7.31.2014

The B-Movie Bungalow Presents: Piranha 3DD (2012)

DIRECTED BY
John Gulager

STARRING

Danielle Panabaker - Maddy
Matt Bush - Barry
Katrina Bowden - Shelby
Jean-Luc Bilodeau - Josh
David Koechner - Chet
Chris Zylka - Kyle
Adrian Martinez - Big Dave
David Hasselhoff - Himself
Christopher Lloyd - Mr. Goodman


Genre - Horror/Science Fiction/B-Movie/Comedy/Bad Animals

Running Time - 83 Minutes


If you've been reading this blog long enough to remember my reviews for 1978's PIRANHA and its 2010 remake, you know that I really enjoy those two B-movie centered on those killer fish. Although they're considered ripoffs of the more iconic JAWS from 1975, I find both PIRANHA films to be a lot of fun and memorable after the films are done. One of these days, I will review 1981's PIRANHA II: THE SPAWNING and the 1995 TV-movie remake of PIRANHA. But I'm not feeling suicidal right this minute, so they can wait.

However, I did decide to check out 2012's sequel to the 2010 remake - PIRANHA 3DD. It's a sequel I had been wanting to see two years ago, but kept putting off for whatever reason. A lot of my blogger friends seemed to dig it quite a bit, while other critics pretty much buried this one for being inferior to the film before it. I guess it wasn't a film I had to rush out and see, even though it had boobs, killer fish, and David Hasselhoff playing himself in his Baywatch lifeguard uniform. But I decided to take a chance on it and see which side of the spectrum I fell on when it came to this film. And while I didn't hate it like a lot of people, I was very disappointed in the film. It could have been so much better.

PLOT
A marine biology student named Maddy (Danielle Panabaker) returns home, stunned that her stepfather Chet (David Koechner) has turned her mother's water park into something made for strippers and porn stars just to make more money. Chet has been illegally drilling water from a nearby lake, awakening the giant piranha that destroyed Lake Victoria a year ago and catching their attention. Eventually, Maddy and her friends start getting attacked by the piranha while hanging by the lake. Maddy warns Chet, but he refuses to listen as he's hoping a guest appearance by David Hasselhoff will build business for the park. Unfortunately, it's only building a food supply for some hungry fish.


REVIEW


STORY
Screenplay - I think PIRANHA 3DD is greatly hurt by its script. It's not as if I was expecting an Academy Award worthy screenplay of some sort. After all, the film is about killer fish and boobs bouncing every chance they get. But the 2010 remake had a lot going for it. Both are brainless films, but PIRANHA 3D had a heart and a soul that makes it a success. Alexandre Aja and crew made a film that paid homage to the original and films they loved, while keeping it professional and creating something new that didn't insult fans of the genre. The story was simple, the characters were likeable, and the pacing was fantastic. Even the over-the-top stuff in the last half was genuinely amusing. It all felt organic and things just clicked. I wish I could say the same about PIRANHA 3DD.

For one, the characters aren't really that likeable. The first one barely had deep character development, so I didn't expect the sequel to change that. But the sequel could have at least given us characters we could care about. Honestly, I could care less about any of these victims. I should at least care about the main girl, Maddy. But she wasn't interesting enough for that to happen. She was smart, pretty, and stuck in a love triangle. But other than that, what else was there? Barry had more of a character, only because he had layers that included studying what Maddy studied to find something in common with her, hating cop Kyle, and saving a frog from a piranha because he had one as a pet once. But it still wasn't enough to root for him. Kyle was a prick cop who was the typical pretty boy douchebag, so you wanted him dead quick. Shelby was the hot virgin and that was about it. Big Dave loved fucking a pool drain. And Chet was the typical perverted owner who wanted sex to sell his business. Every character was one-note and none of them had anything of substance. Even the love triangle aspect felt bland. These characters just bored me.

Also, situations felt forced just so people could laugh or be scared. A guy screwing a pool drain isn't funny. Having a piranha lodged inside his butt crack didn't help either. The bathtub dream sequence, which was an obvious homage to A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, was pointless. The cameos from Gary Busey and Clu Gulager were handled poorly and without humor. The only real amusing parts for me were the sex scene where a piranha exits a girl's vagina and eats the dude's penis, leading to one of the greatest lines of dialogue ever...

"Josh cut off his penis because something came out of my vagina!"


I also thought the Ving Rhames cameo with his shotgun leg was pretty funny, only because it reminded me of PLANET TERROR. And David Hasselhoff's participation in the film is the highlight of PIRANHA 3DD. Hasselhoff playing himself in a spoof-like way is just genius, as he makes fun of himself and seems to be having fun while doing it. He also had great bits of dialogue that genuinely made me laugh. In fact, I really thought the last act was pretty fun with the massacre at the water park. I just wish the two acts before it were just as fun. It's a pretty flat script with a few bright spots.

