Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Sunday 30 September 2012

Burl reviews Friday the 13th! (1980)

Ch-ch-ch, ha-ha-ha, it’s Burl! Yes, I’m here to review one of the granddaddiest movies of modern horror, the original Friday the 13th! Ha ha, I’ll tell you right off the bat that this has never been my favourite horror series, and even within that series this particular picture sits maybe third or fourth for me! I certainly prefer both part 4 and part 6 to this inaugural entry!
However, with that said, this certainly has a few virtues scattered here and there in its running time, and I try to be a positive person, so I’ll mention as many of them as occur to me! It’s tempting, too, to want to give the picture extra credit for being the first in the series, but even the people who made it won’t make any great claims to originality! All they did was go see Halloween a bunch of times and try to copy it as closely as possible, with the addition of some Special Makeup Effects!
Ah yes, Special Makeup Effects! This movie has that glorious credit prominently displayed in its opening titles, which is right where it should be! You know what perplexes me? Well, the fact is that if you do Special Makeup Effects for a movie, you really have to fight to get your name in those opening titles! But the credit being there serves as a statement of purpose to the savvy horror fan: they know firstly that the movie contains said Effects, and secondly that their presence is recognized by the filmmakers as a virtue! It’s win-win all around, and silly are the producers who try to save a buck, or retain a bargaining chip, by denying the Special Makeup Effects man or woman their rightful head credit!
And so to the picture itself: It starts in the most unconvincing 1958 since the Sha-Na-Na revival concert, and a pair of lustful Crystal Lake camp councilors are taught a harsh lesson at the point of a knife! Then, years later, that earnest gadabout Steve Christie has decided to spend twenty-five large to get the old camp up and running again! The camp’s history of violence seems to mean nothing to him, ha ha! He’s hired some attractive young folks (including Kevin Bacon) to help him fix it up, but then he and his moustache drive off in the unreliable camp jeep, leaving the kids he’s just barely even met in charge of the renovations!
Well, you know what happens next! Pot smoking, drinking, strip Monopoly, an annoying jokester character (why must there always be one of these!) and even making love! Oh, and there’s a mad killer on the loose, stabbing, hacking, chopping, firing arrows this way and that, taking final care of Steve Christie’s work force one by one, and eventually of Steve Christie too!
Well some of these killings are cheat jobs, but others employ the Special Makeup Effects wizardry of Tom Savini, and he did a fine job of it! Everything else about the movie is pretty mediocre, and I don’t recall ever actually being scared by it, even when I first saw it and didn’t know the killer was an old lady in a fishing sweater! It was wise of them to replace her with a hulking, deformed maniac in future episodes (which they pretty much had to do anyway, because, you know, DECAPITATION), but this first installment will always be the odd man, or should I say odd woman-of-advancing-years, out! Ha ha!
But that leaves me with one important question: Steve Christie! What was his story, really! What was that guy all about? And maybe he wasn’t even killed, because we don’t see it happen! He just doubles over with a surprised look on his face! You know, they should have brought him and his ponky moustache back in one of the later sequels and given him some prominent role to play in the larger narrative! Ha ha, maybe they still can! Anyway, I give Friday the 13th two unusual looking Final Girls!   

Thursday 27 September 2012

Burl reviews Enemy Territory! (1987)

