The Lost Highway's B-movie Reviews and Cult Films
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Mind Ripper
1995 – R – 94 Minutes – Warner Home Video
Starring Lance Henriksen, Giovanni Ribisi, John Diehl – Directed by Joe Gayton

Did you know that there is actually a third movie in The Hills Have Eyes series? I’m not talking about any of the remakes, but rather a movie from the early 90’s called Mind Ripper and why they decided to call it that instead The Hills Have Eyes Part 3, I don’t know. Although after seeing it, maybe they were too ashamed to attach the franchise’s name to it, but not too ashamed to attach Wes Craven’s name to it. In fact, his name is right on the box as “Wes Craven Presents,” which I’m guessing is only because his son Jonathan Craven wrote it.

So where does Mind Ripper fit in with the other two The Hills Have Eyes films? Well, it doesn’t really. It’s more of an in-name only kind of tie in. Oh, it does take place in the desert, but aside from that, the plot is a ‘genetic experiment gone awry’ that low budget b-movies in the 90’s seemed to love so much. I could spend all day listing those movies and talking about how awful and full of holes those plots are, but let’s stay focused and talk about Mind Ripper.

The movie starts and right away some poor sap already wants out of the movie as a team of scientists in an underground lab, called Gentec, find his mangled body. Leading this estranged crew of nerds is Stockton, played by Lance Henriksen! I think it’s safe to assume that Lance is only appearing as a favor to Wes. Since his body is on their turf, he graciously volunteered himself to be their test subject. As the scientists race to save the quickly dying stranger’s life, Stockton gives him a shot of something he had been working on. It’s experimental, it’s dangerous, but it’s the only thing that could save the young man’s life. I’m sure the FDA or military would allow human testing on serum that is still in the development stage. Eh, what could go wrong?

mr_2It’s now six months later and folks at Gentec have been using the stranger as a lab rat and now call him Thor. I know what we’re all thinking, but that crossover isn’t happening. Remember earlier when I said the 90’s loved to use this ‘genetic experiment gone wrong’ plot? Well part of that was to load it up with the most stock, one dimensional characters in matching jumpsuits it can find. Leading the group is Alex, who is so secretly (but it’s not really a secret) evil, he should be twirling a mustache and laughing whenever lightning strikes. Of course there is also the fat slob Larry, the pervy tech dude Rob and the hot tough chick that is also a scientist, Joanne. From here, you can already guess how it’s going to play out for each one these characters.

Having left that project three months prior, Stockton is now trying to rebond with his daughter Wendy and her oversexed boyfriend Mark, who reeks vaguely like a Baldwin. Mark is the kind of guy who always has that look on his face like everything is bulls**t and has a double entendre for anything anyone says. This is the kind of character a movie can’t kill sooner and horrible enough. Also tagging along is Stockton’s cliched 90’s son (you know, the kind that hates authorities and his parents for no reason) Scott played by Giovanni Ribisi in his first movie role! Tough break kid. We all gotta start somewhere, but I heard there is this little World War II picture from some guy named Steven Spielberg… he may have a role for ya.

Scott spends most of his time smoking cigarettes and listening to his Walkman, because he’s full of angst and you just wouldn’t understand! Naturally, he doesn’t want to go on a camping trip with the rest of his family, but luckily for him, Stockton is called back to the lab since Thor is having seizures, thus having to cancel the camping trip. But work be damned! Stockton decides to bring his family… and Mark… along, because if there is any place in the world that can bring families closer together, it’s restricted secret genetic research labs.

mr_3Before Stockton can arrive, Thor’s seizures get worse and the team suits up in hazmat gear and tries to save him, but fail and he dies on the operating table… and then the team removes their hazmat gear, which leads me to believe that they are immune to all known and unknown diseases! Or… it’s lousy screenwriting. Speaking of, it wouldn’t be a failed genetic research movie if the test subject didn’t come back to life and slaughter all but Alex, Rob and Joanne. It’s here where Alex is revealed to be evil, which doesn’t come as a surprise, just as Thor captures him. Thor is looking rather sweaty and puking up weird egg-snake looking things, as he tells Alex that he is dying (didn’t he already die?) and needs brain juice to survive and then proceeds to suck out Alex’s brain with his tongue, which is now about two feet longer and has this little straw spike at the end of it. Maybe that was Alex’s goal all along: to infect random people so they mutate and their tongues turn in to straw spikes, which he can then market as the ultimate party accessory! Straw Spike!

Stockton now arriving, tells his kids to wait at the plane they arrived in, but do you think they listen? So screw it, everyone pile inside the super secret bunker that we somehow were able to get in to. Apparently they don’t delete the access codes of former employees. Talk about a overlooked flaw in your security system. But are you surprised? Thor is running around the airduct like a kid in a McDonald’s play pen! Rob and Joanne are trying to elude Thor in a room labeled with toxic waste warnings. The best thing about this room is that Nickelodeon must have designed this place, since leaky toxic waste barrels are insecurely placed at the top of a steep slope that leads right to the door. So what the hell is the point of that room? Or this scene? Finally, Thor happens to capture Rob, who just accidentally got his toe nail ripped off in what is honestly one of the most cringe worthy scenes I’ve ever seen, and then eats his brains.

