TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: UNDER SIEGE (1992)

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UNDER SIEGE (1992)

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Flick finds Navy SEAL Casey Ryback (Steven Seagal) serving as a cook on the battleship USS Missouri for disciplinary reasons. It’s the captain’s birthday and a big celebration is planned. Rogue Navy officer Commander Peter Krill (Gary Busey) uses the celebration as a cover to bring in terrorist William Strannix (Tommy Lee Jones), an ex-CIA operative, to take over the ship with his men. Now it’s up to cook Casey and a stripper hired for the party (Erika Eleniak) to outwit Strannix and his thugs and take back the Missouri and save the crew.

Arguably Steven Seagal’s best film, Under Siege is directed by Andrew Davis (Code of Silence, The Fugitive) from a fun script by J. F. Lawton. Davis takes the now classic Die Hard scenario and milks it for all it’s worth in his battleship setting. There is a lot of action, some taunt suspense and some nice humor mixed in with Seagal’s trademark martial arts. He gets one of the liveliest performances out of the usually stoic action star and some very strong but entertaining villains in Busey and Jones. The film used a real battleship as it’s setting, the USS Alabama, and the cat and mouse chase between Strannix and Ryback works really well in the claustrophobic setting. Just so it doesn’t wear out it’s welcome, the filmmakers find a few reasons to get the action outside and on deck now and again. There is a generous amount of violence and bloodletting, as Seagal’s style of hand to hand combat and weapons handling gives him plenty of opportunities to stab, shoot and break numerous bones, when not blowing up bad guys with booby traps. It’s a lot of fun and very fast paced, though does take enough time to establish it’s characters which are colorful.

As for those characters the film has a top notch cast. This might be one of Seagal’s best performances, as the action star gives Casey a bit more of a sense of humor and heart than his usual straight-faced tough guys. He has some nice charm and can act a bit. One of the reasons he gets to do this is being paired with Erika Eleniak’s terrified and out of place Jordan. The Baywatch star, at first, is just scared out of her wits, but the character grows from a frightened young woman to a fighter and solid part of the resistance, when she and Casey go on the offensive. The script gives the two some nice scenes together and the actors have a good chemistry between them. Busey and Jones make very good bad guys. Both go just over-the-top enough to be fun, but not enough to make a joke out of the proceedings, or lose their threat factor. They are both dangerous men. Rounding out is a great Colm Meaney as one of the lead henchmen, Nick Mancuso as a sleazy CIA operative, real-life Marine war vet Dale Dye as a navy officer, Andy Romano as Admiral Bates, along with Bernie Casey, Dennis (Retribution) Lipscomb and even Kane “Jason Voorhees” Hodder. A great cast, both main and supporting.

A classic action flick and depending on what you look for in one of his films, Steven Seagal’s best flick and performance. There is plenty of action, strong suspense and tension and some great characters, who interact wonderfully. You get the traditional elements from both a Steven Seagal movie and a Die Hard-esque thriller, yet Under Siege has it’s own heartbeat. Solid directing from veteran Andrew Davis and a tight, fun script from J.F. Lawton and you have pretty much all you could want from an action flick.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) cooks who moonlight as SEALs.

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980)

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BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980)

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Never one to pass up an opportunity to make a buck on a trend, Roger Corman put this space opera into production with the hopes of capturing a little of the Star Wars lightening in New World Pictures’ bottle. The story finds the inhabitants of the peaceful planet of Akir, under siege from Sador of the Malmori (John Saxon), a ruthless warlord who conquers worlds and uses spare body parts to keep himself young and tyrannical. Not able to defend themselves, village elder Zed (Jeff Corey) sends the rebellious young Shad (Richard Thomas) out to hire mercenaries to defend their planet against the invading army. Can Shad find warriors bad and brave enough to take on Sador and his planet-destroying Hammerhead starship?