Burl talking! You know, I’ve noticed a bit of a trend in the movies recently: action pictures taking place in one single apartment building! Attack the Block, The Raid: Redemption and the new Judge Dredd movie, Dredd 3-D, all qualify! But this concept isn’t new, of course, and today I’m here to give you an example of this microgenre from the year 1987! It’s called Enemy Territory, and co-stars none other than Ray Parker Jr.! Ha ha, who ya gonna call!
It’s a tightly constructed little movie! It starts with an insurance guy at the end of his rope, who, like Harry Potter in The Woman in Black, is ordered by his boss to undertake an apparently simple but very difficult mission in order to save his job! The insurance guy is played by an actor I was unfamiliar with called Gary Frank, and he turned out to be really quite a capable performer! Gary’s character was named either Barry or Larry, and his mission was to collect a signature and fee from an old policy-buying lady in a notoriously gang-ridden area of town!
The building turns out to be controlled by a particularly nasty gang called The Vampires! While they aren’t literally vampires, their leader is played by Candyman himself, Tony Todd, and he calls himself The Count! (And he turns out to actually believe he is a vampire, ha ha!) The supernatural theme extends to our hero, who is referred to as “The Ghost” by the gang members!
Gary-Barry-Larry pretty quickly runs afoul of the gang and is targeted for extermination! He’s trapped in the building, the semi-friendly security guard who was escorting him is knifed, and there seems nowhere to turn – but luckily, Ray Parker Jr. is visiting the building too! He plays a telephone repairman who happens to be in the tower for one reason: bustin’ quite simply makes him feel good! But he has a code of helping out anyone who needs it, so soon it’s him and Gary-Barry-Larry against the Vampires, who number in the dozens!
The hapless insurance agent and his telephone repairman friend (who’s almost as out of place as the tie-sporting white man, given that the building apparently has no telephones in it) battle their way from apartment to apartment, occasionally swinging down a floor or two on bedsheets, or sneaking down the stairs, or climbing down the elevator shaft! They get help from an adorable moppet, an elderly grandma, a tough teenage girl and a grizzled, paranoid, wheelchair-bound Vietnam veteran played by Jan Michael Vincent from Damnation Alley!
It’s a lean picture all right: the pursuit starts early and keeps going right through to the end! Unfortunately there’s not actually that much action in it, and a few dull stretches here and there! But it never gets outright boring, thankfully! The performances are better than you’d think all around; and the movie was shot by the very talented Ernest Dickerson, so it looks a lot better than this sort of thing typically does! There’s perfectly functional direction from a guy named Peter Manoogian, who directed Seedpeople but was also an assistant director on movies like Fear City and Lies! It’s nothing tremendously special, but I enjoyed the movie and I think you might too! I give Enemy Territory two spray-painted titles just like in They Live!

Burl reviews The Descendants! (2011)

Aloha, it’s Burl! Ha ha, would you like to spend time in Hawaii? I bet just about anyone would! It’s always nice to see a movie that takes you there for a couple of hours, and the picture I’m reviewing today, whatever else it may or may not do, does that! It’s called The Descendants, and it stars none other than the handsome man of renown, George Clooney from Return to Horror High!
He plays a guy whose family owns a big patch of land on one of the islands, which he has to decide whether or not to sell off to one hotelsman or another! Meanwhile his wife has just suffered a boating accident, and he’s found out a few unsavoury things about her pre-accident conduct – turns out she was having an affair on him! Ha ha! So while his wife languishes in a comatose state in a Honolulu hospital, he goes about trying to corral his wayward daughters and find the fellow his wife was sleeping with!
That’s the plot, more or less! The movie’s all about families and relationships and unfinished business and shots at redemption so obvious as to be recognized for what they are, and even what they represent, by the characters themselves! It’s about Hawaii too, in a semi-sneaky way; that is, it seeks to demythologize the experience of living there, while also providing evidence that living there when you have enough money to keep a fancy house and go island hopping whenever you take a notion to, can be a lot of fun! The picture’s main argument vis-à-vis Hawaii is that tragedy and dysfunction can strike island denizens as frequently and as hard as it can mainlanders, but I don’t think anyone ever asserted otherwise!
The picture was directed by Alexander Payne, and as with his other works, there’s comedy in here and drama too, and tonal shifts that are meant to catch viewers by surprise! Unlike some of his other movies, and here I’m thinking Election mainly, and Sideways too, there’s a dearth of satiric energy and bite; this appears to have been replaced by a sincerity of purpose that feels at times like a hug from an over-affectionate oaf!
But at least the loving oaf in my analogy would be wearing a Hawaiian shirt! A little tropical atmosphere goes a long way with ol’ Burl, I have to confess, and it’s no different here! The relaxed slack key guitar score is a real plus too! I thought Clooney was pretty good, and that the older daughter was pretty, and I liked that every now and again a beloved familiar face would appear on screen, like Robert "Alligator" Forster or Beau "The Wizard" Bridges or Michael "Slap Shot" Ontkean!
So while the picture didn’t really work perfectly for me in the dramatic comedy realm it means to inhabit – though it has its moments, sure sure – it was the ostensible incidentals, which were by design more central than they pretended to be, that kept me interested! I don’t rush out to see these middlebrow pictures as much as I used to, but I enjoyed this one well enough! I’ll give The Descendants two and a half punches in the eye from Grandpa!

