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Considering how ludicrous the Sharknado films get and how popular they are, I ‘m surprised how much flack this flick gets. Personally, I think it’s a fun B-movie that is sort of a Texas Chainsaw Massacre with sharks…sounds good to me!

Simple but, far fetched story has a group of attractive twenty-somethings going up to friend Sara’s (Sara Paxton from Innkeepers) family vacation house that is situated on a small island in the middle of a large saltwater Louisiana lake. Soon after their arrival, one of their number is attacked and mauled by what appears to be a shark. Now they find themselves stranded on the island and surrounded by predators, usually found prowling the oceans, with their numbers dwindling. The sharks aren’t the only threat though, as they aren’t there by accident and those responsible come out of hiding to make sure Sara and all her friends become fish food.

Sure, as written by Will Hayes and Jesse Studenberg and directed by David R. Ellis, this is a silly flick. The filmmakers know it, though and have a good time with it. They play it straight, not making a joke out the preposterous story of rednecks filling a lake with all species of sharks for their own amusement and personal gain. They let the story itself provide the entertainment..and it is fun, if you let it be. There are some cheesy CGI FX, offset with some nice animatronics, and a decent amount of blood and gore, though it could have gone a little more overboard with that and not hurt things, but, the film was released as PG-13 and the unrated DVD cut probably amounts to a routine R. Jaws was PG and that was quite effective, so, I’m fine with the amount of bloodshed as is. Like a slasher we get an attractive cast to fall victim to our hungry critters and there is enough nubile flesh in bathing suits to supply eye candy for everyone. It’s not quite over-the-top enough to be an exploitation flick, like Alexandre Aja’s Piranha remake, but, it certainly has more in common with that flick than a straight shark thriller like The Reef. Ellis does get some suspense and intense action out of the story and the villains are quite hate-able as bad guys should be…and there are a lot of sharks.

The human cast are all fine and mostly hired more for their looks and figures than their acting. Paxton is very sweet and likable as heroine/final girl Sara and can’t say she looks all that bad in her blue bikini which is predominately her only wardrobe. Same can be said of American Idol alumni turned actress Katharine McPhee as tattooed rebel chick Beth. Dustin Mulligan is a fine hero with his nerdy Nick and veteran Donal Logue is perfectly suitable as an alcoholic redneck sheriff. The rest of the supporting cast are equally suitable as either shark fodder or deranged hicks.

I like this flick. It’s no classic but, it is fun and there is enough blood and bikinis to pass the time. The combination of shark flick and deranged backwoods locals movie worked for me and there is enough action and suspense to entertain despite the silly story. Not a looney as Sharknado but, goofy enough in it’s own right and with a few beers thrown in, it’s a worthy watch on the couch.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 bikini-clad cuties.

shark night rating




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double feature_CO1984_1999


I haven’t done a double feature in a while and what better double feature than these two Mark Lester action/exploitation flicks!



CLASS OF 1984 (1982)

Class Of 1984 is a good old fashioned exploitation flick, and it knows it! Story finds idealistic music teacher Andrew Norris (Perry King) entering the crime and gang ridden Abraham Lincoln High School with the intent or doing some good. He immediately runs afoul of the most vicious gang in the school run by the charming but demented Peter Stegman (Vince Van Patten). The more Norris challenges the gang, the more they push back. Family, friends and biology lab animals are all caught in the crossfire as this feud escalates into a war and a peaceful teacher is pushed to the brink of savagery in response to Stegman and company’s increasingly cruel…and personal…attacks. Will anyone survive?

Sure, one could argue that Norris is a fool for putting, students, friends and his pregnant wife (Merrie Lynn Ross) in harm’s way by taking this gang of creeps on, but this is a sleazy exploitation film and co-writer/director Mark Lester knows it and delivers the goods. We let it slide that Norris continues to antagonize these vicious punks even though they let him know early on that they know where he lives and they are not going to relent. His crusade to rid the school of these deviants gets a lot of people…and cuddly lab animals…hurt, including a vicious attack on his pregnant wife, but Norris continues till they drive him over the edge and then, the real fun begins. Even back in 1982 this flick, that Lester co-wrote with Tom Holland (Fright Night, Child’s Play) and John Saxton, created controversy with it’s portrayal of violence, prostitution and drug dealing all perpetrated by high schoolers…and then the violent and bloody revenge exacted on them by one of their own teachers. It’s over-the-top portrayal of a school run by delinquents may actually seem more appropriate now with what is happening in today’s school and far less likely such a film would have gotten made today, even on an exploitation level. It’s violent and while over-the-top, it takes itself seriously and is an effective and brutal action flick that isn’t afraid to go places that are considered taboo, maybe even more-so today. Great movie…no. Damn effective exploitation flick…hell, yes!