As you can tell by the story description, this is more a take on Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai than a retread of George Lucas’ box office titan, though Star Wars rip-off it shamelessly still is. No more obvious than the planet name Akir, which is a tribute to the legendary Japanese director, whose story is being appropriated here. The fun script is by John Sayles (Piranha, The Howling) and it’s directed with a comic book flare by Jimmy T. Murakami, who previously had experience in animation. The film never makes a joke out of the proceedings, but is loaded with humor and plenty of innovative SPFX on a small budget, as designed by James (Terminator, Aliens, Avatar) Cameron. The action is fast and furious, there is a variety of ships to go along with the motley group of mercenaries and it’s all a good time as intended. Sure it’s only got about a fifth of Star Wars’ budget, but the film has loads of heart and the hard work and imagination of everyone that worked on it shows through. The FX can be cheesy and there are a few spots where things slow down a bit, but otherwise it is a cult classic in it’s own right and how can you not like a movie that has a spaceship with a set of boobs…only in a Roger Corman flick, folks!

The cast really make this work especially well. All the actors get the tone and none of them treat the material like a joke, yet still have a good time with their roles. Richard Thomas makes a noble hero as Shad. A young man willing to risk all to save his world and people. Darlanne Fluegel is pretty and resilient as Nanelia, who joins Shad on his quest and becomes his first love interest. John Saxon is simply on target with his portrayal of Sador. He gives him a sense of malice and villainy, yet is careful to never carry him too far into over-the-top territory, so he stays threatening. As our warriors, we have George Peppard as “Space Cowboy” a space trucker caught up in the fight, Robert Vaughn as Gelt, an outlaw on the run, Sybil Danning as the beautiful but arrogant warrior woman Saint-Exmin, Morgan Woodward as the reptilian Cayman, who has a personal grudge against Sador, as well as, a heat communicating duo called The Kelvin and a group of five clones, who act and think as one, called The Nestor. And let’s not forget Sador’s army of patchwork mutants, too. A colorful and diverse group of characters if there ever was.

A cult classic in itself, this is a fun low budget space epic with loads of heart. Sure, the sets are cheesy, as are some of the SPFX, the dialogue corny and the pacing a little erratic, but this movie is a lot of fun. The cast all get the material and give it their all. The imagination of James Cameron and his FX crew is up on screen and it has one of James Horner’s best scores. A Roger Corman cult classic that may have been inspired by George Lucas’ surprise blockbuster, but has earned an identity and place in B-movie history all it’s own.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) Sadors.

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: FRANKENHOOKER (1990)

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FRANKENHOOKER (1990)

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Horror/comedy was released in 1990, but is very 80s. It’s the story of New Jersey resident Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz), who is a failed med student that now works for the power company. When his self-conscious girlfriend Elizabeth (Penthouse Pet Patty Mullen) is killed in a freak lawnmower accident, Jeffrey plans to put both his medical knowledge and high voltage know-how to use, to bring her back to life. On a quest for body parts, a series of unfortunate events finds Jeffrey decimating the entire stable of NYC pimp Zorro (Joseph Gonzalez) and using the body parts to build Elizabeth the perfect body. Jeffrey’s work, however, is far from perfect, as she is a patchwork of various limbs whose mind retains the memories of all the previous owners of those parts. His twitchy creation soon escapes and returns to NYC to start plying the world’s oldest profession…with hilariously lethal results.

Flick is produced by James (Exterminator, Shakedown) Glickenhaus and directed by Frank Henenlotter (the cult classic Basket Case) from his script with original Fangoria editor Bob Martin. It’s a sleazy grind-house style comedy that may be an acquired taste, but is a lot of fun, if it’s up your 42nd Street alley. There are cheesy gore FX, lots of pretty ladies and boobs and of course, plenty of homages to Frankenstein and other classic horror tales. It’s low budget and that adds to the charm and the NYC locations are delightfully sleazy. The film wouldn’t work as well as it does, though, if it weren’t for a hilarious performances by star Patty Mullen. She is simply a hoot as the twitchy Frankenhooker, who has no idea that her professional skills are now quite dangerous. James Lorinz lays it on a little thick as Jeffrey, but in a flick like this, over-the-top is certainly not out of place. The film’s not perfect. Not every joke is funny, some of the supporting cast’s acting is pretty bad and quite a few of the FX are a little too cheesy for their own good. The whole movie has an amateur vibe to it, despite being Henenlotter’s fourth film. Otherwise, it’s an amusing midnight movie and the type they don’t make anymore in these overly sensitive times.

