The Last Woman on Earth (1960) is one of those films you can tell it was probably just an excuse for the cast and crew to shoot at a sunny location and dick around. In this case, B-movie director/producer Roger Corman brought his crew to Puerto Rico for some sun, surf, and cockfighting, all on the cheap. In fact, to save on the budget, Corman hired on Hollywood screenwriter Robert Towne (Chinatown, Mission: Impossible, and the filmed-in-Newfoundland Orca) to double as writer and male lead.
The titular woman is played by Betsy Jones-Moreland, who has a delightfully old-timey résumé: she started out doing office work, took an acting class, became a showgirl, got a role in a travelling Broadway company, then ended up in California to star in movies like The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent (1957).
As Evelyn, our omega woman brings a “Betty Draper” messiness to the proceedings. She spends most of the movie calling out for a drink or brushing her hair or wearing outfits that were 1959 scandalous (read: pants).
The first half of the movie, for a post-apocalypse scenario, is pretty cheery. A well-timed scuba dive spares Evelyn, her husband Harold, and his lawyer Martin from the unexplained spontaneous asphyxiation of all life on the planet. They don’t waste any time figuring out the “why” of the apocalypse. They move into a swingin’ pad, light their cigarettes, and fix a round of martinis. As Martin says, “The lush island of Puerto Rico, a lush villa, and a whole life with nothing but to be a lush in.”
However, the movie then goes surprisingly dark. Evelyn has a sexy death wish. Easy-going Martin takes the apocalypse as an opportunity to throw off the shackles of society: no money, no bonds of marriage, no God. He starts casually bringing up how Harold is soon going to try to kill him. From there, it’s all fistfights and brain hemorrhages, and the uncertain fate of the human race.
Moral of the story: Never, ever move in with a couple.
Metallic objects have begun to rattle ominously, and then fly towards an unsuspecting American public! Chainsaws, pointy farm tools, a dirt bike, tinned vegetables, those handheld paint scrapers with the edge… No one is safe from the magnetic mayhem of Metal Tornado!
Here to save us is Lou Diamond Phillips, our man of science, the world’s leading specialist in the development of analogies. We watch as LDP’s clearly evil boss (Greg Evigan, the non-Paul Reiser dad in My Two Dads) waves off his words of warning:
LDP: *describes the metal tornado as a spinning top, a leaf in the breeze, gas on a fire, and an exploding oil rig, with a heart*
Evil Boss: You don’t know that.
LDP: What I’m talking about is a rogue magnetic vortex, created in a fraction of a second.
Evil Boss: The odds of something like that happening are impossible.
LDP: I think it did happen, Jonathan!
Yeah, Jonathan! The rest of the movie is LDP calling in favours, via his trusty generic office telephone. When he’s done ending calls in a frustrated manner, he turns to his teen son who happens to be a secret computer hacker. Sadly, he does not hack the tornado.
Ok, I know Christmas is over and we should have moved on by now, but we’ve been really busy, so this week we bring you the 1996 Arnold Schwarzenegger family classic Jingle All the Way.
Arnie stars as Howard Langston, a man who has become so obsessed with his job as a mattress salesman he neglects his family and everyone is super mad at him about it. Everything will be forgiven if he remembers to pick up a Turbo Man action figure, but of course he doesn’t, and this leads to him beating up Christmas and Sinbad all over town.
This is a completely ridiculous movie, and has randomly become one of my favourite holiday films to watch with a bunch of friends. It’s so hilarious I bet it’s still worth watching long after Christmas is over when you’re flopped out on your couch, staring at the dusty tree that you should have taken down weeks ago. Enjoy!
In this 2010 Finnish film, Pietari and his friend Jusso sneak into a restricted area in the Korvatunturi mountains to spy on an archaeological dig. Unbeknowst to them, what the archaeologists uncover is a gigantic, frozen, breathing mass, which may or may not be Santa Claus. Shortly after this discovery, bizarre things begin to happen around the mountain, all of the reindeer are killed, children go missing and a strange, bearded man shows up in a trap by Pietari’s house.
