Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Vault Master's Top Ten Cult Christmas Oddities: #7 - Christmas Evil (1980)

Christmas Evil (1980)
85 minutes / Color / Rated R
a.k.a. You Better Watch Out, Terror in Toyland

The Plot: Christmas Evil starts out innocently enough as two young boys and their mother watch Santa pop down the chimney with a sack of toys and go about his usual yearly tasks of eating cookies, filling stockings, and placing presents under the tree. After Santa, alerted by one of the giggling children, hops back up the chimney, mom puts the boys to bed, then goes back downstairs while young Philip and Harry argue over the existence of Santa. (Harry believes that they have just witnessed an honest-to-goodness Santa visitation while the more rational Philip thinks it was their dad.)

To set the record straight, Harry decides to have another peek downstairs and accidentally bears witness to some cos-play action! Santa (most likely Harry's dad) is back and preparing to give mom her present if you know what I mean. ("I saw Mommy get felt up by, San-ta Claus!" and "Then, I saw Mom-my tick-le San-ta Claus! Underneath his pubic hair so white!") Understandably confused and disturbed that mom is having a one night stand with a right jolly old elf, Harry runs furiously up the stairs, smashes a snowglobe, and then cuts himself with a jagged piece of glass. Hmm... I wonder if he's going to turn into a psychotic killer in a Santa outfit? Nah! What are the odds of that happening?!

Thirty-three years later, Harry is a real odd duck. He wears Santa pajamas (complete with cap) to bed, listens to Christmas music every day, and not surprisingly, he works on an assembly line at a toy factory. Even stranger.... he keeps his own personal log of naughty and nice children that live in his neighborhood. How does he know if they've been good or not? Oh, he just goes up on the roof of his apartment building with a pair of binoculars and SPIES ON ALL THE CHILDREN! As the film progresses, Harry begins to lose what little grip he has on reality, and on Christmas Eve, he dons an extremely impressive homemade Santa costume (complete with glued-on beard!), loads up his van (which has a sleigh painted on the sides) with toys he stole from his employers, and heads out to spread Christmas cheer.

He breaks into a few homes and then makes a grand entrance at a children's hospital with a van load of gifts. After delivering his generously stolen donation, Harry pulls up and waits outside of a church, anticipating the eventual exit of his employer. You see, Harry isn't too happy with how certain things are being run at the toy factory, and he is ready to PUNISH! his NAUGHTY! boss. Luckily for said executive, a smart-assed (and possibly drunk) gent begins commenting on Santa Harry's outfit and ride. He pushes Harry's buttons and gets the bayonet of a toy soldier to the eye, followed up by a hatchet wound to the skull.

Harry claims two more victims then leaps into his "sleigh" and drives off into the night. Harry next ends up at a Christmas party, where he's eagerly dragged inside by two drunken men. Harry Claus is hesitant at first and seems ready to start killing people again, but after he realizes that everyone there is good-natured and excited to see him, Harry sticks around, hands out gifts, and has a fantastically fun time! (It is really hard to believe he just murdered three people in cold blood.) After dancing around in circles and making merry, Harry announces that he must go, but before he does, he issues a warning to all the children present:

"But now, I want you to remember to stay good boys and girls. Respect your mothers and fathers and do what they tell you. Obey your teachers and learn a whole lot. Now if you do this, I'll make sure you get good presents from me, every year. Haha. But if you're bad boys and girls, your name goes in the bad boys and girls book, and I'll bring you something..... horrible." [awkward silence followed by hearty Santa laughter!]

Harry's Santa charade continues into the night (the crazy bastard even tries to go down a chimney at one point), while the police begin their investigation and show "Santa line-ups" to witnesses of the night's triple homicide. Things eventually come to a head when Harry attempts to give some presents to a group of children. Harry gives them all gifts, while the children's parents look on in horror. One of the adults decides to act brave and approaches Harry with a switchblade in hand, intent on snuffing "the Killer Claus" before he can hurt the children.

In a surprise move, the guy is disarmed by his little daughter, who picks up the knife and gives it to Harry. Backed into a corner and not nearly crazy enough to harm the kids or use them as human shields, Harry makes a run for it and is soon chased after by a torch-wielding mob! (No, I'm not kidding.) He escapes in his van and goes to his brother Philip's house. Phil freaks out and strangles poor confused Harry, then drags his brother's limp (but not lifeless) body out to the van. Harry quickly comes to his senses, peels out of Phil's driveway and races off, only to be cut off by that pesky torch-wielding mob. (Hahahaha. I still can't get over that!)

Harry swerves off the road to avoid hitting anyone and drives off a cliff to his demise...? Wait, what?! Instead of falling to the ground and bursting into flames, Harry's van begins to fly up into the night sky! That is totally surreal and well.... really unexpected. [Vault Master glances at his drink] Did someone spike my tea or did I really see that?

Christmas Evil isn't exactly a horror film per se, but rather a study of a man's emotional and mental breakdown. It's a slow paced movie and it takes forever to get to the good stuff, but there's something oddly endearing about Christmas Evil that keeps me watching every time. Perhaps it’s the bizarre innocence of Harry, who is hell bent on A.) being Santa and B.) getting others to believe in Santa. I guess in a way, he wants to become Santa Claus so that people will believe in him and it is sort of heartbreaking at the film's climax when he fails his ridiculous mission and then gets strangled by his estranged brother.

And speaking of the climax, what a crazy way to end a film! Things remained relatively believable until Harry is chased by a mob of men and women carrying torches. (What, no pitchforks?) After that, its almost as if we are getting pulled into Harry's twisted world where there's a fine line between reality and fantasy. While this kind of negates the horror film aspects of Christmas Evil it definitely gives this movie more depth and makes for an interesting viewing experience. I guess in a way, this film is like a thinking man's "Silent Night, Deadly Night."

Just a side note here: The version I've watched is the short, eight-five minute cut. If you pick this movie up on DVD, get the longer director's cut that is put out by Synapse. They treat their cult films with great respect, and you get to see fifteen additional lovingly-restored minutes of weirdness that is missing from other DVD releases of the film.

Not sure you want to own this flick? Well swing on by Bmovies.com and watch Christmas Evil absolutely free! Just CLICK HERE!

Why it made the list: Because a dude eventually goes insane after seeing his mom getting down and dirty with "Santa" when he was a child. For some reason this causes him to lose his mind at age forty or so, leading to a laundry list of crimes. He steals toys from his workplace by the friggin' truckload, delivers them to good boys and girls, murders three people in cold blood, gets strangled by his brother, then "flies" away from a lynch mob in his magical Christmas sleigh van. Holy sh*t, this is a weird movie! I'm beginning to wonder if it shouldn't be higher up on this list....

Weirdness Factor: WELL ABOVE AVERAGE. Yeah, forget LOW, MEDIUM, and HIGH, because this movie is in a category all its own. Surprisingly, there are in fact far stranger things to come!

I'm definitely not going to be able to finish this top ten list before Christmas arrives (in TWO DAYS! ACK!), but I'll keep on plugging away until I reach my number one pick for the Oddest Cult Christmas film of all time! Next up on the list is a little indie film from '96 that gives an all new meaning to the word "frostbite!"

Monday, December 21, 2009

BMovies.com is BACK!

After shutting down due to skyrocketing prices for the massive bandwidth needed to keep such an awesome site online, I'm happy to say that BMovies.com is back on the web! This site streams hundreds of cult flicks to your computer for FREE with no membership required, and the webmaster has just uploaded a slew of cool holiday-themed flicks for your viewing pleasure, including "Christmas Evil," "Don't Open Till Christmas," and "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians." Make sure to pay BMovies.com a visit and support it in any way you can!

