The Initiation (1984)

Larry Stewart

Daphne Zuniga - Kelly Fairchild
Vera Miles - Frances Fairchild
Clu Gulager - Dwight Fairchild
James Read - Peter
Hunter Tylo - Alison
Marilyn Kagan - Marcia
Robert Dowdell - Jason Randall
Paula Knowles - Beth
Trey Stroud - Ralph
Peter Malof - Andy
Christopher Bradley - Chad

Genre - Horror/Mystery/Slasher

Running Time - 96 Minutes

***This review is part of Forgotten Films' 1984-a-thon. After you read this fine review, go over to Forgotten Films and check out the other entries covering the great year that was 1984. Now put on that vinyl of Madonna's "Like A Virgin" you got sitting there and enjoy the review!***

Ever since 1974's holiday horror classic, BLACK CHRISTMAS, murder and fraternity/sorority houses have been a match made in Heaven. It seems people out there [i.e. crazy killers who use weapons as their phallic symbol] just don't believe in letting certain students finish their Higher Education. But how can you deny this success? Films like THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW, GIRLS NITE OUT, and HELL NIGHT prove that the college setting is ideal for slasher mayhem. Let's add another film into the mix, 1984's slasher THE INITIATION - a rare slasher film from the 1980's that I have never seen until now. How this film has escaped me, considering the future soap opera credentials it has, I'll never know. And while it's not a great slasher, like A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET from the same year, there's still a lot to like here. So let's take that pledge and see what this movie is all about.

Kelly Fairchild (Daphne Zuniga) has been tormented by constant nightmares since childhood where she witnesses her parents having sex prior to a man being set on fire in self-defense. Not knowing where this nightmare stems from, Kelly decides to focus on dream studies in order to decipher it. She brings it up with her psychology professor (James Read), who attempts to give her tests in order to solve Kelly's issue. However, this upsets her parents (Vera Miles and Clu Gulager), who wish Kelly could just get over it for some reason. Kelly is also dealing with pledging for her local sorority, Delta Rho, where she's having issues with certain girls over a boy (Peter Malof). As all this goes on, someone has escaped an insane asylum, focused on heading towards the sorority with the thought of murder - especially when it comes to anyone who is in Kelly's orbit.


Like I mentioned above, this was my first time watching THE INITIATION. It's a slasher that not many people talk about, probably due to the fact that the slasher film craze was waning by this point and was overshadowed by others within the same year, like A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER. It also doesn't help that the film is pretty flawed and generic for most of the run-time. Still, it's an interesting slasher film due to its mystery and conclusion.

It's hard to really dive into a review for THE INITIATION without spoiling things. So I won't get too deep when it comes to the narrative. This is a film where you're better off knowing as less as possible about it, so that the finale will surprise you. I will say that it plays pretty standard in terms of how majority of slashers at the time told their stories. But THE INITIATION has that mystery going for it, where you start to think that you know what's going on, until a twist happens where you question yourself all over again. In that sense, THE INITIATION is more of an American giallo film where the mystery and the characters are what steer the film, rather than the set up for the death scenes. I will say that I was tricked by this film on several occasions, making me think I knew the truth, but surprising the hell out of me once it's all revealed. I did think the conclusion was kind of hokey, but at least it caught me off guard. So there's that. I think if you like to figure things out while watching film, THE INITIATION is right up your alley.

I will say that the characters aren't all that deep though, besides Kelly of course. But all of them do have layers to them that make them recognizable archetypes. The Fairchild parents act all bits of shady throughout the film, strengthening the mystery with their secret they're dying to keep hidden. Peter is their antagonist, only because he wants to find out what's going on with Kelly. He's the stereotypical love interest character - good looking, smart, charming, and breaking all sorts of rules when it comes to teacher-student relations. The sorority pledges are all different. Marcia is the frumpy one who many believe is a virgin, but shares a deep secret by the end of the film that deepens her arc quite a bit. Alison is the typical pretty, flirty girl who loves fashion and boys. And the guys are all typical frat guys, except for Ralph who uses humor to mask his insecurities. And then there's Kelly, who struggles with the same nightmare for years. Her parents don't give her answers. She gets frustrated when Peter can't decipher her dream. We take a journey with Kelly as she tries to figure out her nightmare while she attempts to lead a normal college life. She's a fairly strong Final Girl type with many layers to her that connect to the film's mystery. Compared to many slashers of the time, these characters at least have personality and things going for them positively. So you gotta give the film that.

The dialogue and storytelling in general is pretty good as well. The characters do feel like real people whenever they speak to each other, which is a major plus. The mystery is interesting, especially when it leads to a crazy ending that I had never guessed once during the film. I do feel that THE INITIATION does take its sweet time getting to the point of the matter, however. I like slow builds and all, but I do feel certain scenes play out a bit too long to get to the punchline. The frat party is a cool scene to build college atmosphere, but it doesn't really add all that much to the film other than that. Certain moments in the mall are there for fluff, but only some. If you're expecting a lot of slashing, especially within the first hour of the film, you'll be disappointed. But if you enjoy setting up the narrative, then I think you'll be fine.

Speaking of the slashing, there are some decent moments. We get a burning. Several people get killed by a small garden fork. We get a stabbing death scene involving a character screaming into a microphone within the final location of the mall, which was pretty fun. It's a decent enough body count for sure, even if most of it happens within the last thirty minutes. Nothing really gory or anything, but pretty violent stuff that will quench the thirst of those blood-hungry ghouls.