With references to Krampus and enough creepiness and tension to keep you on the edge of your seat, Rare Exports is an outstanding modern Christmas fantasy/horror film. It manages to combine several terrifying elements with enough sweetness and humor to keep you rooting for Pietari and his father. While not exactly suitable for children, it pretty much guarantees that whoever watches will be on their best behaviour to avoid a visit from Santa and his elves.
You guys, it’s finally over. For years we’ve been dragging ourselves to Fog City, drinking way too many jugs of Black Horse and stumbling into the theatre with glee, and the final installment of the Twilight saga did not disappoint: it was surprisingly violent and kind of shocking, but also touching enough to make an entire theatre of teen girls openly weep over a montage of Edward and Bella’s romance. There were crazy vampire super-powers, child burning flashbacks and an insane fight featuring a power walk! Even though Breaking Dawn, Part II is not a quality film by any means, it was definitely entertaining.
We’ll miss you, Edward and Bella and your strange child, Renesmee. We’ll miss the pouty Cullen family. We’ll miss yelling “take your top off” at the screen whenever Jacob appears. We’ll miss Bella’s dad’s really good moustache.
Here Johnny Depp stars as uppity vampire Barnabas Collins in Tim Burton’s remake of a classic television show. In the late 18th century, Barnabas was the heir to an affluent fishing company and cannery in Collinsport, Maine. After scorning Angelique, one of his family’s many servants and a secret witch, he is cursed to live forever as a vampire and to watch his true love Josette fling herself off of a cliff while under Angelique’s spell. Angelique reveals to the townsfolk that Barnabas is a vampire, and they lock him up in a coffin and bury him. Two hundred years later, in the 1970s, Barnabas is inadvertently released by an unsuspecting construction crew. After draining the crew dry of blood, he makes his way back to his family’s estate, Collinwood, now inhabited by his descendants: Sister and brother, Elizabeth and Roger Collins, Elizabeth’s daughter Carolyn, Roger’s son David, as well as a caretaker, a maid, a nanny and Dr. Julia Hoffman, a live-in psychiatrist, played by Helena Bonham Carter.
The plot of the film focuses on Barnabas’ attempts to restore his family’s estate and business to its former glory, while trying to fit into a modern 70’s town as a secret vampire. Luckily for Barnabas there’s a second chance to be with his lost true love, as it happens that the nanny Victoria is the reincarnation of his beloved Josette. Unluckily for him, Angelique (now going by Angie) is alive and well, and is the major player in the fishing and cannery market in Collinsport. Even after all this time, Angie is still obsessed with having Barnabas all to herself, and goes about making his and his family’s lives a living hell. In the end, the house and business both burn down, and Angie shatters into a million pieces, but the family is closer than ever, and Barnabas finally gets to spend eternity with Victoria, as he makes her into a vampire to spare her from the same fate that befell Josette.
The movie is sort of entertaining, but gets bogged down in the middle with anachronistic gags, as if the writers got super excited about getting to use all of their “18th century man in the 1970’s” jokes. Also, because the film tried to stay somewhat true to the television show, there were some unnecessary plot points that seemed to be shoved in haphazardly, such as the part about Roger being a deadbeat dad, Dr. Hoffman trying to become a vampire, or the unnecessary revelation that Angie had turned Carolyn into a werewolf when she was a baby. Come on people, a werewolf should never be pointless! Werewolves are both scary and awesome. Also, while Victoria is supposed to be Barnabas’ reincarnated soul mate, not much emphasis is put on the importance of her character, or his loyalty to her. During the raunchier parts of this (at first glance) family friendly movie, Barnabas accepts a BJ from Dr. Hoffman, and has a fling with his ex Angie. Oh yeah, but he totally loooooves Victoria.
Although Angelique is mildly traumatizing, I really wish that a witch would open a fish plant here in Newfoundland. Other pleasant things about this movie include: Fun 70’s fashions, ridiculous paintings of Angelique through the ages, a home renovation montage, a cute and hilarious troll doll, and the best Alice Cooper cameo since Wayne’s World. This is not a totally great movie, but it’s not totally awful either.