Vault Master's Top Ten Cult Christmas Oddities: #8 - Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
85 minutes / Color / Unrated
a.k.a. Slayride

The Plot: On one fateful Christmas Eve, after being terrified by his thought-to-be-vegetative grandpa (as seen here), a young child named Billy Chapman witnesses the murder of his parents at the hands of a homicidal maniac in a Santa outfit. With apparently no immediate family to take care of him and his baby brother, Billy and his sibling are both shoved into an orphanage that is run by a domineering nun known as Mother Superior. Poor Billy is made an example of more often than not by the oppressive nun, and snaps when she forces him to sit on a Santa's lap one Christmas. Billy shoryukens the confused Santa impersonator then (most likely) gets the beating of a lifetime.

The film jumps ahead ten years, and Billy is now eighteen and has just gotten his first job at the toystore of a gent named Ira Sims. Ira isn't too keen on hiring Billy at first, but the troubled teen proves to be a good worker and earns the honor of being cast as Ira's Santa Claus. Billy quietly threatens squirming children, walks around in a strange daze, then eventually snaps when he witnesses an attempted rape in the stockroom of the toystore. Billy, decked out in Santa garb goes on a small killing spree, violently ending the lives of all of his coworkers before venturing out on Christmas Eve to "PUNISH!" the "NAUGHTY!"

He murders a whorish Linnea Quigley... what's that? Too redundant you say? Oh ok, uh... he murders Linnea Quigley (zing!) and her scrawny boyfriend, beheads a sleigh-riding teenager, and gives a trigger-happy the axe. Sadly, Billy's reign of terror is ended while he tries to exact revenge on the abusive Mother Superior of his orphanage. Just as he's about to "axe her" what she wants for Christmas (my apology for the awful pun), the authorities arrive in time to gun him down... in front of a group of orphans. Worse yet, Billy's little brother Ricky witnesses this, and it causes him to snap, resulting in one of the best/worst sequels in film history! ("GARBAGE DAY!")

Silent Night, Deadly Night is one of the most overlooked and definitely one of the most poorly received film in the slasher sub-genre. Upon its release in 1984, the film was quickly taken out of theaters and shelved by Tri-Star Pictures after a huge public outcry. Parents were pissed off that Santa was being presented as an axe-wielding psycho, and film critics, including the mighty Siskel & Ebert rallied against the film as well. While I can definitely see why everyone made such a big deal (I guess we were a far more innocent and decent society back in the mid-80s?), it is sad to see a film get cast into obscurity because it contained questionable subject matter.

Ballsy advertising aside, this film should not have been pulled from theaters. Tri-Star should have just stuck it out and enjoyed the amount of free press their gutsy holiday-horror flick would have garnered. (As the saying goes, "There' s no such thing as bad press!") But this just goes to show you how different things were twenty-five years ago. Had Silent Night, Deadly Night been released in recent years, it probably would have raked in some cash, if only because curious moviegoers would want to see what all the fuss was about.

Sadly, Silent Night, Deadly Night is still a chore to track down as the Anchor Bay DVD releases have gone out of print. The final three films in the series were recently released, but the original and its ridiculous sequel remain a sacred trophy to cult movie fans. While they aren't impossible to find, both films are (usually) drastically overpriced. Hopefully they'll come back into print in the near future so newer generations of b-movie lovers can enjoy them.

Why it made the list: Because a mentally disturbed young man dressed in a Santa outfit goes on a Christmas Eve killing spree. Unlike most slasher films, there's a reason for Billy's mental defect (guy in Santa suit raped and killed mom and shot dad in the head; old nun abused him during his formative years) and you almost feel bad for the guy, even when he begins to kill indiscriminately. Plus we get two rather deranged scenes that stand out from the rest: The scene where a seemingly comatose grandpa terrifies a very young Billy ("If you see Santa tonight boy you better run! Hee Hee!") and a scene where Billy prepares to murder a little girl until she innocently convinces him that she was "good all year." And that "Santa's Watching" song that plays in the film's intro and during the end credits is just plain strange!

Weirdness Factor: MEDIUM. For some unknown reason, though it was preceded by several other Christmas horror films like Black Christmas (1974) and Christmas Evil (1980), Silent Night, Deadly Night is the only one to suffer the wrath of the general public. The film is odd enough on its own merit, but the fact that parents, film critics, and journalists joined forces to nearly erase this film's existence gives it an extra boost of weirdness!

The next film on the countdown shares some plot similarities with Silent Night, Deadly Night but goes one step further in the peculiarity department. Prepare for another dose of holiday weirdness very soon, with yet another killer Santa film taking the number seven spot on my continued top ten list of Cult Christmas Oddities!

Oh and in case you are not paying attention to your calendars.... FOUR MORE DAYS 'TIL CHRISTMAS!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Vault Master's Top Ten Cult Christmas Oddities: #9 - Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
81 minutes / Color / Not Rated a.k.a. Santa Claus Defeats the Aliens

The Plot: It is nearly Christmas-time on Earth and Santa is busy cracking the whip on those diligent elves as they make toys for every boy and girl in the world. But little does Jolly Old Saint Nick know that his operation is being closely watched by alien beings, who intend on capturing Father Christmas in order to bring merriment and joy to the children of Mars. The Martians (i.e. men in goofy green costumes with radio-antennae helmets and green facepaint) led by Kimar, invade the North Pole and kidnap Santa by employing their "advanced" arsenal of weaponry, including a robot named Torg (a relative of Gort's perhaps?) and freeze rays.

Not wanting to see any harm come to his elves, Santa gives himself up and heads back to Mars, along with two stowaways named Billy and Betty. On Mars, Santa is put to work making toys for the green-skinned children, but his job is amazingly boring as he only has to hit a button on a machine in order to instantly create toys. However, all is not well on Mars, for an evil soldier named Voldar thinks that Santa will make his people weak and foolish like the Earthlings, so he sets out on a quest to rid Mars of Kris Kringle.

Voldar sabotages Santa's toy machine then kidnaps that right jolly old elf.... who is actually Dropo, the film's odious comic relief character, in Santa drag. How these guys can't figure out that they have the wrong guy is beyond me, but no one ever said that these alien beings were intelligent. In the end, Voldar's anti-Santa coup is thwarted by Billy, Betty, Bomar, and Girmar (Pia Zadora!). That's right, four children with an arsenal of toys, stops an evil Martian warlord who is armed with a raygun.

With (the obviously humiliated) Voldar captured, Santa completes his mission on Mars, then heads home with his two Earth-brat sidekicks, to bring Christmas to all the good boys and girls. God, this movie is so f*cking stupid..... Amazingly, this awful piece of kid-oriented cinema has built up a large cult following over the years, thanks to its appearance on Mystery Science Theater 3000, where Joel and the bots give this movie a good riffing. Truthfully, I don't think half of us would be too familiar with this film had it not appeared on MST3K and I think I could live with that.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is one of the most misleadingly titled films of all time as Santa doesn't declare war on the people of Mars or conquer them in any way. Yeah his good nature and constant Ho-Ho-Ho-ing wins over the majority of his green-skinned captors, but that doesn't really count in my book. The plot is idiotic, the acting atrocious, and the effects and makeup are laughable, but that's partially why this movie has become a staple of many b-movie fans' required Christmas viewing.

As for me though, I'll just stick with that good ole MST3K episode featuring Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and have myself a Patrick Swayze Christmas this year!

Watch Santa Claus Conquers the Martians for free online at YouTube. Just CLICK HERE and enjoy this public domain holiday masterpiece! Also be on the look out for a fresh new riff on this film from the Cinematic Titanic crew, which is made up of all the old stars of the Joel-era of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Why it made the list: Because moronic Martians go through the trouble of invading Earth, just to kidnap an eccentric fat old man who makes toys for children. Why they couldn't just make their own toys and create their own Santa is beyond me, but like I said, these aliens are f*cking stupid! Also, we get a man-in-polar-bear-suit that attacks two kids, a giant cardboard robot, nuclear curtains powered by colored lighbulbs, and a Santa Claus that may be suffering from the effects of Alzheimer's.