The direction by Larry Stewart isn't anything special really. Stewart does know how to create atmosphere and mood, as the film seems to feel gloomy even when the sun is out. I thought the film moved a bit too slow in its first half, but was well paced during the third act. The on-screen kills were neat. I thought the way the twist was presented was interesting. There are first person point-of-view shots for the killer, similar to BLACK CHRISTMAS and HALLOWEEN. THE INITIATION was Stewart's only feature length film, which unfortunately resembles more of an 80s TV-movie-of-the-week rather than a big budgeted theatrical flick [Stewart was a TV director prior to this]. But it's competent and you won't have trouble seeing what's going on. I'm sort of surprised Stewart never directed another theatrical film since it's not that bad. But the visual presentation won't wow anyone either.

The acting is pretty damn good, I thought. Daphne Zuniga, in her first major role, is very good as Kelly. Best known for playing Princess Vespa in 1987's SPACEBALLS and Jo on TV's Melrose Place, Zuniga adds a layer of torment, confusion, and frustration in her role. Plus, she's a beautiful woman so that helps. PSYCHO's Vera Miles doesn't get much to do as Kelly's mother, but she brings a sense of mystery to her role. Same goes to Clu Gulager, a veteran genre actor, as Kelly's father. He's not in the film a whole lot, but his character becomes quite interesting before his exit. We also get the acting debut of Deborah Morehart, best known to soap opera fans as Hunter Tylo from The Bold and the Beautiful. I honestly didn't recognize her, due to certain work she's done on herself. She was pretty okay as Alison, the pretty girl of the group. But we get to see some full frontal from her, which was a pleasant surprise. James Read, best known as the dad on Charmed and currently on Days of Our Lives, is pretty typical as Peter. He's fine in the role as the caring love interest. The other actors are decent, but won't win any awards or anything. Considering THE INITIATION was written by Charles Pratt, Jr. - who would later help create Melrose Place - the actors fit right in within this soap opera of a movie.


- Some lady inside a mental institution constantly vomits inside of a trash can. No wonder Oscar is a grouch.

- A nurse was attacked in her car while escaped mental patients watched, danced, and sang. I had no idea this film took place at Smith's Grove.

- Marcia wants to do her Psych paper on the "Psychological Effects of the Soap Opera". She should wait another nine to ten years when Kelly moves to Melrose Place.

- Kelly freaked out during her brainwave scan while she dreamed. Considering she doesn't have a white streak in her hair, nor pull out a dude's hat from her nightmare, I say that Kelly just wants attention.

- Ralph went to the costume party dressed as a penis. I'm sure Kelly respected the SPACEBALLS that took.

- Alison stole clothes and roller skates from a mall mannequin. Kim Catrall was not pleased.

- Someone got murdered by a hatchet near Christmas decorations. PUNISH!

- Another character was shot through the heart. They must've gave love a bad name.

THE INITIATION is an above average slasher film that entertained me for the most part. I liked the mystery vibe the film had going for it. The mood and atmosphere is quite strong. I thought some of the characters had a nice bit of depth. The kills were pretty decent. And I thought the performances by Daphne Zuniga, Vera Miles, and Clu Gulager carried the film well. I think better, and more memorable, slashers were released around the same time. But THE INITIATION is worth at least a watch if you enjoy future soap opera actors starring in a giallo-like slasher with a hokey twist at the end.

2.5 Howls Outta 4


Midnight Confessions Ep. 29: "High School in your 30's can be hell"

This week Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark and I go back to school and review HELL HIGH (1989) and SLAUGHTER HIGH (1986) [which I re-review in a more positive light]. Plus the Top 5 High School Themed Horror/Exploitation movies.


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The Expendables 3 (2014)

Patrick Hughes

Sylvester Stallone - Barney Ross
Jason Statham - Lee Christmas
Antonio Banderas - Galgo
Jet Li - Yin Yang
Wesley Snipes - Doctor Death
Dolph Lundgren - Gunner Jensen
Kelsey Grammer - Bonaparte
Randy Couture - Toll Road
Terry Crews - Hale Caesar
Kellan Lutz - John Smilee
Ronda Rousey - Luna
Glen Powell - Thorn
Victor Ortiz - Mars
Robert Davi - Goran Vata
Mel Gibson - Conrad Stonebanks
Harrison Ford - Max Drummer
Arnold Schwarzenegger - Trench Mauser

Genre - Action/Adventure

Running Time - 126 Minutes

The mercenary group known as The Expendables are on another mission, this time breaking out a former member named Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes), who is traveling on a prison convoy within Somalia. As Death tries to fit back into the group, The Expendables continue their mission - only for leader Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) to realize that a man he thought dead, an arms dealer and war criminal named Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), is the mastermind behind the evil he must stop. Stonebanks makes the mission more personal when he badly wounds Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), forcing Barney to disband The Expendables so none of the other members get hurt - although they're against the idea. Now under the orders of a CIA operative named Drummer (Harrison Ford), Barney must do whatever is necessary to stop Stonebanks - even if he has to recruit younger members for a new Expendables team.