We’re on a Ethan Hawke kick, OK? We’re like Uma Thurman circa 1998 (when we really should be more like Uma Thurman circa 2004.)
Something else that’s stuck in 1998? Sinister.
First, the soundtrack, performed by electronic dark ambient group, Accurst. Their Amazon.com reviews say that it’s “…echoing distant screams psychotic laughter-soundtrack to a soulless madman’s dream…”. In other words, it sounds like your loner roommate is watching Se7en again, for the hundredth time.
Second, the villain: a masked, serial-killing demon. Good thing Ethan Hawke’s best bud Vincent d’Onofrio is the university’s resident demonologist (from the Faculty of Convenient Experts).
Still, Sinister doesn’t just rely on dated cliches. It also delivers fresh, modern cliches like found footage and creepy kids. Like the easy-to-forget Insidious (2010) and that other one where the kid is at the top of the stairs, creepy kids are played out, and this movie has a half-dozen, skulking around the house in silly outfits like it’s a dark re-imagining of Daddy Day Care.
Overall, Sinister is very familiar territory, with a lot of Ethan Hawke, Ethan Hawke-ing it up.
The Woman in the Fifth features Ethan Hawke in a role that somehow combines, basically, every role he has ever played.
Tom Ricks, divorced and possibly violent father and author, wanders around Paris and falls in love with Kristin Scott Thomas and a blonde Polish woman he meets at his motel and then a bunch of murders start happening around him. So, basically, we’ve got Reality Bitesmeets Before SunrisemeetsSinistermeets probably 10 more Ethan Hawke movies meets HIS REALLIFE. (Only in French and apparently with a ghost.)
Because the movie itself left me asking questions about WTF actually happened, I went to the internet for research and found out that it was based on a novel by Douglas Kennedy. In the film, Kristin Scott Thomas is revealed to have committed suicide back in the 90s and is actually a malevolent spirit that may or may not be either killing people herself or possessing Ethan Hawke… WHO KNOWS!? There are way too many dots left unconnected to get a clear picture of what the director was trying to get across, and instead what’s left is an incoherent, but beautiful, mess.
Remember those films we mentioned last time? The R-rated blood-and-guts horrorshows? Well here they are. A list of scary, gory, films to keep you terrified all the way through ’til Christmas. YOU’LL NEVER SLEEP AGAIN.
Kids are scary. Not possessed children, who have become as lame and generic as hook-handed serial killers, but real, unpredictable, uncontrollable kids. If you’ve ever crossed the street to avoid a rowdy group of teens and then kicked yourself for being so painfully old, Eden Lake will find that uncomfortable pit in your stomach and stick a butcher knife into it. When a young couple (Michael Fassbender and Kelly Reilly) has their romantic weekend getaway transformed into a horrific cycle of complication and escalation, all based on their encounter with a group of teen jerks, it’s as uncomfortable as an episode of Louie, with the comedy swapped out for horror.
Written and directed by the Boulting Brothers, Twisted Nerve tells the story of a manipulative and sinister young man named Martin (Hywel Bennett), who may or may not be schizophrenic and at times pretends to be a child named Georgie. Martin, babied by his mother and detested by his stepfather, becomes obsessed with Susan (Hayley Mills), moves into her home, and it all just gets weirder from there. This is also the source of that creepy whistling heard in Kill Bill and American Horror Story. Less gory then the other films on this list, Twisted Nerve is still scary enough to make you think twice about opening your door on a spooky night.
A young woman named Sarah loses her husband and daughter in a tragic car crash. One year later, she reunites with five friends for a spelunking expedition. After a rock fall blocks their way back out, the women must continue on through the cave past hungry predators to reach daylight. Claustrophobia plus monsters equals hella scary!
