TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: BAD MOON (1996)

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BAD MOON (1996)

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1996 Werewolf flick is a sadly overlooked movie when folks talk about this particular horror sub-genre. It opens effectively in the jungles of Nepal where photo journalist Ted Harrison (Michael Paré) and his lover (Johanna Lebovitz) are attacked by a vicious bipedal wolf creature. Ted is bitten but survives and moves back to Seattle to be close to his single mom sister Janet (Mariel Hemingway) and her son Brett (Mason Gamble). This proves a mistake, as Ted now transforms into a wolf-like creature at night and the only thing standing between the lycanthrope and his sister and nephew is the loyal family german shepherd, Thor (Primo).

Film is written and very well directed by Eric Red (writer of Near Dark) from the book Thor by Wayne Smith. Bad Moon is a very tense and effective thriller that sets up an interesting situation as dog Thor is the only member of the family to first know Ted is a werewolf, but is mistakingly blamed by authorities for his actions. While there are victims of Ted’s wrath/hunger, such as an obnoxious con-man (Hrothgar Mathews) that hassled Janet earlier, the film focuses on the growing tension and suspicions between Ted, Janet, Brett and, of course, Thor. The werewolf attacks are surprisingly vicious and Bad Moon has some very effective and abundant gore. Not only are Ted’s attacks quite gruesome, as is the vicious opening sequence, but his climactic battle with Thor is quite bloody…and that is no spoiler, as the whole film is setting up this fur-flying confrontation. The only drawback with the make-up FX is Ted’s fanged alter ego is shown quite a bit and in full view and the suit is somewhat rubbery. Also, it is obviously a stuffed and fake stand-in for Thor during some of the battle moments. It takes away a bit from the illusion of reality, but not enough to hurt this intense and effective chiller all that much. It’s got a brisk pace, at a trim 80 minutes, and by opening the film with a bloody attack right off the bat, it sets the tone for the rest of the movie. The characters are likable, including Ted at first and this helps the audience to care about them and thus the proceedings. Shame this flick never caught on in it’s initial release.

The small cast are very good and help make this more intimately staged werewolf flick work all the more better. Michael Paré is effective as Ted in that he is both tragic and a bit villainous. He is both aware of his transformation and tries to protect others against it, while not above letting Thor take the blame for his killings. Paré shows he had star potential. Mariel Hemingway is good as Janet. A lawyer by profession, she’s tough and smart and very protective of her son, even if it means seeing their loyal…and wrongfully accused…dog separated from her family. Young Mason Gamble is very effective, with his Brett being a bit of a tough kid and not one to scare easily. He has good chemistry with movie mom Hemingway and an interesting dynamic with his uncle, as he begins to suspect something is up with Paré’s Ted. As for Thor, four legged actor Primo does a wonderful job creating a character with barks instead of dialogue. The animal is very expressive and is a strong hero, playing basically the character no one believes when evil is afoot. Makes this film work and work well.

Overall, this film sadly underperformed in 1996 when released and it is a shame. It’s not perfect, but is a tense and gory little movie with a solid cast, especially it’s canine star. The film adds an interesting dynamic by giving it’s werewolf a four legged thorn in it’s side and adds an interesting element as the family dog takes the fall for werewolf activity. It builds to a violent and effective confrontation and doesn’t spare the the blood spurting and savaged limbs, despite a family element to it’s story. Not a great movie, but one that should be included when talking about the werewolf sub-genre in general. If you haven’t seen it, Bad Moon is streaming free on Tubi and available from the great folks at Scream Factory on blu-ray.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) full moons.

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: PUPPET MASTER-THE LITTLEST REICH (2018)

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PUPPET MASTER-THE LITTLEST REICH (2018)

After a brief opening that takes place in the 80s, the film jumps to present day where there is a convention being held to commemorate the Toulon puppet murders from three decades previous. There are going to be some replica puppets given away and a tour of Toulon’s mansion. Comic artist Edgar (Thomas Lennon) and his hot girlfriend Ashley (Jenny Pellicer) are there to attend and soon find the puppets present are the real thing and Toulon (Udo Kier) is not done with his reign of terror, even from beyond the grave.

Reboot is directed by Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund who gave us the derivative but entertaining Blood Runs Cold and Wither. They direct from a script by S. Craig Zahler based on the characters created by Charles Band and Kenneth J. Hall. One would probably have to be a fan of the original series to appreciate this dull reboot. If not, it’s just a series of gruesome murders of various puppet fodder characters, that has only some well executed practical gore effects to hold one’s interest. It’s just a random series of killings with no real plot other than to see toys kill people leading up to a Sharknado-esque finale. The tone of the flick goes from silly to trying to take itself seriously and if puppets, blood and boobs are all you came for, than it does at least deliver that…though still lacks the goofy charm of the original movie. Also stars genre favorites Barbara Crampton, Michael Paré and Matthias Hues.

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: STREETS OF FIRE (1984)

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STREETS OF FIRE (1984)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Hot on the heels of the smash hit, Eddie Murphy debut 48 Hours, Walter Hill indulged himself with this “Rock & Roll Fable” about an up and coming rock star named Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) who is kidnaped by biker gang leader Raven (Willem Dafoe) at a concert in her home town. Her ex-soldier, ex-boyfriend Tom Cody (Michael Paré) comes to rescue her, along with her current manager/boyfriend Billy Fish (Rick Moranis) and another gruff ex-soldier McCoy (Amy Madigan). That’s kinda it, plot wise.