Direction - John Gulager, who directed the fun FEAST, couldn't bring that with him while directing PIRANHA 3DD. The pacing was off. The slo mo on the boobs was fun at times, but got really repetitive. While I thought the massacre was fun, it wasn't shot all that well in my opinion. It felt like a SyFy Channel film, with CGI blood and gore all over the place. It was hard to see what was going on at times due to the frantic editing and use of overcrowding CGI. The gore effects were cheap looking, but I did like the decapitation death into motorboat sequence. I felt Gulager didn't really capitalize on the situations and/or locations all that well. You could have done a lot with that water park and the location felt like an afterthought at times. I thought PIRANHA 3D handled the massacre a lot better and more inventive. Maybe the budget wasn't as bad as the previous film, but things just looked cheap. And I can't comment on the 3D, so I don't know how it looked. But I thought the visual presentation could have been much better. It should have made the script more fun than it actually was.

But the film had a lot of boobs, so I can't hate on it too much. I just wish Gulager was more tongue-in-cheek with everything. It just felt he was aping Aja's style rather than creating his own. And it didn't work all that well for him.

Acting - The acting saves this portion of the review. While the characters weren't great, at least the actors were game and having fun. Danielle Panabaker played it mostly straight as Maddy, the young marine biologist. Katrina Bowden was a super hot virgin with some great dialogue. Matt Bush played the nerd well as Barry. Chris Zylka was the perfect douche as Kyle. David Koechner was pretty funny as Chet, although he would have been great with better material. Christopher Lloyd was a nice return as Mr. Goodman, being his eccentric self. Ving Rhames was kinda amusing as Deputy Fallon, now with a shotgun for a leg. And David Hasselhoff was just amazing as himself. The whole Baywatch deal was just brilliant and a lot of fun. The acting was more than fine for a film like this. I just wish the material was stronger.


VIOLENCE

While not as violent as PIRANHA 3D, this sequel still had a lot of blood and out-of-nowhere death sequences. People get chewed up. Flying piranha bite their victim's head off pretty cleanly. A piranha feasts on a penis, leading to the owner cutting it off just to get the fish off of him. We get a decapitation scene as someone drives through a string holding a row of flags. And Ving Rhames blasting fish was pretty cool. I thought the massacre from the 2010 film was more bloody and violent, but this film held its own I guess.


SEX
Boobs. Lots and lots of boobs. Boobs of the real and fake variety. Bouncing in slow motion. Bouncing in water. Just a lot of boobs and girls in bikinis. We also get a piranha on a penis, plus a piranha up some dude's butt. It wasn't the sexiest film ever, but I'm sure it'll keep many visually stimulated.


CHEESE FACTOR
PIRANHA 3DD could have been cheesier. But David Hasselhoff trying to reprise Mitch Buchanan and realizing he's too old for the role now is just great. He knew what kind of film he was in and stole the spotlight from everyone else. Plus you have piranha invading a water park filled with strippers and porn stars. And a fish coming out of a girl's vagina, just to eat her boyfriend's penis. If that's not somewhat cheesy, I don't know what is.


THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE WISHING THIS FILM WAS BE--- BOOBS...


- Gary Busey was chewed up by a school of piranha. In his words, I consider this Finding An Important Lesson, Inviting Needed Growth.

- At the Big Wet Water Park, no one gets you wetter. Peter North would probably challenge that.

- A baby piranha invited itself inside of Shelby's vagina. No amount of Summer's Eve will get rid of that smell now...

- Maddy had to save Shelby during a piranha attack on a pier. Judging by what happened to her in that FRIDAY THE 13TH remake, you'd think she would have known better than to stay away from lakes.

- According to this film, tragedy makes virgin girls want to make love. Hopefully those next 30 seconds won't make the situation more tragic.

- "Josh cut off his penis because something came out of my vagina." That might explain why I'm an only child...

- David Hasselhoff banged two girls at once because they enjoyed his singing. Nice to see someone give deaf girls some love too.

- A piranha lodged itself up one dude's ass. Man, I feel sorry for the fish.


THE FINAL HOWL
PIRANHA 3DD promised to be bigger and better. Unfortunately, this sequel just ended up being inferior to the 2010 remake and needed more bite. The characters aren't as good. The direction wasn't as polished. The stuff with the piranhas could have been more inventive. But I did like that the actors had fun with the mediocre material. I thought the third act of the film was a lot of fun. And David Hasselhoff's presence is simply the best part of the film, playing a douchier version of himself [or maybe he's really like that, who knows?]. So I'm mixed on this one. Sure it had bouncing boobs in slo-mo and decent death sequences. But I saw it done better within the franchise. Not a rush-out-to-see film, but not a bad one if you want to waste 83 minutes of your time.