A cult classic in itself, Frankenhooker can be fun if you like 42nd Street grind-house style flicks, which this is, through and through. It has it’s flaws. Henenlotter’s films always kept a very amateur style to them, which the filmmaker never grew out of, or chose not to. On the plus side, Mullen steals the film with a hilarious, yet sometimes poignant, portrayal as Jeffrey’s girlfriend/creation, who just wants to turn some tricks. A fun midnight movie for those who appreciate sleazy, cheesy amusements. Also stars Louise Lasser as Jeffrey’s mom and 80s-90s porn star Heather Hunter as one of Zorro’s girls, Chartreuse.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) twitchy Frankenhookers.

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: MAKING CONTACT (1985)

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MAKING CONTACT (1985)

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Making Contact is a West German supernatural chiller with severe Poltergeist envy. The story focuses on young Joey (Joshua Morell) who has just lost his father. Not only is Joey starting to show telekinetic abilities, but is starting to get messages from his deceased dad on his toy phone from beyond the grave. Joey’s abilities and dabbling in the paranormal, draw him to an underground maze and a ventriloquist dummy that is possessed by a demonic spirt. Of course, the boy brings it home and the supernatural hi-jinx begin.

Flick is directed by Independence Day director Roland Emmerich from his script with Hans J. Haller and Thomas Lechner. The three conjure up a story that is very much like Tobe Hooper/Steven Spielberg’s classic fright flick, including directly lifting quite a few scenes, such as flying Star Wars toys and a horde of paranormal investigators invading Joey’s home. It deviates from Poltergeist in the end with a climax set in the underground maze with Joey and his schoolmates battling the dummy, who uses their own fears against them. This evokes an appearance by Darth Vader himself, which also evokes the question as why the abundance of Star Wars imagery and merchandise (Joey’s room is full of it) didn’t evoke a lawsuit. The flick is slow moving, even at only 98 minutes, the FX are delightfully cheesy and the cast all extremely bland. You know somethings up when the best character in the movie is a toy robot named Charlie. The dialogue is equally blasé and the scenes of supernatural activity are very ho-hum, though there are a few entertaining moments and the dummy is quite creepy. Despite all the negative aspects, the film does amuse in an 80s curiosity kind of way and when it does do it’s own thing, those few touches are interesting enough.

This isn’t a great flick, but it does entertain with all the 80s nostalgia and the blatant recreation of scenes from Poltergeist that do invite chuckles. The dummy can be creepy and the few times it has original ideas they are interesting enough, such as the maze finale. The cast and dialogue are equal parts bland and wooden and the FX quite cheesy, but that does add some charm in an 80s nostalgia kinda way. Worth a look as a curiosity if nothing else.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) demonically possessed ventriloquist dummies for 80s nostalgia and cheese.

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE STUFF (1985)

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THE STUFF (1985)

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Horror comedy finds a new dessert taking the world by storm. The devastated ice cream industry hires industrial spy Mo Rutherford (Michael Moriarty) to find out what this mystery treat actually is. What Mo discovers is more horrifying than he could ever have imagined, as The Stuff is a living organism that bubbles up out of the ground and takes over anyone that eats it. Now Mo teams with Nicole, the pretty creator of The Stuff’s advertising campaign (Andrea Marcovicci), and disgruntled snack food icon Chocolate Chip Charlie (Garrett Morris) to try and put a stop to this hostile takeover from within.