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Burl reviews The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood! (1980)

Here’s Burl! Yes, it’s me, here to review an odd picture from many years ago! This one is called The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood, and it was the third and last in a series of Happy Hooker movies that were based on the autobiographical book by Xaviera Hollander! Ha ha, she was apparently a jolly pros'tute herself, but just what her specific adventures were I do not know, as I’ve never read the book and this is the only Happy Hooker picture I’ve seen!
But based on the plot synopses I’ve read, it sounds like the most interesting of them! The first one tells of her arrival in New York and the setting up of her first brothel; in the second she travels to Washington and testifies before a Senate subcommittee (ha ha, yaw-w-wn!); and in this one she descends upon Hollywood and supervises the filming of what I guess is meant to be the first movie in the series! Ha ha, the snake eats its tail yet again! And another interesting thing is that she’s played by different actresses in each movie: Lynn Redgrave in the first one, Joey Heatherton in the second, and Sister Hyde herself, Martine Beswick, in the third! Martine is my favourite of the three, so again, I’m glad this is the one I watched!
After a tender scene at the beginning of the movie between Xaviera and a New York cop played by none other than super-thespian Dick "Sorority Girl" Miller, Martine hies to Hollywood and gets mixed up with a movie studio run by mogul Phil Silvers, well-known from The Chicken Chronicles! And guess who works for Phil? A guy who looks just like him except a bit younger, plus the best of the Bat-Men, Adam West! Adam plays the sleaziest guy seen on cinema screens since the yachtsman from Summer Night Fever, or maybe the songwriter guy from Goin’ All the Way! Anyway, he’s pretty sleazy!
Once Xaviera has been disappointed in love by Adam West and in business by Phil Silvers (or maybe it was the other way around!), she hooks up with Phil’s grandson, played by Jack Lemmon’s son Chris, and goes the independent route to get her film produced! Her stable of prostitutes lie down and get to work raising the budget for the picture, and it all looks promising until Phil Silvers pulls a dirty trick and gets them all busted! But Xaviera gets her revenge, working it so that Adam West and the guy who looks like a younger Phil Silvers end up making sweet love with one another by mistake in the dark, and then dressing up as ladies! Ha ha! Then she makes a bet with Phil that she can finish her movie in time to meet an arbitrary deadline!
The climax involves a car chase and lots of goofy humour, and while most of it is pretty dumb, believe it or not there are a couple of funny parts! At least one of them is thanks to Adam West and his fine performance! There are also quite a few naked ladies, and of course the tender surprise appearance by Dick Miller! Altogether, when you take into account its cast, its severely late-70s atmosphere, its clever satirizing of the movie business (on a par with Hollywood Boulevard, I’d say!) and its general entertainment value, The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood is good for at least two and a half special appearances by Army Archerd!

Monday 24 September 2012

Burl reviews The Woman in Black! (2012)

Bo-o-o-o-url here to review a spookhouse picture of quite recent vintage, The Woman in Black! Like Witchtrap, it’s a haunted house movie, but in all other respects the two movies are not really very much alike! No nak*d ladies get impaled in the throat by shower heads, so I guess you might say this is more in the tradition of a picture like The Haunting!
It was the first non Harry Potter movie featuring the guy who played Harry Potter, and so, since I’ve never seen any of those Potter pictures, it was my first exposure to this frequently morose and bespectacled thespian! He seems to be a fine enough actor, what with his British training and all, though he doesn’t have all that much to do in this movie except to look a little frightened in those brief moments when he’s not being morose!
He plays a mighty young lawyer in Edwardian London, and though he seems at about the age where most Edwardians lose their v*rginity to a S*ho lady and join a sportsmen’s club, he’s already a widower with a four year old son! He’s tasked by his stern barrister boss to settle the affairs of a haunted house, and so up he travels to some barren and remote seaside area, where the townsfolk make the pub denizens from An American Werewolf in London look like the hospitality staff at Disn*yland!
The spooky old mansion is situated on a property connected to the mainland only by a thin ribbon of road that’s washed right over at high tide! Strangely, however, there’s never any scene where he badly wants to leave the place because of ghosts, but is stranded by the water! Ha ha, that seems odd to me! Anyway, the town near the mansion is plagued by a rash of child suicides, which is pretty horrible! It’s no wonder the townspeople are a little weird! Daniel Radcliffe – that’s the Harry Potter actor’s name – sets about trying to figure out the mystery, which he does quite quickly, because there’s not much to this mystery, I’m afraid!
The haunted house movie this reminded me of the most was The Changeling! Ha ha, do you remember that one? George C. Scott was in it, and also a terrifying wheelchair! I haven’t seen that one for quite a while, so maybe I’ll watch  it again soon and review it for you here! There are also elements of Ghost Story in there too, and I’m going to re-watch that one soon as well!
In any case, The Woman in Black is a fairly solid little picture with a few eerie scenes and a couple of really good scares, but even with its heavy suicide theme and an ending that could fairly be described as downbeat, it’s about as substantial as the wrathful wraith of its title! It looks good, is acted well, and is overall an addition to the haunted house genre that nobody should be embarrassed of! I give this stately picture two and a half self-rocking chairs!   

