Friday, May 17, 2024

Arena Wars, The Longest Yard on Steroids

I should say, the Burt Reynolds one from the 70s, not the remake. Saying that we have a wild one from Michael and Sonny Mahal. Gratuitous violence, gore, death row Hijinx, and governmental corruption spin a tale of what our country (and maybe western civilization, in general) is devolving into. Greed, immorality, and narcissism has infested our institutions that were once the hallmark of what America is.  Celebrity and fame (add in social media) has replaced virtue, love, and kindness.  Mercy is out the window and replaced by a psychopathic ethos.  Today we look at the prison horror film "Arena Wars," directed by Brandon Slagle. This movie will be available on June 26.

In the year 2045 a streaming spectacular called Arena Wars pits a team of death row inmates against the the psycho-ist of the psycho-ist. A team of seven juiced and altered murderers (whose crimes include bombing Yankee Stadium, cannibalism, murdering the U.N., etc.) are undefeated. If the death row inmates overcome these devils, they would have earned their freedom.  This never happens as the death row teams are usually shredded. Uh oh...the show may be hitting a ratings lag. Enter a U.S. Marine serving a 200 year sentence, Luke (John Wells). You'll see, but he represents a nifty plot device for the show sure to boost ratings.  He'll be matched with a bunch of other death row inmates. Early on the CEO (Kevin Hager) of the corporation responsible for Arena Wars emerges. He is a slimy sort with his own motivations.

Sadly, when the movie opened, Perez (Robert LaSardo) and his team put up a good fight but were shredded in the third round. Perez was a why think Luke can do any better?  You'll see. Luke and his compatriots go into the arena with only their fists as the team of killers has blades, chainsaws, machetes, knives, and baseball bats infused with spikes. Calling the action are our two favorite ring announcers played by Michael Madsen and Robert Donovan. Blood will splatter, insides will be cut out, and inmates will die horribly.  But wait!  Luke has some added motivation to prevail...and our CEO buddy has a vested interest in assuring this won't happen.  Social commentary, will be presented as a mirror we can all look into as we ask ourselves if we are enabling the dystopian setting of "Arena Wars" to become tomorrow's reality in America.

While the Burt Reynolds film from 1974 is a statement of possible exploitation and corruption of a specific societal institution, this film is wider in scope and encompasses our entire culture and where it is going.  Why is there a vested interest from the big media corporation for Luke to die horribly?  Can this marine inspire his team to overcome unbeatable odds?  So who exactly is Luke and why is he so special?  The Mahal brothers have given us another gratuitous, bloody, and very entertaining film.  Every actor and actress brilliantly presents an absolutely psycho and dangerous persona for us the audience. Fast paced and with plenty of graphic violence, "Arena Wars" will put manhood back into all you guys who are forced to watch Hallmark movies with your spouses. 


Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Roadkill, Who is the Psycho

Ah...Caitlin Carmichael.  Who is she?  My question exactly...then I saw this film.  Her midriff carries this horror/slasher film.  Thank you so much Ms. Carmichael for not getting a bellybutton ring or tattoos, as your midriff is quite admirable. So sweet.  She'll be in great peril ion our film today, 2024's "Roadkill," directed by Warren Fast.  Wait...the lovely midriff...I mean Ms. Carmichael...will she be in peril, or...well, you'll see.

Hitchhiker (Ryan Knudson) is hitchhiking. He looks like a serial killer.  We get his horrific backstory, and imagine that story made him into a serial killer.  Then midriff, I mean driver picks him up in a souped up red Chevy Nova.  She has a great midriff, short shorts (tight), and a tight shirt. The nubile lass should know better...unless...well, you'll see.  The two stop at a gas station for gas and murder.  Wait!  Who murders who?  Great question.  Whoever did the murder, and we assume it is either midriff or hitchhiker, the other one did not see the bloody act.  They continue on their drive.  Now the sheriff (Fast) and his deputy (Trenton Hudson) are on the case.  They solved the highway hunter serial killing case four years ago.  Did they, though?  Could the killer be back?