SCORE
2 Howls Outta 4



7.30.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 25: "Rah Rah Sis Boom Fap...fap, fap, fap"





The 25th episode!!! More Summer Sextravaganza as Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark, and I review THE SWINGING CHEERLEADERS (1974) and THE POM POM GIRLS (1976). Plus a discussion on 70's sexploitation movies.












 


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7.29.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 3: "The Lost Episode"


Here is the lost episode where 10 TO MIDNIGHT and SAVAGE STREETS are reviewed. This is a no frills episode, no edits, no music and with around 7 minutes of pre-show banter. A behind the scenes look at the podcast and of course it's my first episode! We've come a long way, Rev.










Embed Music Files - Download Audio - Episode 3 [The lost episode!]

 


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7.28.2014

Re-Animator (1985)


About a month ago, I was a guest on DTV Connoisseur's new podcast [with his lovely co-host Jamie Jenkins] discussing 1985's RE-ANIMATOR, Jeffrey Combs, and why modern horror doesn't capture the same feeling as 80s horror. Would appreciate you guys taking a listen and hearing our thoughts.

You can find Matt here and on his Tumblr blog.


Check out Matt's Podcast at www.mixlr.com/2nd-unit every Wednesday between 8pm to 9pm ET and his archives here.



7.24.2014

The WTF? Worst Films Extravaganza Presents: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993)

DIRECTED BY
Stuart Gillard

STARRING
Paige Turco - April O'Neil
Elias Koteas - Casey Jones/ Whit
Mark Caso/ Brian Tochi - Leonardo
David Fraser/ Robbie Rist - Michelangelo
Jim Raposa/ Corey Feldman - Donatello
Matt Hill/ Tim Kellher - Raphael
Vivian Wu - Mitsu
Stuart Wilson - Walker
John Aylward - Niles
Sab Shimono - Lord Norinaga
Travis A. Moon - Yoshi
Henry Hayashi - Kenshin


Genre - Action/Adventure/Fantasy/Family/Martial Arts/Comic Books

Running Time
- 96 Minutes


With the new Michael Bay produced TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (2014) being released in theaters in a few weeks, whether you like it or not, I decided to revisit the previous films as a way to catch up with these Heroes in a Half Shell. I've already reviewed the original 1990 film adaptation [still one of my favorites] and its first sequel [cheesy, but fun]. But I was really dreading reviewing today's subject: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III from 1993.

Ugh, I think I may have seen this film only twice - the last time being in the mid-1990s. It's a film whose plot I barely remember other than it involved time travel to ancient Japan. It didn't grab, or appeal, to me like the previous two films had. Like many of my friends who had also seen it, we weren't really impressed by TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III.

But I like to be a completist, so I decided to rewatch this sequel after about 18 years. I wanted to see if the film was as bad as I had remembered, or my thoughts were flawed due to me maturing away from the Turtles at the time and not seeing it for the fun film it actually is. Unfortunately, the film's quality wasn't due to my age, or how I felt about the franchise at the time. To be honest, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III is a bad film that could have been decent if the producers actually gave a damn about their fanbase.

PLOT
Before going on vacation, April O'Neil (Paige Turco) gives the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles gifts, while saving one for Splinter - a strange
scepter. Back in 1603 Feudal Japan, a young son of a Japanese emperor (Henry Hayashi) reads an incantation on the same scepter, sending April back in time while sending him to the present. When the Turtles and Splinter realize what happened, the Turtles send themselves back to 1603 Japan to save April. Unfortunately, they find themselves considered demons within a civil war, as they must save a group of villagers against the Japanese Emperor Norinaga (Sab Shimono) and a British weapons dealer named Walker (Stuart Wilson).

Yeah, this is much better than having Dimension X, Krang, Slash, Rat King, or anything else from the franchise that made the Turtles popular!


REVIEW
I have three words for TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III:

WHAT THE FUCK!?


It really pains me to put anything Turtles related into the WTF? Vault. But TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III is a bad flick that could have been great if the right people were producing it. It's worse when the film actually has positive qualities that are slightly better than the second film in the series. But when you ignore the series' history and all of its characters to randomly do a cliche time travel story that doesn't add much to the franchise, what's the point? Why take this direction instead of giving fans something they're familiar with? I don't get it.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III really fails in terms of its narrative. Now let me just say that I respect that writer-director Stuart Gillard wanted to do something really different from the previous two films. The first film was gritty and felt like a vigilante movie. The second film was more silly and colorful, reflecting more of the cartoon series. The third film is a bit darker than the second film, but feels more cartoonish than that same movie. And with no more Shredder around and the popularity of the Turtles In Time arcade game, that's still a favorite amongst Turtle fans, at the time, I can see why he and New Line would want to do a film like this. It's kind of ambitious and separates itself from anything before it. However, the execution is lazy and flawed, making it pointless at the end.