Being a fan of the first two EXPENDABLES films, I was heavily anticipating the third film in the series so far. I'm a huge fan of 80s and 90s action films, so watching all these grizzled stars join forces against evil just puts a smile on my face. Unfortunately, THE EXPENDABLES 3 had a lot of issues going against it.

One, the rating downgraded from an R to a PG-13 for a broader audience. That kind of irked me because action films from previous eras were usually pretty violent, but I understood it from a business standpoint. Then, I saw how large the cast became. I knew any sort of character development or motivations would be pretty non-existent. Then, someone leaked out a DVD-quality version of THE EXPENDABLES 3 about three weeks prior to its release last weekend. Millions downloaded it and gave their mixed opinions on it all over social media. These things most likely attributed to THE EXPENDABLES 3 being a box office bomb so far, at least domestically. Then again, I'm not sure how much this film would have made regardless, since in my opinion it's the worst of the three films - despite it still being pretty fun for most of it.

- The older cast. It's no surprise that the film is pretty good when the original cast appears. The comraderie between Stallone, Statham, Crews, Lundgren, and Couture is still intact. Watching them banter and blast away enemies will never get old. But then you bring in newer guys. Wesley Snipes has a good introduction at the beginning of the film, even joking about his tax evasion issues from his real life. Kelsey Grammer, who did X-MEN: THE LAST STAND to get his action film card, is pretty chill as Bonaparte - Barney's recruiting buddy. Harrison Ford takes the film more seriously than he probably should, but I thought every scene he appeared in gave the film a pulse and some meaning. Jet Li returns in a cameo, which is nice to see. Schwarzenegger is having fun, bringing back quotes from previous films for a genuine laugh and smile. Mel Gibson, whose personal life has tainted his professional one, is pretty great as the villain. He seems to be having fun acting a bit maniacal and chewing up the scenery. I thought he was one of the highlights of the film. But the best actor was Antonio Banderas as Galgo, the comic relief who wouldn't shut up. He was in a different film than everyone else, just making a fool of himself for the audience's amusement. For a serious action film, Banderas brought some much needed levity to the proceedings. I wish these actors were presented better, but at least the older cast was pretty damn cool.

- The action. I think THE EXPENDABLES 3 had my least favorite action sequences in the series so far, but they were still very watchable and entertaining. The half-hour climax had a lot going on, but it was a really fun watch. The second action scene once Gibson is introduced was cool. And while the opening sequence and the first sequence with the newbies were pretty short for an action film, at least they were decent-to-good for what they were. I still miss the blood and more violent R rating for these scenes, because I think they would have made these scenes better. But for a PG-13 action film, I expected worse actually. So I'm pretty content with these scenes for the most part.

- The premise. I liked the concepts and themes that formed THE EXPENDABLES 3. I liked that the villain was someone who was a part of the original Expendables team. I like that Barney wanted to build a new, younger team that was more in the know. I enjoyed the idea of "passing the torch" to newer action stars, since the older ones don't have much left in the tank. I liked that both generations embraced each other by the end of the film. The ideas are there. The elements should work if they come together. But unfortunately...

- The story. Now, were the first two films masterpieces in terms of screenwriting? Far from it. But at least they had a charm that made them resonate and work. The first film was based on the nostalgia of these old action stars teaming up and kicking ass. The second film took itself less seriously, playing along with the audience by bringing up previous films and lines of dialogue in a clever way. The third film seems to want to be a mix of the first two films, but the balance is all off.

THE EXPENDABLES 3 takes itself way too seriously for its own good. If it had some sort of emotional weight within the narrative to justify that tone, then it would be okay. But a lot of things just come across as unintentionally silly, that you wish it shared its tone with the second film, which knew what it was and had a blast admitting it.

I have issue with when one of the main characters is almost killed during the first act of the film, causing Barney to disband the team for a younger crew. Why? For one, the film is called THE EXPENDABLES 3. You couldn't kill this character off? Isn't that the definition of the title? And if you wanted to this character to survive, why not kill a character that's not as important? I'm glad this certain character survived because I enjoy what the actor brings to the table. But it just felt silly to take him out for the entire film like this, when he's been through much worse in previous installments.

Continuing on this, why would Barney disband his team because of this incident? Didn't a member of The Expendables get brutally murdered in front of them in the last film? That didn't make Barney break up the team. And worried for his friends' safety, he decides to recruit younger, more inexperienced, mercenaries to take their places? Like I said, I like the idea of "passing the torch". But it's just done so clumsily because it doesn't fit Barney's character in the previous two films.

It also doesn't help when these new characters are bland and one-dimensional. While the older cast aren't that fleshed out either, at least we know who they are pretty quickly because of their previous resumes. The older cast have personalities we can connect with, even if we don't know their backstories or how they were recruited to form this band of misfits. The new squad doesn't have any of that. One guy is a hacker. Another guy hates authority and rides a motorcycle. There's a girl now who can kick ass. And there's the other guy who just shoots a gun. I'll give Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, and the other two actors for trying to make something out of these stereotypical characters, but it couldn't work when there are already more than another people in this film than it actually needs. There's no room to breathe to let these characters live. I think if these characters were introduced throughout the franchise, or within their own spinoff where they could build themselves into interesting personalities, it could have worked. But all THE EXPENDABLES 3 did was prove that the younger generation can't match up with the older one in terms of personality, charisma, or even acting ability. It's a shame.