French horror has a reputation for grueling gore and terror, and Inside (aka A l’interieur) is undoubtedly partly to blame. Set during the 2007 riots in France, the vast majority of the film takes place conspicuously inside the house of a young expecting mother, Sarah. When a stranger appears in the dark outside, Sarah uses her camera’s flash to reveal a mysterious woman who has been stalking her for days. The woman soon makes her way inside, and the film spirals into a dizzying scramble for survival as both women become intent on killing each other with the various domestic items throughout the house. The pace is breathtaking, but the horror will linger long after the credits roll. Don’t forget to double-check the locks, and for god’s sake hide the knitting needles.
In recent years, Halloween movies have tended towards R-rated blood-and-guts horrorshow cash-in sequels, so it’s tough recommending Halloween movies that’ll suit people without a taste for blood. So if you love Halloween but are not particularly fond of disembowelings, this list is for you.
Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat
This 1989 horror/comedy starring Bruce Campbell and David Carradine is kind of a bit True Blood, a bit Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and a bit National Lampoon’s Vacation. Vampires living in the town of Purgatory have set up an artificial blood factory and are trying to lead normal, non-vampy lives. The plant is having a few problems so Jozek Mardulak (Carradine) summons an engineer and his family to come to Purgatory to figure out what the problem is. Naturally, things do not go as planned, and soon the family is fighting for their lives in a full-on vampire war. Totally funny and a bit gory, with a great cast featuring people from Twin Peaks and Valley Girl herself, Deborah Foreman, this is a cheesy and fun film that will break the tension on a spooky, scary evening.
Coincidentally, exactly three hundred years before 1993, lived the three Sanderson sisters of Salem, who used witchcraft to regain their youth by sucking the life out of children. When they capture teenage farmer Binx’s little sister, he and an angry mob run to rescue her. Unfortunately for Binx, the sisters end up turning him into a black cat, and take his sister’s energy after all. The mob hangs the three sisters, but not before their magic book casts a spell to bring them back from the dead if a virgin just happens to light their candle on Halloween. Binx, now in cat form, guards their house to keep this from happening.
In ultra-modern 1993, when an unwitting teenager named Max inadvertently resurrects the sisters on Halloween, he must save his little sister from their evil clutches with the help of his new crush and Binx the cat. There’s a zombie ex-boyfriend, parents cursed to dance until they die, and bullies who get their comeuppance. This movie’s sure to put you in the spooky Halloween spirit without scaring you even the slightest bit.
Hollywood took a New Age-y approach to witchcraft in the 90s, all but abandoning the crooked green noses and big black hats, a romanticism mostly reserved for vampires these days. Following this tradition, Practical Magic may well be a glorified Charmed for the big screen (which premiered a mere 9 days before Practical Magic), but it’s full of heart, whimsy, and snappy one-liners. Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman star as sisters in a long line of witches, all doomed by a curse in which any man they love inevitably dies. Dianne Wiest and Stockard Channing provide much-needed comic relief as sassy witch aunts, prone to practical jokes and magic – yes, the title could have multiple meanings, if one is willing to indulge it. But don’t think too hard: Practical Magic is a feel-good romantic comedy wrapped up in a package of covens, zombies and magic frogs, perfect for those faint of heart who want to be serenaded by Stevie Nicks into a quieter, gore-free Halloween.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Like Halloween itself, the Peanuts Halloween special often gets overlooked in favour of its Yuletide cousin. However, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is top-of-the-heap among Halloween specials for the same reason A Charlie Brown Christmas is required annual viewing: it’s sincere. Sure, there’s no divine messiahs, but it’s got trick-or-treating, candy insanity, and enough bizarro mysticism to really hit the sweet spot of anybody who loves Halloween.
Oh, the perils of renting! You never know what you’re going to get. Sure, Robert Mars (David Arquette) might seem like a charming, weirdly handsome writer, but before you know it he’ll be secretly dating your teenage daughter, killing your best friend and stealing your newborn baby! ALWAYS CHECK REFERENCES YOU GUYS.
While at first we had trouble believing Arquette as “the bad guy,” by the end of the movie we were completely creeped out by his disturbing behaviour and underage bride factory. SERIOUSLY. DAVID ARQUETTE AS THE LEADER OF A CULT OF TEENAGED BRIDES. THAT IS WHAT THIS MOVIE IS ABOUT.
