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 →
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 →
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 →