Friday, February 14, 2014

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

The year was 1981, the place was your local theater and the silver screen was turning blood red in the wake of the 80’s slasher boom. Theater goers were treated to over twenty slasher films that year. That is pretty crazy when you think about. I have to wonder what the body count might be, cinematic-ally speaking. Black Christmas (1974), Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980) has opened up the flood gates for these types of films that seemed to enjoy being centered around some type of holiday. I remember a Mad Magazine parody of the genre titled “Arbor Day” that gave me a good chuckle even though I was still just a fledgling slasher fan.

My Bloody Valentine is one of those early slasher films that I hold dear to my knife wielding heart. For years it was an underrated classic that was usually only mentioned by the die hard slasher fans. When talk of a DVD release came about with extra footage that was excised from the theatrical and home video prints, pick axe carrying fans rejoiced. In 2009 a 3D remake was unleashed unto theaters with pretty good success. One of the few remakes that didn’t completely rewrite or ruin what had been made before.

Drinkin' the 80's.
The town of Valentine Bluffs is preparing for the Valentine’s Day dance. A celebration that had not taken place in the last twenty years due to a mining accident that had occurred the night of the dance. Five miners had been trapped in the mine after an explosion due to the negligence of their supervisors. Four of the five miners died and only one survived. The survivor was a miner named Harry Warden. He had been able to keep himself alive by eating the corpses of his dead coworkers. One year later the mentally disturbed Warden took his revenge on the two supervisors whose negligence almost killed him. He repaid them by cutting out their hears with a pickaxe and placing the hearts in heart shaped candy boxes. He also warned the town that if they ever had another dance, he would kill again.

Twenty years later the Mayor (Larry Reynolds) decides that the town should hold another dance. After all Warden has been locked up in an asylum so what could go wrong right? Well, just about everything really. It doesn’t take long for Harry’s mark to emerge when the Mayor and the Sheriff (Don Francks) find a heart shaped box containing a human heart. Another body turns up at the local Laundromat cleverly stowed away in a dryer and missing its heart. The Mayor and Sheriff have no choice but to cancel the dance. They also inquire about Harry Warden’s incarceration in the asylum but a phone call to the asylum turns up empty. There is no record or trace of Warden. Fearing that Warden has come back to fulfill his “curse”, the town is on edge.
"De-wrinkle, Permanent Press...oh here it is....corpse roasting!"

A group of young miners and their friends decide that since the dance is cancelled they will hold their own party in the mine and in secrecy. Introduce the patented love triangle into the picture! T.J. (Paul Kelman) is the Mayor’s son. He has recently come back to Valentine Bluffs after being gone for a year. His old girlfriend Sarah (Lori Hallier) is now in a relationship  with his old friend Axel (Neil Affleck – no relation to Ben). So now there is plenty of tension and testosterone to go around while a pick axe wielding maniac is officially on the loose in the town.

Whitmans' eat your heart out......oh...
So now that we have gone through four gears on this hot rod, it’s time to shift it into fifth with a series of well played grisly murders. This is an aspect that I really like about the film. Warden not uses a pick axe to dispose of this victims but also a few well placed implements of death. One prankster gets a pick axe to the head. One female victim is impaled on a shower head in the shower room, another party goer is drowned in boiling water and has his heart cut out. His heart makes it back to the Sheriff in a candy box with a note stating “you didn’t stop the party”.

"I really want to be a dentist, mind if I take a look?"
 Meanwhile some of the remaining partiers decide to take a trip down into the mine to impress their girlfriends. More mayhen takes place as a couple is impaled with a mining drill and another gets a few well placed nails driven into his skull via a nail gun. T.J. and Axel go down into the mine to get Sarah after discovering the bodies of their friends upstairs. Upon finding Sarah and another girl Patty they try to ascend the shaft. They are out of luck because the elevator and mining cart have been disabled, leaving no choice but to climb up the access ladder. Another murder takes place during their climb as their friend Howard is thrown down the shaft with a noose around his neck decapitating him. Fearing that Warden is above them they retreat to find another way to escape. While fleeing from the miner Axel seemingly falls into a well as the others heard his scream and find his mining helmet beside the deep opening. 

When Valentines Day goes wrong....tonight on FOX!
Continuing their escape they run into Harry Warden and he dispatches Patty. T.J. struggles with Warden only to reveal that it is actually Axel. It is then explained, in a flashback, that Axel was the son of one of the supervisors that Warden killed and had witnessed his father’s murder. This caused him to eventually snap mentally and go on a rampage. During the fight however some support beams are damaged by a mislaid pick axe blow and the tunnel begins to collapse. The cave in traps Axel and apparently kills him. However as T.J. and Sarah leave they hear Axel scream. Sarah turns back to find Axels' arm in the rubble. She holds onto to but the arm pulls away from the debris because Axel has severed his own arm with a hunting knife. Through the hole they see Axel stumble away into the darkness giggling maniacally and saying “Sarah, be my Valentine!”. 

