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 (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's source (i.e., 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!)