Saturday, July 29, 2017

Recommendations :: What I've Been Pressing Play On, And So Should You! Or Stop, Pause or Eject.

Was finally able to take a look at Lake Nowhere (2014), and while touted as a throwback slasher movie this is more of an Evil Dead, spam in a cabin exercise -- well, make that more like Within the Woods, Raimi and co's inaugural short film that inspired the E.D. trilogy. (The whole thing feels like an ambitious student film and runs less than an hour.) Here, a group of friends descend on an isolated cottage and inadvertently invoke some "thing" out of the nearby lake. To say much more would venture into spoiler territory in this highly entertaining piece of splatter, which finds the right balance between ferocity and absurdity. Presented as an old VHS tape that has been partially taped over and interrupted by other odd programming, I found this throwback to be hilarious in all the right ways, making Lake Nowhere highly recommended from me.

A young suburban couple lost in the boonies are taken hostage by a couple of bumpkins (-- an escaped criminal and his junkie girlfriend), and then they all come under attack by some reanimated corpses that have been infected by a virus of unknown origin. Now, I know that sounds like we've stumbled into The Asylum territory but Splinter (2008) has plenty of grisly tricks and shocks up its sleeve than your standard zombie-knock-off as the resulting virus is kind of a four punch combo of the Blob, the Monolith Monsters, Carpenter's multi-morph alien from The Thing and an H.R. Geiger inspired porcupine, where it kinda "redefines" the host, most painfully, and sometimes mashing several victims together into one giant glob of murder. And once the set-up is out of the way, the survivors hole-up in an isolated (and laughably well-stocked) gas station to fight off the murder-globs and several sentient dismembered appendages while formulating a plan of escape. Pretty decent and well executed F/X and solid work from a few recognizable TV faces will get you invested in the outcome for those involved despite a few telegraphed plot-twists, which all result in a fast and frenetic and highly visceral good time and a hearty recommendation from me to those who dig this kind of body-horror shtick.

Ever wonder what would happen if five working stiffs got laid off en masse, got tanked together, and then hatched a plan to kidnap the boss's daughter for ransom as payback, which these bumbling boobs manage to pull off, only it turns out the daughter was the final girl in some off-screen massacre, and the killer is still on her blood trail? FOUND IT! Fair warning, Chopping Block (2016) is a comedy first with a slasher twist but it works, and works pretty well from inspired concept to the execution. This smells like a regional flick, but the direction was pretty tight and the actors were all pretty endearing with the characters even though the script felt a little loose and improvised. I know I pretty much giggled through the whole thing. Office Space meets Friday the 13th shouldn't have worked this well but it did.

If creepy old dolls tend to creep you the hell out, and if a tale of said creepy old doll actually being possessed by a demon that goes on a killing spree in a found footage horror movie than Heidi (2014) might be worth a look. Now, this isn't Chucky in no way, shape or form, as we only get brief glimpses of the killer doll moving, and no matter how hard the protagonist tries to get rid of it, the doll keeps turning back up like a bad penny, laying waste to everyone around him. Now, I do find vintage dolls kinda creepy, and so this thing got under my skin a bit. However, while everything else is completely serviceable from plot to execution, the film has one fatal flaw and that's the actor playing the lead, who is a complete flat-line, which kinda knocks you out of the movie's spell from time to time -- well, all the time, and the climax was trying a little too hard, short-circuiting an otherwise moderately successful fright flick.
Obscure 1980s holiday themed slasher movie directed by genre vet David Hess, the plot is pretty straight forward in To All a Good Night (1980): a group of girls stay over at some finishing school during the Christmas break, roofie the dorm mom and put her to bed, and then let in a bunch of boys for the usual drinking and bonking, which is then crudely interrupted by someone dressed as Santa Claus, who systematically starts wiping them out via a wide array of sharp instruments. Rock stupid in a yeah, but, no but, wait but, what the, who is that now, I thought he/she was already dead, WHAT IS HAPPENING kinda way. Luckily, the mounting number of dispatches were pretty hilarious in form and execution, though hampered by the shoddy VHS rip I watched on YouTube. And apparently, I picked the wrong moment for the bathroom break and missed the killer's plot dump on why everyone had to die. And then it kinda hits warp speed as thing pile up toward the end. Not a complete waste of time as far these body count things go, would almost be interested in watching it again through a better source. As always, your spilled-blood type may vary.

Well, even though Special Mission: Lady Chaplin (1965) highly touts Bond Girl Daniela Bianchi as the title character, alas, we spend the majority of this film with Slab McHugecheese Ken Clark as he unravels the mystery of some missing Polaris Missiles, where Lady Chaplin is actually a bad guy working for that dude from The Hypnotic Eye until she isn't. When this thing started with a nun armed with a machine gun mowing down phony priests in a monastery, thought I really might have stumbled onto something special here but things quickly settled into a familiar spy shenanigans groove from there. Entertaining enough if a tad misleading. Also, that exploding dress was a hoot.

Somewhere between a Gilligan's Island dream sequence, a feature length Monty Python sketch, and the second to last episode of The Monkees lies Masahiro Shinoda's slightly brain-damaged musical extravaganza, Killers on Parade (1961), where a group of eight wacky assassins, who all have a different mode of murder but share the same house (and car), are hired by a corrupt building contractor to rub out a crusading reporter looking to bring him to justice. Also standing in her way is an equally corrupt editor, looking to cash-in on all the dirt she's dug up. And the fact that the contractor has put a price on her head with The Slightly Spastic 8, her only hope for survival is a ninth assassin, who, in a merry mix-up, was first hired to kill her. What happens from there are some gonzo cinematography, at least three dance parties, and a metric ton of oddball action set-pieces and musical interludes and one cock-fight. And then it ended. And then I kinda wanted to watch it again.

A former circus employee who is now an escaped homicidal lunatic returns to his old stomping grounds under the big top in Ring of Fear (1954), where he engages in a protracted revenge scheme against his former boss, Clyde Beatty (playing himself), for reasons that are too dumb to go into. Blackmailing a rummy clown into helping sabotage several acts, the circus owners decide to hire Mickey Spillane (also playing himself) to sniff out who is causing all the damage. Now, this overly convoluted plot is wrapped around some fun day-in-the-life circus stuff and several showcase acts, but even that can't really salvage this mess of a movie. There's some novelty value in the 'sure, why the hell not-ness' of it but even that wears off long before the bad guy finally gets what's comin’ to him.

Okay, Mise a Sac (1967) is a French crime caper based on Donald Westlake's The Score, a Parker serial, where a gang of criminals pull off a brazen robbery of, essentially, an entire isolated town, taking out the police station, the fire station, and the telephone hub; and then robbing the bank, the post office and the head honcho's estate. This had an extremely limited release in the US as Midnight Raid and never on home video. Found a copy on YouTube in French with no subtitles but watched it anyway, and will now try to seek out one that does because that was pretty great. Nobody but nobody does 'crime capers gone to shit' like the French. And I know there was a meme floating around Twitter that asked what film you'd like to see get a Criterion release, well, here ya go!

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