After a huge success with the action, buddy comedy 48 Hours, Hill took a stumble that he would never really recover from. Streets Of Fire is a bit of a mess and was a box office disappointment after the Eddie Murphy/Nick Nolte flick becoming a runaway hit. Co-written with Larry Gross, Streets is a combination 40s, 50s, 80s meets a bit of Blade Runner and never quite clicks and is definitely missing something. One of the big problems is the lack of a real story. The set-up is over within the first 40 minutes with Aim being rescued by Cody and company. The next 50 minutes is a meandering journey back home and then some soap opera level romantic melodrama when they get there. In the mean time, we wait for Dafoe’s villain to come after them, which he finally does in the last 10 minutes. Even at slightly above 90 minutes it gets tedious real fast. Another problem is that there is no energy or excitement to the action. The various fisticuffs and gunfights are very by-the-numbers and have none of the intensity of Hill’s previous films like The Warriors. On a technical level, the film looks really good, thought the time period mash-up doesn’t quite visually click either. There are some really good tunes from the music numbers on the soundtrack and Ry Cooder’s score adds some atmosphere to the proceedings. The legendary Andrew Laszlo delivers some top notch cinematography, as well. It’s that just for a “Rock & Roll Fable” there is very little “Rock & Roll” spirit in this flick and overall it’s kinda dull when all is said and done.

As for the cast they are all good enough, despite given sadly little to really do other than the lead males. Michael Paré is a solid hero. He does the smoldering intensity thing well and his loner Cody might have been more impressive in a better movie. Dafoe is also good as the slimy, somewhat androgynous Raven. His motivations for kidnapping Aim are thin, but that is the script’s fault and he is a good villain that sadly disappears for a good portion of the second half. Diane Lane is a bit bland, but again the character is little more than a damsel to be rescued and isn’t given much to do but stare with doe eyes at Cody. Rick Moranis’ douchey Billy Fish is a bit annoying, but the character is supposed to be, so we can cut him some slack. Rounding out the leads, is Amy Madigan who is fine and likable as the tough ex-solider McCoy and probably would have made even more of an impression with better material. There are supporting roles by Bill Paxton as an old friend of Cody’s, 80s icon E.G. Daily as a groupie and The Warriors Deborah Van Valkenburgh as Cody’s sister Reva, who calls him when Ellen is abducted.

This is a flick that had a lot of potential, but drops the ball with a paper thin story and delivering some very by-the-numbers action from a director who was becoming known for his action flicks. It’s a self-indulgent misfire that could have been something special with a better script and it’s director not falling asleep at the wheel. There are some now classic tunes on the soundtrack…including a couple produced by Jim Steinman, who produced Meatloaf’s classic Bat OutOf Hell album…and there is some nice 80s nostalgia, but, overall, Streets Of Fire fizzles instead of blazes. This 1984 movie has developed a bit of a cult following and there was an unofficial sequel from Albert Pyun made in 2008 called Road To Hell reuniting Paré and Van Valkenburgh as “Cody” and “sister” with Anita Leeman playing “Ellen” and Lauren Sutherland as “Mc Coy”.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 bullets.

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and the trailer to the unofficial sequel, Road ToHell…

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE SHELTER (2015)

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THE SHELTER (2015)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

The Shelter is the feature directorial debut from John Fallon who is also known to horror fans as Arrow In The Head.com’s “The Arrow”. Fallon tells the story of Thomas (Michael Paré), who was a man that once had everything and is now a homeless drunk. As the film opens, we start to learn in flashbacks of him loosing his wife and unborn child which has left him the wreck he is. One night he happens upon an empty house and decides to spend the night in warmth and comfort. There is food and booze to sustain him. But the house may not be as empty as it seems and worse still…it may also have an agenda awaiting Thomas.

Fallon directs from his own script and there are many things he does well and gets right in his first feature. It is obviously a low budget effort, but Fallon has a nice visual eye and the film really looks good, especially in some of the more surreal dream sequences where we start to learn the details on what befell our subject. He peppers the film with religious symbolism and the first act is not only intriguing, but has some very spooky atmosphere and tension. Where Fallon stumbles somewhat is that as the film progresses and we learn more and more about what took the things that matter away from Thomas, the more it becomes predictable and we realize we’ve seen this kind of Twilight Zone-ish tale before…and therefor know what to expect. We know going in that Thomas is most likely his own worst enemy and right up to an ending we can see coming well before it does, we find out that we are exactly right. The film was far more interesting when we didn’t really know what was going on, as it goes somewhere not unexpected. It loses it’s grip the more it tells us and the more routine it becomes. The surreal narrative also starts to wear out it’s welcome and sadly we lose that nice tension that had us interested in the first act. Fallon definitely has some potential here and maybe with a bit more streamlined narrative…and we don’t fault him for trying something a bit different…he can tell a tale where he can keep that atmosphere he initially conjured so well and build on the nice visual style he displayed.

As for his star, Paré performs a little unevenly. There are some scenes where he brings some nice emotional depth to Thomas, such as a mournful graveyard sequence early on, then other scenes where he isn’t quite on target. He is a veteran actor and it’s hard to tell whether it was working with a new director or maybe not quite grasping the material, but his acting fluctuates. He isn’t as convincing in the sequences within the house as he was in the scenes leading up to that. Maybe he wasn’t quite as comfortable with the film’s surreal style.

So, maybe not a complete success for Fallon in his feature debut, but far from a failure. Fallon seems to have learned well from his influences in terms of his camera shots and using that camera to build some atmosphere and tension, but it’s keeping it that he needs to explore further. As a writer he is not afraid to do something a bit different, but in this particular tale, it is when his story became familiar is where it most stumbled. His lead actor was a bit uneven in his performance and unfortunately, the more we learned about his character, the more predictable the flick became. Whether you like The Shelter or not, it at least shows that John Fallon has his heart and passion in the right place and we could be seeing interesting things from Arrow In The Head’s namesake in the future.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 arrows.

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