MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: NIGHT OF THE CREEPS and SLITHER

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Haven’t done one of these in a long time! These two features are paired up for obvious reasons, but let it be known that James Gunn sights David Cronenberg’s The Shivers as an inspiration for his gooey creature feature and not Night of the Creeps!…though they pair a bit better being both horror/comedies.

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NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (1986)

Fred Dekker wrote and directed 2 of my favorite 80’s guilty pleasures, the underrated The Monster Squad (our second feature) and this B-movie blast, Night of the Creeps. A fun sci-fi/ horror that is not only a homage to the drive-in flicks of the 50’s, but is nostalgically 80’s now, too. Creeps starts out with a desperate chase inside an alien spaceship where a fugitive releases a tube from the ship carrying an “experiment” before being gunned down by his fellow crew members. The tube lands on earth in 1959 where two college students are on a date at a make-out point. The young man sees the tube land and heads into the woods to find it. His pretty date remains behind and is killed by an escaped ax murder while her date gets a face full of alien slugs when he finds the tube and it opens. We then move forward almost 30 years later where dorky college freshman Chris (Jason Lively) and handicapped bud J.C. (Steve Marshall) are desperate to join a fraternity, so Chris can impress beautiful sorority girl Cindy (Jill Whitlow). A little too anxious to accomplish an initiation prank they are assigned to carry out at the morgue, the two wander into the wrong room and wind up letting loose a frozen corpse from suspended animation…that of the young man infected by the alien slugs in the opening sequence. Now with fellow students being infected by the freed creatures and zombifying, the two team up with Cindy and a detective with a past linked to the 1959 ax murder (a great Tom Atkins) to try to stop the alien invasion from spreading through the entire campus and then the world.

Night Of The Creeps is a lot of fun. The whole thing is tongue in cheek from the campy dialog to every major character having the last name of a horror movie director. And, best of all, the audience is in on the fun. Dekker does take his material seriously to a degree so not to make a complete joke out of it and so it does have some suspense and tension, but in the spirit of the drive-in movies of the 50s, lets the deliberately absurd material, bathed with homage, deliver the fun. The cast also play their parts straight and are all good with Atkins’ cynical and grumpy Detective Cameron stealing the show with his one liners and our three leads giving us some very likable heroes and heroines to root for. Whitlow also makes for a fetching flame thrower wielding sorority girl. The entire cast seems to get the tone of the material and it really makes this work. The FX are really good too and there is some nice and abundant gore to go along with the slimy critters and their army of co-ed zombies.

A real fun homage to the sci-fi horrors of yesteryear, as well as, a great slice of fun 80s horror, too. How can you not like a movie with the line “I’ve got good news and bad news, girls… the good news is your dates are here…’what’s the bad news?’… they’re dead!”

MONSTERZERO NJ TRIVIA: Keep an observant eye out as Dekker gives a little shout out to his next movie The Monster Squad in a scene with J.C.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 infected aliens!

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Slither

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SLITHER (2006)

Slither is a really fun sci-fi/comedy from writer/director James Gunn who helmed Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy flick. This creepy, gooey story is set in the small town of Wheelsy, South Carolina where a meteorite crash lands in the woods and is happened upon by two-timing husband Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) while out messing around with a local girl. Grant is stuck in the chest by some kind of organic dart from within the object and immediately starts to change physically and behaviorally. At first he tells his wife Starla (Elizabeth Banks) it’s an allergic reaction to a bee sting, but as Grant starts chowing down on the local pets and begins transforming into something otherworldly, Starla turns to Sheriff Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) for help. As fate would have it, Starla Grant has also been the apple of Sheriff Pardy’s eye since they were kids and as the two former school sweethearts try to figure out why Grant is transforming into a ‘squid’. Meanwhile Grant impregnates local girl-toy Brenda (Brenda James), who then gives birth to hundreds of slug-like creatures who set upon the town entering their victims through their mouths and turning the locals into zombies at alien infected Grant’s command. Can Bill, Starla and whoever is left stop this extraterrestrial threat and save Wheesley and the world from this slimy alien incursion?