Is it a terrible script? No. There is dialogue that made me laugh. There are moments where characters actually feel believable. And I liked how the set pieces were laid out, as cliche as they were. But the focus of the film was flawed, making me wish I was watching the other two films instead.

- Direction in general. Patrick Hughes may be a nice guy. I have no idea what other films he has done. But he wasn't the right guy to film THE EXPENDABLES 3. It's not badly directed in the sense that it's unwatchable. The film looks pretty good and flows better than it should, to be honest. But a lot of the CGI stuff bugged me, especially when two actors are driving in front of a green screen that had me in stitches. The film is WAY too long for its own good, feeling bloated with too many characters and not enough substance. The editing is a bit off at times. And the direction of the action is annoying, especially when I'm seeing close-ups of actor's faces rather than the fight scenes themselves. I don't know when shooting action too close became this hip trend, but it needs to end. I want to see a punch connect to some dude's face, not a close-up of the puncher's face. I'm sure some of this was done to satisfy the PG-13 rating, which makes the opposition for it pretty justified. The visuals just didn't feel confident to me, as if Hughes was struggling with what kind of film this needed to be.

I wanted to like THE EXPENDABLES 3 more than I actually did. I like the ideas and themes presented in the film, especially "passing the torch" to a younger generation of stars. But it's an unbalanced action film with an uneven story and direction that needed more confidence. It's also way too long and introduces a young cast that could use a personality transplant. However, the action is still pretty good and the older cast is pretty great, especially Gibson and Banderas - both stealing the film. I prefer the first two films over this one, but the third has its moments and won't bore anyone who is a fan of these kind of films. I just wish it were better because all the elements were there for a better film than we actually get here.

2 Howls Outta 4


Midnight Confessions Ep. 28: "Getting nasty with Naschy"

This week Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark, and I take on a Paul Naschy double feature with INQUISITION (1976) and PANIC BEATS (1983). Plus the Top 5 Male Icons of Horror. Also, internal thoughts that should always stay internal become external because that's how we roll.


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The WTF? Worst Films Extravaganza Presents: A*P*E (1976)

Paul Leder

Joanna Kerns - Marilyn Baker
Rod Arrants - Tom Rose
Alex Nicol - Col. Davis
Nak-hun Lee - Capt. Kim
Yeon-jeong Woo - Mrs. Kim
Jerry Harke - Lt. Smith
Paul Leder - Dino

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

Running Time - 87 Minutes

On a trip to Disneyland, a 36-foot ape breaks out of a shipping boat, causing it to explode. After a fight with a shark, the giant ape decides to head into South Korea, destroying stuff in sight. When he falls for an American actress named Marilyn (Joanna Kerns), who is filming a film there, he kidnaps her. This, plus the city damage, has the army going after the ape, hoping to stop it before it causes any more chaos.

I swear I've seen something like this before...

I have three words for A*P*E:


Thanks to a friend on Facebook who had talked about this film, I would have never known the existence of A*P*E - a South Korean and American production that was made and released around the same time Dino De Laurentiis had produced and released his remake of KING KONG in 1976. It's pretty much the same film as KING KONG. It has a giant ape. It has the ape destroying a city. It has the ape kidnapping a blonde beauty. And it has the ape being attacked by the local military. The only thing A*P*E doesn't have is any class, any dignity, or any substance that KING KONG has. But I can't say that I didn't have a ball with this stupid movie, even if it is a large piece of monkey crap.

Screenplay - I don't even know why I'm bothering with this aspect of the story. A*P*E is nothing but a cheap rip-off of the KING KONG story, just with a poorer narrative, direction, and acting.

You'll care nothing about the characters in the story, as they're all bland and one-dimensional. Marilyn is an actress who seems to love enjoying dramatizing attempted rape in grungy set locations. She's in some sort of relationship with some journalist named Tom, who left America for an assignment in South Korea just to be near her, even though she told him she needed space. Tom constantly tries to grope Marilyn, taking kisses every chance he gets while subtly implying he wants to bang her. Marilyn quietly pushes him away, saying she needs time to figure things out as she can't balance her career with her feelings for Tom. I've seen things like this on the Investigation Discovery channel, so hopefully this will have a better ending.

The Colonel character was pretty funny though, as he was a skeptic for the beginning of the film, making light of the entire situation. Then when he realized it was really happening, he had some great one-liners and facial expressions. Too bad he wasn't in the film more.

As for the ape himself, what can I say? He loves to smash things. He loves to play with things. He loves to kidnap future TV moms. And he enjoys flipping the bird at the military. Talk about character development!

The dialogue is pretty atrocious, and the journey from start to finish is very by-the-numbers. Also, the film starts with the giant ape already captured and headed to Disneyland [really??], so you have no idea what the backstory to this ape is or how they even captured him. It all just feels really random, with nothing really clicking seriously. It's amusing for an unintentional laugh, but only when the ape is onscreen really. Say what you want about that 1976 KING KONG remake. At least that film is competent. A*P*E is anything but.

Direction - Paul Leder, father of DEEP IMPACT director Mimi Leder, doesn't do much visually as a director. It's pretty much a point and shoot affair, with the use of mini set pieces in order to make the ape larger than he actually is. We get a fake giant ape hand from time to time. We obviously see objects fly towards screen being pulled on a string. Did I mention this film was made for 3D? Even in 2D, I could tell this film would have been an ultimate fail in another dimension. The sound editing is also pretty odd, with dubbing being awkward and noises not sounding consistent from one scene to the next within the same area. There's nothing really special about the look of A*P*E at all. No style, no great picture quality, and nothing visually worth talking about.

