TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: NOT OF THIS EARTH (1988)

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NOT OF THIS EARTH (1988)

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

Roger Corman production is most famous for being the first mainstream movie to star notorious underaged porn star Traci Lords after her scandal broke in 1986. It was also made on a dare as director Jim Wynorski (The Lost Empire, Return Of Swamp Thing) bet Corman he could remake his 1957 original with the same budget and on the same shooting schedule. The result follows the original’s plot with nurse Nadine Story (Lords) as she is asked to be a live-in caretaker for the mysterious and apparently fatally ill Mr. Johnson (Arthur Roberts). Little does the sexy angel of mercy know that Johnson is an alien visitor whose planet is dying and needs the blood of the human race to survive.

Flick is a goofy but fun exploitation flick that is purely tongue in cheek and never tries to be anything more than it is. Wynorski rolls out the jokes and boobs, especially that of his star, who is paraded around in a sexy nurses outfit, bikini or less. It’s pure junk food but it does amuse and what do you expect from a remake of a cult classic made on a dare? There is a lot of stock footage from earlier Corman flicks, including an entire sequence lifted right out of Humanoids From The Deep with a re-filmed climax that uses a completely different actress. Low Budget filmmaking at it’s finest! And what makes this work as well as it does, as with laughably cheesy dialogue and over-the-top performances, is that you can tell the cast and director were just having a good time. It does spread to the audience and it is entertaining in a ‘so bad it’s good’ way. Production wise it looks cheaply made and makes no effort to hide it and has a great 80s electronic score from frequent Wynorski composer Chuck Cirino.

Lords was looking to go straight after being outed as an underaged adult video performer and costing the industry millions as all but one of her films had to be destroyed. Typical of the crafty Wynorski and Corman, they took advantage of her notoriety and actually got her a start in what has turned out to be a prolific mainstream film and television career. She’s not bad in this and one of the few cast members to play it straight and she makes a good heroine despite the nonsense going on around her. Arthur Roberts also plays it straight as the alien Mr. Johnson who is like Mr. Spock meets Count Dracula. In support Ace Mask as Dr. Rochelle, Lenny Juliano as small time hood turned chauffeur, Jeremy and Rodger Lodge as Nadine’s cop boyfriend, all ham it up with an appearance by 80s icon Kelli Maroney in a small role as Nurse Oxford. A cast obviously having a good time.

I like Wynorski’s flicks, this one included. Sure, on one hand they are silly junk, but they have their heart in the right place and are unapologetic when it comes to what they are and what their intent is. Not Of This Earth is a goofy flick made on a bet and simply to be enjoyed with a six pack on the couch…and that’s just fine with me.

MonsterZero NJ Personal Nostalgia: In 1986 I was working in a Palmer Video when my boss frantically came in one morning and ordered us to remove all of Traci Lords’ films from the adult video room stock. He told us why and of course we went through the stock and did as he asked. I remember all that day we kept getting people calling and coming in asking if we had any of her movies to rent. Sadly, we had to disappoint them. Another fond memory of my days in the long gone era of the video rental store.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 transfusions of audacious silliness.

not of this earth rating

 

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE DEVIL MAY CALL (2013)

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THE DEVIL MAY CALL (2013)

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

Thriller has an interesting story. Sam (Corri English) is a young blind woman who works the night shift at the ‘Here For You’ crisis center. One of her regular callers is a brooding man named John (Tyler Mane) who none of the other councilors wants to deal with. Sam is working her last night at the center and when co-worker Valerie (Traci Lords) takes a call from John, she let’s it slip to the emotionally disturbed man that it is Sam’s last day. Now John has become unhinged and unknown to the pretty young Sam, he is heading to the crisis center to exact revenge for what he sees as a betrayal. Also unknown to Sam and her co-workers is that John is a full fledged serial killer and already has a trail of bodies in his wake.