The duo stop at a diner and guess who the waitress is.  Danielle Harris!  Oh please, don't let her get murdered.  There will be a murder and once again, the question of who did it is a bit ambiguous. Now we the viewer begin to suspect midriff...then a few minutes later, we think its hitchhiker.  This will go back and forth.  A family will be murdered.  Okay, we begin to get a clear understanding of who the murderer is.  Whichever one it is we also begin to suspect the murders were justified revenge.  Now the duo can't help but kill...but will all the murders be justified?  Will they turn on one another?

Twists and turns galore.  Midriff and hitchhiker both becoming quite menacing.  We pull for midriff because she is such a doll.  Then we pull for hitchhiker because midriff is also evil.  Both are evil.  Still, indications suggest they aren't as evil as their victims, or the victims of whichever one is the killer.  Wait!  Is there another killer?  A lot of fun, this one is, and if Danielle Harris survives this one, we will give it ten out of 10 spoilers here.  Did I mention Ms. Carmichael's midriff?  Impressive.  See "Roadkill," and see if you can figure out who the killer is before the end credits.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Dark Parasite, Slimy Green Parasites Infest Italy

From Italy, we have a good one.  I know...the geniuses who rate films on IMDB only gave this one a 2.3 out of 10 star rating...wusses! If Stanley Kubrick had made this one or if the cast represented marginalized communities to a greater degree, they would have given it a 8.8 out of 10 star rating. Still a film about alien parasites dwelling in an underground bunker under Italy is a subject that we have been waiting for in film. Today we look at 2023's "Dark Parasite," directed by Luca Boni and Marco Ristori.

Meteor showers rain over Italy. Just like in "Day of the Triffids," they leave some alien Hijinx. A slimy green parasite is now part of the Italian landscape, and it finds an underground home. Meanwhile, Abraham (Aaron Stielstra) is a thug masterminding a heist. Of what? That is a mystery. He recruits two unsure thugs to help him, the pretty Nikita (Desiree Giorgetti) and her BF Mark (Michael Segal). Neither of these cohorts is a killer, but Abraham is.  The heist goes down. No one was supposed to get shot. Abraham and even Nikita open fire and all the mobsters are mowed down.  Our trio gets away with a mysterious briefcase.  Part two of the plan, hole up in an abandoned house in the inner city and wait for the syndicate to show up to collect the briefcase and pay the trio.

Uh oh, the large house has a basement that connects to a mysterious underground bunker. In the bunker fungus like parasites have taken over.  They infest humans, make them their drones, and collect other humans. Eventually the humans blow up and spew green slime everywhere. Happens. Now our three thugs get lured into the place and what happens to them won't be pretty,  They'll meet Willie the Whack Job (William Gambini). Willie, a whino in life...and a mean monster filled with green slime in death.  Other parasites, in the form of giant slimy slugs also prowl around.  Yes, you guessed it, a queen parasite has a master plan for the thug trio.  Even worse is what the queen parasite has planned for Nikita.

Just what was in the briefcase that our trio may have risked everything to steal?  What are the parasites doing in the underground bunker below the streets of Italy?  Is this film a thinly veiled metaphor for what happens when European Union policies suppress any peace and diplomacy in favor of a failed Green agenda?  Perhaps this film is the ethos of today's Europe.  In any case, for a slimy parasite horror film, "Dark Parasite" is a pretty good take.   

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Scream, No Drew Barrymore in This One

No...not that one.  This is the 1981 film entitled "Scream."  That Barrymore chick is not in this one, thank Heavens.  That over-rated teen "horror" film only annoys us real horror fans.  Let is examine this 1981 film which will serve as the magnum opus for Woody Strode.  He plays a cowboy in this one.  Okay, he's a cowboy who keeps telling tales of the sea. Okay, I grant it, his role in this one is fraught with confusion and ambiguity...but in defense of this film...Drew Barrymore is not in it. Now, let us look at a confusing and seemingly pointless Byron Quisenberry film...again, however much you don't want to like this movie...Drew Barrymore is not in it.

Three rafts full of tourists, none of them seem to go with anyone else in the raft, float down a river.  The two guides bring them to a ghost town where they will spend the night. I guess the zip-line excursion filled up quickly.  At the ghost town, the lovable Alvy Moore is hung by some ghost.  So sad. The killings continue.  There will be a beheading with a scythe.  Always gotta like decapitations with scythes... something so French about those.  Give this film subtitles and you'll be excited to have seen it.  One by one the tourists are killed.  We like Lou (Joe Allaine).  He's pudgy and no one else likes him.  Because we don't like any of the characters, we like Lou.  He even wears a Houston Oilers hat.  Remember Earl Campbell and Dan Pastorini?  Lou does.