Anyway, this mostly seems like a really awesome Lifetime movie of the week, we wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but if it was on TV we’d probably leave it on. You’ll also be privy to a shot of David Arquette’s rear end, so you might want to either keep your eyes peeled, or watch the whole thing through your fingers in horror depending on your tastes.
Thunderstorm… he’s the kind of action figure you’d find at the Dollar Store: familiar, but somehow completely wrong. A miscoloured Iron Man head, a plastic hammer, and a Batman chest plate. He’s a superhero Frankenstein, in the least awesome way possible. In fact, the chest plate’s still got the flaps where the cape used to attach. And immovable arms. And, he’s shot almost exclusively from the waist up. It’s not good.
The plot is similarly smorgasbordesque, cobbled together from the vaguely recalled secret origins of most superheroes: average joe, talented inventor, tragic loss, ancient prophecy, immortal intervention, pending apocalypse, flamboyant villain. Though it has all the parts of two or more superhero movies, it also lacks everything that makes superheroes interesting.
Despite the title, this movie does not feature the return of Thor. Along with the dumb title, the most bizarre thing about this movie is something from the trailer: Thunderstorm is based on a comic book character. Sure enough, this movie is, however loosely, based on the comic “Thor”. But it’s not Marvel Comics’ “Thor”. It’s “Thor” of Fox Comics, a publisher that went out of business in the 1950’s, in the peak of the Golden Age of comics. Since most of the Fox Comics characters are now in the public domain, here is a list of other Fox Comics characters that should make the leap to the moving pictures:
Black Fury and Kid Fury – Vigilante gossip columnists.
The Bouncer – Greek statue with superhuman strength and ability to bounce. Also wears a skirt.
Dart & Ace – superstrong spandexed superfriends, trained in the art of Roman wrestling.
The Gorilla with the Human Brain
Marga the Panther Woman, or Rulah the Jungle Goddess, or Tegra the Jungle Princess
The Rapier – Contender for most unfortunate superhero name of all time.
Stardust, the Super Wizard – Not your average wizard.
Milla Jovovich returns to theatres as Alice, the face-kicking, crow-shooing, toilet-paper-dress-wearing heroine of the ridiculous Resident Evil franchise. Yes, we’ve seen everyprevious installment, but it doesn’t matter. Despite the apparent awe of the people sitting behind us, this isn’t exactly a mind-bending sci-fi thriller. (If you’re interested in that kind of thing you should go see Looper instead.) That said, trying to decipher the characters and plot of Retribution and rectify it with what’s come before is indeed a fruitless exercise in mindfuckery.
Resident Evil seems to be taking cues from its genre contemporaries by throwing in a couple #meaningfulcharacterdeaths, but even so the stakes are hilariously low. The entire movie takes place in a virtual simulation beneath the ocean, populated by a gazillion clones, and no matter how many gratuitous computer-generated shots of a beating heart and breaking bones the audience are subjected to, we know Alice won’t bite the bullet (well, maybe literally, and in very slow motion).
We’re even treated to several clone versions of Michelle Rodriguez, who for some reason has reprised her role from the first movie. However, only one of them wears a tank top (that’s how you know it’s really her).
Between all the clones, lasers and zombies, Retribution somewhere along the way forgets the characters from the last movie and literally treads water all the while building up to yet another apocalyptic sequel. And we’ll be there in 2015 for Resident Evil: Self-Flagellation.
This movie was so terrible that I’ve actually put off writing about it for so long I forgot the title and had to look it up via The Djinn aka Andrew Divoff’s IMDB page. In The Dead Matter, Divoff plays Vellich, a poorly-wigged vampire who controls the dead via a glow-stick scarab necklace, basically a fancy gothic rave accessory. Somehow, this vampire relic is found by Gretchen during a séance in the middle of the woods with a few of her friends. She accidentally raises a zombie and realizes that the amulet can probably be used to resurrect the corpse of her brother. Great.