Devil May Call is actually a fairly engaging little thriller as written by Jason Cuadrado and Wyatt Doyle and directed by Cuadrado. There are a few disturbing moments and some suspense, especially because we know right away that John is a killer yet, the compassionate Sam does not. The fact that Sam is blind adds to the tension and makes her especially vulnerable, but also makes her resilience seem stronger when she fights back. The film also has a more intimate scope, as it really has only two locations, John’s home and in and around the office building where Sam works. This gives it a somewhat claustrophobic feel and serves the film’s small budget, as well. There is some disturbing violence, but nothing too over the top and thus the film stays somewhat grounded. The flick is not perfect. There are some plot holes such as, if John cut off the building’s power then why do the elevators still work? Never having seen Sam, how does he know who she is? He seems to know who she’s not, even before hearing the sound of people’s voices. There is also a scene where Sam crawls across a floor covered with broken glass, cutting her hands when all she had to do was stand up, which she doesn’t do till she exits the room. It makes no sense and exploit’s Sam’s blindness simply for effect.

As for the small cast, they are all pretty good. Corri English, as Sam, comes across as a sweet but strong and independent young woman, despite her handicap and gives us a resilient and likable heroine to root and fear for. Tyler Mane is imposing and intimidating as the disturbed John and he has a nice screen presence and conveys a demented mind suitably. Van Hansis is good as office newbie and Sam love interest, Jess. He’s a likable enough character who tries to protect Sam when John invades the office. Traci Lords is also endearing as Sam’s cat lady co-worker Valerie who sadly provokes John by telling him about Sam’s last day at work. A perfectly adequate cast for an intimate low budget thriller like this.

I enjoyed this little flick. It’s not great, there are some plot holes and lapses in logic. But it also has a good cast, and some likable characters, as well as, an imposing villain. It’s got a story that’s a bit different than the usual serial killer formula, with it’s crisis center setting and has some disturbing and suspenseful moments. Overall, an entertaining enough flick that may not stay with you for long, or be especially memorable, but it is an engaging 80+ minutes with a few nice chills. Not bad for a night on the couch viewing.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 helplines.

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: AMERICAN MARY and EXCISION

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I know that I have reviewed these films within the last few months, but I think these two unconventional films that both deal with a lead  female character with an interest/skills in surgery and the disturbing stories within which our leading ladies find themselves in, make for a very provocative and chilling Saturday night combo…

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AMERICAN MARY (2013)

Flick tells the interesting story of pretty med student, Mary Mason (Katherine Isabelle) who, when in need of cash, finds herself getting accidentally involved with illegal surgery and body modification. But it’s not till she is drugged and raped at a party by her arrogant pervert of a professor (David Lovgren) that Mary’s skills get put to horrifying use and her inner Frankenstein is unleashed.

American Mary is intriguing, but never fully decides what it is really about to make it completely captivating, or gets truly twisted enough to make it cult film material. This Canadian flick written and directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska (who also play twins in the movie) has a nice visual style and some very gruesome moments, but never really grabs us completely or shocks us enough to solidify itself the cult status it aims for. The cast is decent and there are a few interesting and eccentric characters, but lead Katherine Isabelle, who was so good in Ginger Snaps, plays Mary with a bit of an emotional detachment for the most part or maybe a bit too low key. With all that befalls Mary, the tone of the character seems to remain the same despite that her life gets sent in disturbing directions and the changes it makes to her. She’s still good, but there should have been a bit more of a difference between Jekyll and Hyde. It would have made more impact. But Isabelle is a good actress and maybe it’s not her fault as she is not given a lot of time to develop Mary before the story sets in motion, so we don’t really see the changes in the character as the film progresses. Perhaps the Soskas get things moving too quickly and as Mary gets drawn in deeper and deeper into this bizarre world, we haven’t gotten to know her well enough to really add resonance to her life’s sudden macabre twist and the changes that occur within her. After her brutal rape, we can understand her emotional shut down, but even before that she seems to adjust a bit too quickly, despite the absurdity of what she’s asked to do and after, her cruel revenge seems to come a bit too easily. After the story events that have the most impact on Mary occur, the moments the Soskas give us to experience what Mary is feeling are all too brief and don’t sink in properly and that robs us of appreciating the true gravity of her transformation from down-on-her-luck med student to illegal body modification diva to sadistic murderer. I’m not saying what occurs doesn’t have any effectiveness, it does. But we needed a little more time with Mary at those transformation points to really appreciate what’s happened to her. To a degree Mary seems likable, but we never really get truly emotionally involved as she embraces her dark and sadistic side or begins to revel at being a rock star of underground body modification surgery…and we should in order to give the story the weight it needs to elevate it to something unique and special. There’s just something missing. The Soskas seem to be far more interested in who Mary is to become and forget that we need to know her better as who she is first to appreciate that.