The surviving characters will yell at Lou and give him cross eyes when he eats beans.  More killings.  Rudy then gets bold and gets coffee at a shack across the street.  Oh, here it comes...Woody Strode arrives on horseback with tales of sailing around the horn (...of Africa, I guess). He was a sailor for 40 years and his captain liked him.  Wave bye bye to Woody Strode...he'll leave.  Not loving this plot?  I bet if Stanley Kubrick's name were on it instead of Byron Quisenberry, you'd be heaping praise on this film as an arty plunge into our very souls. The scythe will strike again...very European, will make you feel smart for watching it.  Okay, no spoilers here.  Did I mention Woody Strode as the cowboy?

Be heartened that this horror film is very loyal to the book.  Is Woody Strode's cowboy a mirror for the duality of humankind as it plays out in this metaphysical existence we call life?  Is this film the long awaited sequel to Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey"?  Is there a more fitting tribute to the Houston Oilers and all the great players that played for them, including Zeke Moore? If you do decide to watch the 1981 "Scream," you will be heartened to know that Drew Barrymore is not in this.  


Thursday, May 9, 2024

Twice Dead, Ghost, Creeps, and Old Love

Jill Whitlow! we all gasped.  The babe sorority sister with the flamethrower and the formal gown...the stuff legends are made of.  When the creep jumped in her mouth at the end of "Night of the Creeps" wee all were heartbroken. What an awful way for this nubile beauty to meet her demise.  A year or two later she would have another shot at surviving a horror film.  Won't be easy. A jealous and possessive ghost may have something to say about this.  Today we look at 1988's "Twice Dead," directed by Bert L. Dragin.  

Back in the 1930s, screen actor Tyler Walker longs for the love of his life, Myrna (Whitlow). Alas, she ran off with some guy named Cates, leaving Tyler to mistakenly sign his mansion away and ultimately he hangs himself. Decades later, a family moves in. Scott (Tom Bresnahan) is a hunk high school kid and his lovely sister, Robin (also Whitlow) is also a high schooler. Okay, seems Robin and Scott are ancestors of the long lost love, Myrna.  Oh yes...Tyler's ghost still haunts this mansion.  Scott and Robin will run afoul of a gang of goons at high school.  The gang wants to invade the mansion. One gang member, Crisp (Jonathan Chapin) seems to take an unusual interest in Robin.  

Tyler's ghost seems to want to protect Scott and Robin.  Yep, he has figured out Robin is the spitting image of his lost love.  The gang gets bold and plots a home invasion.  The first attempt is a seemingly gory failure, thwarted by Scott's ability to create special f/x.  This will lead to a great line about the penisaurus, you'll see.  The second home invasion will see the gang members getting the drop on Robin and Scott.  Robin's chastity will be threatened, and now Tyler will get more involved.  What follows is intense gore and blood spatter.  As this is happening, Crisp takes Robin into Tyler's study and is seemingly possessed, but so is Robin.  Bits of bone and brain will fly, banging gang bangers will fry, and Tyler the ghost will mount a motorcycle.  Wild!

Will Jill Whitlow fare better in this one than she did in "Night of the Creeps"? Will Tyler reclaim Myrna in the form of the nubile but alive Robin?  Just what is behind Crisp's weird attraction to Robin?  This is a good one with a very gory ending.  For some terrific 1980s horror fun, and a good second half of a double feature with "Night of the Creeps," see "Twice Dead."