Lemme just mop the driveway here....
Thus the end of our bloody little feature. The ending really left it opened for a sequel but it never came to fruition which in my opinion is good. The movie is fine as it is and will never need another chapter. For a low budget film (filmed in Canada) , it’s very solid with some decent acting and some fine bloody effects. Sadly though several minutes of gore were trimmed upon theatrical release. One of these effects involves a pick axe to the chin with one end of the pick exiting the eye socket. Luckily in 2009 Lionsgate, who had secured the rights to the Paramount film, released it uncut with the missing footage inserted. This went hand in hand with their 3D remake which I highly recommend if you haven’t already checked it out. It’s also available on DVD/Blu Ray in 2D and 3D formats.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Argento's Dracula 3D (2012)

I consider myself to be an “Argentophile”. I own almost everything the Italian maestro of fear has directed. I consider films like Suspiria (1977), Profondo Rosso (1975) and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) to be masterpieces of the directors’ work. So when I heard that Argento was going to tackle Bram Stoker’s gothic tale I was naturally intrigued yet extremely cautious. I was even more so once I saw the trailer that was shown at the Cannes Film Festival.
Yes it is jaw dropping bad.

Argento’s Dracula 3D, to be blunt, is an incredibly bad pile of crap. I knew I was in trouble right from the get go when the opening credits are accompanied by a point of view aerial sequence that has the camera flying through a village. It sounds nice doesn’t it? I mean who better than to swing the camera through a centuries old village than Argento. The man astounded me with his incredible louma crane sequence in Tenebrae (1982) but this, this looked to me to have been an entire sequence accomplished through the magic of CGI. I could be wrong but it looked pretty fake. Add to the fact that the village buildings are flat out colorless! 

Insert your own comment here...
The story line itself is pretty much standard Dracula fair, there is nothing all that new going on there. What is new is some interesting concepts about the count himself that ultimately fall completely flat due to bad acting, direction and lack of budget. 

Dracula (Thomas Kretschman) is introduced to us in the form of an owl which is pretty cool other than the fact that the CGI used to achieve this is rather laughable. Dracula can also transform into wolf form as well much like in Stoker’s novel. The only problem with this is, again, the lack of budget. The transformation scene looks like it was done on someone’s home computer. There is no detail to the composition of the wolf creature. It’s rather smooth looking which really adds to the fakeness of it. There is absolutely nothing terrifying about the scene because the effect leaves you laughing at how horrible it looks. Another scene has Dracula forming from a swarm of flies.

Stivaletti's work looks pretty good here....
 Now this effect looked okay and the final shot has a couple of flies crawling under the skin of Dracula which looks pretty nifty. The scene also includes probably the best effect in the entire film as Dracula goes on a rampage with his “constituents” and massacres them all. Sergio Stivaletti is credited for the prosthetics and mechanical effects so I have to assume this was his work. I’m not sure if was involved in the CGI work and to be honest I don’t want to know who was responsible for it, I just want them to never ever work in the field again.
But not here.....and yes that is a very big Praying Mantis.

Hauer defends himself against the script.
Of the many flaws with this film, I have to turn my attention to the casting of Rutger Hauer as Abraham Van Helsing. Hauer plays the character with no accent, no gusto, no nothin’. A flat performance indeed but maybe it’s because he knew the film was a train wreck and just said screw it. If I was cast in this stink bomb, I would have just enjoyed the fact that A: They thought enough of me to cast me and B: We’re filming in Spain, enjoy the time there. At least Hauer looked the part pretty well but he is clearly just walking through the part. Argento’s daughter, Asia, is also cast and in the role of Lucy Westenra………..Kisslinger. Wait, what? Why on Earth would Argento use the names of Stoker’s characters but yet change the name of just one? Anyway, Asia has always been easy on the eyes and she is again here but I’ve always considered her a pretty decent actress. She comes across rather wooden in her portrayal as the doomed Lucy. Maybe she knew her dad wasn’t up to snuff with directing this film? Who knows? Who cares? Maybe Leonard Nimoy? Maybe he can host an episode of “In Search Of” and see if he can find Argento’s dignity? Ouch that was harsh, however there is truth in that statement because watching this movie is more painful than having Drac suck the life out of me which by the 30 minute mark would have been a blessing.

Miriam Giovanelli.....nuff said.
So what is the redeeming value of this 90 minute opus of the asinine? The nudity that’s what. The casting department did a bang up job casting Miriam Giovanelli as the peasant wife turned Dracula’s main undead squeeze Tanja. Tanja bares it all within the first 10 minutes of film before being assaulted by the owl formed vampire. She again bares it all once more in a seductive attack on Jonathan Harker. Asia Argento even gets in to the booby act in a bathing scene which reminds the viewer why we like her in the first place. 

Asia’s signature tattoo work is also well hidden during this scene in order to keep the viewer in complete belief that this movie takes place in the early 19th century. This brings me to mention the look of the film. It’s just bad. There is not one iota of Argento’s cinematic abilities on show for us in this. It’s flat and lifeless. The lighting makes the film look like a slick porno flick. This is just one of the worse films I have seen in quite a while. So if you happen to be flipping through Netflix or perusing the Blu-rays at Best Buy and come across this cinematic fatality do yourself a favor and keep going……..unless you like to be tortured like I do and take it for a spin.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Burial Ground (1981)

Another memory from the ole Farm Fresh video rental days comes from the land of pasta and zombies, that’s right Italy! As a fan of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978), I was always looking to expand my zombie experience. I’m not sure if I had encountered Lucio Fulci’s Zombie (1979) or not before falling victim to this entry’s block of living dead cheese. 