As Stockton ventures off to find the other scientists, Thor tracks down his kids and nearly kills Scott, until Stockton tackles him, but he’s easily muscled down, beat senseless and left for dead. Yeah, great family and friends you have there. And now this is when the movie really becomes the ‘genetic experiment gone wrong’ movie, as Scott, Mark, Wendy and Joanne spend the remaining duration of the film trying to survive and giving each other pep talks about surviving, while giving exposition. A lot of these kinds of films seemed to do this after Aliens. I’ll give you one guess as to what they could possibly be doing with that serum at the research lab.

mr_4If you guessed ‘to make super soldiers’… DUH!

Nothing else to do now except come up with some lame brain plan, like leaving a trail of brains (oh yeah, there are a bunch of brains laying around… it’s a lab) to a freezer. Can’t say I’m surprised it it worked, because I’m not. Thor isn’t the brightest star in the galaxy, if you know what I’m saying. He’s an idiot. A buffoon. That is what I’m saying. He may be as dumb as a jar of melted molasses, but he sure is strong as he starts to smash his way out of the freezer as the group finds Stockton alive and they make their daring escape… or do they?!

Yeah, it’s that kind of ending where you think the villain is dead and they will escape and the he pops up and they have to kill him and escape again… repeat this several times.

I’m kinda in the middle of the road on this one. On one part, the cast is pulling in rather solid performances. Lance Henriksen is always great, regardless of how goofy the content in the movie is. John Diehl, who played Alex, really plays up the spineless villain, as he does in a lot of movies that he’s in. However, we don’t really spend too much time with these people to really get to know them. A detail about why they are the way they are is usually glossed over and explained in a sentence. And those we do spend time with, like Mark and Scott, we don’t really care for. Again, having some backstory could have made them more sympathetic… except for Mark. I do like the mystery of who Thor was before he was experimented on, but not much is hinted at or brought up, so you wouldn’t really think about it as a casual viewer. Although the visuals are pretty great, giving you some special effects that will make you squirm, the plot is old and tiring, offering nothing new or interesting. After about twenty minutes when you realize what kind of movie this actually is, you’ll find yourself waiting for the characters to die rather than be involved in what’s happening in the story.

Mind Ripper
Not a bad first attempt for Jonathan Craven, so surely his next attempt will be better… what was it? The Hills Have Eyes 2 remake? That pile of garbage that was only made to capitalize on the success of the original film’s remake? Ugh! Thank goodness he hasn’t written anything since… yet.

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • Super duper ultra to the max secret lab!
  • You’ll wish this super soldier was the Reb Brown Captain America.
  • Family death-cation.
  • Toenail removal.
  • Gonna eat your brains and gain your knowledge.
  • Chill out, Thor… in the freezer!
totals

7

blood

BLOOD

Plenty of sucking brains out of eyeballs, but that toenail scene… yeesh!

3

blood

BREASTS

Joanne graces the screen with some sidebood and cleavage.

5

beast

BEASTS

Thor is a force of nature that can dominate his prey and overpower them… too bad he’s easily bamboozled and pushed over.

5 OVERALL
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Jul

Comments Off on The Perfect House

The Perfect House
2012 – Not Rated – 84 Minutes – Wild Eye Releasing
Starring Felissa Rose, Johnathan Tiersten – Directed by Kris Hulbert and Randy Kent

Have you ever found yourself walking around your empty, quiet house and thought to yourself, “I wonder what kind of dark, horrible things have happened here?” Then as you notice some scratch marks on the floor from where you moved furniture you think, “Oh, I bet someone being murdered was dragged across the floor there.” The latter is the case for the home in The Perfect House. The film certainly has a lot of elements being mixed into it, but they are hard to pick up on. For instance, when you pop this sucker in, you probably wouldn’t know it’s an anthology, especially since the synopsis on the back mentions nothing about it. For the first fifteen minutes, you will find yourself confused until you realize what it is.

I would also like to point out (or nitpick) the tagline, “There’s Terror on Every Floor!” Yet the only floor we really explore is the basement. And this is a two story house, so that tagline would be better suited for a skyscraper.

Your typical family comprised of the bickering husband and wife (played by Sleepaway Camp allum Felissa Rose) who are condescending toward one another, their sultry, smartphone addicted daughter and their two sons who always seem to be fighting are headed over to their neighbors house for dinner. What’s on the menu? Dastardly deception and torture! At this point, it’s hard to say what would make a man go crazy and tie up the family next door. They do mention a few times that his neighbor borrowed his weedwhacker and never returned it, then we find out that the dolt threw it away, claiming it to be an old piece of junk. So if there ever was motivation…

tph_2It cuts to sometime later as a young couple is looking to buy the home, which is implied has been on the market for sometime. This is when the movie shifts tonial so hard and suddenly you’ll get whiplash, as an erotic real estate agent embodying every fictional aspect of the female sex symbol gives them a tour of the home. As the male of the couple drools over her so comically, I expect him to turn into a cartoon wolf as his tongue rolls on the floor and his eyes pop out of his head. This scene is filled with so much lame sexual-innuendo that even most porns would be embarrassed of. At one point, she asks the couple if they would like to check out the “upstairs,” as she unbuttons her shirt as they walk upstairs to the bedroom where she proceeds to lay on the bed and trace the curves of the body. The husband plays along with the dialogue, while his wife is condescending toward him. The real estate agent then suggests that they check out the “downstairs” (in more ways than one), but warns them the basement is somewhat of a deal breaker. I really hope there is no double meaning to that.

