for moving faster than anyone else.

Continue reading The St. Francisville Experiment (2000) →

Subspecies 4: Bloodstorm (1998)

Starring Anders Hove, Denice Duff, Jonathon Morris, Ioana Abur, Mihai Dinvale, Floriela Grappini, Dan Astileanu, Ion Haiduc, Eugenia Bosânceanu, Cristi Rasuceanu, Oana Voicu

Directed by Ted Nicolaou

Expectations: Actually, pretty high. I realize this is Subspecies 4, but the ending of part 3 has me thoroughly pumped for this.

On the general scale:
twohalfstar

On the B-Movie scale:
threehalfstar


With the ending that Subspecies III had, I fully expected there to be a lengthy explanation of how Radu survived and returned to life. Based on the opening of Subspecies 4 though, I apparently just don’t understand much about vampires in Radu’s world. They appear to be the Energizer bunnies of their universe, taking an incredibly over-the-top lickin’, involving sunlight-induced fire, a three-story fall and a multi-point impalement, but still keep on tickin’! All Radu needs to recover from his charred, broken state is a few drops from the wonderful, life-giving bloodstone. It makes those owies all better like a kiss from Mummy.

After the off-shoot film Vampire Journals, Subspecies 4 returns to the tale of Radu, your favorite insanely over-the-top vampire villain. He’s still after the undying devotion of Michelle, the girl-turned-vampire that’s been hanging around since the first Subspecies film. After Radu fell to his death, Michelle’s sister and her embassy buddy zipped up Michelle in a body bag and drove off to seek help. Shortly after, due to a small budget, there’s a car crash and the only survivor is the undead Michelle. She is quickly taken to a hospital by a passerby, where a mysterious doctor who knows too much offers to cure her vampirism through scientific means.

Continue reading Subspecies 4: Bloodstorm (1998) →

Vampire Journals (1997)

Starring David Gunn, Jonathon Morris, Kirsten Cerre, Starr Andreeff, Ilinca Goia, Constantin Barbulescu, Mihai Dinvale, Dan Condurache, Mihai Niculescu, Petre Moraru, Rodica Lupu, Floriela Grappini, Diana Lupan

Directed by Ted Nicolaou

Expectations: High. The trailer sold me on this many months ago, but I wanted to get through Subspecies in order to see it in context.

On the general scale:
twohalfstar

On the B-Movie scale:
threestar


After the rousing, impressive finale of Subspecies III, there aren’t too many ways to go with the series that would seem wholly plausible. So for the next entry in Full Moon’s premiere vampire series, writer/director Ted Nicolaou completely changed his focus, starting with a fresh batch of ancient vampires and the desirable innocents they pursue. This gothic group is only marginally connected to the Radu storyline (OK, besides one off-hand mention of Radu, it doesn’t seem to be connected at all), but the delicious backstory is enough here to satisfy fans of gothic cinema and Full Moon films alike.

Zachary is a rare beast, a vampire with a conscience. Drawn into the vampire’s world unwillingly and witness to the death of his love, Zachary vows to destroy the bloodline that created him. He arms himself with an enchanted sword and with a wonderful, bloody decapitation the movie begins. His main quest lies in Bucharest, where the devious Michael Bolton-esque vampire Ash stalks Sofia, a classical pianist. Zachary must remain vigilant and save the girl from his evil clutches!

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Announcing the 2nd Annual Horrific October!

Yep, it’s that time again. Time for me to completely lose all control and give in to my wild desires of only watching horror films. Last year was a blast, and even though I’m more pressed for time these days, I’m gonna do my best to make this year just as awesome. I’m dividing my efforts into three main categories this year, which are:

Classic Japanese Horror

Featuring:

The Ghost of Yotsuya [Tôkaidô Yotsuya Kaidan] (1959)
dir. Nobuo Nakagawa

Jigoku [The Sinners of Hell] (1960)
dir. Nobuo Nakagawa

Onibaba (1964)
dir. Kaneto Shindō

Kuroneko [Yabu no naka no kuroneko] (1968)
dir. Kaneto Shindō

Full Moon Films

Featuring:

Vampire Journals (1997)
dir. Ted Nicolaou

Subspecies 4: Bloodstorm (1998)
dir. Ted Nicolaou

Parasite (1982)
dir. Charles Band

Castle Freak (1995)
dir. Stuart Gordon

Hammer Horror

Featuring:

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
dir. Terence Fisher

Dracula [Horror of Dracula] (1958)
dir. Terence Fisher

The Mummy (1959)
dir. Terence Fisher

The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
dir. Terence Fisher

So there you have it! I’m pumped to finally be checking out these flicks, as just about every one has been on my ongoing “To Watch” list for several years. I’ve always heard about the Gothic beauty of Hammer Horror but now I will finally see what all the fuss is about for myself. Same goes for the work of Nakagawa and Shindō. Cannot wait. And depending on time I might sneak in a few more random movies, but I’m not promising anything.

The extravaganza kicks off October 4th with Vampire Journals!

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