As written and directed by the legendary Larry Cohen (Q: The Winged Serpent and the It’s Alive movies), flick is a satirical mash-up of The Blob, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Food of the Gods. It may have elements of many a sci-fi film, but it’s sights are clearly aimed at American consumerism. It’s mainly a critique of advertising, hype and the public buying frenzy that usually follows, when corporate America convinces us that we all have to have something. And it’s all wrapped in an amusing sci-fi/horror coating. It’s a low budget film with some very amusing practical SPFX ranging from some well rendered make-up prosthetics, as well as, some delightfully old fashioned model work to portray the carnage created when The Stuff finally comes out of human hiding and reveals itself. It’s a goofy movie and did not do very well when first released, but it has gained a following and received more appreciation, all these years later. It’s also bolstered by some nice 80s nostalgia and the humor and satire hits more than it misses.

The actors all get the material and walk a nice line between taking the script seriously, yet still having some fun with it. Moriarty plays his Mo as a very eccentric fellow. Don’t let his sarcasm and devil-may-care attitude fool you, he can be a hero when he needs to be. Andrea Marcovicci is pretty as Nicole and does get in on some of the action, so she isn’t just arm candy or a side kick. Comic legend Garrett Morris has a good time as dethroned chocolate chip king Charlie. He is part Famous Amos and part Dolemite. Paul Sorvino is also fun as a right-wing militia leader whom Mo turns to for help. Rounding out is Scott Bloom as a kid who discovers the truth about The Stuff and is now on the run from his own family. There are also some fun cameos, so keep your eyes peeled.

This isn’t a great flick, but it is clever and it’s satire well aimed and intended. It’s a fun movie and the cast has a good time, though without turning the material into an outright joke. The FX are charmingly old school by today’s standards and it’s messages about mass consumerism still apply.

MZNJ Personal Trivia: Saw this flick in a theater when it came out in 1985 and was disappointed, as the advertising had me expecting far more of a straight-up horror film. Watching it again with different expectations, I can now appreciate what Cohen was going for- MZNJ

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) pints of The Stuff.

 

 

 

 

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IT CAME FROM ASIAN CINEMA: THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR (1993)

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THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR (1993)

The Bride With White Hair is a martial arts, fantasy, romance and is a fairy tale-like story that finds handsome warrior Zhuo Yihang (Leslie Cheung from A Chinese Ghost Story) falling in love with beautiful witch Lian Nichang (Brigitte Lin from ZuWarriors from the Magic Mountain), who belongs to an evil cult Zhuo is tasked with destroying. As the two defy their orders and superiors, forces conspire against them, including He Lühua (Yammie Lam), a woman warrior with eyes for Zhuo Yihang and the vengeful, jealous conjoined twin cult leader, Ji Wushuang (Francis Ng and Elaine Lui).

Flick is one of the best examples of the Hong Kong cinema revival of the 80s and 90s and has all the action, fantasy, love and betrayal one could want. It is a sumptuous visual feast as directed by Ronny Yu (Bride of Chucky, Freddy vs Jason), from a script he wrote with Lam Kei-to, Elsa Tang and David Wu. You can see where Yu’s American horror flicks got their stunning cinematography, blood-spattered action and twisted sense of humor, as they are all present here. There are dazzling sword duels, dark magic, gallant heroes, vile villains and a seductive wolf witch to keep one entertained for it’s economical 92 minutes. There is an eroticism to many scenes that the Hong Kong cinema usually reserved for their more intense Category III films and there is quite a lot of blood spurting and severed heads, not to mention the disturbing portrayal of it’s conjoined twin villains. The costumes are lavish, as are the settings, the cinematography by Peter Pau and Lee Tak-shing is sumptuous and the score by Richard Yuen suits the dark fantasy atmosphere perfectly. Sure Zhuo Yihang and Lian Nichang’s love making scene seems to go on a bit too long and Zhuo Yihang’s belief that she may have betrayed him comes a bit too quickly, especially considering his vow to always trust her. Otherwise this is an enormously entertaining dark fairy tale, romance for grown-ups and one of the most renown classics of this era of Hong Kong cinema.