Gunn directs this fun flick with tongue firmly in cheek. The film doesn’t make a joke out of it’s homage filled story, but never takes itself too seriously either. And while it is light in tone, it is not without it’s share of suspense and chills. The cast are all having a good time with Fillion once again showing he can play comedy and be a charming leading man. Rooker is delightfully over the top as the infected Grant. The actor is having a blast as he transforms into an alien creature who seems to enjoy some of the side benefits of being human, such as his host’s pretty wife. Banks is quite feisty as Starla and makes a fun combo of damsel and heroine and has a great chemistry with both Rooker and Fillion. Also in the cast is Gregg Henry as the obnoxious ass of a Mayor who goes by the name of R.J. MacReady (a nod to Carpenter’s The Thing) and The Office’s Jenna Fischer in a small role as Sheriff Pardy’s sassy receptionist Shelby. The make-up FX are excellent with Grant going through numerous stages as he transforms and of course the activities of his slug-like minions and their carnage are well portrayed. It is a mix of practical and CGI, but it appears mostly practical with some very well done CGI in support, the way it should be. The production value is high on this modestly budgeted film and there is an effective score by Tyler Bates to add atmosphere.

Whether it’s paying homage to The Thing, The Shivers, Night Of The Creeps or The Blob to name a few, Slither is just a real fun, gory and very entertaining night at the movies with a great cast and it’s heart in the right place. Much like some of the films it pays tribute to, Slither was sadly overlooked when it first came out, but seems to have now found it’s audience and developed a bit of a cult following. A highly recommended and delightfully gooey movie.

3 and 1/2 disturbingly shaped alien slugs.

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COOL STUFF: SLITHER SPECIAL EDITION BLU-RAY!

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SLITHER (2006) Blu-Ray

Slither is a fun and delightfully gory horror/comedy from Guardians of the Galaxy writer/director James Gunn, that is sadly overlooked and underrated…until now! Once again the awesome folks at Scream Factory have given a flick the respect and treatment it deserves with this new special edition. This title in particular has always been a personal favorite and this disc was obviously anxiously awaited. Let’s find out if it delivered…

On a technical level the film image is clear and sharp with some nice contrast, while maintaining the original color palette that Gunn filmed it in. The flesh tones, both human and in-human being the most vibrant colors aside from the gore. The movie is presented in the original 1.85.1 aspect ratio, preserving the film’s original dimensions. The sound is in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with alternate 2.0 DTS-HD for those without home theater sound systems. The original extras from the DVD are presented in the video format ratio of 1:33:1 that they were filmed in. Remember it was 2006 and the TVs those extras were made for still came in the square format.

Now on to the extensive extras which make this disc so worth having!…

Scream Factory has added some new features in addition to including all the fun extras from the initial DVD release. We get new commentary from James Gunn with Nathan Fillion and Michael Rooker, aside from the original commentary with Gunn and actor Nathan Fillion. We also get new interviews with both writer/director Gunn and actor Gregg Henry and it is interesting to hear Gunn reminisce about the flick now that he’s had such success with the Guardians of the Galaxy films. From there we get deleted and extended scenes with optional James Gunn commentary. We get a step by step of some of the film’s visual FX. We get a fun tour of the set with actor Nathon Fillion, followed by an amusing profile of his character Bill Pardy. There’s a documentary from the original release called The Sick Minds And Slimy Days Of Slither. One of the FX crew humorously gives us a fake blood recipe in Brewing The Blood. There is another FX documentary about how the slimy critters were brought to life and a short video diary with Troma creator Lloyd Kaufman on set for a cameo, which sadly was cut from the final print. The extras wrap up with a fun gag reel and the original theatrical trailer. A nice batch of extras for a movie only now starting to get the notice it deserves.

This is a personal favorite and a flick that is finally finding an audience after being overlooked upon initial release. It’s a fun horror/sci-fi flick that pays homage to many of it’s influences, yet not without having it’s own identity. (my full review HERE) If you’re a fan of the film, it’s a must have disc. If you are just discovering James Gunn through his Guardian’s movies, than this is definitely an item you may want to check out. Another great disc from Scream Factory.