I wouldn’t say the acting is great, but the cast all take their roles seriously. King is convincing as the idealistic and somewhat naive teacher who thinks he is going to just walk into a troubled school and clean house. He also is convincing…and a little scary…once that good man is turned into a vengeful savage whose vengeance may almost be crueler than the actions of those he’s seeking revenge upon. Van Patten is very effective as Stegman. Charming and crazy and totally living in a moral vacuum due to a rich mother who has blinders on to his heinous actions. Not her baby, absolutely not. He is vicious and cruel and will stoop to the lowest levels to maintain his iron grip on “his” school. Van Patten nails it. We have veteran Roddy McDowall, who is a teacher who prefers to look the other way, but snaps when drawn into Norris’ crusade. McDowall always gave his all, even in a sleazy film like this. We also have a pre-“Alex P. Keaton” Michael J. Fox as one of the few good students left and another person Norris’ obsession gets hurt.  Rounding out the main characters, Ross is fine as the sweet, loving loyal wife who we know from the start is there to be victimized and those scenes are brutal and added to the film’s controversy.

This is an exploitation flick through and through. It steamrolls right into controversial topics and does so with a bloodthirsty gusto at times. It never pretends to be anything else but what it is. It’s effective and relentless and even has some legitimate suspense and chills in its portrayal of a good man drawn into a personal confrontation with complete trash. An effective B-Movie that still resonates in today’s world of violence in schools. Title song “I am The Future” is performed by Alice Cooper.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) saw blades…ouch!

class of 1984 rating

SPOLIER WARNING: This trailer does show some scenes which reveal key moments!





CLASS OF 1999 (1990)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Eight years after his controversial but profitable exploitation flick, Class Of 1984, Mark Lester co-wrote and directed this follow-up which shares similar themes but goes further over-the-top by adding elements of Terminator and Escape From New York. The film takes place in the future—or what was the future when it was made—where youth gangs have gotten so out of control that the police establish “Free Fire Zones” around schools where they will not enter and it’s up to the Department of Educational Defense to use their own private security force to establish order. They also have collaborated with a robotics company called Megatech to create cybernetic teachers to educate and discipline these unruly students. Unknown to Principal Langford (Malcolm McDowell) the devious Dr. Forrest (a spooky Stacy Keach) has used combat robots as prototypes for these new teachers. Now it is the teachers whose methods of discipline are out of control and it’s up to former gang member Cody (Bradley Gregg) and the principle’s spirited daughter (hottie Traci Lind) to stop these automatons before more of their classmates are slaughtered.

Sequel is more of a straight-up B-Movie action flick than an exploitation flick, like 1984 was. But like that flick, the film knows it and dives straight into it’s over the top story and just runs with it…like a good B-movie should. First off, Lester earns B-Movie high marks by casting exploitation icon Pam Grier, 80s movie bad guy Patrick Kilpatrick and B-Movie veteran John P. Ryan as the three cybernetic teachers who turn killing machines. They add a lot of personality to their villains. The action in the film is decent but unremarkable, but Lester saves the best for last for the finale when the surviving gang members take on the three combat robots in the halls of Kennedy High. It’s this last act where the movie really comes alive and is at its most fun, as the teacher’s reveal their true T-800 nature and the high school hallways become a bloody war zone. This film, obviously, has a bit more of a sense of humor than Class Of 1984 and doesn’t get anywhere near as cruel or vicious, though it has a few violent moments. Lester moves things along quickly and while it lacks its predecessor’s intensity, it has fun with its premise by flipping things around and having us rooting for the delinquent students this time. It’s not a great movie and under-performed at the box office, but overall, it’s a fun little B-Movie though, not quite up to Lester’s work on Commando.

The cast are fine, it’s obviously veterans like Grier, Ryan, Kilpatrick, Keach and McDowell who stand out with their over-the-top performances as robots, mad scientist and the principal caught in the middle, respectively. Bradley Gregg does make a sufficient anti-hero with an Edward Furlong-ish quality. He could have had a bit more of a presence as a supposed former gang leader, but he does well with portraying a young man who wants out, but is pulled back in. Lind is an adorable and very feisty leading lady. She sadly is demoted to damsel in distress for the finale, but she gives her Christy a lot of spunk and fire for the rest of the flick. I had a huge crush on her back in the day and while I like her here, I still like her Alex in Fright Night Part II better. Alex had a bit more fight.