I won’t take away that this is an original story in a genre filled with remakes and sequels and it still held my interest throughout despite it’s flaws. This real segment of society has never really been touched on in films and we wish the Soska’s would also have delved even deeper into this sect of people that see their bodies as ever evolving canvases and physically alter them through illegal surgery such as Mary provides. There are also a few story lines going on during American Mary and none get fully developed, such as what is going on between Mary and strip club owner Billy (Antonio Cupo), who first hires her to perform an illegal surgery. A partnership/relationship between them then forms that the parameters of which are never really made clear. And then there’s the bond between Mary and Lance the bouncer (Twan Holliday) that I would like to have seen more of. And that’s what restrains American Mary, it is an interesting story with some equally interesting ideas that never gets fully developed enough to really get our complete attention or becomes bizarre and twisted enough to make it more memorable…though it has it’s moments. Worse still, the ending feels forced and sudden as if the Soska’s didn’t know where to go with Mary’s story at that point and add a plot contrivance to wrap things up in a bloody bow. It’s abrupt and not very satisfying.

An intriguing diversion and a nicely original story idea that’s worth a look and has it’s effectiveness, but could have been much more with a little more development of the story and it’s lead character. In conclusion, I did like it and find it intriguing, but it is a flawed film as much as an interesting one…and if anything, I’ve re-watched it a few times and it has made me second guess my feelings about it and the film at least deserves credit for that.

A generous 3 bones saws!

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Excision_posterEXCISION (2012)

Richard Bates Jr. writes and directs this original, trippy and really disturbing horror/drama about emotionally troubled teen, Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord) who escapes from her repressive mother (Traci Lords) by immersing herself in an interest in surgery complete with gruesome and bizarre fantasies. But fantasy and reality may collide as the disturbed Pauline grows desperate to win her distant mother’s love and plots to do so by saving her little sister, Grace (Ariel Winter) from her cystic fibrosis in the only way her demented mind sees possible.

Not only does Bates weave a drama that mixes with equal parts horror, but also gets great performances out of McCord, who really surprised me with how well she disappeared into Pauline’s demented ugly duckling persona, and Lords, who shines as her overbearing mother. It’s the performances all around that really make this haunting, off-center and sometimes gruesome character study really work. He also vividly creates the fantasies inside Pauline’s head and makes them both visually beautiful and highly disturbing at the same time. It gives us a chilling idea of just how unhinged this high school outcast really is.

Not for everyone, but for those who don’t mind something different and unnerving, this is a really good watch. Also features appearances by Malcolm McDowell, Ray Wise, Marlee Matlin and John Waters.

3 solid bone saws!

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: EXCISION (2012)

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Excision_poster

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EXCISION (2012)

Richard Bates Jr. writes and directs this original, trippy and really disturbing horror/drama about emotionally troubled teen, Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord) who escapes from her repressive mother (Traci Lords) by immersing herself in an interest in surgery complete with gruesome and bizarre fantasies. Fantasy and reality may collide, as the disturbed Pauline grows desperate to win her distant mother’s love and plots to do so by saving her little sister, Grace (Ariel Winter) from her cystic fibrosis…in the only way her demented mind sees possible.

Not only does Bates weave a drama that mixes with equal parts horror, but also gets great performances out of McCord, who really surprised me with how well she disappeared into Pauline’s demented ugly duckling persona, and Lords, who shines as her overbearing mother. It’s the performances all around that really make this haunting, off-center and sometimes gruesome character study really work. He also vividly creates the fantasies inside Pauline’s head and makes them both visually beautiful and highly disturbing at the same time. It gives us a chilling idea of just how unhinged this high school outcast really is.

Not for everyone, but for those who don’t mind something different and unnerving, this is a really good watch. Also features appearances by Malcolm McDowell, Ray Wise, Marlee Matlin and John Waters.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 solid bone saws!

american mary rating

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