-MonsterZero NJ

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REVIEW: SERENITY (2005)

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SERENITY (2005)

“I aim to misbehave!”- Malcolm Reynolds

The story of Joss Whedon’s cult classic series Firefly and it’s not only premature demise but, large and loyal fan following is stuff of legend at this point but, at least fans got some closure when Whedon convinced Universal Pictures to transfer the adventures of Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and the crew of the Serenity to feature film. It’s mediocre box office performance sadly spelled doom for any further adventures but, at least this theatrical ‘final episode’ gave fans some closure and was a fitting goodbye… and a damn good movie too!

The flick starts off with Capt. Reynolds deciding to put the psychic talents of mentally unbalanced teen River Tam (Summer Glau) to use in a routine payroll heist against the wishes of her doctor brother, Simon (Sean Maher). The simple theft goes awry when a horde of cannibalistic Reavers attacks and they barely escape. Simon vows to finally leave Serenity with his sister but, when River receives a subliminal message in a bar and decimates the occupants with an outburst of martial arts, Malcolm decides his charges should stay and the crew need to determine what just happened and why. And they may get more answers then they bargained for, as a mysterious and lethal assassin (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is in hot pursuit of River and this take’s Serenity’s crew to the most dangerous parts of the galaxy to finally find the answers to what lurks inside River’s head that the Alliance is so afraid of… and afraid is exactly what they should all be.

Obviously to really enjoy this flick you should be familiar with writer/director Joss Whedon’s endearing and eccentric crew and their previous adventures but, there is enough info to make it enjoyably watchable to those uninitiated to this sadly short-lived saga. Whedon has always had a gift for charmingly eclectic characters and ensembles and that goes a long way here to bringing us a very endearing bunch of outlaws to root for and giving these characters some nicely unexpected layers. We also get a very unique villain in the ‘Operative’, a man who seems part samurai, part philosopher and part cold-blooded killer. He truly believes his ruthless acts are for a greater good and has a disturbingly business-like approach to killing. The contrast is Malcolm, who appears like a man out for himself  but, has a lot bigger heart then he let’s on and is far more willing to sacrifice himself for others then he’ll ever admit. There is plenty of action to put our beloved characters in and Whedon gives us some nice suspense and energy to those sequences but, never let’s them overshadow the important stuff. We even get a really good look at the Reaver’s and finally get to see them in gruesome action only hinted at in the show’s scant 14 episodes. Whedon handles a big budget, feature movie like a pro, giving it a very fast pace but, not sacrificing character or story development in the process. His choice as writer/ director of the mega-hit The Avengers is no surprise to those familiar with his work. This is a quality sci-fi flick that not only gives us an intriguing story and multi-layered characters but, the explosions and laser fire that post Star Wars science fiction is expected to deliver. There’s some crisp cinematography by Jack Green that takes Firefly’s look to the big screen nicely with a very effective score by David Newman to properly accent Whedon’s action packed adventure. Overall a very underrated genre flick.

The cast is simply great. All our regulars are back with Fillion leading the pack as the hard-nosed outlaw with a hidden heart, Malcolm Reynolds. He can be both cold-blooded and warm-hearted almost in the same beat and just when you think you’ve figured him out, he surprises you. A tribute to Whedon’s writing and Fillion’s underrated acting. Ejiofor is simply a very unique and original villain. He makes his ‘Operative’ very charming but, like a serpent, that charm is only to lure you in for the fatal strike. He is completely convinced his cause is just, yet, is not just a brainwashed tool. There is an intelligence and a surprising lack of malice with his actions which oddly makes him scarier. And the actor carries this off very well. The rest of the cast are delightful as they were on the show and they translate their character dynamics to the big screen without missing a beat since we last saw them… and make them accessible to those who are just getting to know them. Glau, Maher, Adam Baldwin, Alan Tudyk, Jewel Staite, Gina Torres, Ron Glass and Morena Baccarin all do good work in taking Whedon’s characters from script to screen for one final adventure.