Weirdness Factor: LOW. There's more than enough weirdness present to include this film on the list, but the sheer idiocy of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians pales in comparison to the next eight films on the countdown.

Next up is a little Christmas classic from 1984 that was pulled out of theaters two weeks after opening, due to a major public outcry by concerned (i.e. enraged) parents. To learn more about my choice for number eight on this top ten list, check out my recent podcast at the B-Movie Film Vault!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Vault Master's Top Ten Cult Christmas Oddities: #10 - Santa vs. the Snowman (2002)

Greetings b-movie fans! Christmas is nearly upon us, and I felt that a new Top Ten List on the site would be a great way to celebrate the holidays! This time around I'm focusing my attention on ten cult films that have a Christmas theme and are weird as Hell! Prepare yourself for ten films featuring miniature monsters, killer Santas, homicidal snowmen, alien invaders, and Wookiees! Happy HELL-idays from The B-Movie Film Vault!
Santa vs. the Snowman 3D (2002)
32 minutes / Color / Not Rated
a.k.a. Julemanden og snemanden

The Plot: A mute snowman accidentally blunders onto Santa's private property and is given a less-than friendly welcome by Kris Kringle's security elves. After escaping from Santa's Workshop, the Snowman decides that he wants to be Santa Claus and plans to take over Father Christmas' operation by force. What follows is an hilarious spoof of the Planet Hoth battle from The Empire Strikes Back (which I absolutely f*cking refuse to call "Episode V!") with snowball-spitting snowmen battling elves that are armed with hot cocoa guns and ride on rocket-powered reindeer!

Though Santa's troops have technological superiority against the icy intruders, they are eventually defeated by the overwhelming number of snowman footsoldiers. Although the Snowman wins the battle, he ultimately loses the war after he realizes that Christmas is better left to Santa. (He learns his lesson after a little girl breaks her "ice dolly" after trying to kiss it and getting her lips stuck to the gift.) In the end, Santa deputizes his former foe as his helper, and together they spread Christmas cheer to all of the good boys and girls.

Created by the always weird Steve Oedekerk (the man behind such "classics" as Kung Pow: Enter the Fist, Bat Thumb, Thumb Wars, et al.), this is a fun little CGI epic. The storyline is pretty weak, even for a half-hour animated short, but luckily the animation is well done (it must have looked amazing when played in 3D at I-MAX theaters) and you can't help but love the nods toward (arguably) the best of the films in the Star Wars saga.

For some reason, a lot of my friends seem to despise this holiday oddity, but even the biggest naysayers grudgingly admit to enjoying the recreated Planet Hoth battle between Santa's and the Snowman's forces. This struggle is the highlight of the film and features some truly hilarious homages to the classic sci-fi epic from 1980, and saves this animated short from being just another forgettable Christmas special.

Why it made the list: Because a snowman that can't talk builds an army and attacks Santa Claus Imperial Snowtrooper-style! This could have been a goofy and generic battle between two holiday icons (the unnamed Snowman is obviously substituting for Frosty the Snowman) but Santa vs. the Snowman takes things up a notch. What starts out as a mere snowball fight quickly turns into a massive battle that ends with a duel between a giant ice monster and a giant fire-breathing nutcracker that is piloted by Santa Claus! Need I say more?

Weirdness Factor: LOW. Since this is a family-friendly short film that is mainly aimed at children (don't worry, there's a few jokes tossed in for us adults), this really isn't too weird, but there's enough of Steve Oedekerk's oddness in this to earn Santa vs. the Snowman the number ten spot on my list.

The next film in the countdown should be familiar to you, especially if you are a fan of MST3K. That leaves two possibilities, so check back very soon to see if your guess is correct. And just in case you're not keeping track: EIGHT DAYS LEFT UNTIL CHRISTMAS!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Podcast at the Vault!

A new podcast has been uploaded at the Vault for your listening pleasure. This holiday program features an audio review for Silent Night, Deadly Night, the much-maligned horror classic from 1984, complete with audio clips and music from the film! Click here to listen to the B-Movie Film Vault's Christmas Podcast '09!

Stay tuned for some new reviews and a holiday-themed Top Ten List!

Monday, December 7, 2009

New Capsule Review: The Wild Man of the Navidad (2008)!

A mysterious creature terrorizes a rural Texan community in The Wild Man of the Navidad . This bastard child of The Legend of Boggy Creek and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is based on the (supposedly) true events as chronicled by a man named Dale S. Rogers, and was not nearly as entertaining as I had been led to believe by fellow online reviewers.

More new content is on the way including more reviews, a new podcast, and (hopefully) a holiday-themed top-ten list, so check back soon b-movie fans!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rifftrax Live Christmas Extravaganza!!!

Bill Corbett, Mike Nelson, and Kevin Murphy are putting on an all new Rifftrax Live on Wednesday, December 16th (with a rebroadcast on Thursday, December 17th)! The trio will be riffing on various Christmas shorts, digital goodies will be given away, and Weird Al Yankovic will be making a guest appearance. I went to the previous Rifftrax Live and it was amazing, and I've already made plans to see this latest screening. (Hopefully tickets don't sell out before my next payday....)

CLICK HERE to see if this show is playing at a theater near you, and to buy tickets! (Thankfully it is playing near me, at the Cinemark multiplex at the base of "Sno Mountain" in Moosic, PA!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Vault Master is sellin' out.

I hated to do it, but desperate times call for desperate measures....

I am now utilizing Google AdSense at the Vault and on my Blog, and I am selling adspace at the Vault as well.

The site has managed to pay for itself over the years thanks to commission earned from Amazon.com and Movies Unlimited.com, but quite frankly, I need more cash. Christmas is coming, I have bills up the wazoo, and aside from getting a second job (hard to do when no one is hiring), whoring out the Vault is the next logical step in my quest to battle debt.

I did not come to this decision lightly (I've personally always tried to keep the Vault ad-free), and I will do my best to keep the ads as unobtrusive as possible (i.e. no annoying popups!)

And on that note, if you are at all interested in advertising your film, movie website, or (preferably cult) film-related products at the Vault, by all means contact me at vault_master[at]bmoviefilmvault[dot]com.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The "Army of Darkness" invades ye olde Vault review archives!

After two nights of painstaking work, I've refurbished my old review for Army of Darkness into something readable!

Expect more old reviews to be uploaded as months go by, along with a few NEW reviews too. Speaking of which, expect a brand new capsule review to be posted within the next week for "The Wild Man of the Navidad," an indie flick that is one part "Legend of Boggy Creek" and two parts "Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Sound good? Well it isn't, and I'll explain why in my upcoming review! Stay tuned b-movie fans!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Torture the Vault Master 3D!

Just in time for the holidays, I present a gift to all of you dedicated readers out there: For the third time in my site's nine-year run, you can choose the 3D film I will have to suffer through! Voting is open to the public and will end halfway through December. The resulting review should be up just in time for Christmas! So what are you waiting for? CLICK HERE and pick my three-dimensional cinematic poison!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Comic Book Review: Batman vs. Predator (1991 - 1992)

It is rare for me to pick up comic books these days, but I couldn't help but grab the three issue "Batman versus Predator" mini-series that I saw sitting on the shelf at my buddy Ryan's comic shop. (Charging Star Comics in Conklin, NY!) I've dabbled a bit in DC / Dark Horse comics crossovers (Superman vs. Aliens issue #1), so I was curious and a bit excited to dig into this trio of comics. Sadly, I was less than pleased with the first ever battle between the Dark Knight and his extraterrestrial foe.

As the tale begins, a mysterious killer begins knocking off anyone that is lauded as a champion or hero in Gotham City. The first victim is Gotham's newest heavyweight champion boxer. His demise is soon followed by the deaths of other notable figures (mainly criminals), which of course attracts Batman's attention.