Instead of going to stories and characters that have already been established in the cartoon and comic book franchise, Gillard decided to send the Turtles back to Feudal Japan for whatever reason. Maybe the budget couldn't allow Gillard to bring Dimension X to life, or afford thousands of rats to make the Rat King epic. And did a pier falling on Super Shredder really kill him? You could have brought him back easily with Krang or something. Hell, judging by the automations of the Ninja Turtles in this installment, the limited budget probably was the reason why fans didn't get the film they wanted. And it's a shame because we're left with a really dumb time travel film that just makes itself look more stupid as the film rolls towards its conclusion.

I think my main issue with the story is that it's in-sequential. What's the point of this movie? Why are the Turtles going back in time? How does this effect their future? Will the events of the story lead into something potentially interesting in a future installment? TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III is a pointless cash-in sequel for New Line Cinema to hold on to the rights of the franchise. It doesn't really tie into anything that has come before it, or will come after it. Even Casey Jones, who makes a nice return from the first film, does NOTHING here but babysit a bunch of time displaced Japanese warriors. That's the best you can do with the character? Having the same actor play a British dude in the past isn't the same as having him play an important role as Casey Jones. Jones was a highlight of the first film, and a favorite within the franchise. Treating him like he means nothing but fan service is lazy and a missed opportunity.

The Feudal Japan stuff has potential, but ends up feeling like a 90 minute television episode. It's nice to see the Turtles is a new situation, but the film never really does much with it besides the usual slapstick. The Yoshi kid is there for the younger fans to relate to, but he doesn't really do anything of note but make sure the film is longer than 30 minutes by keeping a key component away from the Turtles the entire time. The Mitsu character is the opposite of April O'Neil, in that she can battle and protect herself. But then, she suddenly becomes a damsel-in-distress herself towards the end to give the Turtles something to do. Kenshin is the villain's son, but we never really get time to establish their beef with each other and why Kenshin would use the sceptre. He's just there to change places with April - who by the way is kinda annoying and bitchy here. I guess this was supposed to be a tough April, like in the first film. But she was kind of grating at points.

And the villains are so lame, it's not even funny. Lord Norinaga is supposed to be a bad ass Japanese Emperor, considering how his citizens want to rebel against him. But he's pretty much the supporting character to the other villain, Walker, who's more in control in terms of the situation with the sceptre and the Turtles. By the film's end, Norinaga is just used as a comic relief villain who's nothing more than Walker's bitch. What a waste. As for Walker, he's a much better character. He wants to sell guns to the Japanese so they can win their wars, in order to gain some sort of influence over the nation in the form of commercial imperialism. He has certain spies in the form of heroes in the film that are revealed in the final act. Walker seems to have a plan and just commands a presence that makes him unlikeable. Is he as good as Shredder? No, not even close. But at least I found him as some sort of threat unlike Norinaga. But he's honestly no match for the Turtles, who he considers demons - and he's afraid of them.


As for the Turtles, I do like how they're used in the film. They get to use their trademark weapons again, which was an issue in the second film [parents had complained about the violence in the first], so that was nice to see. Leonardo gets to have a decent sword clash with Norinaga in the final act, which I dug. Him being knowledgeable about swords and weapons was pretty great too. Donatello is still the genius, which he greatly puts to use in the film. He understands the time travel stuff, making him the anchor amongst the protagonists. Raphael grows up a bit here, still displaying his temper at times, but softens when it comes to Yoshi. He grows fond of this kid, telling him to keep his anger in check and just have fun, which shows how much he has matured since the first. Michelangelo is still the silly one, but shows how lonely he is when he wants to stay in the past because he feels more accepted there. Even though the Turtles were loved in the second film, this character shift is a bit strange here. But at least it made Michelangelo more dimensional, which was nice.

But in the end, the narrative is pretty pointless because it doesn't change anything. Nothing is really added and nothing is really subtracted. Sure, there's a happy ending, but we don't know if the same ending would have happened even if the Turtles hadn't went back in time. And why these characters? Sure, I'm glad the producers want to move away from Shredder and the Foot Clan. That's great. But you have so many great antagonists already established within the franchise. Where's Baxter Stockman? Rat King? Krang? Leatherhead? Hell, Usagi Yojimbo would have been cool. It's pretty disapponting because there are so many storylines that could have been adapted to the big screen that would have pleased fans of the series. Yet, they went with a typical time travel story that doesn't do much for anything that has been established before, nor will it change anything that will happen after. What a shame.

The bad one liners, that refer to pop culture, do the film no favors as well. Not only do they date the film tremendously, but they aren't funny either.

The special effects in TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III are iffy at best. Unlike the last two films, the automations of the Turtles and Splinter were not done by the Jim Henson's Creature Company. And you can definitely tell the difference. It's not to say the mechanisms are terrible. I think they're a lot better than that Next Mutation show from the late 1990s. But their mouths moves out of sync most of time, and their eyes look like they belong to a Furby than a Turtle. And what happened with Splinter's lower half of his body? I don't think he even had one. He was always hiding behind objects the entire time. It's a shame because the first two films had such high quality automations. The third film has decent ones, but the difference is jarring at times.