As the couple descends into the basement, we launch into our first segment which takes place sometime in the 60’s (I think), as a husband and wife head into the basement with their two kids seeking shelter from a storm. We quickly see how mean spirited and condescending the wife is toward her family. By now, you are probably noticing two things: That every character is condescending toward each other and that none of the characters have names. While this may work for a single story, it’s going to quickly grow tiresome over the course of this movie. Anyway, during this storm as the light flickers out the parents turn up mutilated, leaving the kids to discover who the murderer is, which is clearly given away during flashbacks of their lives, giving motive to the killer. Also, this is the only segment that has a different theme than the rest. Rather than opting for torture porn, it’s… I dunno, who-dun-it?

This is when you realize this is a messy anthology and that the real estate segments are the narrative part and the first segment we saw is the book ends. So on to the second segment, yeah?

tph_3This one is definitely the longest segment (and you will start to feel it drag after a little while) which is most likely due to another Sleepaway Camp veteran, Johnathan Tiersten filling in the role of the cliched philosophical serial killer. I’m assuming this segment takes place during the 90’s due to his Godsmack style look, which was a bad idea even then. This bleach-haired, soul-patched serial killer uses the basement for caging and torturing victims, keeping a girl alive for years so she can watch his “art.” He brings another victim into the basement that she taunts as he cries, telling him he’s going to die in a few days and she knows this because her scheduled rape is the day after. I’m assuming that was supposed to come off as shocking and funny, but it just makes whoever wrote this look insensitive and stupid. I also want to point out that even though the female character does get the male victim to stop screaming by telling him, “Do you think someone that would do something like this is gonna leave us in a place our screams can be heard?” Which is true, but isn’t this house located in the middle of a populated neighborhood? Anyway, this segment is filled with more anal rape jokes as the serial killer dribbles on about how he’s changing society, thinning out the herd, creating art… you’ve heard heard all of this bulls#@t before and it sounds just as trivial now as it did back then. I can’t tell if they were trying to write this character with some depth or just following a list of stereotype serial killers in movies. And as for the woman, I get that she has been trapped for some time and is starting to lose her mind, but it’s her performance that makes her utterly loathable. Sadly, you feel nothing for this character, which is a tremendous feat when the opposing character is a serial killer/rapist. As I said, this portion of the film drags as he tortures these two in the basement, making jokes and you can’t help but ask yourself, “what is so popular about torture porn?” Sometimes it can shocking and gross, but this comes off as offensively wasting your time and insulting. Although this does tend to come off gross at times, like when he peels off a victim’s eyelids and smashes out their teeth with a 2×4, you can’t help but feel like the overall tone is someone is talking down to you.

And finally, we resume what we started with the neighboring families. The psychotic man gone over the edge from a tossed away weedwhacker, has his neighbors tied up and the film ventures into rape territory again as he tells their daughter to make herself pretty, tossing makeup at her and the film recalls her coming home with various boys in the middle of the night, implying she’s a slut and that this is fitting for her? It definitely makes you feel dirty, but only because you can’t help but feel this logic is severely misguided. He then pits the two boys to stab one another in order to save their mother’s life, because they always fought for her attention. Again, severely misguided view. All children fight, especially for mom’s attention and especially when they are about five and ten years old. The mother then has her ankles slashed open and has to rescue the surviving child, who now has a plastic bag over his head, which at this point you have to wonder what the hell the screenwriter was thinking. None of this is about redemption. None of this is about revenge. None of this is about justice or what goes around comes around. It feels like an extreme ends justify the means and a very delusional, poor quality snuff film version of it at that.

tph_4And so the film comes to end as three months later, some guy tosses another guy who wanted to look at the house again into the basement, implying that the house has some sort of evil power? Hell, I have no idea. On a final note, I’d like to point at that this film is called A Devil’s Inside in Australia, no doubt trying to name it closely to the found-footage crap fest A Devil Inside. Which when you think about it is rather fitting for this film; A film that misunderstands and poorly represents the genre it’s mimicking naming itself closely to another film that misunderstands and poorly represents the genre it’s mimicking.

All because of a weedwhacker.

When is all said and done, I had a few problems with The Perfect House, the biggest being the filmmakers and writer decided that most of the film would be cliched, tiresome torture porn. As much as I hate that term to describe a movie, I don’t know what else to call it when you spend the majority of your time with a captor doing heinous things to his victims and even with such a simple and pointless sub-genre, it seems to be mishandled. I can’t help but wonder why they would choose this route when an anthology opens up your spectrum of storytelling, allowing you to tell different elements of horror without making your overall story arc seem confusing. All of this makes the end of the film seem mean spirited and doing mean spirited things just for the sake of it. Issues like child murder or rape are handled poorly, almost with disrespect it seems, all of which seems to muddle to tone of the flick. Am I suppose to laugh? Be shocked? Scared? Who knows… not even the filmmakers it seems. Also, they didn’t explore much with the house, since we are stuck in the basement most of the time, but I guess the title ‘The Perfect Basement’ doesn’t sound as good.