Eventually Batman tracks down and squares off against the bloodthirsty hunter, and barely escapes with his life. Seriously injured, the Dark Knight is laid up for a while, as the cops and criminals of Gotham attempt to fight back against the Invisible Slasher, with disastrous results.

Eventually Bats recovers, arms himself with a suit of armor equipped with sonar, and goes after the Predator. He ultimately defeats the fierce creature just as its "posse" arrives, and is shocked when his powerful foe commits seppuku. As the other Predators load their fallen comrade onto the ship, one of them bows before Batman and gives the victorious hero a sword.

Though Batman is sure that the Predator's kin will think twice about visiting Gotham again, the transparent alien trophy-hunters would return in several more "Batman vs. Predator" adventures.

Ok, admittedly the storyline here is pretty cool, but it is basically a retread of "Predator 2" with Batman substituted in for Danny Glover, which isn't really a big deal in my book. My main gripe with the story involves the way the Predator chooses his victims. Apparently the most fearsome hunter in the universe is a couch potato, and picks his prey via the evening news.

Also, as a result of watching too much T.V., the Predator talks (or rather, mimics) an awful lot here. Guess they weren't sure how to write out the Pred's patented clicking/purring language so they figured he had to say "son of a ...." on a frequent basis. (Yeesh... and here I thought the folks at 20th Century Fox were the only ones that could sully the Predator's good name.)

Another strike against this series is the artwork. While a lot of it is good (particularly the artwork for the covers on the "Prestige Editions" of all three comics, done by artist Arthur Suydam, which is far better than the normal covers that were done by Chris Warner), there were far too many panels that were just a mess. Heck, a few times I didn't even realize what was going on until I backtracked and gave the page another thorough look.

"Batman vs. Predator" is something that sounds great on paper (sort of like "Robocop vs. Terminator"), and it could have been something special, but as it stands, this three-issue run is handled clumsily and turned out to be a (minor) disappointment. It does deliver the goods, but for me, it was a truly unsatisfying read.

There are two other "Batman vs. Predator" series: "Batman vs. Predator II: Bloodmatch," in which Batman and Huntress go after a particularly vicious "rogue" Predator, and "Batman vs. Predator III: Blood Ties," in which a duo of Predators hunts the Dark Knight AND the Boy Wonder. (Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that there's a "Batman and Superman vs. Aliens and Predator" comic out there as well.) While I'm not going to rush out and track them down, I will most likely give these comics a chance, if only to see if any improvements were made since the first "Batman vs. Predator" story arc.

If you're a huge Batman or Predator fan, you will most likely want to add "Batman vs. Predator" to your collection (if you haven't already). Otherwise, you may just want to spend your hard earned cash on something else... like the production of your very own "Batman vs. Predator" fan film!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

New capsule reviews at the Vault for "Race With the Devil" and "Zombieland!"

Greetings b-movie fans! After yet another hiatus (seriously, I really don't plan on taking breaks. They just sort of happen.) I'm back, and my reviewing batteries have been recharged. Don't believe me? Then see for yourself and check out my reviews for Race With the Devil (1975) and Zombieland (2009)!

Halloween is fast approaching (24 more days!) so expect more new reviews and other content at the Vault! Also, be sure to check out the latest roundtable event, thought up by the big cheese of b-movies webmasters, Andrew Borntreger of Badmovies.org infamy! All this month, all of us part-time reviewers will be tackling monster movies, right up until the 31st! To see what's been posted thus far, visit the MONSTER MAYHEM ROUNDTABLE PAGE!

That's it for tonight gang, but expect a review for "The Wild Man of the Navidad" to be appearing shortly, along with (hopefully) a new edition of the B-MFV Genre Watch!

Blog ya later b-movie fans!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Become a fan of "The B-Movie Film Vault" on Facebook!

Since I spend way too much time on Facebook, I decided to make a fan-page for The B-Movie Film Vault! If you're a Facebook fanatic, feel free to become a fan of the Vault by utilizing the widget below!

Friday, August 7, 2009

New capsule review for Gris Grimly's "Cannibal Flesh Riot!" (2007)

I make my triumphant return to reviewing films with a fresh (and rather lengthy) capsule review for Gris Grimly's "Cannibal Flesh Riot!" This half-hour short film revolves around two grave-robbing ghouls who end up biting off more than they can chew when their latest "dinner plans" go awry. Check out the trailer for "CFR!" below:

I hate to even promise this but... expect a lot more updates at the Vault and SOON. A large group of us b-movie webmasters are holding a roundtable next weekend with a focus on movies based on video games. Since I'm a glutton for punishment (and since anything else I would have picked was already taken), I decided to review the horrible big screen adaption of the classic "Double Dragon" video game, which stars Robert Patrick, Mark Dacascos, Scott Wolf, and Alyssa Milano.

After that's out of the way, I have a trio of screeners that I plan on reviewing, and after they are taken care of, the sky is the limit! I'm hoping to get a good number of reviews posted this month, whilst keeping the BMFV Genre Watch updated weekly, and I even hope to get a new podcast recorded and uploaded for your listening pleasure.

So stay tuned for lots of new stuff b-movie fans! Blog ya later!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

RiffTrax LIVE: Plan 9 From Outer Space

RiffTrax LIVE: Plan 9 From Outer Space

I am seriously considering taking a day off from work just to go see this. I'm a huge MST3K fan, and I'm loving the work Kevin Murphy, Mike Nelson, and Bill Corbett have been doing with Rifftrax. (Seems to me that their riffing is even funnier when a GOOD movie is the subject of their scorn.) Though I'd rather see it live in Tennessee, I guess I'll have to settle for seeing it on the big screen in Scranton, PA.

To see if a theater near you will be showcasing this one-night event, visit Fandango.com!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Vault Master's TOP TEN KILLER ANIMAL FILMS: #1 - JAWS (1975)

JAWS (1975)
124 minutes / Color / Rated PG

The Culprit(s): A 25-foot (rogue) Great White Shark that has acquired a taste for humans... the other, other white meat.

The Plot: Surprised that this made number one? Yeah, I didn't think so. "JAWS" basically set up the template for all the sequels and knock-offs that were spawned after its release, and has rightfully earned its status as a true cinematic classic. This tale of "nature run amok" centers around a small island community off the coast of New York called Amity. It's a quiet little village that relies on Summer tourism to get by each year, but things quickly go bad for the islanders once a rogue Great White shark begins snacking on locals and tourists alike. After claiming several victims, the beaches are shut down, and a shark hunter named Quint (Robert Shaw) is hired to track down and kill the offending fish.

Along with Amity Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) and a marine biologist named Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), Quint sails out in his boat ("The Orca!") in search of the elusive man-eating shark. The trio of men cross swords with the mighty creature and trade blows, which eventually results in one tired and angry shark and one crippled boat. As the battle continues, Quint is devoured by his finned opponent, leaving Chief Brody (who ironically is terrified of the water) to continue the fight whilst clinging to the mast of the sinking "Orca."

In a totally unlikely scenario (as disproved on Mythbusters) Chief Brody manages to kill the Great White by shooting the tank of compressed air that was hanging from the shark's mouth. The bullet causes the tank, and the shark, to explode, which allows Brody and Matt Hooper (who miraculously survived the Great White's wrath by hiding underwater) to swim back to Amity to share the good news.

Based on Peter Benchley's novel of the same name, "JAWS" is an excellent character-driven film with effects that still hold up well today. The best part of the movie (aside from the chilling shark attacks) is the bonding experience between the film's trio of heroes. Quint, Brody, and Hooper all come from different backgrounds and have their own reasons for going on their dangerous mission, and its neat to see them pull together against a common foe, and occasionally have a bit of fun.

