Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Starring - Mark Wahlberg, Lou Diamond Phillips, Christina Applegate, Bokeem Woodbine, Antonio Sabato Jr.
I know, I know, we all wanted this one to work; action-comedy with a smattering of tongue-in-cheek satire produced by John Woo. Unfortunately, though a bunch of small things do go right, the majority of the comedy falls flat, some of it painfully so. At least one, preferably two, more action scenes would have also gone some distance in lifting this film out from the hole in which it fell.
This is an earlier American entry to foray into the realm of over the top, greatly exaggerated, gravity defying action, and the "bang bang boom boom" stuff is generally a success. Provided, of course, that you can swallow the idea of dead bodies soaring through the air and deceptively non-threatening explosions. Personally, I'm a huge advocate of gratuitous violence and can swallow just about anything that involves limitless bullets. We get Marky Mark rolling down hand railings, bungee jumping out of explosive blasts, being chased down a mountain by a flipping car, and (icing on the cake) knife-fighting Lou Diamond Phillips in a video store. There is literally a little something excessive there for everyone. The only down side to all this action hubris comes in the from of a few pointless, unnecessary jumps...and I don't mean "jump cuts"...I mean actual insert shots of the gang simply jumping...which doesn't seem immediately beneficial during a gunfight...
Such a pity that team Wong Woo failed to provide me with that which I so purely desired...50 or so minutes go by with nary an action sequence in sight. In it's stead, I'm subjected to a barrage of jokes ranging from mediocre to lame as shit and involving a running masturbatory gag, a forgetful homeboy, and a domestic comedy of errors. Timeless subjects, all of them. Not that those things are necessarily un-funny, but in these particular situations they too were exaggerated, and proved to turn themselves more silly than anything. Case in point: the "chicken stuffing/sweet sweet loving" juxtaposition. I get the allusion, but some softer lighting and more seductively subtle shots of the chicken's glory (i.e. taking the ridiculousness of the scenario just a bit more seriously) would have turned the whole sordid affair into a joke being played by the filmmakers, not just a cheap laugh being had by them. I don't even want to get into the travesty that was the "trace buster" gag.
Not that the actors themselves can't be held at least partially responsible for their beyond-caricaturistic deliveries and overall performances. Even when the odd couple of chuckles are induced (I did enjoy watching Cisco kill Gump...maybe because I hated him so much...even his name is obvious...), those are quickly squashed by the downhill boulder that is bad acting. Everything out of Gump's mouth is cringe worthy, as is usually the outcome of bad parody, and Phillips' Latino tough guy comes across as laughable and incompetent. He needs to go back and re-watch Stand and Deliver. Top that all off with China Chow as Keiko, pitifully uttering classic love tomes such as "I'm feeling it, Skipper," and you can't help but long for someone to get shot. Anyone. Quick.
The really great moments are far outnumbered by the really weak moments, and when mixed all together everything is merely moderately amusing. So much potential washed away in a hail of playground humour. Not even the good playground humour. Kudos on the soundtrack however. It's nice to see Molotov getting a little notice.
Starring - Michael Muhney, Desmond Askew, Mircea Monroe, Stephen Martines, Valerie Cruz
It`s probably not a good sign when the cover box calls this movie No Man's Land: The Rise of Reeker, the DVD menu calls it The Rise of The Reeker (note the extra "the"), and the opening titles simply opt for No Man's Land. Ah well, can't judge a movie by it's numerous titles...
When you've seen as many shitty movies as I have, particularly within the horror genre, it becomes increasingly difficult to be unappreciative of mediocrity. In many instances, I find the result to be similar to what we have here, which is a generally bad film sprinkled with a few imaginative moments. Of course, I may watch it again simply due to my passion for the genre, but do not let my actions motivate yours; it's not very good and I can admit that to myself.
All this nonsense is further aggravated by the fact that I kinda dug the opening scene and my hopes were mildly raised. In the obligatory origin flashback, I was treated to some decent looking direct-to-video gore and a playful introduction to the background of said Reeker. All is faring positively up until the one-handed dweeb returns to his shanty accompanied by that goddamn overused, herky-jerky camera work as he moves. It denotes death...or stench...or otherworldly spookiness...or just a plain, old, overall successful attempt to piss me off...And with that minute technique, the story regresses into a typical "holed-up, disagreeing survivor" tale. (Not that the two things are inevitably linked...) After progressing to the present, we are introduced to a handful of one-note characters, where the only upside is that the greater the number of one-note characters, the greater the number of one-note deaths. We get the wise ole disheveled sheriff, his by-the-books Deputy son, the feisty waitress, the empathetic robber, the demented robber, the injured robber, and the intelligent, attractive, female doctor. Following a series of grave misunderstandings the gas station explodes, and, unbeknownst to them, the group of stereotypes are hurtled into the realm between the dead and the living. Now, given that Reeker ended with this so-called twist, why would writer/director Dave Payne slowly reveal this fact as though it were some great secret? I was already privy to this grand revelation, why not pay me, a faithful horror viewer, a little credit?