A great cast helps Yu tell his story well. Leslie Cheung’s handsome warrior Zhuo Yihang is a far cry from his timid tax collector from the Chinese Ghost Story movies, but no less a solid romantic lead/action hero. He’s charming, brazen, lethal and sexy, when he appropriately needs to be. Brigitte Lin is beautiful and intriguing as wolf witch Lian Nichang. She can be a fierce and deadly warrior, yet also very sexy and playful, depending on the scene and is very convincing as all of the above. She and Cheung have a great on-screen chemistry and generate some nice heat. When forces pit them against each other, they make good adversaries. Francis Ng and Elaine Lui are really creepy as the conjoined twin leaders of the cult. They exude power and malice, yet their constant bickering and antagonizing of one another really adds a twisted dimension to them. A disturbing duo. The rest of the supporting cast give solid performances, too!

Overall, this is a great film and the type of movie the Hong Kong cinema was so skilled at making during this era. The film looks fantastic, the action scenes are fast, furious and bloody and the romantic scenes generate some real heat. There is a bit of a twisted humor to it and some legitimately spooky scenes as well. Not quite perfect, but close to it and enormously entertaining. There was a lesser sequel released only months later directed by David Wu and a TV series in 2012. The Bride With White Hair is currently streaming free on Tubi!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) swords

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: MEATBALLS (1979)

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MEATBALLS (1979)

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Classic Canadian 1979 comedy is the first starring role for SNL alumni Bill Murray and the first big hit for director Ivan Reitman (Stripes, Ghostbusters). The flick takes place at bargain basement Camp North Star and is basically the misadventures of head counsellor Tripper Harrison (Murray) and his staff and charges during summer camp. There really isn’t much of a story, aside from North Star’s competition with the elite Camp Mohawk and Tipper’s bonding with lonely misfit Rudy Gerner (Vamp’s Chris Makepeace in his first film).

It’s a light and breezy comedy as directed by Reitman from a script by four people, including the late Harold Ramis. Odd it took so many to write the screenplay, when it barely has what’s considered a story. It’s almost just a series of comic skits, till the Olympiad competition between the two camps, and maybe that was the intention. It’s fun, though not outright hilarious and extremely tame by teen coming of age comedy standards. It is very nostalgic to adolescence, the summers of childhood and the comedies of this time. No better example than Murray’s advances on cute councilor Roxanne (Kate Lynch), which would be outright sexual harassment nowadays and not portrayed as cute and funny, as it is here. It’s a good time and a classic, though not quite as funny to an adult watching it all these years later as it was when seen as a kid.

While there is a large cast of characters, it’s Murray’s show. His horny, mischievous teen in a grown-up’s body act that he made his early career on, is in full swing. His slightly offbeat humor is also coming to bear and we can see his lovable weirdo persona forming. Makepeace is sweet and sympathetic as the insecure and quiet Rudy. He and Murray get along well here and they make a good team. The rest of the cast are all fine in their roles as councilors and kids, including Harvey Atkin as the much harassed camp director Morty.

Overall, It’s not as laugh out loud funny as one might remember it, but then it is aimed at the audience it portrays, with a PG rating and thus very tame in language and sexual hi-jinx. It’s dated, but still fun and very nostalgic and one can see Murray developing the persona that would make him a star in the 80s and 90s, before he moved into indie film roles in more recent decades. Certainly worth a revisit if it’s been a while since you’ve seen it. Brings back memories and that alone is a noble purpose four decades later.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) meatballs.

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE EVIL CLERGYMAN (1988)

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THE EVIL CLERGYMAN (1988)

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In 1988 Charles Band was preparing a three story anthology film called Pulse Pounders. The film was shut down before post production was completed when Empire Pictures collapsed and the footage was thought lost. In 2011 a VHS work print of the film was discovered and while inferior to the original filmed footage, Band decided still to restore the three segments, one at a time. One segment was a sequel story to Empire’s Dungeonmaster, another was a sequel to their popular Trancers flick. The third segment was The Evil Clergyman which was based on an H.P. Lovecraft story and starred alumni from Band’s other H.P. Lovecraft based productions Re-Animator and From Beyond… *

The Evil Clergyman is a spooky segment with a bit of an erotic tinge. The story finds a young woman (Barbara Crampton) returning to the old rat-infested house where she had a tumultuous affair with a handsome priest (Jeffrey Combs), who recently killed himself. When entering the room where the two committed their passionate acts, she finds the priest alive…or so she thinks. She also finds herself in a nightmare, as her lover’s intentions for her were apparently far more sinister than just sinful and consorting with her wasn’t the only consorting he was doing.