Saturday 22 September 2012

Burl reviews The Deadly Intruder! (1985)

Hi, it’s Burl here to review a slasher picture that I never thought of as really a slasher picture at all! I saw The Deadly Intruder many years ago, probably at my friend Dave’s house after we’d rented it from the local 7-11! Ha ha! And I remembered it as being a pretty boring picture that never quite delivered whatever it was that Dave and Doug and I and my other horror-loving friends were hoping for!
Well, watching the picture again recently, I’m not sure why I didn’t think of this as a slasher picture! It most definitely is, although of the mystery slasher variety, a bit like a country-fried version of Too Scared To Scream! We never see the face of the killer as he’s doing his deeds, and as the movie progresses we’re presented with two possible candidates: a red herring (bright siren red, in fact) and the guy it probably is instead!
The action takes place in and around Midvale, a great name for a slasher-beset town! I’m surprised they didn’t go with Haddonvale or at least Midfield, as all their other efforts seem directed towards aping Halloween as closely as possible! Midvale is home to Jesse, a young woman who lives alone in a ranch house and likes to give dinner parties! A twitchy, greasy fellow in an army jacket is hanging around asking for sandwiches and chopping wood with the axe Jesse leaves lying around: why, could this be the killer?
Jesse’s dinner guests include none other than Danny Partridge, who runs Midvale’s most exclusive fashion boutique! He brings along his wife and also his newest employee, a handsome fellow who claims to be a Canadian magazine writer (for the "Canadian Star," ha ha) who takes retail jobs as a way to move freely amongst the common people he likes to write articles about!
In the meantime, the population of Midvale is being reduced in a random and rather sadistic fashion! The murders, which are mostly crowded into the first half of the picture (one way at least in which it’s unlike Halloween) aren’t very bloody, and there are next to no Special Makeup Effects to be seen unless they were hiding somewhere in the gloomy photography; but they’re kind of mean-spirited, like when the friendly and trusting garage mechanic is slowly crushed under the car he’s working on! There’s also a guy stabbed in the eye with a screwdriver, a lady whose face is pushed into a running car engine and a sink drowning featuring a loose nightgown; and, in what may or may not have been intended as some sort of meta-reference, Danny Partridge gets his head rammed through a TV screen!
This is not a very good movie! No suspense is generated, the script is terrible, the photography (early work from the same guy who shot Witchtrap), or at least the video transfer, is often very murky, and the second half of the movie, in which Jesse gets kidnapped by the greasy hobo, is boring! Also, though the heroine does survive, the open, cynical ending recalled that of The Dorm That Dripped Blood! Ha ha, I’m going to have to watch a slasher picture where the killer gets his just desserts at the end, just for a little taste of catharsis!
It was nice to see that old veteran Stuart "Crazy Mama" Whitman as the fearsome, bearded sheriff, and I guess there’s some genuine 1980s slasher atmosphere on display here, but there’s not much else I can think of to praise this picture for! I’m going to give The Deadly Intruder one extraordinarily obvious body double!

Burl reviews Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows! (2011)