Amid the mundane proceeding dialogue, and generic "scares" in the form of disappearing people and bad smells, the film does occasionally offer up some visually satisfying (though CGI dominant) and inventive kill scenes. "Headless Binky" and the "wandering" torso spring immediately to my mind, but the majority of the spewing blood and pierced appendages looked acceptable. Finally, something here worth watching. (Now, if only there was some gratuitous nudity this thing might have made it on my "To Buy" list.) Unfortunately, for every drilled-forehead, there's also a lame attempt at comedy. The deputy doesn't sport the slapstick chops that are required to make walking into an invisible wall funny, (those comic gems are few and far between), and the entire "fish fuck" conversation is one of the worst attempts at natural dialect in recent memory. All this failed talking could have been replaced by moderately successful torturing.
Wrapping up the whole shit 'n' kaboodle is an extremely over-elaborate concluding explosion, involving a flaming pigeon for some reason, that resulted in the types of injuries received via the Reeker, smelly harbinger of death, in...take a deep breath...No Man's Land. (For those who have seen Reeker, the deep breath is not necessary.)
All I need now is the promise of an open-ended franchise and my continued Reeker viewership is assured, accompanied by what I assume will be a modicum of direct-to-video success. Hardcore horror fanatics are desperate for material that is even slightly above pitiful, and seeing how this was not quite a waste of my time, which I have in abundance, I will sit through the next olifactory adventure, stupid shaky camera and all.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Starring - Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder, John Allen Nelson
Recalling the lost 50's and 60's hey-day of "Space Invaders" drive-in flicks, this comedy/horror (emphasis on "comedy") adds a sorely needed touch of the 80's to the familiar sub genre. Predilections towards this one should be immediately obvious; if you genuinely smiled whilst reading the infamous tag-line, you'll probably genuinely smile throughout the film's unfurling. In it's entirety, Killer Klowns... is one, rapid, circus based, pun or sight-gag after the next, laid down atop the stereotypically classic storyline. Anyone who furrows their brow at the idea of deadly cotton candy cocoons or living balloon search dogs should prepare themselves for an arduous journey. Personally, I was hooked from the opening Killer Klowns glam rock theme song. Not for all tastes, but it certainly sets a mood...
The narrative structure is quite simple and familiar; an alien ship passes over make-out point to crash land in a farmer's field. Two protagonists put their heavy petting on hold to investigate, and spend the bulk of the film trying to convince moronic authority figures that what they saw was not a hormone induced hallucination. Meanwhile, the outsiders showcase their threat by dispatching a slew of nondescript townsfolk. An exciting climax ensues. The pacing is kept brisk, with very quick scene changes alternating between clown havoc and our heroes and heroines desperately trying to overcome puberty, jealousy, and popcorn. And timeless 80's humour. Can't forget that 80's humour. Luckily for me, the colourful chaos (both literal and figurative) culminated, every single time, with a close-up of the perpetrating clown's face, laughing maniacally. It heralded the the moment I could put aside my terror, and once again laugh...and love...
Now we reach the real question concerning the film`s construction; Is all this tongue-in-cheek, cheesy-humour laden, death fueled, clown gallivanting preposterousness a loving, exaggerated homage? Or is it lame? Is the movie fun on purpose...or is the fun just a pleasant by-product? (And does it really matter...) I believe the majority of it was on purpose, and it makes the ordeal that much more enjoyable, but pleasure can definitely be garnered on the other end of this subjective see-saw. I still have no real explanation or justification for those "crazy" Torrenzi brothers...I probably would have preferred had they actually melted away with all that exploded ice cream...
Yet, there`s something wholesomely fun about watching a freakishly large clown, with crusty make-up covering his garish animatronic face, attempt to ply a young girl away from Big Top Burger and toward his big-ass hammer. Or a tiny, little clown box the head right off of a dated biker bully. The rousing success for me, as it was simultaneously funny, absurd, and still creepy, was Sheriff Mooney being used as a ventriloquist dummy. Sure, the doll make-up and ominous spot-lighting played integral roles, but it just so happens that one of my fears is not the alarmingly popular coulrophobia, rather a fear of ventriloquist dummies. (They`re just so stilted and unsettling...yet they still toss about scathing insults...)
Even the non-kill scenes, or "plot" as the experts have dubbed it, are in emulation of former cinematic comrades. The boisterous, forced, joviality spewed by Mike as he and Deb enter the ship is mockingly reminiscent of every "Invasion"-esque protagonist of yester-year. Mooney`s stubborn refusal to believe any of the frantic phone calls he receives is also characteristic of the close-minded authority figures upon which he is based.
Killer Klowns... is certainly not the keystone of comic satire...some of the stupidity lives up too much to just that label; but it will be enjoyed. By those who love the base genre, by those who like what is called a "good bad movie". It will also be argued that it is merely a bad movie, and nothing more, and that is an opinion that can be empathized with. What cannot be argued however, is that it is marketed poorly. With a title sporting unnecessary alliteration and that ugly mug on the cover, one gets a fairly good sense of what they are in for.