Acting - The actors are decent in their roles, I guess. Joanna Kerns, best known as the mom on Growing Pains, plays the actress Marilyn. She's a good screamer and is a pretty woman. But other than that, it's not hard to see why she went to TV acting rather than stay in film. Rod Arrants lets his 70s Lothario look do most of the talking for him, but he was okay as the "hero" Tom. Alex Nicol is kind of charming as Col. Davis, pretty much providing more life than all the other human actors combined. And the dude who played the title character seemed to be having fun acting stupid in costume. It's unfortunate he wasn't at all convincing as an actual gorilla.

VIOLENCE - A*P*E has moments of violence in it. The ape destroys cities. There's a fake gorilla vs. a dead shark battle in the water, which won't make ZOMBI 2 shake in its boots anytime soon. The ape throws rocks and other things at the military. Flaming arrows and bullets are sent towards the ape. Plus, there's that fake rape scene on a movie shoot. Even though there's some blood, I've seen more violent films than this.

SEX - Besides some implications, A*P*E is fairly tame. No nudity. No sex. Unless you count a hand glider bouncing on an ape's hand sexually stimulating, you're better off sticking to your porn.

CHEESE FACTOR - I'm not sure whether A*P*E is intentionally, or unintentionally, cheesy. But regardless, it manages to make me laugh at how ridiculous the premise is. A director is named "Dino" - making fun of producer Dino De Laurentiis. There are nods to the original PLANET OF THE APES. The acting is so wooden, it's laughable. Where else will you see "King Kong" fight "Jaws"? Foam rocks and arrows traveling on strings? Why not? Joanna Kerns seductively pleading with the ape to be gentle with her probably gave Alan Thicke a chubby. And an ape who gives the middle finger to the camera in probably the most famous moment of this film raises the cheese factor quite a bit. It's definitely a cheesy film for majority of the film, due to how awful it is.


- The giant ape fought a dead shark in the water. It must've wanted to take the primate home and eat its pussy.

- "I'm a reporter, not Charlton Heston!" Judging at how Tom is striking out with Marilyn by not being able to part her Red Sea to shoot his gun inside, I can't help but agree.

- A bunch of children break into a closed amusement park called Family Land. That's messed up. It's definitely no Neverland Ranch, which I heard was open morning, noon, and night - especially for young kids. Jesus Juice, anyone?

- Marilyn had to film a "gentle" rape scene on a sleazy movie set. Man, this original version of THE ACCUSED didn't have much going for it, huh? No Oscar for you, Marilyn. I guess that's them Growing Pains...

- Marilyn wanted the big ape to be gentle with her. Surprising, since she TV married a dude who's last name is Thicke...

A*P*E is something else. It's so ridiculously bad, you'd think a film studio accidentally greenlit a Saturday Night Live skit to be feature length. Bland and/or wooden acting. Boring direction. A title character who's obviously a man in a broken down gorilla suit [which is quite hilarious for all the wrong reasons]. But it does have moments that will make you laugh for how ridiculous it all is. And I was never really bored, so it has that going for it. I would recommend this film just so people can see how stupid and awful it is. But if really bad trash isn't your thing, then A*P*E is not a film worth going bananas over.

0.5 Howls Outta 4

Moronic Mark's "Satan Screener" for A*P*E


Midnight Confessions Ep. 27: "Scream Queens and Imps and Nerds--oh my"

The Summer Sextravaganza comes to an end as Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark, and I take on 1988's HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS, NIGHTMARE SISTERS, and [in my case, re-take on] SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA. Plus the Top 5 Scream Queens of all time.


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Midnight Confessions Ep. 26: "Up the creek without any school spirit"

Our summer extravaganza rolls on. This week Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark, and I review two 80's sex comedies: SCHOOL SPIRIT (1985) and UP THE CREEK (1984). Plus the Top 5 Teen Movies of all time.


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When Wrestlers Act: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

James Gunn

Chris Pratt - Peter Quill/ Star-Lord
Zoe Saldana - Gamora
Dave Bautista - Drax the Destroyer
Vin Diesel - Groot
Bradley Cooper - Rocket
Lee Pace - Ronan the Accuser
Michael Rooker - Yondu
Karen Gillan - Nebula
Djimon Hounsou - Korath
John C. Reilly - Rhomann Dey
Glenn Close - Nova Prime Irani Rael
Benicio del Toro - Taneleer Tivan / Collector