Quint is a former World War II vet that was on the ill-fated U.S.S. Indianapolis, which was sunk by a Japanese submarine in shark infested waters. Though he never comes out and says it, you get the feeling that he has an axe to grind against any and every shark in the sea since that fateful experience.

Hooper is on the opposite end of the spectrum and "loves sharks." He's been a fascinated with sharks since his childhood and thinks that they are graceful, misunderstood creatures. He joins the hunt for the elusive Great White mainly out of scientific curiosity, but also because he knows that the killing won't end until the shark is caught and destroyed. Lastly there's Chief Brody who is terrified of going into the water. He goes along on the trip because of his strong sense of duty to the town and to his family. All in all, he has to be the bravest person in this film because he overcomes his fears and ultimately saves the day.

You really get to like all three of these guys and you want to see them pull through the ordeal in one piece because you care about them. And that is the result of good writing and good acting folks, which helps make this film so damned near perfect. In an age where effects and budget seem more important than the script and talent, its good to know that we can still go back and watch films from a time when studios gave a damn about what they put out in theaters. Long live "JAWS" and may it continue to mystify (and terrify) younger generations for many years to come!

Why it made the list: Do I really need to explain? This movie basically created the template for almost every killer animal flick made over the last four decades. I mean, hell, look at the previous ten films that I put on this list, and you'll see that half of them are basically "JAWS" with another murderous animal replacing the Great White as the lead antagonist. This movie set a standard, broke box office records, kick-started Steven Spielberg's impressive career, and resulted in the perennial Summer blockbuster season that we've all become accustomed to. For better or worse, "JAWS" brought some major changes to the film industry.

Why YOU should watch it: Really? You haven't seen "JAWS?!" You been living in a cave?!

While it looks a bit dated now, "JAWS" has aged well, and Spielberg's "less is more" approach with the shark works so damned perfectly. (Of course, he had to take that route because Bruce the mechanical shark never seemed to want to work. Luckily Bruce did work often enough for Spielberg and company to get the job done.) Along with an amazing cast of memorable characters, and an effective (yet simplistic) musical score by John Williams, this is a must see film that should make you think twice about going for a swim.

Is it worthy of a remake? NO! LEAVE THIS MOVIE ALONE HOLLYWOOD! If I hear that a remake is in the works, I think I may very well "go Frank Castle" and punish those who would corrupt and tarnish the image of the original. If you want, do a new sequel ("JAWS 5" talk occasionally makes its rounds around the web every now and again), that's cool by me, but leave the original alone! There's not really much you can do to improve upon it so please, let it be!

The "JAWS" Legacy continues: Along with three sequels that became increasingly worse as the series progressed, (the final film, "Jaws: The Revenge" is horrid!), "JAWS" has spawned numerous knock-offs, such as the notorious "The Last Shark" which was actually pulled out of American theaters and banned after its release, for being "too derivative" of Spielberg's film. However, the influence of "JAWS" has transcended mere celluloid and has embedded itself into pop culture for all time. Even today, references to "JAWS" pop up in magazines, films, and books and the mighty Great White was even made into an impressive-looking toy by the folks over at McFarlane Toys for their "Movie Maniacs" (4) series.

"JAWS" has also been made into two awful video games (the notoriously bad "JAWS" released by LJN way back in the day for the original NES and "JAWS Unleashed" for PS2 and X-BOX), and has inspired a slew of fan films and tributes on the world wide web. Here is just a taste of the stuff that you can find online:

And believe it or not, there was a "JAWS" parody made called "Blades" which featured a killer lawnmower! Don't believe me? Then feast your eyes upon the following Youtube video:

And most recently, "JAWS" has had the honor of being riffed on by MST3K's Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy. Here's a "greatest hits" compilation of their hilarious Rifftrax commentary:

Well that's all folks! I hope you have enjoyed reading my Top Ten Killer Animal Films countdown! While I'm sure none of you were shocked to see "JAWS" take the number one spot on the list, I do have to say that I am shocked that so many folks haven't disagreed with the films that made the cut. Usually at least ONE person will complain, saying "you should have included this film" or "why isn't this movie higher up on your list?" but surprisingly it seems like I've managed to create a well-balanced list of films that most (if not all) of my readers seem to be happy with.

I've gotten a lot of positive feedback on this top ten list so I may end up doing another one later on down the road, but first, methinks I should get the rest of the B-Movie Film Vault back up to snuff. Thanks for reading, and my sincerest apologies for taking so long to complete this killer animal flick countdown.

Stay tuned for some more new stuff at The Vault, and keep fighting the good fight b-movie fans!

Monday, June 8, 2009

R.I.P. - David Carradine & Vault Turns 9 Years Old.

Aside from trying to get my life back on track lately (no easy task after all the heartaches I've suffered in the last month), I haven't had the urge to really do much with the Vault, which is sad because it has turned 9 years old on June 6, 2009! I'm hoping that I can find the strength to start updating again, but it seems I've lost my obsession with cinema....

Also I found it quite sad that David Carradine had passed away last week in a strange hanging incident. (Was it suicide? Was it a fatal attempt at auto-erotic asphyxiation? I don't really care. His death is a tragic loss regardless.) The worst part of this is how certain daily news publications have handled the story. From what I've seen, the NY Post was the worst of the bunch, boasting headlines like "HUNG FU." My condolences to Carradine's family. He will be missed.

Well check back sometime soon b-movie fans. I'm trying to get out of the funk I'm in and may actually write up some new material for the site. Don't hold your breath though, because it may be a few more weeks before I find the strength to publish a new review. In the meantime, keep the torch burning: watch b-flicks, have bad movie nights with your friends, and support the online b-movie community in any way you can! In other words, keep fighting the good fight fellow b-movie fans!

Blog ya soon!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Where I've been.

First off, sorry for dropping off the map entirely gang. I have been dealing with a lot lately and I'm not going to go into too much detail. Essentially, unhappy with my relationship with my now ex-girlfriend, I broke things off, and it has been nightmarish. Things are kind of on an even keel at this point, but let me tell you, I've been on an emotional rollercoaster these past few weeks. (Also, it doesn't help that I'm completely smitten with a woman I can never be with. Sigh... just my damned luck.)

I am going to be coming back to do some writing very soon, and the Vault should be alive and kicking again just in time for its NINE YEAR ANNIVERSARY?! (Holy crap, I can't believe my website outlasted my recent relationship....)

In any case, my sincerest apologies for not posting anything sooner. When I make my triumphant return expect me to finally polish off my top ten killer animal flicks. I've gotten a lot of e-mails about that, so let me answer any future ones by saying, yes, number one will be appearing on this blog before May is over.

I'm also gearing up to do a two part podcast as a tribute to spaghetti westerns, one of my all time favorite film genres, and I've also got an indie screener for "Ghoul Flesh Riot" to tackle.

So hang in there b-movie fans and until I get back to doing what I do best, be sure to give love to sites that continue to update on a frequent basis, like Badmovies.Org and Wtf-Film.com. Without webmasters like them, the online b-movie community would wither and die.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Vault Master's TOP TEN KILLER ANIMAL FILMS: #2 - Razorback (1984)

Razorback (1984)
95 minutes / Color / Rated R

The Culprit(s): A giant man-eating razorback (i.e. a boar) that holds grudges, excels at nighttime ambushes, and doesn't like being taunted by its dinner.

The Plot: An American journalist named Beth Winters travels to the Australian Outback to do a story about the Pet-Pak meat plant, whose workers have been allegedly killing off the area's population of kangaroos in order to provide American and other countries with an affordable pet food. (My theory is that the kangaroo meat was actually being shipped to various McDonald's restaraunts.) Beth steps on too many toes in the small outback town she is staying in, and ends up on the wrong side of two "Road Warrior" rejects named Dicko and Benny. They run her off the road late at night, but their attack and attempted rape is cut short when a giant Razorback steps in to save Beth.... for its dinner! After Beth becomes pig chow, her despairing hubby, Carl Winters, shows up and begins searching for some answers.