The direction by Stuart Gillard is pretty mixed. The cinematography is really the film's saving grace, visually. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III is a great looking film, with some nice period costumes that look legit, and scenery that really makes you think they're in Feudal Japan. The colors are nice and the framing is crisp. Other than that, the film doesn't have much style or substance going for it. Even the fight scenes seem dull and uninspiring at times. It's a shame because a time travel story should feel and look more epic. Gillard doesn't do that.


The acting is the best part of this sequel. The voice actors are all great, including a returning Corey Feldman [who skipped the second film] as Donatello. Paige Turco, while annoying at times in terms of how her character is written, does better this go around as April O'Neil, bringing back the spunk that Judith Hoag has given us in the first film. Elias Koteas is the best actor as both Casey Jones [which he's there for fan service] and the British Whit. Koteas has always been one of my favorite character actors, and he's giving it his all here. I also liked Stuart Wilson as Walker as well, playing a slimy villain well. The rest are fine in their roles. It's a shame they weren't in a better film than this.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE TIME TRAVELING TO 1993 TO STOP THIS FILM FROM BEING PRODUCED

- When she teleported through the ancient Japanese scepter, April O'Neil had switched with Kenshin, who had read an inscription in his time. 1993 was real progressive and ahead of its time when it came to sex changes.

- Walker wanted April to shrink him to prove that she was a witch. Cold water usually does the trick.

- "Dung is used as a fuel source." Must explain how this film was produced.

- April was stuck to a tree when her sleeve was stuck via arrow. Hopefully she uses birth control, since it's obvious she doesn't understand the concept of "pulling out".

- Michelangelo had to save Yoshi from a burning shack. Mario and Luigi are great plumbers, but terrible babysitters.

- "Turtles - it's not just a job. It's an adventure." Blogging about this film is just a job. Oy.

- Witt is paid to lie, cheat, and steal. Viva la raza?

THE FINAL HOWL
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III is a total disappointment of a sequel. The story is just lazy and eventually pointless, as our heroes go back in time to face characters hardcore fans will not recognize. I respect wanting to do something new, but it's disappointing not seeing a villain fans would have been anticipating other than Shredder. The one-liners are terrible. The fight sequences are uninspired. And the automations for the Turtles and eventually Splinter are just jarring and inferior to anything that came before it. I get the producers wanted to cater this film for the widest possible audience. But it just turns the audience away. If it wasn't for the beautiful picture quality and the acting, this film would be a complete bomb. Fans have, or will, check this out regardless. But they, and everyone else, should just stick with the first two and skip the third. It's just not worth the trouble going back in time for.



SCORE
1 Howl Outta 4



7.23.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 24: "Getting hosed down with WIP cream"


The Summer SEXtravaganza rages on. Join Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark, and myself as we review BAD GIRLS DORMITORY (1986) and REFORM SCHOOL GIRLS (1986). Plus a discussion Women In Prison films and their importance to pubescent boys.











 


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7.17.2014

ITALIAN HORROR WEEK 2014: Tenebre (1982)

DIRECTED BY
Dario Argento

STARRING
Anthony Franciosa - Peter Neal
John Saxon - Bullmer
Daria Nicolodi - Anne
Veronica Lario - Jane Neal
Giuliano Gemma - Detective Giermani
John Steiner - Christiano Berti
Christiano Borromeo - Gianni


Genre - Horror/Thriller/Mystery/Giallo

Running Time
- 100 Minutes



**Part of Doc Terror's ITALIAN HORROR WEEK 2014**


When it comes to Italian Horror, Dario Argento is the first filmmaker that comes to mind. It was through Argento that I learned what a giallo was, which led me to other films of his - as well as films made by other Italian directors such as Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci. While Argento's most recent fare haven't been so well received - I personally think 1987's OPERA was his last great work - Argento's filmography still manages to make him one of the premier artists in the genre.

Dario Argento really made his mark on audiences through his giallos. Films like THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET, and DEEP RED really captured audiences, as well as help inspire the American version of the giallo, the slasher film. For a while though, Argento was more focused on supernatural stories, such as SUSPIRIA and its sister-film, INFERNO. But 1982's TENEBRE was Argento's return to the giallo sub-genre, proving to many why he was the master of these certain types of films. Personally, it's not as good as DEEP RED or SUSPIRIA. But it's definitely top 5 material for sure.


PLOT
Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) is an American novelist who is known for his controversially sensationalistic stories that have been criticized for their misogyny and violence towards women. He arrives in Rome for a press tour, but his arrival sparks murders within the city that seem to be copying scenes from Peter's latest book, "Tenebre". Peter becomes involved when he starts receiving notes from the killer, taunting him and using his own words against him. Who can the killer be? Is it someone Peter knows? Is it an obsessed fan?