Genre - Action/Adventure/Science Fiction/Fantasy/Comic Books

Running Time - 122 Minutes

After his mother passes away, Peter Quill is kidnapped from Earth as a young boy. 26 years later, Peter (Chris Pratt) is now a rogue for a group of Ravagers looking for a sphere that has a huge bounty on it. Now calling himself Star-Lord, even though it doesn't really stick, Peter ruins into the soldiers of the villainous Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace) - a force who wants the sphere in order to destroy planets to get vengeance for his Kree race. After being captured by Nova Corps, Peter is sent to prison with Ronan traitor and Thanos' adopted daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Ronan hater Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), genetically engineered raccoon Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper), and tree-like humanoid named Groot (voice of Vin Diesel). Realizing they share similar goals, while all having different reasons, they decide to team up and stop Ronan the Accuser's plans for galactic destruction.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is probably Marvel Studios' biggest risk. The characters aren't as well known as their other properties, probably being presented for the first time in front of a mainstream audience. Comic book nerds, including myself, may have heard of the group or know them pretty well, never thinking they would receive the big screen treatment over other Marvel characters. Even myself, who has heard of these characters and where their arcs will probably go within the Cinematic Universe, is pretty surprised that they've been given the spotlight since the group isn't everyone's cup of tea. This film could have really blown up in Marvel's faces due to their lack of notoriety. But judging by how well it's done on its first day of release in the United States [almost $40 million!], I think it's safe to say that Marvel made the right choice. Not only that, but GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is the opposite of anything they've done thus far. It's goofy, bright, fun, and has the feel of a B-movie space opera with finances behind the project. Whether it's timing, or folks just wanted to watch something different in their superheroes, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is a massive success for many reasons.

I think the main reason why GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY resonates is the characters. They all have different personalities, and all have different motivations - but they click together so well, you really do believe these five could be friends and a great team. Peter Quill is such a douchebag character, with his womanizing ways and immaturity towards serious situations. But from the prologue, you get why Peter acts like he does. He never really grew up and needed this mission in order for that to happen. I think Chris Pratt, who is a loveable man-child in many of his roles, really captures the character. Pratt is just a really likeable guy with a ton of charisma, making the Star-Lord feel legit. We want him to succeed in this world. We want him to finally get the girl. We want him to realize that everything happens for a reason and he should embrace it. Pratt brings a ton of a layers to the role. Goofy, sentimental, serious - Pratt is Star-Lord. I don't think they could have cast anyone better for the role.

Gamora, the adopted daughter of Thanos, is a total badass and stoic, only freeing her emotions when she starts to admire Peter for more than his heroism. Zoe Saldana is great in the role, as she seems to succeed well in these sci-fi roles. She has great facial expressions and body language, making her look and feel totally alien to Peter's human ways. I wish her betrayal of Thanos and Ronan was done in a different way, since it felt like exposition when she explained her reasons. But it doesn't really ruin the film or the flow of the character. She's the typical tough chick in the group, which more than works with the other characters.

Drax the Destroyer is another alien being, who is hungry for revenge against Ronan for murdering his wife and daughter on his home planet. He doesn't understand metaphors or euphemisms, as he's totally literal in anything he says or does. Dave Bautista, a well known WWE World Champion many times over, is so perfect for the role that it isn't funny. He has this quiet charisma and way of carrying himself that makes him a guy you can't take your eyes off. It doesn't even feel like he's acting. He's so natural in front of the camera, making things that shouldn't be funny sound genuinely funny. I know he returned to WWE for one last run, but I don't think he needed to. I think he'll have a decent acting career if he continues to pick roles like this one. I don't think he'll achieve what The Rock has, but Bautista is definitely on the right path. I look forward to seeing him face Josh Brolin's Thanos down the line.

I think the two best characters in the film aren't even human. Rocket and Groot are just awesome in this - more than I ever thought they would be. Rocket is a genetically engineered raccoon who has a foul mouth and a sarcastic [or sadistic] sense of humor. But he's also the strategist of the team, displaying a high level of intelligence and fighting combat. In a lot of ways, he's the backbone of the team whether or not he wants it. I thought Bradley Cooper's voice was really good for the character, bringing the funny and even loneliness of a CGI character we probably shouldn't care so much about. But we do, because Rocket is treated like a real person with real emotions. He's not a mascot. He's fully fleshed out and doesn't even feel like a CGI character by the end of the film. As for Groot, he doesn't express himself very eloquently. But then again, he's a talking tree who can do a lot with his humanoid body to take on opponents, or protect his teammates. Vin Diesel's voice acting was perfect for Groot, as his "I am Groot" dialogue kept changing to express his emotions during a scene. Even though it was three simple words, we still understood him through the motion capture and the tone of his voice. I think of all the characters, Groot was the one who pulled the heartstrings of the audience. He made us smile. He made us tear a bit. Who knew a talking tree could do that to a person? I just thought the CGI heroes were handled so, so well.

As for the villains, Ronan the Accuser and Nebula are well written within the context of the story. They're pretty typical villains - wanting power through destruction, or feeling jealousy towards another character in order to prove they're better. Anyone expecting someone like Loki will be severely disappointed. But I thought Lee Pace had a very commanding performance and presence as Ronan. Was he fleshed out a ton? No, not at all. But I think we understood him pretty easily. And Karen Gillan looked kind of hot as Nebula, and I dug her powers. I wish she were able to do more, but I thought she was fine in the role with what she was given. And I dug Josh Brolin's Thanos as well. He isn't in the film a whole lot, but you know the Infinity Stones are involved. Comic book fans know exactly where this is going and where Thanos will fit into future Marvel films. Can't wait.

I also can't forget Michael Rooker as Yondu, the leader of the Ravagers. I thought he was funny, threatening, and just an overall badass. Glenn Close and John C. Reilly are underused, but play their roles perfectly. It's just a great cast bringing great characters to life.