I like this flick. Not as strong as Class Of 1984, but it is still a fun B-Movie action flick that just goes with its silly story. I did see it in a theater—I think it was the Hyway Theater in Fair Lawn, N.J., another cool place to see B flicks like this—and had fun with it. I still enjoy it now, even though 1999 has long past and we don’t have cybernetic teachers…that we know of. It’s an entertaining little movie from a director who made a career of fun flicks like this and was never afraid to take his stories and run with them. A fun time and a worthy second feature to the first flick. As said, it performed poorly at the box office, but must have done well enough on home media as there was a second sequel, without Lester, that went direct to VHS in 1994. Also stars Near Dark’s Joshua John Miller as Cody’s brother.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) cybernetic disciplinarians.

class of 1999 rating





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Enemy Territory is an obscure and currently unavailable 1987 urban action exploitation flick from Charles Band’s defunct Empire Pictures that I was fortunate enough to have seen at the Hyway Theater in Fair Lawn N.J. during it’s release in the late 80s. It was unusual for Band to produce a straight action film without killer dolls, robots or creatures and it’s controversial storyline of a white insurance agent being trapped in an inner city tenement and pursued by a black youth gang, may be one reason the film appears to remain out of print. But it is an exploitation film and it is the nature of the beast with such flicks to present controversial or taboo subjects in an entertainment format and Enemy Territory is no different. I had an opportunity to revisit it, recently and see if it was still the entertaining B-Movie I remembered it to be. It is.

The film takes place in NYC and tells the story of down on his luck insurance agent Barry Rapchick (Gary Frank) who is desperate for cash and goes into the crime-ridden ghetto neighborhood of Lincoln Towers at dusk to get a policy signed that will net him a big commission. But a run-in with a young member of the Vampires gang, a gang that rules the night in Lincoln Towers, leaves the youth (Teddy Abner) and a security guard (Tiger Haynes) dead. This makes Barry a marked man and a man hunted through the embattled tenement by the vicious gang and it’s psychotic leader (Tony Todd) who torment and kill anyone who gets in the way of them catching their prey. Befriended by sympathetic phone repairman and army veteran Will (Ray Parker Jr.) and some good natured tenants, Barry might have a chance to survive. But the Vampires are many and Barry’s allies are few and it’a a long way down to the ground floor and a longer way till dawn when the police would even dare enter the notorious neighborhood.

Low budget thriller is directed by Band regular Peter Manoogian, from a script by Stuart M. Kaminsky and Bobby Liddell and is an entertaining and suspenseful B-Movie, that manages to make good use of the isolated and claustrophobic setting of it’s inner city tenement building location. Manoogian overcomes some cheesy dialog to create some nice atmosphere and tension and give us some effective low budget action scenes to punctuate all the hiding and running around. And the film can be very violent and bloody at times as a result of that action. There are certainly some characters (the gang) that were stereotypical of movies of this era, but there are also some down to earth and very human characters (the tenants) to balance it out. The performances from the principles are better then you might expect in such a low budget flick with Gary Frank being effective as the ‘humbled’ white yuppie, Barry and singer Parker, giving us a noble working class man who believes in doing the right thing, as Will. Frances Foster is solid as Elva, Barry’s client, a good Christian woman who becomes one of his allies against the brutal gang members. Fan favorite Tony Todd is appropriately over-the-top as the psychotic gang leader, “The Count” as is Jan-Michael Vincent as Parker, a well-armed but paranoid and bigoted, wheelchair-bound Viet Nam vet, who lives in a fortified apartment in the tenement building and gets drawn into the conflict. Rounding out is sweet but street-tough Toni, played well by Clueless’ Stacey Dash in her first film. On a technical side, the film uses a lot of location shooting, so it looks solid on a meager budget and the cinematography is by future Spike Lee DOP and established director in his own right, Ernest R. Dickerson.

I can see how in today’s easily offended and overly-sensitive times where a lot of this flick’s racial content could make distributors wary of releasing it. I have yet to find definitive proof that the film’s blunt portrayal of racial issues, stereotypes and prejudices is the reason it languishes unreleased on DVD or Blu-Ray, but I do feel it’s a good guess. I don’t get the impression the film was trying to be crass in it’s portrayal of a white man caught in the middle of inner city violence. And despite being an exploitation flick, it never seems to make light of gang violence and though presented in an action film content, I don’t think there is any intent to make light of the negative aspects of inner city life or the unfortunate prejudices between the races, either. As I stated earlier, for every stereotype, there is a more down to earth character to demonstrate that the stereotypes do not represent the community as a whole. Remember, it would be a few years yet before filmmakers like Spike Lee and John Singleton would present to audiences a far more serious look at life in our country’s ghettos for minorities and raise awareness and sensitivity toward the subject. This is an 80s flick and it has a heavy 70s vibe. Even if Enemy Territory‘s grim depiction of urban life is a bit more comicbook-ish, it still has some resonance beyond the over the top gang characters and gunfire. Overall, it is made to entertain and is far from a message film, but in my opinion, if you watch the film objectively, it does ultimately show that there is good and bad in everyone and prejudices are based on exceptions and not the rules, even if the flick’s first concern is telling an entertaining action story…and as low budget action flicks go, Enemy Territory is actually pretty good, if viewed simply as the action/exploitation flick it’s meant to be.

3 bullets.

ex2 rating