He's pointed in the direction of a crazy old man who kills razorbacks for a living (mainly because a certain giant razorback ate his grandson in the film's opening sequence), named Jake Cullen. Eventually Carl discovers what really happened to his missing wife (few things are as depressing as having someone tell you that they found your wife's wedding ring in a huge pile of Razorback feces), and decides to exact a little vigilante justice, first on Dicko and Benny Baker, then on the monstrous warthog that ate his beloved. Carl is a good guy though, and he can't bring himself to murder anyone in cold blood, even if they deserve it. Still, he does manage to make sure that Dicko and Benny bite the dust (one falls down a mineshaft, the other is eaten by the razorback), and then destroys the scourge of the Australian wastes, by luring it into a giant "garbage disposal."

Why it made the list: Most people know Russell Mulcahy for being the director of the "Highlander" (the only good film in that particular franchise), but few are even vaguely familiar with this Aussie take on the "JAWS" tale. This film is a well-crafted thriller that wanders into total mind-f*ck territory a few times, and the lead antagonist (the giant razorback) is a rather awe-inspiring creation. What's sort of odd about this film is that the giant pig takes a backseat to all the human drama, and while that would seem to be a bad move, it actually works here. And oddly enough, the best part of the movie has to be the beautiful camerawork and cinematography, which adds a layer of depth to the proceedings, especially when Carl gets lost in the hellish Australian outback.

The intense heat from the sun and lack of water causes Carl to begin hallucinating, which leads to some strange and intensely eerie moments, especially when he is assailed by the rotting remains of a horse that bursts out of the ground! (This actually used to give me nightmares when I was a kid.) The acting is decent all around, which is good because this is essentially a character-driven film, and the razorback itself is pretty damned impressive. The super-swine was brought to life with some very effective animatronics, and while you wouldn't think a giant warthog could be a terrifying monster in a film, I beg to differ. The razorback proves to be a ferocious and intelligent beast, and its single-minded tenacity is quite frightening. If this thing is hungry, it will bash its way through the wall of a house, or the side of a car, just to get the tasty human treats inside!

Aside from the giant flesh-eating pig and the trippy hallucinogenic moments found throughout the film, the one thing I found profoundly strange was the sort of "Mad Max" vibe the film took on. Dust and sand are everywhere in the sparsely populated town this movie takes place in, and apparently everyone either drives broken-down vehicles, or heavily armored trucks that look like they came right out of "The Road Warrior." Hell, the townsfolk and the employees at the Pen-Pak plant look like they just stepped out of the friggin' Thunderdome!

This movie is a true outsider in the realm of killer animal films because unlike the rest, it has definite art-house appeal, and somehow that works in the movie's favor. Trippy visuals, gorgeous cinematography, and an odd, yet memorable soundtrack (by Iva Davies) makes "Razorback" one of the strangest (and prettiest) films in the nature strikes back sub-genre.

Why YOU should watch it: Its trippy art-house appeal aside, "Razorback" is still a film about a giant killer pig and that alone makes it worth watching. Sure there have been films in the past where people have been devoured by hungry swine ("Hannibal," "Rambo," and "Daddy's Deadly Darling" all come to mind), but this is the only film in which the man-eating hog actually bursts through obstacles to obtain the delicacy that is human flesh.

I think that all you really have to do to fall in love with this movie (or at least open up that closed mind of yours), is to watch the first ten minutes of it. Aside from the great lighting schemes and creepy visuals, we get to witness a giant boar bursting through a house in order to obtain its prize: a young child! That's right folks, a little boy is violently kidnapped and carried off by a giant pig in the opening moments of "Razorback!"

Along with the sequence where Carl Winters starts hallucinating while lost in the outback, this is one seriously crazy film that bears at least two viewings. (Once when you are completely sane and sober, and once when you are inebriated or in a "higher state of mind.") Plus it was made by the guy that directed "Highlander," so how could you possibly go wrong?!

Is it worthy of a remake? Hell no! This movie is an underrated and oft-forgotten classic that doesn't deserve to be sullied by a retarded redo. Sure the story can be recreated, and the effects can be improved upon, but no one will ever be able to recapture the film's "fever dream" vibe. Seeing as how "Razorback" is completely out of print, I don't think we'll have to worry about a remake any time soon.

Then again..... if a remake were in the works, that would almost guarantee a nice deluxe special edition DVD of the original film.... NO! I must not be tempted! As much as I want a legit Region 1 DVD of "Razorback," I don't want it to be remade! (Fie on you Hollywood if you dare to rape this piece of art!)

Well it's almost here b-movie fans... the number one pick for my all-time favorite killer animal flick! Rather than hand out my usual (hackneyed) hints, I'm just going to make you sweat it out until I type up my final article for this countdown. And really, why should I have to give you a hint when you probably already know what holds the top spot on this list. Check back soon, to see if your suspicions are indeed correct!

Check out Episode One of BMFV Radio!

I've been toiling away for hours to put together a half-hour online broadcast and it is now available for your listening pleasure(?). CLICK HERE to listen to episode one of BMFV-6600, "The Future of b-movie radio!"

Highlights of the show include:
A review of "Prophecy" (1979) complete with a few audio clips.
A sample of the soundtrack from "Prophecy."
Coverage of this month's theatrical, DVD, and Blu-ray cult film releases.
A teeny bit o' b-movie news.

It's been a long time since I've recorded anything live or otherwise, so I'm pretty rusty and say things like "You know" and "Uh" a lot. Sorry about that. I also ran into a few other issues (e.g. background noise caused by my propane heater), but overall, I think that this came out ok. If you enjoyed the show, please let me know. The entire future of BMFV radio is sort of banking on public reaction to this first episode, so any feedback will be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Vault Master's TOP TEN KILLER ANIMAL FILMS: #3 - Alligator (1980)

Alligator (1980)
90 minutes / Color / Rated R

The Culprit(s): An extremely ill-tempered and constantly hungry alligator named "Ramone," that became gigantic after devouring dead lab animals that were pumped full of various drugs, chemicals, steroids, and hormones. (Ramone is clearly the Alex Rodriguez of killer animal film stars.)

The Plot: A young girl's pet alligator (named Ramone!) gets flushed down the toilet by her asshole father, and is left to survive on its own in the harsh, shit-filled sewers of Chicago. Luckily for the little critter, an up-and-coming mad scientist has been dumping dead lab animals into a nearby section of the sewer, thus providing chemical and hormone-filled meals for the growing reptile. Roughly twelve years later, the tiny pup of a gator has turned into a 36-foot, 1-ton monstrosity with an unquenchable hunger for human flesh! (Whoops!) Once the discovery of human limbs at the sewer treatment plant becomes the norm, homicide detective David Madison (Robert Forster) takes the case and discovers good ole Ramone down in the sewers. At first David is met with a lot of skepticism, but after a missing reporter's camera is found in the water of the sewage treatment plant, the balding detective finally has proof that something big is in the sewers of Chicago and eating people. (Had this been New York, they probably would have listed the deaths and disappearances as C.H.U.D. related incidents.)

Eventually Ramone the alligator leaves his dark domain after the entire Chicago police force enters the sewers and tries to flush him out. He immediately goes on an incredible eating binge and devours several unlucky cops, an insane big-game hunter named Colonel Brock (Henry Silva!), the people responsible for Ramone's freakish mutation, guests and hired help at a wedding, and one poor youngster that had the misfortune of being forced to play "pirate" with two older asshole kids. Ramone eventually tires of being chased around and heads back to his underground lair, where he is blown up by Detective Madison. But all is not lost, because unbeknownst to Madison and his hot herpetologist sidekick Marisa Kendall, someone else in Chicago has just flushed a baby alligator down the toilet. Uh oh.... I smell human feces..... and a sequel!