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Rattlers, Snakes Get Vicious

So what do we hunger for when we have a film about a horde of deadly snakes converging on civilization?  Yep.  The proverbial nude and lathery babe in the bathtub scene.  You know the scene.  The babe has her eyes shut and a warm cloth over her face.  Mr. Bubble hides her private parts.  Then out of the drain comes a slithery killer.  So much metaphor in a babe and snake scene.  Kudos to Celia Kaye!  The babe actress gives us this performance in today's film, 1976's "Rattlers," directed by John McCauley.  Incidentally...what happens to a nubile actress after doing s gratuitous bath scene?  Right again!  A bigwig Hollywood moviemaker marries her.  Celia Kaye would become Celia Milius as John Milius ("Red Dawn") would marry her after the least for a short time. the Mojave Desert, rattlesnakes turn uber aggressive.  Two children are feasted upon by the toothy things.  More attacks.  The snakes seem to go out of their way to kill.  This is apparently uncharacteristic of these venomous beasts.  Enter Dr. Tom (Sam Chew, Jr.), a snake expert from the university.  The local sheriff calls him in to consult.  Tom is kind of a dweeb, and nothing about him indicates he has any brains, Still, he'll be matched up with a grouchy babe, Ann (Elisabeth Chauvet). Tom needs a photographer, don't ask why, and Ann the Grouch seems to be the best one around. She's a babe but the women's libber is quite annoying.  All you divorced guys will pray she gets snakes. The two enter the Mojave in search of the nest.  The idiots won't find it.

More attacks.  The aforementioned babe in the tub gets does a farm family. Tom and Ann happen across a little, but covert, army base run by the insane Colonel Stroud (Dan Priest). At first the army will be helpful.  Then it turns out that Stroud oversaw the burying of cannisters of a deadly nerve gas. The gas was Stroud's invention, a bio-weapon intended to be used on the Vietcong.  Tom and Ann will fall in love, which is kind of yucky.  This film needed one of those intimacy coordinators the new films have now. The snakes get more aggressive.  Stroud gets more insane. Well, that's enough for now.

Will the grouchy Ann get what all you divorced guys hope she'll get?  Will Tom develop a dose of manhood and give Ann a good...well, never mind that.  Will the snakes defeat the U.S. Army and move into Vegas just like the Raiders and Athletics did?  If you don't like slithery snakes you won't like this movie.  For nubile babes in much danger (in the tub), see "Rattlers," and perhaps see what did in the Women's Liberation movement.   

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Underwater, Kristen Stewart vs. the Sea Monsters.

Oh, please!  May the sea monsters win!  Will we ever forgive Kristen Stewart for those twinkling vampires?  No!  Of course not!  An A-List celebrity in a very un-sexy role. You'll see.  Oh, what Roger Corman could have done with B-List talent and one-twentieth the budget.  Still, we have nice sea monsters in a claustrophobic setting.  Oh!  Guess what!  Forget Kristen Stewart...get a load of Jessica Henwick!  If you don't know who Ms. Henwick is...well, you are in for a treat.  Today we look at the big-budget 2020 horror film, "Underwater," directed by William Eubank.

Give this one credit. It gets right to the point. As the film begins a mining colony in the Mariana Trench (35,000 below the surface) is collapsing in on itself.  Most will die.  Norah (Stewart), a mechanical engineer, survives and makes her way through leaky and collapsing sections of the structure to find breathable air and escape pods. She'll find corpses and a few survivors including the very scared Emily (Henwick). She'll also find Cpt. Lucien (Vincent Cassel) who put many of the survivors on the few operating escape pods.  Bad news...the part of the structure they are in is fast losing integrity and the gang of six must put on robotic diving suits, walk along the bottom of the trench, and reach a part of the structure with functioning escape pods.

Unlike many horror films...this one is fast-moving.  We don't have to wait for this drama. The drama turns to horror when the monster, excuse me, monsters arrive.  They are slithery and toothy.  A whole species has come up out of the place where the facility drilled and are now birthing, mating...and feeding.  Emily is real scared and looks great being scared.  We desperately hope she will survive, though being sixth in the credits bodes sad.  Now Norah and her mates are fighting off the creatures and trying to reach the last part of the facility that may have escape pods to bring them to the surface.  The monsters are grouchy and hungry...and seem to multiply at a great rate. 

Claustrophobic and ominous.  There seems no hope for our few survivors.  Will any of the six survivors survive until the end credits?  Will Emily ditch the bulky robotic diving suit and show us a nice string bikini?   Will director William Eubanks give us sea monsters that twinkle?  Oh, what Roger Corman could have done with this script.  Saying that, Mr. Eubanks and cast do a fine job and instead of comparing this to a Corman film, we can see the cast and crew paying homage to the type of film we thirst for.  See "Underwater," and enjoy monsters and the nubile and wet Jessica Henwick.