That's a credit to James Gunn, who has had an interesting trip towards the A-list. He started out working for Troma [don't miss a Lloyd Kaufman cameo during the prison scenes], wrote and directed the very underrated SLITHER, wrote the 2004 remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD, was a judge on a reality show for VH1, and then got to write and direct Marvel's newest success. His writing for GUARDIANS is so well done, as every character feels real even though they're traveling through the universe. The humor never feels forced. The situations being set up feel natural. The characters are all complex individuals. Even the use of the great music, which I'll get into shortly, feels like it belongs within each scene they're in. Gunn could have really gone overboard with the story, making it feel like a joke. But you can tell he really cares about these characters and wants to write them with a sense of justice to the source material. There's a lot of heart and soul in the film, creating a different kind of superhero film. It's not a gritty, serious revenge story. Nor is it a fish-out-of-water origin that's made to set up future installments. GUARDIANS is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it also feels like its own film, its own world. This is like a modern version of STAR WARS, feeling fresh while still having connections to other films within the franchise. The tone and presentation is so unique compared to other films like it. You can miss the other films, or not even read the comics, to still find some enjoyment in GUARDIANS. It's that well written.

As for Gunn's direction, I loved every second of it. It's like a mix of STAR WARS and THE FIFTH ELEMENT, feeling like a brightly colorful space opera that's odd, yet endearing. Gunn's world is absolutely stunning, grand, and spectacular. This world is so large, you can have many films involving these characters having missions on different planets, or even different galaxies. The action sequences are shot so well, especially that tense scene where the Nova Corps are blockading Ronan's ship in the sky to stop him from landing on their planet. Just the way that was presented was awe-dropping. I loved how Groot was presented, from how he changed his tree-form by creating branches to fight or as defense. And that firefly scene - just beautifully framed and used. The pacing was fantastic, as it never felt 2 hours long. The editing was perfect, and the framing was inspired. I just loved the hell out of Gunn's direction here. You can tell he wanted to make this film look and feel right. And he succeeded probably more than many thought he would. I'm so glad he's on board to direct the second film, because I feel Gunn breathed a ton of life into this movie. You can't make a film about misfits without a misfit leading them. He deserves all the success in the world for proving himself.

As for the soundtrack, I thought it was just a great tracklist of really awesome music. Songs like The Runaways "Cherry Bomb", "Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky", Jackson 5's "I Want You Back", Redbone's "Come and Get Your Love", and so on was just frosting on the cake. And it wasn't shoehorned in to sound retro or cool. The music meant a lot to Star-Lord, due to his mother, which made the film meaningful to us. I could listen to that Awesome Mix Vol. 1 all day.

What more can I say about GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY? I don't think I had a more fun experience in theaters this summer. Sure, maybe there have been better films technically than GUARDIANS. But I don't think any of them had as much heart and soul than this film does. It's the perfect popcorn movie with great characters, fantastic acting, wonderful direction by James Gunn, cool action, and genuine comedy and drama anyone can enjoy. Marvel took a risk with this one and it's paid off in spades. The sequel can't come soon enough for me. Just a lot of fun from beginning to end.

4 Howls Outta 4


The B-Movie Bungalow Presents - Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014)

Anthony C. Ferrante

Ian Ziering - Fin Shepard
Tara Reid - April Wexler
Vivica A. Fox - Skye
Mark McGrath - Martin Brody
Kari Wuhrer - Ellen Brody
Judd Hirsch - Ben
Courtney Baxter - Mora Brody
Dante Palminteri - Vaughn Brody
Judah Friedlander - Bryan

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

Running Time - 90 Minutes

Fin (Ian Ziering) and ex-wife April (Tara Reid) are on a plane heading to NYC for a book signing. You see, April wrote a book - "How To Survive A Sharknado" - making her and Fin celebrities. Unfortunately, another Sharknado hits during the flight, creating chaos. It seems a series of shark storms are heading to the Big Apple to continue the rampage they did back in Los Angeles - and Fin must protect his family and friends from a bigger, and more sillier, threat.



Screenplay - 2013's SHARKNADO, produced by The Asylum, was one of the biggest surprises of last Summer. While it wasn't a ratings bonanza, it took over social media and became a phenomenon within the world of pop culture. It became The Asylum's most successful film, meaning a sequel was no doubt rushed into production. Hence, I'm now discussing SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE.

And by God, this shit storm was absolutely glorious.

SHARKNADO 2 does what a sequel is meant to do - continue the story while creating bigger and badder scenarios for our characters to conquer. While the first film took its time building into the Sharknado madness, the sequel wastes no time getting right into the action - building more and more until it's insane and silly finale. And that's all I wanted from SHARKNADO 2 - a more stupid, but also more epic follow up to an already dumb movie.

Just like the last film, the story is really the aspect that no one expects to be good or anything. After all, it's a sequel to a film about a tornado of hungry sharks. Anyone wanting deep character development and fine tuned story arcs has no business watching SHARKNADO 2, or any Asylum film. But I gotta say - the script kinda surprised me in a good way here. It was pretty clever in a tongue-in-cheek, wink at the audience, sort of way. The first film took itself more seriously in a lot of ways, trying to establish itself as a movie. The sequel knows what it is and embraces the phenomenon it has become. Having certain cameos that referenced previous films and television shows was really great. Who didn't smile when Robert Hays was the pilot at the start of the film, commenting that he's used to strange situations in the air? Judd Hirsch driving a taxi cab? All you needed was Danny Devito, Marilu Henner, Christopher Lloyd, Tony Danza, and Andy Kaufman to complete the joke. Plus having Vivica A. Fox swing samurai swords like she stepped off the set of KILL BILL VOL. 1 is just great stuff. I'll get more into the cameos shortly, but I thought they added to the story rather than take away from it.