That’s not to say that some of the performances are actually pretty solid, most of all by Felissa Rose. She really plays a victim here and brings it everything she has. It’s just too bad none of them have names. Seriously, do you know how hard it was to write this review calling every character “he” or “she”? It wouldn’t have been as difficult either if they all weren’t pretty much the same character being recycled. How many times can I write “husband and wife” while simultaneously be talking about several different people? Can you imagine trying to describe this movie to someone? It gets confusing! If you can come away from the film saying one positive thing, it’s that the practical effects are handled well and at times used effectively. Too bad the same can’t be said about the narrative.

The Perfect House
Now if you’ll excuse me, I better go return my neighbors tools before he ties me up and beats me with a garden hose.

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • Most awkward dinner ever.
  • Real estate agent/porn star.
  • Children of the darned.
  • Torture basement.
  • Weedwhacker revenge!
  • What’s down in the basement?
totals

6

blood

BLOOD

Fairly decent practicals almost shine through with decapitations, finger removals and other mutilations.

2

blood

BREASTS

If you don’t mind em on a dead girl, then this is for you.

3

beast

BEASTS

Just a bunch of torturous jerks!

3.6 OVERALL
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Jul

Comments Off on Curtains

Curtains
1983 – R – 90 Minutes – Synapse Films
Starring John Vernon, Samantha Eggar, Linda Thorson – Directed by Richard Ciupka (as Jonathan Stryker)

Klondike brings up the most provocative question of all time by asking you, “What would you do for a Klondike bar?” Or in Curtains‘ case, “What would you do for the perfect role?” Me personally, I would audition and send a gift basket with one really pricey gift in the middle of fine cheeses and jams, but some people are actually willing to kill for it! In the early days of all the shlocky Friday the 13th clones, this little diddy from Canada cuts to the top and shows that bacon and Rush aren’t the only good things to come from our neighbors to the North.

Samantha (Samantha Eggar, The Brood) rehearses on stage as the director of the film Audra, Stryker (John Vernon, Animal House), isn’t quite convinced of her performance. I, however, am not convinced that a man named Stryker should be directing, but instead should be a cop who doesn’t play by the rules or a man who spends most of his time selling homemade potato cannons to school kids. You see, the character of Audra is absolutely mad and if Samantha, a dedicated and methodical actress, is gonna pull it off convincingly it’s gonna take some serious… um, convincing.

It’s not long before they are sitting in front of a doctor with Stryker detailing Samantha’s violent history and threatening to end her film career altogether, so Samantha lunges at him with a prison shank, screaming in pure rage! She is quickly restrained and slapped in a straightjacket, but as the doctor and the orderlies leave the two of them in the room (wait, they are just gonna leave her in the room with him after she came at him with a knife?) Stryker and Samantha begin laughing, revealing this was all a ruse. Faking insanity for a starring role; that’s dedication.

cur_2Samantha is now institutionalized, living among the insane and observing them. Stryker visits occasionally for progress and for support, but that only goes so far, as the madness seems to be getting to Samantha. She’s constantly pointed at and laughed at. The girl she shares a room with every night wakes up screaming, until one day she is taken away in the middle of the night after a fit and Samantha wakes to find her lobotomized. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all, as everything seemingly starts to be cracking Samantha. On his final visit, Stryker and Samantha don’t exchange any dialogue, but sit in silence until he slowly gets up and leaves. And he doesn’t just leave the room… he leaves her there for good.

Rather than do the right thing by telling the doctor it was a ploy and give the actress the role he promised her, Stryker decides to have himself a casting couch session at his remote home with six hot ladies who are all eager to play the role of Audra. This is cleverly told through the styling of stand-up comedy from Patti (Lynne Griffin, Black Christmas), one of the girls auditioning for the part. So we have our comedic relief, who else might we have? Filling out the roles of horror stereotypes, we have the snooty veteran actress Brooke, Laurian the rich girl, Tara the musician, Christie the young promising skater and Amanda. Amanda would have a description, but after having a nightmare about a melancholy looking doll in her room, she is stabbed in the stomach by someone in the shadows after spending the evening with her boyfriend, discussing all the kinky ways he can tap that. Meanwhile, at some other location, Samantha has escaped! All Bond villains, step aside and let Samantha show you how to film a sinister scene! Fireplace: check. Sipping on a fine alcoholic drink: check. Plotting your revenge and vowing to do whatever it takes to someone in the room whose identity is obscured: Oh yeah, big check. But there is no need to worry. The film has more surprises hidden away.