Why it made the list: This is yet another film that is unjustly brushed off as a rip-off of "JAWS" (starting to see a pattern here?) and unlike many of the other films I've discussed thus far in this countdown, this one is pretty much a straight-up monster movie. This film is not trying to make a statement (aside from "don't flush baby alligators down the toilet" and "testing chemicals and shit on puppies is bad"), it's just a fun romp with a fig-bucking alligator in the sewers of Chicago.

"Alligator" is approached with a tongue-in-cheek attitude and provides a pretty good story that is driven by a talented cast. The only really weak portion of the story is the underdeveloped subplot that involves an evil millionaire named Slade who has an equally evil (future) son-in-law named Arthur Helms, who is mainly responsible for Ramone's monstrous mutation. However, this loose end is taken care of when a certain 'gator with a bad attitude arrives uninvited at Arthur's wedding and begins dining on the guests.

While he doesn't get nearly enough screen-time, Ramone is the film's real star, and is portrayed by both a real alligator, that enjoys strolling through miniature sets at night, and a large rubbery mechanical gator that isn't totally convincing, especially when seen in broad daylight. Still, it is a testament of how special effects were (and should be) done, and helps add to film's overall fun factor. Combined with a likeable cast of characters (e.g. Detective Madison with his humorous insecurity about his receding hair line), a simplistic but appropriate score (that somewhat apes the "JAWS" theme) by Craig Hundley (whose career as a composer pretty much ended in 1987), and a generous helping of devourings and dismemberments make this one of the most respected films of its kind.

Why YOU should watch it: Well if seeing a film that has a giant, mutant, man-eating alligator isn't enough to get your goat, then I really don't know what to tell you. Ramone the alligator is the main draw of the film and his carnivorous exploits are still pretty impressive by today's standards, especially considering that bad killer croc and gator films are a dime-a-dozen these days. Also, you get to see one of the most shocking child deaths ever filmed, when two kids force a friend to "walk the plank" in the inground pool behind their house, with some disastrous consequences.

First of all, where the f*ck were mom and dad when the two obvious bullies blindfolded their younger counterpart and led him outside at (plastic) sword point to his ultimate demise?! Sure Ramone ate the kid, but he was merely acting on instinct; the real villain in this scenario is the air-headed mom that turns on the pool lights just in time for little "Billy" to see the maw of pointy teeth below the surface of the water. Even if there wasn't a giant alligator in the pool, the poor kid probably would have drowned!

There's also a few other notable moments that make this a memorable entry in the nature run amok sub-genre. Watch in amusement as Ramone bludgeons his way through a city street and chases after a group of kids who were playing stickball, engages in a naval battle with some idiotic cops armed with automatic rifles and grenades, crashes the wedding of his inadvertent creator, and crushes a limo, plus the old man inside of it, with his mighty tail of rubber!

Is it worthy of a remake? Well, it'll be hard to truly do this film justice, and with the recent glut of low-budget and terrible killer crocodile and alligator films, I think that now is not the right time to even consider a remake of this classic film. (However, I have to note that "Rogue," which was released under Dimension's EXTREME DVD label, is actually pretty damn good.) For now, I think that "Alligator" should be left alone and enjoy its spot as, quite possibly, the greatest film ever made about a giant man-eating reptile. Seriously, I think that this movie is so good, that even its shitty sequel, "Alligator II: The Mutation," can't hurt its "sterling" reputation.

"Hoof" it back here soon to find out what film boasts the number two spot on my continued countdown of my favorite killer animal flicks!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Night of the Creeps getting a legit DVD release.... FINALLY!

Yes, you read that right, and no it is not a joke. (Look at your calendar if you don't believe me... April Fool's Day is long gone!) As I was perusing the web today, I waltzed through Chud.com (one of the greatest, if not THE greatest movie news site on the web) and discovered that Sony is finally pulling their head out of their ass for ten minutes, in order to bring Fred Dekker's classic horror / sci-fi / comedy to the masses!

According to Chud.com's source (i.e. ShockTillYouDrop.com), the movie will be UNCUT and have the original ending! Plus, the disc is promised to be packed with extras, to the point that I hope we get an impressive 2-disc special edition that rivals Lionsgate's "Monster Squad" DVD!

Rejoice fellow "Creep" fans, and prepare for glory this October! (And yes, as soon as I find out the official release date, I will pass it on to all of you!)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Vault Master's TOP TEN KILLER ANIMAL FILMS: #4 - Piranha (1978)

Piranha (1978)
92 minutes / Color / Rated R

The Culprit(s): A school of genetically altered piranha that can live in any type of watery environment (fresh water, salt water, cold water, hot water, flavored water, etc.), have the capacity to solve problems (there's a dam in our way? Well we'll just backtrack and find a way around it!), and they can allegedly breed like bunnies in heat!

The Plot: After two hikers trespass onto a thought-to-be-abandoned military testing facility and get eaten alive after taking a dip in a pool full of genetically altered piranha, an investigator named Maggie McKeown is put on the case. Maggie manages to team up with an alcoholic single-dad named Paul Grogan (Bradford Dillman), and together they discover where the missing people ended up. Unfortunately, during their intrusion on government property, they unwittingly drain the piranha pool and set the voracious little terrors loose into the cold, fresh water of "Lost River." The piranha immediately go on a feeding frenzy, eating anyone foolish enough to water-ski, swim, scuba dive, or go fishing.

As the film reaches its climax, the test subjects of "Project: Razorteeth" attack a resort full of unlucky recreational swimmers. To stop the unending carnage, Paul and Maggie take matters into their own hands and attempt to wipe out the piranha before they reach the ocean and spawn. Their solution? Pollute the f*ck out of the river by opening up a waste pipe within a sunken sewage treatment plant! Though it appears that they were successful, the film leaves the ending open for the eventual sequel: "Piranha II: The Spawning." In the sequel (which was directed by Oscar Winning Director James Cameron!), these toothy bastards live out at sea aboard a wrecked naval vessel and can fly because they have been crossbred with California flying fish and grunions!

Why it made the list:
This Roger Corman production is yet another rip-off of the immortal "JAWS," though this film changes the formula up enough to be interesting and entertaining as hell. The first big difference between "Piranha" and the film it borrows from, is that it features a school of killer fish, rather than one big one that swallows people on a whim. To me, this is a far more horrifying scenario, because the victims are being devoured alive by an insatiable predator that won't stop eating until all that's left is a pile of bones. At least in "JAWS" the victims either get a brief respite during a shark attack (instilling in them false hope), get completely consumed before they really know what's happening, or at least get a chance to defend themselves against their lone attacker. In the case of the piranha, they surround their victim, strike repeatedly, and never let up. How can anyone even think they can stand against such a mindless voracity? Well the truth is, you can't. Once those little f*ckers get into a frenzy, you are pretty much S.O.L.

Aside from having an excellent antagonist in the film, "Piranha" boasts some pretty impressive (though sometimes hokey) effects, and has a cast of well-developed characters that you actually want to survive the onslaught of the killer fish. Dr. Robert Hoak (Kevin McCarthy!) is a prime example as he is the creator of the dreaded piranha. He messed with the piranha's genetic code in order to make a bio-weapon for the Vietnam War, but once the project was scrapped, he continued his labors. Though he is the creator of the "Razorteeth" that are swimming around Lost River and dining on innocent victims, he seems to feel no guilt as "he wasn't the one that let them out." But his cold scientific exterior is just a facade because he is the first one to dive into the piranha-infested waters in order to save a young boy that is stranded on a sinking boat. For his selfless act, Dr. Hoak gets chewed to shit and dies.