 
REVIEW

TENEBRE is an interesting film in Dario Argento's filmography. For one, TENEBRE was inspired by a stalker who had harassed Argento once he found fame in Italy. Also, it also seems to express criticisms towards Argento's previous works, especially where it concerns supposed misogyny towards women. The Peter Neal character seems to be TENEBRE's representation of its director - a man who just simply wants to entertain, but seems to be blamed for things he didn't intentionally do. These themes drive the story forward, showing that works of art are there to entertain most, but possibly inspire others to do bad things due to their minds not being able to wrap around reality.




Also, TENEBRE seems different from Argento's other gialli in the sense that the narrative is much more coherent than anything that has come before it. The murder mystery is pretty straight forward, leading to a logical conclusion that makes sense once you realize what's going on. I like how Argento attempts to make any character in TENEBRE seem like the killer. They all have something pretty shady about them - some more than others - making you wonder who's a red herring and who is the copycat killer. The story just builds and builds until you're aching to see where it'll end up, and it does not disappoint. I liked how the main characters seemed intelligent when it came to the situation, with some of them acting pretty suspicious about the whole murder deal. With ex-wives, cheating scandals, and other shady stuff going on, you're never sure where the narrative is going to take you, which makes TENEBRE a lot of fun to watch while you're putting the jigsaw puzzle together.



The puzzle is more interesting due to random scenes involving a flashback of a young, beautiful woman in a white dress wearing red pumps. It's obviously from the viewpoint of the killer, but we don't know what this means until the final act. The scenes just come across as surreal and pretty creepy, as you're just left wondering what the hell is going on. Who is this woman and how does she figure into things? And why is she shoving a red heel into a dude's mouth? Pretty strange stuff.



I do feel that the mystery aspect did hinder some of the characterization. Sometimes it's hard to like any of these people because Argento attempts to make each one of them seem suspicious. Also, I felt there were too many characters in the film, taking away the focus from the more major players. It's as if Argento attempted the body count aspect of the slasher film [which was major during this time], while attempting to maintain the aspects of a true giallo. I get what Argento was going for, but I do think it brings TENEBRE down a bit.



The death sequences in TENEBRE are quite memorable, and pretty bloody. The killer either likes to slice people with a blade, axe them to death, or even strangle them in a car from behind. There are a lot of cool death scenes, including one where an axe amputates a character's arm, gushing blood all over the nearby white walls, as the axe impales into her torso for added effect. We also get a great scene involving a dog attacking a character, leading her towards the home of the killer, who decides to make her night quite horrific as she struggles for help. Probably none of the sequences match up to anything from DEEP RED, SUSPIRIA, or even OPERA. But they're very effective and well done.

The direction by Argento is just fantastic. He injects a lot of style into the film. One scene, probably my favorite, involves this really elaborate crane shot that pans and tilts an entire apartment building in one continuous shot, just to set up a classic murder sequence. Apparently doing this caused a lot of headaches during production, but the final result is so worth it. We get some great POV shots from the killer's perspective. There's a lot of attention to detail thanks for cinematographer, Luciano Tovoli, making us pay close mind to any hints that may linger for us to solve the mystery. The tension and suspense is top notch. I do miss the colorful look that Argento is mainly known for, but it probably wouldn't have fit in well with the film's story and tone. TENEBRE is one of Argento's finest achievements as a filmmaker - one I'm sure he's definitely proud of.

The acting is hard to rate since I watched the English dubbed version of the film. Some actors, like Anthony Franciosa and Daria Nicolodi, come across as hammy due to the voice actors. But that's part of the charm, and they both are good actors, so I can't say anything bad about their performances. I really liked Giuliano Gemma as Detective Germani. He just came across as one cool customer, and pretty intelligent as well. We also get a bunch of hot women who are there to be murder victims, and they all run and scream quite well. And John "The Man" Saxon is awesome as the sleazy book agent. Any film he's in is worth watching, in my opinion. 




And I can't end this review without talking about TENEBRE's score. Argento is well known for collaborating with electronic rock group, Goblin, on many of his features during the 1970s. Unfortunately by the time TENEBRE was being produced, Goblin had disbanded. But Argento still managed to get three of the members - Massimo Morante, Claudio Simonetti, and Fabio Pignatelli - to contribute a synth score that would drive the narrative forward towards its tense conclusion. I personally love Goblin, and even parts of the group still manage to make great music. It's not as good as SUSPIRIA or DEEP RED, but the score does fit within the tone of TENEBRE.


 
THE FINAL HOWL

While DEEP RED and SUSPIRIA are still my favorite Dario Argento films, TENEBRE is definitely up there for me as well. It's not a perfect film, but it's still manages to be an entertaining thriller that will keep you invested from beginning to end. I think technical wise, TENEBRE is one of Argento's best, although I do miss the more colorful look of his previous works. If you care about perfect storytelling, then TENEBRE will probably disappoint you. But if you prefer more of a visual experience with good amounts of gore and stylish filmmaking, then TENEBRE is right up your alley. 