Now at Stryker’s home, the girls get acquainted and have themselves some girl talk. You know, who would do the dirtiest thing to Stryker. This is when he makes his grand entrance and circles the table, introducing each girl with a sentence that sums up their character, like they are all henchman to his Bond villain. It’s classic. I just imagine Stryker hiding behind the door eavesdropping and getting excited as the girls discuss what they would do for him sexually to get the roll. Then quietly he does a fist pump, then psyches himself to get back in the game, practices his lines about each one of the ladies and waits for the right cue to burst into the room. It all pays off. This dude is smooth. He then tells them that acting is only half of the audition, but they need to prove they are right for the role through dedication and sacrifice, setting the precursor to reality TV shows. Damn you, Stryker!

cur_3Guess who decides to show up for dinner? That’s right, Samantha! Later that night, Christie overhears Samantha and Stryker arguing about what happened in the looney bin, but before she can make sense of it, Stryker’s Spidey-Sense tingles and he rips the door open, surprising her. He quickly feeds Christie some BS about it being a scene from an old play and then coaxes her into sleeping with him (no doubt with a promise of the role and not to speak of what she overheard) and leaving her looking smug as she spends the rest of the night crying from guilt. Told you this guy was smooth.

Maybe what Christie needs is some therapeutic ice-skating to get her mind off the previous night’s dirty deed. As Christie skates her troubles away the next morning, she sees a familiar looking doll, partially hidden away in the snow. Suddenly in slo-motion, a figure decked head to toe in black careening toward her disguised with a hag mask and armed with a sharp sickle raised in the air. This sets up one of the most iconic slasher movie scenes of all time as the killer skates after Christie (yes, SKATES) in a cat and mouse game until she is finally done in. This is one of those scenes you really have to see to experience. It’s unintentionally memorable in almost a dream quality looking shot, complete with the image of a witch like looking figure. This scene easily could have been farcical, but everything I mentioned composed together makes it frightening wide awake nightmare.

Of course this is easily written off by Stryker as he tells the other girls that a note was left under his door and she left, but the show must go on! During the auditions, Stryker places the hag mask on Samantha and demands her to seduce him! After she fails at it, he humiliates her acting and moves along in his audition. Could Stryker be the murderer since he is in possession of the mask or is that too obvious? Soon after ridiculing Patti and taunting her into giving him a convincing audition, the hag mask goes missing… You get the feeling this guy isn’t so nice? In case you aren’t sure about Stryker’s motives, how about him using Brooke in a state of hysteria after she finds Christie’s head in the toilet (which vanishes after Stryker comes in the room and nothing is found)?

As the night closes in, the body count rises. Tara is next on the list, as she dances like what can only be described as a drunk robot trying to swim in molasses. Brooke and Stryker, embracing each other as she pleads for the role, are interrupted as someone bursts through the door with a revolver, firing a few shots! Laurian is chased endlessly through a nightmare maze of bizarre set pieces and props and Patti is approached and confronted by Samantha. The killer is revealed in not so much of a shocking twist, but more of a somewhat lackluster and questionable twist that you seem to go along with.

cur_4When all is said and done, two things about Curtains is glaringly obvious. The first being the some of the plot holes, while nothing major to deter you from the film, they will leave you with questions. The killer’s motive is ultimately weak, given that not much time is spent with them, but the biggest hole being the unknown person in the room with Samantha early on in the film after she escaped. We never find out who this person is, what their relation to Samantha is or what role they play in the movie. It was so mysterious and seemed to have set up a big reveal, but this character is never seen or heard from again. I have a sneaking suspicion that somewhere out there that there is a deleted scene explaining this and unfortunately there are no deleted scenes to be found on Synapse’s newly released Blu-ray.

This doesn’t mean the movie is terrible, mind you. In fact, it’s quite good. As I said previously, these questions and holes in the plot are absolutely minor and this is actually quite a suspenseful little horror film. Although not entirely heavy on violence, there is enough to keep all blood thirsty cretins at bay with just enough sleaze added to fill in the void for those craving more gore. There is plenty of titillating scenes showing off the naked skin of our beautiful leading ladies, who all pull in solid performances, by the way. The movie is tense when it should be and during the downtime, dialogue scenes, there is plenty of treachery and filth to keep you interested, but not too much to turn you off. There is enough mystery to keep you curious and overall, it’s a damn fine experience. Curtains is comprised of quite a few memorable, vivid scenes to ever be seen in a slasher film. Who knew these things could be somewhat artistic?

Which finally brings us to the newly restored Blu-ray from Synapse. I see a lot of films restored from the original 35mm prints, but I have yet to see one that looks as defined as this. All the lines are crisp and sharp and very little grain and scratch is detected and when there is, it feels like a part of the scene. Synapse’s painstaking 2k restoration paid off beautifully and was well worth the wait. Of course, the film’s audio is presented in newly remastered 5.1 for the young blood’s or original mono for the OGs. Not pops, no hiss, it’s as clean as you get, but even if you are having trouble hearing, English subs are available. There is even an audio commentary track from actresses Lesleh Donaldson and Lynne Griffin moderated by Edwin Samuelson that focuses on the their experiences on set. It makes for a good listen as they recall stories from filming. There are two other bonus features if you are looking for something a little more on the tech side, one being a six minute vintage video called Ciupka: A Film-Maker In Transition that gives you a look at director Richard Ciupka working and interacting with the cast and crew. The other is a new 35-minute documentary that chronicles the making of the film as the cast and crew recalls their experiences. Believe me, there is enough to keep you busy. You haven’t seen Curtains until you have seen this release from Synapse.