Anyway, after a bizarre number of events including Gretchen taking her zombie on a carousel ride and ice cream date as a substitute for her brother and a trip to a weird vampire club run by TomSavini, bad things start to happen. The vampires and zombies start killing people, and Gretchen becomes possessed by the amulet. Naturally, best friend Jill busts out some Latin and saves the day — OR DOES SHE? I’m serious, does she? I’m having trouble remembering. Either way, messing around with the dead is bad for you. LESSON LEARNED.
This film focuses on the camping trip of four young adults, Ryan, Brett, Ashley and Abi, who are each so fake and annoying you could never picture yourself standing in a line with them, let alone on a camping trip. In typical found footage style, the writers had to give at least a semi-plausible reason for the entire trip to be “caught” on film, and in this case it’s that Ryan has gotten a new video camera, and decides to make a documentary about his friend Brett. It’s not clear why he wants to do this, other than that he really wants to piss Brett off, which works. As the movie goes on you learn that Ryan is a stupid asshole.
The four friends borrow an RV, and drive to the woods. Then they take a bunch of their crap and hike further into the woods and set up camp. After darkness has fallen on the first night, they begin to hear weird noises that don’t sound human, but don’t sound like any animal other than a dinosaur. The whole group is loaded, so after freaking out for a few minutes, they all drag themselves off to their tents to pass out.
The next day they go for a contrary hike (seriously, why are these people even friends when the obviously hate each other?), and see some weird creature down in the ravine. Rather than rewinding the footage on his camera to see the creature (which is what I was screaming at the screen), Ryan drags his girlfriend down to the ravine, at the protest of his “friends” to see if he can catch it on film AGAIN. Big surprise, since it’s a blazingly sunny day, and not at all scary out, they don’t see anything. Everyone except for Ryan wants to high-tail it home, but Ryan being a total a-hole, says he wants to stay to get more footage.
That night there’s more scary noises, and sorta creepy things carved into the trees. They all freak out some more, and stay in the RV for the night. The next day the door to the RV is wide open (did they even think to lock it?), and Brett is missing (thank god). So the remaining three go looking for Brett, have another freak out, and then come back to find the RV is trashed, and un-drivable.
The next chunk on the movie consists of everyone running around in the dark, Brett and Ryan getting killed (good riddance), and Ashley and Abi running from the creature (which looks like a bad 70s wolf man costume crossed with a baboon), stumbling on a secret military base in the process. So, it turns out the creature and several other effed up people in woods are a result of military testing. Yes, that’s right folks! Blame the government.
At first glance, this appears to be a decent idea for a found footage movie, but upon closer inspection, there are several fatal flaws:
1) Are we seriously expected to believe that these four people decide to take a multiple day camping trip, and only brought ONE BOTTLE OF JACK DANIELS???
2) How was everyone totally loaded the first night, and then again on the second night, when it appears that there’s only, like, five shots missing from the bottle after the second night?
3) Why did they bother to borrow an RV if they weren’t going to use it? In the film, this question is actually asked by one of the characters. I guess the writers didn’t really have a good reason, other than, “Oh god, wouldn’t it be like soooo scary if the monster was OUTSIDE the RV and they were like INSIDE the RV??? Yeah, let’s totally do that.”
4) I enjoy a good monster-in-the-woods movie. I must admit that I did find it kind of scary up until they showed the creature, and up until they eluded that it was a result of military testing. When it comes to scary movies I think it’s best to keep things simple, and keep a little mystery in it too (a pair of glowing eyes is way scarier than a wolf man baboon hybrid). But if you’re going to drop a bomb like it’s all a result of military testing, EXPLAIN THAT SHIT. Otherwise you might as well have said, “And it was all a dreeeeeam!”
5) To end the movie off, there’s a barely readable, totally over-the-top end credits scene that made me think that this movie must be the brain child of some recent graduate from a video editing certificate program, who was given free-reign to do whatever he wanted. You keep watching the end credits to see if there’s some explanation given for this movie, but none is ever given, and afterward you feel cheap and used, as you’ve just been tricked into watching the crappy end credits.
Then we watched VHS, which was totally awesome, so everything was fine.