Chilling segment is directed by Charles Band from a script by Dennis Paoli, based on Lovecraft’s story of the same name. It has atmosphere and there are some very creepy moments when things start to go wrong for our pretty heroine. Aside from Crampton’s Said Brady entering the castle-like home and confronting the landlord (Una Brandon-Jones), the rest of the segment takes place entirely in one spooky room. Band gives it some decent chills and there is a little fire in the sex scene between Crampton and Coombs. What limited make-up FX we see, such as David Gale’s rat demon and the wounds on David Warner’s spectral bishop, are well rendered by legendary FX man John Carl Buechler. It ends on an unsettling note and works well enough on it’s own and thus probably would have been very effective as part of the anthology, as originally intended.

The cast are all good. Barbara Crampton is sexy and very effective as the first elated, then terrified Said Brady. Coombs is spooky and sinister as the title clergyman, Jonathan. He and Crampton work well together as they have before and this wouldn’t be the last time, teaming again on Trancers II for Band and Castle Freak for Stuart Gordon in the 90s. The late David Gale is creepy as the rat demon with a human face and David Warner as well, as a ghostly bishop apparently murdered by Coombs’ priest. Last but not least, Una Brandon-Jones is solid as the judgmental and angry landlord. A good cast for what would have been a solid segment for this unfinished anthology flick.

Overall, this was a spooky little short film and it’s cool Full Moon restored it, so it can be seen. At some point it is said that they intend to put all three segments together as intended, but for now The Evil Clergyman is available for free streaming on Tubi and Full Moon’s own streaming channel. Trancers: City of Lost Angels can be seen on Amazon and Full Moon streaming, too. Dungeonmaster 2 seems to be the only segment left to be yet restored, but time will tell if that will emerge out of obscurity, too.

-MonsterZero NJ

*Sources: Wikipedia, IMDB and the segment’s own opening notice.

Rated 3 (out of 4) rats without human faces.

 

 

 

 

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Trailer for the Pulse Pounders anthology including The Evil Clergyman…

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: TREMORS (1990)

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TREMORS (1990)

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Flick takes place in the small desert town of Perfection, Neveda where local handymen Valentine McKee (Kevin Bacon) and Earl Bassett (Fred Ward) are contemplating leaving for bigger and better things. What they get is bigger, but certainly not better, as the remote town becomes surrounded by a pack of enormous, hungry, subterranean worm-like creatures, that the besieged locals dub “Graboids.” As they get pulled under and devoured one by one, prospects for escape dwindle as fast as Perfection’s citizenship.

Delightfully entertaining flick is directed by Ron Underwood (City Slickers) from a script and story by he, Brent Maddock and S. S. Wilson. It’s light-hearted and fun, but smartly plays it just serious enough, to give the Graboids some serious threat. This way, their attacks are intense and suspenseful and we fear for this likable bunch of stranded characters. There is very little bloodshed, but there is enough death and carnage, so we take these monsters very seriously. Mixing horror and comedy isn’t always easy, but Tremors mixes the intensity and scares with the jokes and humor in just the right increments. It’s a blast of fun and the budget is large enough that the effects portraying the creatures and their activity are very realistic and it helps suspend our disbelief as to such beasts’ existence. The origin of the creatures is kept mostly ambiguous and here it works, as does letting us know exactly how many there are and thus need to be dealt with. There are hints of intelligence, too, though we never know just how smart they are, until it’s too late. The California locations are utilized perfectly to portray the fictional Nevada town and the film is fast paced with only small lulls between the action. The score by Ernest Troost adds to the suspense and the cast is as close to perfect as you can get for a big budget B-movie like this…and at heart, a B-movie this certainly is.