SCORE
3.5 Howls Outta 4 
 
 

7.16.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 23: "A Buxom Trilogy of Boob-tastic Proportions"





Our Summer Sextravaganza begins! Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark, and I start the festivities off with a bang with a Russ Meyer triple feature: VIXEN! (1968), SUPERVIXENS (1975), and BENEATH THE VALLEY OF THE ULTRA-VIXENS (1979). Plus the Top 5 Best Boob-tastic Moments in Film.











 


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7.09.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 22: "When good animals attack bad people"


New co-host, Moronic Mark, joins Reverend Phantom and I as we review WILD BEASTS (1984) and LONG WEEKEND (1978). Plus a look at the Top 5 Killer Animal Movies. So grab an eagle egg and your favorite ba-ba-ba-ba and enjoy.










 


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The B-Movie Bungalow Presents: Day of the Animals (1977)

DIRECTED BY
William Girdler

STARRING
Christopher George - Steve Buckner
Leslie Nielsen - Paul Jenson
Lynda Day George - Terry Marsh
Richard Jaeckel - Prof. Taylor MacGregor
Michael Ansara - Daniel Santee
Ruth Roman - Mrs. Shirley Goodwyn
Jon Cedar - Frank Young
Walter Barnes - Ranger Tucker
Andrew Stevens - Bob Denning


Running Time - 97 Minutes

Genre - Horror/Thriller/B-Movie/Bad Animals


So it's finally Summer, and as usual, I decided to focus much of the season on those "animal run amok" films we all love so much, whether they're good or truly shitastic. However unlike previous years, I'll save the shark film stuff probably within Shark Week itself this August [unless it's like SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE, which arrives late July]. This time around, I plan on focusing on all sorts of animals and insects to give the theme a bit of variety.

And there's no better film to start with than 1977's DAY OF THE ANIMALS, which features a bunch of human characters getting outsmarted and terrorized by bears, lions, birds, snakes, wolves, and even dogs! They're probably not as scary as a shirtless Leslie Nielsen attempting to rape women, but I'll get to that shortly. Still, DAY OF THE ANIMALS isn't as classic by any means, but it's sure a fun way to spend 90 minutes.

PLOT
Due to us environmentally conscious folks, the ozone layer has been destroyed and ultraviolet rays are effecting animals in strange, deadly ways. This doesn't seem to bother a mountain tour guide named Steve Buckner (Christopher George), who enjoys showing people the beauty of the wilderness without the use of technology and material things. This tour, however, may be more troublesome than most since it includes a racist advertising executive (Leslie Neilsen), an annoying socialite (Ruth Roman) and her son, couples trying to keep their relationships alive, and more. Besides a hawk following them around everywhere, things go well until wolves and lions start attacking them. The dangerous tour and lack of food is creating strife within the group, which is making this DAY OF THE ANIMALS a very memorable, and cheesy, one.

REVIEW

Ever since JAWS made killer animals popular to moviegoers in 1975, a bunch of these films were made and released ad nauseum. DAY OF THE ANIMALS is one of the better "animal run amok" features to have come out during this era, attempting to create campy entertainment through a serious message about the depleting ozone layer and how it could effect the Earth if it continues. Unlike a film like THE FOOD OF THE GODS or FROGS, you gotta give credit to DAY OF THE ANIMALS for taking itself pretty seriously while unintentionally making us chuckle and laugh through its storytelling and direction.

Let's get this out of the way: the environmental message of the film is just there to give us a reason to watch DAY OF THE ANIMALS. It doesn't tell us how to stop damaging the ozone layer. It doesn't show us how it's damaging the planet. It's just there to give these animals a reason to go crazy and kill humans. And it's not really a bad thing, as it gives an excuse for why things are happening without bogging the story down with expository dialogue or a long winded prologue that's just there to pad time. I have to applaud the film for taking a topic that's still relevant today to base its story on, rather than just using the typical toxic waste, or nuclear bomb deal that would have these animals become more aggressive than usual.

So instead of a film trying to send us an important message, DAY OF THE ANIMALS is nothing more than your standard "animals run amok" flick. We have a group of characters on a mountain tour, many who have trouble getting along for whatever reason. One dude is an angry racist who seems to want to be the leader. We have an annoying Beverly Hills socialite who complains about being a single mom, as she constantly nags at her rebellious teenage son. We have a couple in love and a couple who can't really get along. We have the hero, who doesn't seem to understand why the tour isn't going as smoothly as it usually does. There's also a lost little girl, who is caught in the madness as well. As the humans deal with their own issues, animals stalk them and attack when necessary. Nothing more, nothing less. And some of these characters are so annoying, you'll want the animals to get their way. It's like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD - just with animals instead of zombies, while it takes place outdoors rather than indoors. It's a B-movie survival film, with cheesy moments that will keep audiences entertained for the most part.