Curtains
So even though at times Curtains can be untenable, it does take itself very seriously and that’s for the better. Solid performances, amazing set pieces, a memorable killer and an overall enjoyable film all put together and presented handsomely by Synapse. I would put Curtains up there with poutine. It’s that simple of an idea and it’s that good.

Images courtesy of Rock! Shock! Pop!

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • Stand up comedy plot.
  • Dirty talk.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Ice-skating of death!
  • Stryker the playa.
  • Get your head out of the toilet!
  • Samantha be cray.
  • Who done it? Ehhh.
totals

6

blood

BLOOD

A lot of stabbing and slashing, but nothing to lose your head about!

5

blood

BREASTS

The film is filled with fine, sexy ladies.

8

beast

BEASTS

Among a room full of people willing to backstab each other, someone is running around in a hag mask killing them!

6.3 OVERALL
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Jul

posted by admin | July 21, 2014 | 60's b-movies, 60's movies, B-movie Reviews, B-movies, Guest Review

Comments Off on The Monitors: A guest review by Blake Lindsey

“We are here to serve humanity.” Thus states one of the hippest title sequences ever done in my opinion, something that sticks with you long after the rest of the film ends up in the Recycle Bin on your mental desktop.

It’s the tail-end of the Groove Era—psychedelics, calf-boots, turtlenecks, and breezy free-form jazz. The United States is run by a beneficent race of humanoid aliens of unknown origin who have striven to end war, hatred, political and social corruption, sexual tension, and obesity. They call themselves The Monitors, and the civilization they are trying to push the country into accepting is the kind of maternalistic, overly-intrusive nanny state envisioned by genial Swedish socialists. As the film’s tagline declares, “If you don’t like air pollution, war, body odor, hard pizza rolls, exercise, hairy musicians, sexy blonds, tooth decay, smiling heroes, population explosion….you’ll love The Monitors.” All is not well in Paradise, however; there are those who rebel against the flaccid, Wonderbread norms of the new society and long for the good ol’ days of promiscuity, liquor, kickbacks, and the Missile Gap.

This is the conflict at the heart of this film, based very loosely on the 1966 novel of the same name by science-fiction author Keith Laumer. I have done both, and I found this to be one of those rare instances where the film is more entertaining than the novel, mainly due to Laumer’s stilted writing style and excessive sobriety. The film’s main problem is that it careens around like an unmedicated bi-polar patient, unable to decide whether it is a witty, stinging commentary on American conservatism or a slapstick Stoogefest.

Directed by Jack Shea and filmed entirely on location in Chicago, the film featured the first screen appearance of Chicago’s Second City comedy troupe, which radically changes the balance of the film from being a Sober Warning of Excessive State Interference to one of Zany, Promiscuous Drunks Trying to Get Away from Daddy’s Rules. Veteran comics Avery Schreiber, Larry Storch, and Keenan Wynn have major roles, and cameos of late-60s contemporary comedians and pop culture figures are frequent.
The film is an odd period piece in several ways, and was a spectacular flop. It was produced on a small budget by camera manufacturers Bell & Howell to showcase a new cinematic camera system they had recently developed, and to draw attention to Chicago as a hip alternative place to shoot movies. They failed on both counts; Bell & Howell stopped producing cinematic equipment within two years, and no-one would film in Chicago for decades after the film’s failure.

From my perspective, the film’s main flaw is that is goes way overboard on the Zany/Madcap Humor. For instance, Larry Storch (of “F-Troop” fame) is always funny, but only in small doses; like watching Lindsay Lohan at a bar, you might get a laugh for the first 10 minutes or so, but after that you just want the bouncer to club her over the head and drag her away. A New York Times review from October of 1969 agrees, defecating on the film by stating “The movie is neither as funny nor as stinging as it was intended to be….The endless wisecracks seem none too wise or witty, or, for that matter, new.” For a film that features a well-known comedy troupe, that’s a major “ouch.”

Overall, the acting is pretty decent. Guy Stockwell (older brother of Dean Stockwell) plays Harry, a kind of generic All-American Guy who nevertheless comes across as likeable; Susan Oliver (who looks good in green as an Orion slavegirl in the Star Trek episode “The Menagerie”) plays Barbara, a chick who never quite makes up her mind about the Monitors, working first as their agent then joining (sort of) the resistance; the sober but likable Shepperd Strudwick plays the leader of the Monitors, Tersh Jeterax, and, when the film comes to its conclusion, leaves the viewer feeling as though they have disappointed Dad; and Sherry Jackson (of the classic biker-B “The Mini-Skirt Mob”) who flounces into Harry’s life as Mona, the girl who helps him escape from the Monitors’ re-education facility and has a great wet-tee scene in a fountain.