Burial Ground is probably one of the worse zombie films I have had the pleasure of encountering. I hated it the first time I rented it. Then, because there was nothing in the day I happened to go the video store, I rented it again. I know…I am a glutton for punishment. This time however I took a liking to the little film. The zombies kind of grabbed me for some reason and even though I knew what was transpiring on my screen was dumb as all hell, I found myself riveted with joy. Luckily we had two VCRs so I dubbed myself a copy of this stink bomb. I knew I had fully succumbed to the pleasures of stupidity when I ended up buying the Shriek Show DVD presentation a few years back.

Filmed by director Andrea Bianchi in 1981,
Burial Ground (aka Burial Ground: Nights of Terror and Zombie 3) was released in 1986 in the United States. It quickly hit video shelves around the same time as well through Vestron Video. The film features a group of friends who are visiting a country side mansion for the weekend. They were invited by the scientist who lives there. We encounter him right at the beginning while he is studying an ancient tomb located under the mansion. He accidentally reads some sacred text which unleashes the dead who are buried there and all over the property. Our visitors arrive or course after the scientist has been ripped apart by the zombies he has accidentally risen……..and after the jazzy opening credits too.

Motorboatin'.....Italian style!
Our three couples spend their first night entertaining themselves with plenty of sexiness and love making. One couple is interrupted by their son and by son I mean really creepy dwarf looking actor in a turtleneck and mom jeans. This kid is what nightmares are made of and if I was a kid you couldn’t pay me to have a sleep over at his house. The boy, Michael, has an incestuous eye for his mother Evelyn ( played by the curvy cougar Mariangela Giordano) and this factor pretty much sets the tone for the bizarre you will encounter for the next 80 minutes.
Say "Italian zombie film madness!"

The following morning the visitors set out to explore the grounds and are quickly attacked by the living dead. Michael’s parents are attacked in the basement of the mansion while checking out some artifacts. One piece of cloth even “smells of death” according to pin head….er….Michael. The father attempts to shoot the zombies but bullets do nothing aside from making holes for muddy water to pour out of. Yes…..the zombies seem to bleed mud….I don’t know just go with it. The father gets his due though and is eaten by the zombies, giving Evelyn and Michael a chance to escape. By this time everyone is back in the mansion trying to flee from the onslaught of the dead. Of course they can’t escape and are now prisoners. 

Creepy.....just flippin' creepy.
The attack continues and the zombies seem to have a leg up on Romero’s walking dead. These zombies know how to use sharp implements. One of the most glorious moments is when the maid, while trying to shut some upstairs shutters, has her hands impaled by spikes thrown at her from below (zombie has got aim and a good arm!). Another zombie uses a scythe and slowly and painfully beheads the maid, giving the hungry crowd below and snack. 
Lucio eat your........eye out!

While all this is going on Michael tries to find solace in his mother’s bosom…and thighs. His mother slaps him and he runs off only to be attacked by Leslie who has just been zombified via a glass shard through the eye via a rip off of Lucio Fulci’s “splinter scene” reenactment. Evelyn finds Leslie chomping on Michael’s arm and in a motherly rage, bashes Leslie’s brains out in the bathroom sink leaving a soupy mix of red, gray and pink that kind of turns your stomach somewhat. The remaining survivors make a break for it across the grounds and discover a monk who is entering into a monastery. They enter the monastery for shelter and to find help but only find a horde of the living dead inside. The monks have been zombified and are looking to devour anyone who enters. One of the men is attacked and eaten while 

ARRRGG! Please make the movie stop!!
Evelyn and her two companions try to escape. They are cornered in the monastery and Evelyn stops in horror when she sees her son advancing towards her. She embraces her son and lets him suckle at her breast……..yes you read that correctly……he then bites and rips her nipple off and feasts upon the tasty booby treat. The horde of zombies advance and as they attack the rest of the survivors the film freezes and we are treated to the ancient “Profecy of the Spider”……yes it is spelled wrong in the overlay on the film. 

“The Earth shall tremble, graves shall open….they shall come among the living as messengers of death and there shall be the nights of terror”.


My son does what in this movie!?
Good jebus where did my 80+ minutes go? They went straight to hell my friend. There is no plot, the acting is atrocious and badly dubbed but the buckets of blood and gore are worth the price of sitting on your couch and becoming one with absurdity. Director Andrea Bianchi delivers one of the most memorable pieces of crud to ever find its way across the Atlantic Ocean. The best thing about this movie has got to be the zombies. 
The worms crawl in.....your nose hangs out of the make-up....
They are probably the funniest looking bunch of clay faced living dead I have ever encountered and I love them with all my black zombie heart. As sorry as they look, they indeed have more character than the living. What’s fun is to take a good look at them while on screen and look for all the make-up flaws and sometimes finding a zombie with no make-up is good too. There is one…’ll see him, I guarantee it!