Ha ha, the movie review’s afoot! I’ve been reading, or I should say re-reading, a lot of Sherlock Holmes stories lately! They make for pretty cozy reading when the temperature and the leaves both begin to drop! The scene inside 221-B Baker Street, with the roaring fire and Holmes puffing his pipe and Watson doing whatever he does, Sudoku or something, as they wait for Mrs. Hudson to show in the latest desperate client, can be as comforting as a soft warm blanket!
So when it came to watching a movie, my thoughts turned to Holmes! One of the Basil Rathbone / Nigel Bruce classics would have done the trick nicely, but I thought I would check out one of these recent action blockbuster Holmes movies that were directed by Mr. Streisand and see just how Conan Doyle-esque they actually were!
Not so much, as it turns out! Of course the stories often have action scenes in them, but I don’t recall any exploding trains or tumbling stone towers! And the Holmes of the stories is a boxing expert, but not a full-fledged practitioner of the mystical martial arts of the East, I don’t believe! But here we have Mr. Downey Jr., famed from his role in The Avengers, using some sort of telekinesiology to battle his enemies to the ground!
Ha ha, I’m rambling a bit, going off on tangents and not likely making much sense! But really I’m mirroring the experience of watching this movie, which has a plot involving the dread Moriarty fomenting war in Europe in order to make a killing supplying war necessities to all parties! I liked that the picture deals with such relevant issues as war profiteering, which is endemic today but is rarely talked about! The recent war in Iraq, for example: people always say it was because of the oil, but the massive funding a war footing dislodges from the public to the various private arms industries was plenty motive enough!
There I go rambling again! But it’s by way of saying that I appreciate the themes of this picture as much or more than the surface – the fights, chases, explosions and such! And I must say I wasn’t wild about some of the techniques employed by the director, Mr. Streisand! There’s a bunch of slow motion that didn’t seem to have much reason for being, except to make the movie five or six minutes longer! Ha ha! And really, the plot makes very little sense, and the individual action scenes, like the train full of Mounties shooting machine guns, were improbable strategies on the part of the bad guy, Moriarty!
But there were things I liked too! Moriarty was one of them, in fact! He was played by Richard Harris’s son, and I thought he did a fine and menacing job of it! One review I read called his performance “curiously flat,” but I beg to disagree! Stephen Fry was also very entertaining in the role of Mycroft! I also appreciated the photography in the film, which was by the great French cinematographer Philippe Rousselot! The location for the final confrontation between Holmes and Moriarty was a very artfully conceived special effect, as well!
Altogether it was a pretty forgettable bon-bon of a photoplay, and it delivered very little of the Holmsian atmosphere I’d been hoping for, even though some large swatches of the film, particularly the ending, hewed closely to some of Conan Doyle’s actual stories! Maybe I’ll watch one of the Rathbone/Bruce pictures after all! In the meantime, I give Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows one and a half fantastic chair disguises!

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Burl reviews Too Scared To Scream! (1982)

Hi, ha ha! It’s Burl! I’m here to review a horror mystery movie from the 1980s, which is something I’ve done before and intend to do again! Today’s review is of a picture starring Mannix himself, Touch Connors! It’s called Too Scared To Scream, and this is one of those movies I saw all over the place on the video shelves, but never did bother watching until very recently!
It’s a New York movie through and through, and in fact much of the action takes place in once specific building, the location of which I don’t recall ever being made clear! But the place is supposed to be pretty swanky I guess, because they have a cultivated doorman played by that fine British thespian Ian McShane, who’s just as nutty as a bug! Ha ha, he has a paralyzed mother at home to whom he seems totally devoted – but Mother’s perpetually twitching fingers tell us things might not be as cozy as they appear!
The doorman’s name is Vincent, and when reverse-giallo murders (by which I mean the killer wears white gloves, not black) begin occurring in the building, Vincent quickly becomes Suspect Number One in Touch Conners’ police investigation! Ha ha, of course Touch plays a cop; how could he be anything else? His partners are played by Anne Archer, who I believe is also supposed to be his girlfriend despite the twenty-plus year difference in their ages; and Leon Isaac Kennedy, whose role is that of the classic Assistant Cop! He gets bonked on the head near the end and has to sit out much of the climax!
Now, I won’t give away the big surprise ending here in my review! I’ll just say that so much of the evidence within the story, and the clues offered to viewers by the movie itself, point in his direction, that if Vincent had turned out to be the culprit, it would have been a surprising ending indeed!
Touch was not just the star of this movie, he was the producer too! Ha ha, and the director was an actor named Tony Lo Bianco, better known as the alien from Larry Cohen’s bizarre and noteworthy picture God Told Me To!  This picture was apparently the culmination of his directorial career! With Too Scared To Scream, Touch and Tony have rigged it so that there are several naked ladies in there – ladies, that is, without any clothes on whatsoever! Ha ha!

Altogether it’s not a very dynamic or compelling murder mystery, and as with that picture Lies, it would have benefited from the take-no-prisoners suspense chops of Brian De Palma! It’s got some fine New York atmosphere, and there's a pretty great supporting cast (Maureen O'Sullivan from Hannah and Her Sisters and Carrie Nye from Creepshow are both in there, and besotted Murray Hamilton from Jaws, and a young John Heard from C.H.U.D.) and there’s something wonderful about movies that take place mostly in a single apartment building (though this one spends almost as much time at Vincent’s house with him and his paralytic mother), and Touch may not be a great actor, but he puts his back into this particular role, you’ve got to give him that! I do give him that, and I give Too Scared To Scream one and a half nude hairy-men!