The cinematography is remarkably good with many really well-composed shots; director of photography was Vilmos Zsigmond who would go on to shoot classics like Deliverance, The Deer Hunter, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and The Black Dahlia. Its amazing to see such talent at work on such a low-budget project, like having Ansel Adams photographing piles of dog crap.
The story progresses pretty much the way you’d expect, with almost no surprises; the resistance (let by a pair of batshit officers played by Storch and Wynne) plans to bomb Monitor HQ, thus rendering the excessively-structured Monitors leaderless and impotent. Although he dislikes Monitor rule, Harry is not quite prepared to go that far and he contacts the mothballed President to help foil them. They do, but Jeterax and the other Monitors are so disappointed by the antics of the Earthmen they have come to save that they withdraw from the planet, like disappointed parents leaving their wayward teens to face the consequences of their actions.

And that is one of the crazy things about the film. Yes, they can be annoyingly overbearing, like impeccably-well-dressed high-tech hall monitors tasked with keeping order in the unruly Human High School and issuing detentions accordingly, but they are so well-meaning and so damned polite about it that you can’t really dislike them. By the end of the film, you find yourself sympathizing with them instead of with the idiotic yahoos who have spent the movie trying to bring them down. Nevertheless, life without booze, sex, corruption, and fast-food would be a serious drag, so you still—paradoxically—are glad to see them go. I don’t know whether the film intended to have that dual effect or whether it was something I brought into it.

In any case, if you’re looking for a groovy, late-60s ride in a sci-fi convertible, with a few laughs and a brace of martinis and miniskirts along for the ride, this is a pretty good film to check out.

roadside attractions

  • Groovy soundtrack
  • Psychedelia
  • Miniskirts
  • Alien Puritanism
  • Cameos by actual, sitting U.S. Senators (well, one at least)
  • More miniskirts
totals

0

blood

BLOOD

Some action, but no gore

1

blood

BREASTS

Monda’s wet-mini foundation scene

0

beast

BEASTS

0 monsters, just anal-retentive aliens

7.0 OVERALL
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The Addicted
2014 – Not Rated – 90 Minutes – Revolver
Starring Jenny Gayner, Sean J Vincent, Thea Knight – Directed by Sean J Vincent

Ghosts, abandoned spooky place, masked killer, revenge plot… mix that all together and you have a vile, wretched cocktail so bitter that it’s hard to swallow and you get The Addicted. It’s a low budget film from England, that will bore you to tears and drive you to the verge of madness, you’ll wish customs seized it. Perhaps I’m being a little harsh, but you weren’t there, man!

The setup is simple and in retrospect, pointless, as a group of four adults posing as youngsters, two guys and their girlfriends, sneak into an abandoned rehab clinic with an Ouija board to summon the spirits that haunt the place. Rather than set up any type of mood or draw out suspense as they don’t even ask the departed questions with their mystical Parker Bros. game, an unseen entity, or an entity that looks like two stagehands dressed in black, immediately drag one of the girls into the dark. She returns with a pipe in her stomach and falls to the ground dead, setting the others into ‘scatter and panic’ mode and are dispatched in a pretty mild fashion.

Pacing, tone and suspense are all set up within the first few minutes… nonexistent.

add_2Four “kids” go missing? That sounds like just the scoop for our reporter (I guess?) Nicole who is looking for that hot lead and that story might be the ticket. Especially since her father use to run the place. Wow, what a coincidence! You think that may have anything pivotal to do with the plot? It’s starting at this point where you are easily able to connect the dots and figure out what happens in the movie before anything happens.

Anyway if you’re still watching, a new security guard is brought in to watch over the clinic and mere moments into his first night, he is dragged off and killed, along with any possible tension or suspense. By now, you are probably realizing this is a movie that is clearly mistaking a pointless body count for actual horror.

But in an actual attempt to provide exposition, we flashback to 1987 when the clinic was open. David, a heroine junkie, is informed by his doctor that he hasn’t made any progress and will not be released… and then hands him some horse. Huh?! As David injects himself with the stuff, his doctor leans in and tells him in a sinister fashion that he is going to take his wife and money and makes sure that David rots there forever! Woah, evil ulterior motives? As the doctor makes moves on David’s wife, he spots David’s son looking down at him from the stairs, looking none too pleased.

Nicole, along with her boyfriend Adam, decide to go and investigate this place for unknown magazine or newspaper. But, you can’t have a movie with just two victims running around an abandoned place, that would require too much mood and tension. So they introduce another couple, Mike and Liz, whose personalities are so thin, they are transparent. After a pointless amateur music video that consist of stock footage of this group partying, they finally arrive at the clinic and the first thing they do? Sit around and talk about how they shouldn’t be there. Way to establish that your protagonist is a real go getter. They do manage to provide some plot, explaining why the place closed down, but the reason for it… is pure genius. Are you ready for it?

add_3Because a patient, David, committed suicide.

I’m not making a joke about suicide here, but if clinics closed because a patient killed himself, every clinic in the world would be shut down. What, do they expect to have a 100% success rate with their patients? Moving on, after Adam vanishes to go set up cameras and is apparently good at creeping up on people too, as evident upon his return. Finally realizing some plot needs to happen, they explore the place to shortly come to a door that Mike is volunteered to open. It pulls from his hand and they all scream and panic, while Mike is dragged off by two grips, I mean that ghost, which has the ability to set itself ablaze like the Human Torch composed of the world’s worst After Effects composite. Luckily Mike is rescued by Adam as smoke from… something (?) begins filling the room and the screen so intensely, that the effect actually goes over the aspect ratio bars.