As for that cast…Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward have great chemistry as buds and business partners Val and Earl. They work really well together and their bickering only adds to the fun. Some very well written dialog between them, makes these two memorable and reluctantly heroic characters. Too bad they were never brought back together again in any of the sequels. Finn Carter makes for a cute and spunky heroine as geology grad student Rhonda LeBeck, who catches Valentine’s eye. She provides what little scientific exposition we get and proves she can hold her own with the boys. Reba McEntire and Michael Gross are absolutely hilarious as heavily armed survivalists, Heather and Burt Gummer. Another pair that work really well together here. Victor Wong (Egg Shen from Big Trouble in Little China) is also fun as cantankerous and opportunistic general store owner, Walter Chang and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’s Bibi Besch has a small role as an ill-fated local. A great cast who all get the material perfectly!

This is a really fun and action packed movie that combines the thrills, chills and humor in exactly the right doses. It has a great cast, really cool and well rendered monsters and comes in at a perfectly economical 96 minutes. Tremors was not a big box office hit, but was successful enough on home video to spawn five more direct to video sequels, with a sixth sequel on the way. They all star Michael Gross, the only actor to appear in all the franchise installments, so far.

PERSONAL TRIVIA: A friend and I saw Tremors at a preview screening before it opened. We didn’t know what we were seeing, save that it was a science fiction movie with Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon. We had a blast with it and gave the film high marks when asked to fill out questionnaires at the end of the movie. Nothing got changed when the film was released, so it must have tested well. Not sure why it wasn’t a bigger box office hit, as it had all the ingredients of a great popcorn movie!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) Graboids.

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE HORROR SHOW (1989)

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THE HORROR SHOW (1989)

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80s horror has Det. Lucas McCarthy (Lance Henriksen) finally catching vicious serial killer Max Jenke (Brion James). Jenke is sentenced to die in the electric chair, but doesn’t go down easily. McCarthy is continually plagued by nightmares of the killer’s exploits, but soon finds out that it may not be simply bad dreams, but Jenke himself haunting the detective and his family for revenge.

Flick is directed by James Isaac from a script by Leslie Bohem and Allyn Warner, the latter credited under the pseudonym of “Alan Smithee.” It’s a silly horror flick with a ridiculous plot, but entertaining, as the filmmakers were smart enough to play it quite straight. There is some gory violence and some intense scenes, but the plot gets sillier as, much like another dream demon, Freddy Krueger, McCarthy can only stop Jenke by bringing him back into the physical world and blowing him away. It’s ludicrous, but still amuses and the gore and FX are handled very effectively. There are some nasty dream sequences and the cast all play their parts well. There is an moody score by the legendary Harry Manfredini and some nice cinematography by Mac Ahlberg to ad atmosphere.

Lance Henriksen is always the pro and no matter how over-the-top things get, He gives McCarthy an intensity and strength, yet also makes it believable that Jenke scares him. As “Meat Clever Max” Jenke, Brion James is in Krueger territory being way over-the-top and having a good time with it. He makes Jenke a scary dude, even if his antics are familiar. Rita Taggart is good as Lucas’ caring and concerned wife, Donna. Dedee Pfeiffer (Vamp), in her second only horror flick, is sweet and sexy as their teen daughter, Bonnie. She’s a prime target of Jenke. Rounding out is Aron Eisenberg as her younger sibling, Scott. Unfortunately he’s a bit annoying. There is also a smaller role played by Day of the Dead’s Terry Alexander, as McCarthy’s ill-fated partner, Casey. A good cast that play the material straight and help it be far more effective than it has any right to be.

Overall, this is a silly flick in true 80s style that gets a lot of milage out of it’s ridiculous story by simply playing it straight. It has some nasty violence and manages to be effective, despite it’s silly and familiar premise. Not a classic, but an amusing example of 80s horror, especially in the later half of the decade where colorful and over-the-top was more the style.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) meat cleavers.

 

 

 

 

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