The best part was the attempt to give Fin a background of sorts, making him grounded within this crazy universe. We learn he's a New Yorker. We learn he has an estranged relationship with his best friend, who happened to marry his sister. Did I mention that their names are Martin and Ellen Brody? We find out he had a relationship with Skye, who still wants Fin. Even April is jealous that she could lose her ex-husband to this woman. While it's not deep or anything, I liked the family element and how Fin wanted to save all of them and the city he loves. It made the guy more likeable to me, wanting him to save the day and get the girl at the end. I did not expect a sequel, especially from The Asylum, to actually fill in blanks for the characters and give them a reason for existing other than food for these sharks. Gotta give the screenwriters a lot of credit for that.

As for the scenarios our characters are placed in, I thought they were a lot of fun. We get a shark attack in a subway tunnel. A Mets game gets interrupted by falling sharks. The Statue of Liberty's head gets knocked off by a Sharknado, leading to devastation CLOVERFIELD was scared to do. We get buzzsaws, chainsaws, guns, flamethrowers, swords, and even lightning rods to stop these sharks. The finale is pretty fucking wild too, more so than the previous installment. Just a lot of creative shit that no sane person would think of on a good day.

Is it the greatest script? Nowhere close. But it manages to continue the story while building upon it, even if a lot of it is totally illogical and ridiculous. But that's what you want from a film called SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE.

Direction - Anthony C. Ferrante returns to visualize the franchise he created, and I thought he did a great job. I thought the pacing was a lot better than time around, since the film is pretty much action right from the start. I thought he used the NYC location really well, with the sharks infiltrating the subway system, Liberty Island, pizzerias, and etc. The tone is consistent throughout, and the film is funny without forcing it too much. And I thought the CGI looked way better here than it did a year ago. Obviously, a budget was put into this thing and I thought it was handled fine. The picture quality is what it is. If you've seen the last film, it looks similar. Ferrante kept the visual entertainment going and I appreciated that. He could have half-assed it, knowing the film would do really well regardless due to the first film. But he really tried to make a "good" sequel, which is something he should be applauded for.

Acting - Again, SHARKNADO 2 doesn't have the greatest acting in the world. But I thought it was an improvement over the first. Ian Ziering is back as our main hero, Fin. He plays it straight and says some really ridiculous lines of dialogue without a sense of a smile. He's still a badass with a chainsaw and kept the charm from the previous film. Nice to see Steve Sanders kick some ass. Tara Reid is still the worst actress here as April, but I could tell she tried to put in a good performance. She looked really out of it in the first film. But she seemed more aware and had some fun in this one. So that's an upgrade in my opinion. Mark McGrath was fine as Martin Brody, Fin's brother-in-law. He gets to set some sharks on fire and seemed to be enjoying himself. Kari Wuhrer was cool as Ellen Brody, making me wish she was April rather than Tara Reid. Vivica A. Fox was a bad ass as Skye, but I wish her role was larger. Judd Hirsch was funny as Ben, playing up his Taxi character. Judah Friedlander has some decent moments as Bryan.

The cameos, though, were the highlight for me. Just trying to point out each actor/singer/wrestler was a lot of fun. Kelly Osbourne is a flight attendant. Robert Hays is a pilot. Perez Hilton and Jared from Subway are waiting for a train on the subway. Kurt Angle was a fire captain. Pepa and Tiffany Shepis were Ellen's best friends. Biz Markie was a pizzeria owner. Matt Lauer and Al Roker cracked me up in their scenes on the Today Show set. There are a whole lot more in the film, and most of them get eaten by sharks. So it's all in great fun. I liked the cast in this one.

You thought SHARKNADO was violent? This one takes it up a notch. A lot of sharks biting off heads while torpedoing at them. Chopped off limbs right from the start. A lot of chainsaw violence. We also get some sword play. Gun play is here too. We get a water gun turned into a flamethrower. We get sharks landing on people, killing them. We get explosions, electrocutions, and even flying within the storm and riding the shark down to the ground. Just an insane amount of violent stuff here. The final act alone satisfied the quota here. Too much fun to handle.

The last film took place in a warmer climate. This film takes place during a cooler one, so no bikinis or sexy outfits at all here. Not much to say here.

The title alone, SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE, is cheesy enough. Hell, the existence of this film fills the spectrum here. A Sharknado in NYC? Insanity!

I wasn't sure what to expect with SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE. B-movie sequels don't usually have a great track record, especially when they're made for SyFy by the Asylum. But SHARKNADO 2 won me over right when the tail of the airplane moved like a shark fin through the cloud [thank you AIRPLANE!]. Just a really stupid piece of shit film that will keep a smile on your face for its entire run time. Better story, direction, and acting than in the first. The cameos are worth the watch alone. The final act is something that must be watched. SHARKNADO 2 was way better than it had any right to be, which probably surprised us all while watching it. I actually thought this was better than the first film, to be honest with you. It knew what it was and it had no shame giving it to us. So bad, it was awesome. Bring on the third one!

3.5 Howls Outta 4

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