Overall, I love this flick. As a fan of Firefly it both gives closure to those who enjoyed the series and yet still makes us sad that this was the last appearance of the Serenity crew, fan fiction and comic adaptations aside. It is a well made, well written movie that gives us all the action and adventure we want but, adds an intelligent story and a heart as well. It’s a perfect example of why the series is so rabidly loved by it’s cult following of fans and a sad testament to a series that was never given a proper chance. Also stars David Krumholtz as ‘Mr. Universe’.

PERSONAL NOTE:  I want to be honest and admit that I am a perfect example of how Fox’s seemingly intentional mishandling of this show worked. Despite being a big fan of Whedon’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer series, I was not impressed with the first few episodes (which Fox aired out of order thus omitting crucial character development) and passed on the rest. It was only till a friend lent me the DVD box set which feature all the episodes and in the order intended, that I became a full fledge ‘Brown Coat’ and joined the ranks of it’s loyal fan base. Also, my only disappointment with Serenity is Whedon not finding a way to bring oddball bounty hunter Jubal Early (Richard Brooks) back one last time. Loved that character from my favorite episode Objects In Space.

3 and 1/2 fireflies.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SLITHER (2006)

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Slither

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SLITHER (2006)

Slither is a really fun sci-fi/comedy from writer/director James Gunn who helmed Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy flick. This creepy, gooey story is set in the small town of Wheelsy, South Carolina where a meteorite crash lands in the woods and is happened upon by two-timing husband Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) while out messing around with a local girl. Grant is stuck in the chest by some kind of organic dart from within the object and immediately starts to change physically and behaviorally. At first he tells his wife Starla (Elizabeth Banks) it’s an allergic reaction to a bee sting, but as Grant starts chowing down on the local pets and begins transforming into something otherworldly, Starla turns to Sheriff Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) for help. As fate would have it, Starla Grant has also been the apple of Sheriff Pardy’s eye since they were kids and as the two former school sweethearts try to figure out why Grant is transforming into a ‘squid’. Meanwhile Grant impregnates local girl-toy Brenda (Brenda James), who then gives birth to hundreds of slug-like creatures who set upon the town entering their victims through their mouths and turning the locals into zombies at alien infected Grant’s command. Can Bill, Starla and whoever is left stop this extraterrestrial threat and save Wheesley and the world from this slimy alien incursion?

Gunn directs this fun flick with tongue firmly in cheek. The film doesn’t make a joke out of it’s homage filled story, but never takes itself too seriously either. And while it is light in tone, it is not without it’s share of suspense and chills. The cast are all having a good time with Fillion once again showing he can play comedy and be a charming leading man. Rooker is delightfully over the top as the infected Grant. The actor is having a blast as he transforms into an alien creature who seems to enjoy some of the side benefits of being human, such as his host’s pretty wife. Banks is quite feisty as Starla and makes a fun combo of damsel and heroine and has a great chemistry with both Rooker and Fillion. Also in the cast is Gregg Henry as the obnoxious ass of a Mayor who goes by the name of R.J. MacReady (a nod to Carpenter’s The Thing) and The Office’s Jenna Fischer in a small role as Sheriff Pardy’s sassy receptionist Shelby. The make-up FX are excellent with Grant going through numerous stages as he transforms and of course the activities of his slug-like minions and their carnage are well portrayed. It is a mix of practical and CGI, but it appears mostly practical with some very well done CGI in support, the way it should be. The production value is high on this modestly budgeted film and there is an effective score by Tyler Bates to add atmosphere.

Whether it’s paying homage to The Thing, The Shivers, Night Of The Creeps or The Blob to name a few, Slither is just a real fun, gory and very entertaining night at the movies with a great cast and it’s heart in the right place. Much like some of the films it pays tribute to, Slither was sadly overlooked when it first came out, but seems to have now found it’s audience and developed a bit of a cult following. A highly recommended and delightfully gooey movie.

3 and 1/2 disturbingly shaped alien slugs.

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