Then there's Paul Grogan's daughter Suzie who is stranded at a summer camp that demands children go into the water. Little Suzie is afraid to go in the water because she thinks something will get her. Although the kindly counselors attempt to keep her high and dry, the asshole who runs the summer camp basically calls her a gutless worm and berates poor Suzie on a frequent basis. (To quote this sumbitch: "People eat fish. Fish, do not eat people!") However, once the piranha pay a visit to the camp, Suzie bravely rows a raft out to save two stranded counselors while Captain Dickweed proves to be utterly useless.

And that leads me to another great thing about "Piranha:" it's a film that isn't afraid to put children in harm's way. Why that may lead you to believe I'm a sick individual who enjoys watching the slaughter of innocents (and you would be correct in assuming that), I think that this helps give the film an edge that allows it to keep normal viewers off balance. I applaud any horror film that kills off youngsters, mainly because it A) creates a little shock value and B) destroys any preconceived feelings of safety that viewers may have had before the film started rolling. (This is also why I love "Grizzly" and the final three films in this countdown; because they are not afraid to show or imply a small child getting eaten!)

Along with an all-star b-movie cast (Dick Miller, Barbara Steele, and Keenan Wynn!) and a wonderfully eerie score by Pino Donaggio, this is a movie that deservedly belongs in the upper echelons of killer animal cinema!

Why YOU should watch it: Well for starters, it's directed by Joe Dante, who approaches this film with just the right amounts of horror and humor. (Not familiar with Joe Dante? Well he has also directed "The Howling," "Gremlins," and an often overlooked flick that I love called, "The Explorers!" If you haven't seen any of the film's I've just mentioned, you best crawl out of your friggin' cave and check them out!) "Piranha" also features early effects work by Phil Tippett (and Rob Bottin!), an excellent score by the aforementioned Pino Donaggio, and a fairly sizeable body count. And you can't help but love the weird sound effects the piranha make underwater when they attack their victims. "Piranha" is a fun flick that has aged better than you'd expect, and I can't recommend it enough!

Is it worthy of a remake? Well Roger Corman's New World Pictures remade "Piranha" in 1995. While not nearly as good as the original, this remake is, at the very least, watchable. And guess what? "Piranha" is getting remade again, by Alexandre Aja (writer/director of "High Tension" and "Mirrors") and it's going to be in 3D! This time around, the killer fish are prehistoric piranha that were released from an underground lake by an earthquake. It sounds like it will be an awful lot of fun, and I can't wait to see it, especially if the 3D effects are as good as they were in "My Bloody Valentine 3D!"

The countdown continues tomorrow with my third favorite killer animal flick. It is yet another rip-off of "JAWS" and features one of the most memorable "child deaths" in film history! Check back tomorrow night; see you later 'alligator.'

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Vault Master's TOP TEN KILLER ANIMAL FILMS: #5 - Grizzly (1976)

Grizzly (1976)
a.k.a. Killer Grizzly
91 minutes / Color / Not Rated

The Culprit(s): An eighteen-foot tall bruin that has acquired a taste for human flesh!

The Plot: After two female hikers are killed and eaten at a state park, by what is believed to be an amazingly large Grizzly Bear, park ranger Michael Kelly takes the case and attempts to track down the rogue bear. However, he and his fellow rangers aren't nearly enough to stop the hungry grizzly's killing spree, so they enlist the aid of an insane naturalist named Arthur Scott (Richard Jaeckel, who also starred in William Girdler's "Day of the Animals"), who tries to get into his quarry's head by dressing in bearskins and communing with nature. Along with a helicopter pilot named Don Stober, Ranger Mike's chances of finding and putting down the rogue bear seem to improve. Unfortunately for the bear-hunting trio, their prey is smarter than they are, and the bear continues to be one step ahead of its hunters, even up to the final moments of the film. By the time the climax rolls around, Arthur and Don are dead and its up to Mike to kill the rampaging grizzly or become its next feast. When his trusty scoped rifle fails to put the bear down, he opens the door to a nearby helicopter and pulls out..... a bazooka?! Yup! He pulls out a friggin' bazooka, and sends Not-So-Gentle Ben to the Jellystone Park in the sky.

Why it made the list: William Girdler was a visionary director, and I can only imagine what other cinematic oddities he could've cranked out, had he not died tragically in a helicopter crash in 1978. "Grizzly" is an almost unapologetic rip-off of "JAWS," that derives so much from Spielberg's classic film, that you wonder how it escaped a lawsuit from Universal. The only real change is the location (i.e. dry land instead of the ocean) and the type of animal that's eating people (i.e. a big grizzly, instead of a big shark). Everything else is pretty much blatantly stolen from "JAWS," including: the use of point of view shots when the bear stalks and/or attacks its victims, the inclusion of a trio of heroes that are hunting the film's menace, the "beaches (or in this case, state park's campgrounds) need to stay open" plot point, and finally, the complete destruction of the film's antagonist via an explosion. Hell, even the bear's them music sounds similar to John Williams' immortal "JAWS" theme.

However, unlike "JAWS," this film plays more like a cheap slasher film, since the bear stalks its victims, then lashes out with its deadly claw when they least suspect it. (Ummm... how would a one ton bear that's more than twice as tall as an NBA player sneak up on someone? The mind boggles!) The scenes where people are attacked and/or killed are pretty clumsy, and end up eliciting laughs instead of screams. But there are two kills in the film that actually pull off the horrific element fairly well. The first features the mauling of a small, bunny-loving boy, who ends up getting bear-hugged (quite literally I assure you). He loses a leg, then gets to watch the murderous bear kill his mother. This scene is definitely handled clumsily, but it is so damned ballsy, that you just sort of forgive it. The second scene I'd like to mention features a woman getting yanked out of her tent in the middle of the night and brutalized by the uber-violent grizzly. Her husband looks on in horror and screams as she is lifted into the air and violently shaken back and forth by her unseen assailant.

But these are pretty much the only truly serious moments in this fun but flawed exploitation flick / rip-off. The rest is so darned ridiculous and cheesy, that you can easily forget you just saw a women get ravaged by a bear.... or that a small boy was physically and mentally disfigured for life, after Winnie the Pooh's bloodthirsty cousin paid a visit to his house.....

Why YOU should watch it: Rather than guilt you into seeing this movie because its director died while trying to bring yet another entertaining film to the American public, I'll just rattle off a few highlights that make this a surefire must see film. First of all, you get to see people get attacked by an oversized (and totally unconvincing) bear claw. This bear is a definite righty, and uses his dominant claw to drag his victims to their offscreen demises, including an attractive blonde ranger who just had to strip down and bathe in a waterfall. Then there's the various scenes of bear-on-human brutality throughout the film that range from being delightfully absurd, to genuinely chilling. I think my favorite kill in the film is when Arthur Scott (Richard Jaeckel) is attacked by the bear. Arthur is knocked out of the saddle after his horse is beheaded by the grizzly, then gets mauled and buried in a shallow grave to serve as a snack for later. Arthur eventually wakes up and digs himself out of the ground, but before he can thank God for being alive, that pesky bear shows up to finish the job. (Doh!)

And to top it all off, the bear is blown away with a f*ckin' bazooka! What other movie has ever been gutsy enough to have the lead character pull out an anti-tank weapon and kill a (formerly) endangered species?! No wonder this was the highest grossing independent film of all time.... until John Carpenter's "Halloween" came around that is.

Is it worthy of a remake? I think this one could stand a remake, as most recent attempts to make killer bear movies have been utter failures. ("Grizzly Rage," I'm looking in your direction.) If someone in Hollywood does get the ball rolling for a "Grizzly" remake, then I think they should strictly make it a serious and straightforward horror flick. I don't mind if they make it a little tongue-in-cheek, but I think they should completely shy away from making it a campy throwback to the ecological horror flicks of the 70's... that is, unless Quentin Tarantino and/or Robert Rodriguez got involved.....

The countdown to number one continues tomorrow with a classic Roger Corman produced knockoff of "Jaws." Don't miss it!