The animal attacks in the film are pretty tense, surprisingly enough. The initial wolf attack while the characters are sleeping is pretty creepy. The lion attack is tense. We get a scene where a man is attacked by a group of rattlesnakes, following by a vicious dog. There's the infamous jumping rat scene, where a group of rats hop on the local police officer, attacking his face. That scene is more funny than anything, but it's surely memorable. And we get the classic Leslie Nielsen fights a grizzly bear in a Death Battle, with no stunt double used amazingly. A lot of these "animal run amok" films have fake looking animal attacks, but DAY OF THE ANIMALS does them convincingly. I was digging it.

The direction by William Girdler, who had also directed 1976's GRIZZLY and unfortunately passed away in 1978 after directing THE MANITOU, does a pretty good job in capturing the film's premise visually. Girdler obviously uses stock footage of the animals roaming and flying through beautiful landscapes, edited quite convincingly with scenes with the actors dealing with nature getting revenge on them. The animal attacks are shot well, and quite amusing to watch. I do wish there was more variety in terms of the attacks, as they do get repetitive after a while, but Girdler gives you what many would expect from a film like this visually. And the one use of green screen is hilarious terrible in every way. What an eye sore. There are some nice moments of tension, and the flow of the film is well done as the movie flies by. Girdler makes sure the audience is never bored, which is why I got some fun out of DAY OF THE ANIMALS. I'm sure many prefer GRIZZLY, but I think this film is slightly better.

The acting is a mixed bag. Christopher George is good as the hero, Steve Buckner. There's nothing really special in terms of his performance, but he's just a likeable presence on film and brings a certain charm. His wife, Lynda Day George, is alright as the stereotypical love interest. Surprisingly, husband-and-wife don't share many scenes together, which is strange. A young Andrew Stevens is okay, probably distracted by the thought of having softcore porn sex with Shannon Tweed down the road. Ruth Roman is really annoying as Shirley Goodwyn, playing the whiny socialite who complains about being a single mom and nagging at her son constantly.


The highlight of the film, without a doubt, is Leslie Nielsen's performance as Paul Jenson. For those expecting comedic Nielsen, ala AIRPLANE! and THE NAKED GUN, will be completely shocked by Nielsen's villainous performance. Nielsen is great as a racist, sexist douche who becomes power hungry once the animals start attacking the group, feeling he knows how to survive the ordeal. Watching him slap women around, choke out children, and even attempt rape on a female character at one point while shirtless just boggles the mind. And the classic Nielsen vs. Grizzly Bear fight scene has to be seen by anyone who has one perception of the actor. I wish Nielsen had done more roles against type before his passing. While he made a lot of money being really funny, he also had great dramatic acting chops that I feel were underused. Nielsen is a great antagonist in DAY OF THE ANIMALS.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE STAYING GREEN SO ANIMALS DON'T GET MEAN

- Due to fluorocarbon gases seriously damaging the Ozone Layer, this film depicts what could happen in the future if this continues. That explains the popularity of the Jersey Shore, the Kardashians, and those Real Housewives shows. Damn UV rays...

- A curious hawk eavesdropped on a conversation, pinpointing the destination of the trip. With his animal partner, oh what a rush it will be when this Legion of Doom puts these humans in the Doomsday Device.

- Mrs. Shirley Goodwyn complained about being both a mom and dad to her son. If this was South Park, this wouldn't be an issue.

- A sleeping character was attacked by a wolf. Doesn't anyone listen when they're warned, "Keep Clear of the Moors"?

- Paul Jenson is racist towards Native Americans. With that kind of ignorance, it's no wonder he didn't know how to speak Jive up in that plane.

- A bunch of hawks attacked and murdered someone. She must have been on the production team for that BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR film and they wanted revenge. Totally justified.

- Rats jumped and scratched Ranger Tucker's face. Like everyone else, rats do like the taste of bacon.

- The characters were attacked by lions. Man, can you feel the love tonight?

- Paul Jenson is a real bastard - hitting women, threatening children, trying to rape women, and even fighting bears. Judging by his behavior, maybe OJ Simpson wasn't the killer...

THE FINAL HOWL
DAY OF THE ANIMALS is a pretty entertaining "Animals Run Amok" flick that uses a message on the destruction of our environment by having random animals attack and kill people due to the Ozone Layer. It's nothing but fluff, with decent use of stock footage and a bad use of green screen. But it's paced really well and the actors are game for whatever, especially a great villainous performance by Leslie Nielsen - which includes him trying to molest women and fight bears. That alone is worthy of a recommendation. Not the best "Animals Run Amok" out there, but it's a harmless 90 minutes that I had more fun with than it probably deserves.



SCORE
3 Howls Outta 4




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