Shark Week may be over for this year, but there’s enough B-roll footage in “Shark Attack 3: Megalodon” to create at least one Discovery Channel special. Between these clips, actors talk at each other and sometimes take off their clothes when they’re not having their arms ripped off by shark puppets. This is one way to make a movie, I guess.
The movie stars John Barrowman as Ben, who is head of security for a Mexican resort on the ocean. A giant telecommunications company has stretched a fiber optic cable along the ocean bed, and one day Ben finds a shark tooth embedded in it. He can’t place the tooth, so he takes a picture of it and puts it on the Internet. A paleontologist named Cataline sees it and immediately heads south of the border. You see, the electrical impulses from the cable are stirring up the sharks in the water. One of those sharks is the prehistoric ancestor of the great white, megalodon. Continue reading →
I have to assume that the people who made “Blue Monkey” intended it to be a withering screed against the Canadian healthcare system. Yes, the movie points out that the hospital it takes place in was built around the time of the Civil War and they reference Washington D.C., but this movie is very obviously Canadian well before the credits thank the good people of Ontario. The presence of Joe Flaherty is enough on its own, but there’s also the way all the characters say “oat” when they mean “out.” So, when a string of administrative blunders in this hospital leads to a giant grasshopper ripping people’s heads off, it’s hard not to think there might be some veiled commentary about the socialized medicine of our northern neighbors.
You really have to hand it to “Gnaw: Food of the Gods II.” Most giant-rat movies would be content to feature a handful of people being chewed to death by radioactive rodents and call it a day. But “Gnaw” is one of those B-movies that uses its monsters merely as a starting-off point and builds from there. Yes, plenty of giant rats nibble on plenty of throats, but that doesn’t include the amoral scientist who is turned into walking cream of mushroom soup, the dream sequence where the hero turns into a giant while having sex, the synchronized swim meet that turns into a literal bloodbath or the 10-foot-tall 10-year-old who kicks off the movie’s plot.
The best place to begin talking about “Gnaw” is its hero, an unusually buff geneticist who is trying to find a cure for an experimental growth hormone used by one of his colleagues. The hormone is responsible for the gigantic fourth-grader’s unnatural size and aggression. (“I’d like you to meet my colleague,” the kid’s doctor says. “I’d like you to get the fuck out of my room!” the kid retorts.) Our hero, Neil, takes the hormone back to the lab, where he does science in a montage that feels like a training montage from a karate movie. Neil gets so STOKED about science that he even gives an enthusiastic fist pump at his computer. Continue reading →
The first thing you see in “Class of 1999” is a computer screen spelling out the dire state of American urban public schools in the not-too-distant future of 1999. The next thing you see is Stacy Keach’s snow-white mullet, which looks like someone bleached a Davy Crockett coonskin cap. All we needed to see to know the movie takes place in a bleak dystopian future was Keach’s hair, so that’s one storytelling misstep right off the bat. Continue reading →
But there’s a difference between gonzo outsider art like “Miami Connection” or an audacious failure like “Jupiter Ascending,” and a lazy, pandering mess like “Sharknado: The Fourth Awakens.” Ever since the first movie, the “Sharknado” series has been sold as a ready-made entry into the “so bad it’s good” canon, but with each successive movie it proves more emphatically that there is no limit to “bad” before a movie boomerangs back to “good,” and that simply keeping its foot on the gas is no substitute for knowing where the hell it’s going in the first place. Continue reading →
If you’ve ever experienced a panic attack while watching Sheri Lewis and Lambchop, or if “Sifl & Olly” make you break out in a cold sweat, or if you’ve ever had recurring nightmares about Kermit the Frog, you may want to stay away from “Uninvited.” Likewise, if cat videos on the Internet make you tense, or if Garfield makes you edgy, or if you can’t stop screaming whenever you see a can of Fancy Feast, you are strongly advised to avoid “Uninvited.” This is because the monster in this direct-to-video monster movie is represented half the time by a perfectly ordinary housecat and the other half by a mangy hand puppet. Those of us who aren’t terrified by such things, however, still have plenty of reasons to avoid it.