Ok, if your editor can’t figure out which effect goes on what layer, it’s time to find someone else.

With the place locked down, they all vaguely recall a fire escape! Brilliant. Ok, so best course of action would be to stick together and go look… or Adam can venture off by himself once again. Gee, you think he is up to something? As the others wait for him to come back, Mike is in need of a fag (calm down, that’s what they call them in England) and goes off alone to find them and is dragged off into the dark again.

You know, it’s like Latent learning where you see if they change their behavior based on the result of what previously happened, but it never does. Lab rats are smarter than these people.

Mike awakens bound to a gurney to be greeted by a man in an orange jumpsuit and black skull/clown mask, who looks like the rejected member of Slipknot, shoots him in the leg with a nail gun for no reason, then injects him with heroine. I wonder where Adam could be… oh, there he is! He regroups with the others to search for Mike and almost immediately find him. Hopefully he isn’t dragged off again anytime soon. That would redundant and stupid… oh, sonuva…

add_4Remembering that they once had a point of finding a fire escape, Adam disappears, AGAIN, to go find it. Seriously, how hard is it to find a fire escape? It’s a fire escape! They are supposed to be easy to find in case of a, you know, fire! While Adam is looking for this obscure relic known as the fire escape, the girls are attacked by the ghost! Things sure are getting tense, as we see Mike waking up bound to a gurney once again (are we really doing this scene again?) and seeing as we seem to be stuck in an endless loop, you can guess what happens to Mike.

But it’s now that this masked psychopath reveals their true identity and it’s exactly who you’ve known it’s been the whole movie. The obvious continues to unfold, I mean drag out, as the killer’s plot is revealed and the connection with David’s ghost is explained and how Nicole fits into all of this as it boils down to her toughening up, by stripping down to a wife beater and tying her hair back like every heroine in most horror films ever and the movie ends on the most tired, predictable mirror jump scare in cinema history. But, you already guessed all of this. You’re smarter than this. Long ago, you probably shut this movie off and started doing something better with your time, like not watching The Addicted.

Within the first twenty minutes, the entire plot is set up, the reveal and all, so there is no wonder, there is no suspense… it’s all filler from here and it’s the worst kind. Boring, drawn out filler. It was at about this twenty minute mark I fell asleep, woke up toward the end just as the killer was about to reveal their identity and I guessed who it was with total confidence. That’s how cliched, tired and run of the mill this movie is. You can watch it in your sleep. This movie has the feel of ‘we have a dark, large empty space, let’s make a movie!’ And within this space they have to make a movie, they take one idea and repeat it continuously, you’ll think that the movie is broken as you think, “wait, didn’t I see this already?” Why yes, yes you have, but now it’s happening again… only the same. But that’s what happens when you don’t have things happen in your movie. The Addicted is like a one hit wonder CD a friend buys because of one song; He puts it in and puts that track on repeat over and over, until you finally snap.

This is a boring movie that relies on a huge coincidence too, doesn’t it? Part of your antagonist’s evil plan happens to be that you need to be somehow connected to the girl your revenge plot is against. Hey, didn’t Scream do that? Yeah, it was stupid then and it’s stupid now. Of course, maybe the film would have been a little more tolerable if they did some ADR or used better mics, as the movie sounds incredibly disembodied and muffled. Do you know how hard it is to hear an actor’s dialogue through a rubber mask in a hollow, echo-y room through an incredibly thick British accent? It’s not easy! Same can be said about the visuals. I understand this is a low budget film, but my god if you can’t pull off the bare minimum of decent looking effects, don’t have them. Not to mention that it’s a poorly lit movie, with lighting changing drastically between shots, that the scenes often look very muddy. On a fair note, some of the practicals are pulled off rather decent and if I have anything positive to say about the film, it’s that the actors do a bang up job. Everyone pulls of a convincing role and emotes well, but unfortunately it’s wasted in this film.

The Addicted
It’s a one note movie that feels like it drags on with very little thought put in, relying heavily on the same scare and idea to work repeatedly and then repeats the same ideas, the same scares, hell, even the same shots of those scares to a point where you feel like you are going insane or living in some sort of time loop. You have to wonder how a film like this got made. For a low budget indie film, this is one that isn’t worth your time. In fact, it should be locked away in solitary confinement forever and ever… and ever and ever.

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • Everytime someone is dragged off, take a shot.
  • Take a shot every time Adam vanishes.
  • Eye candy.
  • Nail gun massacre.
  • Oh and take a shot every time Mike is dragged off into the dark.
totals

4

blood

BLOOD

The pole through the stomach is done nice, but the blood seems to be used sparingly.

1

blood

BREASTS

We are… for having seen this, but a point for Nicole’s awesome cleavage.

1

beast

BEASTS

These beasts are easily outwitted, but the victims own worst enemy is their very own stupidity.

2 OVERALL
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About the Highway

Lost Highway is your satirical detour down the twisted back roads of b-movies and cult films reviews. learn more >>