“Gnaw: Food of the Gods II”

affiche2You 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

“KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park”

mv5botqxzti0ytitnjq3os00odkxlwfkn2qtmzg5mje5njbln2uzxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyntc4njg5mja-_v1_I don’t mean it as an insult when I say that KISS is the ultimate triumph of style over substance. Musically, there isn’t much to distinguish them from Van Halen, Aerosmith, Boston, or any other arena-rock staple of the late 70s, but none of those other bands have had their own action figures or lunchboxes or credit cards. KISS combined the blunt, dick-swinging machismo of their music with a fire-breathing stage show and a look straight out of a Halloween party, creating something 13-year-old boys of any age could love. Their style elevated them from a rock band into comic-book characters. In other words, it’s hard to imagine another band that could have inspired the 1978 TV movie “KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park.” Who else but KISS would even attempt to make something that aspired to be “A Hard Day’s Night” crossed with “Star Wars?” Who else but KISS could survive its reputation as one of the worst movies ever made? Continue reading

“Sharknado: The Fourth Awakens”

Sharknado-The-4th-Awakens-posterI should be the ideal audience for “Sharknado: The Fourth Awakens.” I find a truly bad movie to be as much of a fascinating miracle as a truly good one, just for different reasons. I can excuse all kinds of bad filmmaking if the movie gives me something memorable that says something about who or what brought that movie into being. I have sat through “Samurai Cop” and “MAC and Me” and “Rock ‘n Roll Nightmare.” I have seen “Miami Connection” more times than “The Philadelphia Story.” I have sought out and received Tommy Wiseau’s autograph.

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

“Ninja III: The Domination”

latestNinja III: The Domination” is the last entry in a very loose trilogy of ninja movies released by Cannon Films, the others being “Enter the Ninja” and “Revenge of the Ninja.” The first two movies definitely believe ninjas had superhuman physical abilities, but “Ninja III” makes the leap into the supernatural by giving them more magic mumbo-jumbo than vampires. According to this movie, a ninja can crush a golf ball with one hand, punch through the roof of a police car, slice a billiard ball in half in midair, survive more gunshot wounds than 50 Cent, and even transfer their souls into other people. It’s that last bit that makes up most of the problem for the heroine of this movie, Christie, but she also has other issues that we’ll get to. Continue reading

“Uninvited”

1287566557If 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

“Project: Metalbeast”

project-metalbeast-dvdPerhaps 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

“Eliminators”

MV5BMTJiZDk4OTktYTE2OC00NjI5LTk1NTctNjMyZmI5Mzk4ODUyXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTQxNzMzNDI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_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

“Unmasking the Idol”

Unmasking-the-Idol-copy“Unmasking the Idol” isn’t just an action movie, it’s an action-figure movie. For all its attempts to crib its formula from the James Bond series, playboy-ninja-secret agent Duncan Jax, his friends, and his enemies all feel like they were plucked off the shelves at Toys R Us, complete with hot-air balloon accessories and secret throne room playset. It’s a movie pitched at the level of a Saturday-morning cartoon and proudly wears its stupidity on its sleeve. If kung-fu baboons, piranha pits, and submarine explosions sound like a good time to you, “Unmasking the Idol” is where you need to be.

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“Hercules (1983)”

hercules_1983_poster_01There’s a new Hercules movie coming out this weekend, and it looks really bad. What’s worse, it looks like it’s going to be really bad in the same way a lot of bad fantasy/sci-fi movies are these days, where they take themselves so seriously that even the color has been washed out of the film. It’s a moody teenager’s conception of myth, where the heroes are constantly scowling and it’s always raining because being happy is lame and for lame babies. So surely, a movie that takes the opposite approach and goes wall-to-wall goofy with everything should be 100 percent better, right? Not really, and that’s why I’m talking about the 1983 Golan-Globus version of “Hercules” starring the only non-CGI Incredible Hulk.

“Hercules” is what happens when you try to make a movie without any faith in your own concept. Rather than taking a look at what has made Hercules one of the most enduring myths of the western world and the subject of dozens of movies already, the filmmakers looked at the box office receipts of the previous summers and asked, “How can we make this more like those?” Continue reading

“2012: Zombie Apocalypse”

The problem with zombies, according to zombie movies, is that there are far too many of them and it’s far too easy to make more of them. The same could be said for zombie movies themselves, unfortunately. Since the zombie movie became a genre unto itself, most zombie movies have taken on the characteristics of their stars – shambling, predictable, brainless and indistinguishable from each other.

Lurching alongside the rest of the pack is “2012: Zombie Apocalypse,” which couldn’t be more generic if it came in a brown paper wrapper. Even the title suggests that you won’t find anything in it that can’t be found in dozens of other movies. It’s actually surprising to me that this is a SyFy Original movie, because SyFy has shown at least enough creativity to smash two toothy animals together into one CGI beast to chase Debby Gibson or Jimmy Walker. Continue reading