“Uninvited” is a movie that doesn’t need to be reviewed so much as interrogated. How did anyone believe anyone would find this scary? Who thought it was a good idea to make the monster so strange? What in the heck is going on with Clu Gulager’s teeth? These are mysteries that are fated to remain unsolved, unfortunately, and without them to hold your interest there’s almost nothing left of “Uninvited” to recommend it. Although the movie features one of the single most ridiculous monsters in horror history, that isn’t enough to pull it out of direct-to-video purgatory. Continue reading →
Perhaps the biggest problem with “Project: Metalbeast” is that there is no earthly way any movie could live up to that title. If the filmmakers could have titled the movie with an airbrushed Boris Vallejo painting of a metallic werewolf, I feel like they would have. The title is a screaming electric guitar solo with full pyrotechnic accompaniment, and it ranks among the all-time-great, one-of-a-kind B-movie titles like “Hell Comes to Frogtown” or “Surf Nazis Must Die.” If the majority of movie titles serve as a polite introduction to the audience, “Project: Metalbeast” is a high-five from a complete stranger doing a backflip on an ATV over your head. Continue reading →
These days, the two most important words in Hollywood are “cinematic universe.” Inspired by the billions of dollars Marvel has made with its Avengers movies, studios have been frantic to jumpstart their own cinematic pyramid schemes with intellectual properties from the Justice League of America to the Universal Monsters to Nickelodeon cartoons. The idea, of course, is to maximize profit by giving audiences movies that spin off characters into their own movies or movies that collect characters from other franchises into massive team-up spectacles. It worked well back in the day when Frankenstein met the Wolf Man and most recently when Captain America fought Iron Man, but it remains to be seen whether or not audiences will sit through “Friar Tuck: Origins” before they see Robin Hood finally get the Merry Men together in the last five minutes of his movie.
With so many studios desperately pushing for the Big Bang that will launch the next sure-fire hit cinematic universe, it’s easy to forget that movies used to be stupid enough to just shove a bunch of characters into one movie without making audiences pony up for the installment plan. And so you have a movie like 1986’s “Eliminators,” which resembles a look into a cinematic universe based on the cheap, unlicensed action figures they used to sell in gas stations. Continue reading →
Horror fans have a unique relationship with the genre. Perhaps no other type of movie has inspired so many to think, “I could do this!” than horror, and because of that horror fans have a symbiotic connection to it. From Sam Raimi and Tom Savini on one end of the spectrum to Mark Borchardt and Mike Schank from “American Movie” on the other, a significant portion of filmmakers who specialize in horror started as fans mixing fake blood in their mothers’ kitchens and shooting yards of Super 8 film. And in many cases, horror returns the favor by making horror fans into heroes. Tommy Jarvis’ effects makeup skills defeat Jason in “Friday the 13th Part IV,” the Frog Brothers’ horror fandom help them identify what’s up with the Lost Boys, and the Monster Squad graduates directly from doodling werewolves to kicking them square in the nards.
One of the lesser-known entries in this subcategory of movies featuring horror nerds as heroes is 1986’s “Neon Maniacs,” a movie that nevertheless feels much closer to a pure expression of horror fandom. Like many of the homemade horror movies Borchardt and the thousands like him made as teenagers, “Neon Maniacs” is not much more than a feature-length makeup test, an excuse to throw as many monsters and murders and severed limbs at the camera as possible, sacrificing opportunities to build plot and character for more mayhem. Continue reading →
If there’s anything I respect and appreciate as much as a good movie, it’s a terrible movie. From time to time, I’ll be posting a review of a terrible movie I found either on Netflix or elsewhere. I think it’s important to highlight that these things exist, and that someone somewhere thought they were good ideas.
If there’s a cardinal rule of filmmaking, it would have to be this: Never be boring. This goes double for B movies, because without the budget to fill the screen with eye-catching explosions or famous stars, you have to do all the work of maintaining the audience’s interest yourself. “Mutant Hunt” offers a variation on this rule: Never propose something significantly more interesting than you’re prepared to show the audience. “Mutant Hunt” fails this rule early on, as the heroes discuss the plight of a captive scientist. Apparently, the bad guy can detain this scientist legally for 72 hours because of some law passed in response to “the space shuttle sex murders.” Continue reading →