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Burl reviews Fastbreak! (1979)

Burl here again! It’s time for me to review a sports picture for you, I think! It’s not my very favourite genre out there, but there are some good ones for sure! I think if I had to choose the one I like best, it would be Slap Shot! Ha ha, what a great movie! And The Bad News Bears is a pretty good one too, don’t forget!
Fastbreak, which I’ll review for you today, is no Slap Shot! It’s not even a hockey movie in fact, but a basketball picture! Basketball is a game I appreciate more than actually like – for example, I can really get behind the idea that, unlike other sports, in basketball possession of the ball is a bad thing unless you do something with it right away; and that, in direct opposition to football, a lummox’s sport, territoriality on the court is a non-issue, and basketball’s model is what writer Dave Hickey calls “the polyglot choreography of urban sidewalks” rather than the bullish clashing of armies at war!
And I guess Mr. Kotter feels the same way! He – or perhaps I should say Gabe Kaplan – plays a New York deli counterman who loves basketball even more than pastrami, and his fondest dream is to one day coach a college team of his own! Well, when pokey little Cadwallader University of Nevada comes calling, he gets his chance! But his wife doesn’t want to leave the Big Apple, so he packs up his things, says goodbye, shanghais a quartet of ringers and drives his station wagon to Nevada!
The university campus is no stately, ivied institution of learning, but rather looks like the set of Hogan’s Heroes after a decade of abandonment! Kotter’s ringers are a bit disappointed! This group of youths is the real core of the movie, Kotter excepted, and they each have their own conflicts with which to deal as the season progresses! Preacher is being stalked by the homicidal father of a fifteen year-old girl he seduced; D.C. (played by Harold Sylvester from Innerspace) is dealing with rage issues and a fear of becoming homosexual, and is wanted by police; Hustler is – well, Hustler doesn’t have much of a story, actually; and Swish, whom the rest of the players take to be a simple homosexual, is actually a girl in disguise!
Mr. Kotter is doing his best to coach the team, and the movie presents him as a very good coach indeed, except when he acts like kind of a jerk! It eventually comes down to the Big Game, which is to be played against Nevada State, coached by the fearsome Bert “Lies” Remsen! Ha ha, I won’t spoil things by telling you who wins, but I’d be lying if I said it was Nevada State!
The plain fact is that I enjoyed watching this picture, but it’s hard to say exactly why! Lately I’ve been slightly fixated on comedy/dramas from the years 1979-80, because of some undefinable flavour they have! There’s an appealing grottiness to them, maybe! Also they’re not all that funny, and, strange as it sounds, that’s a quality I like in a comedy! At times the movie strains to be Welcome Back Kotter with four Freddie “Boom Boom” Washingtons instead of the usual Sweathogs, but mostly it sits in some strange limbo between comedy and pathos, with each quality cancelling out the other and leaving nothing in particular but Mr. Kotter’s rosy, bearded lips! These are lovingly filmed by the director, Jack “Damnation Alley” Smight!
I liked Kotter’s performance though, and the basketball players were all good, even though they weren’t all professional actors, and Bert Remsen is always fine, and there’s even an appearance from Yor, Hunter From the Future himself, Reb Brown! I give Fastbreak two and a half enormous bags of pot!

Sunday 9 September 2012

Burl reviews Lies! (1985)

Ha ha, hi, it’s Bert here! No, that was a LIE, it’s actually me, your pal Burl, here to review a movie called Lies! It’s a picture from the Wheat brothers, who aren’t as famous as the Coens or the Wachowskis maybe, but they did achieve some level of fame by writing a Freddie Krueger movie and that picture where the bald man fights aliens! I guess as sibling teams go their fame might be on the level of those brothers who made that movie Skyline! Ha ha!
I think this one might have been their first picture! It’s one of those twisty mystery movies in which new revelations cause the story to veer off in another direction every so often, at least for a while! But the story started to feel pretty familiar to me after a bit, and I’ll tell you why presently!
The story follows a struggling young actress named Robyn, played by the talented Ann Dusenberry from Jaws 2 and that fine picture Cutter’s Way! After walking off the set of a zombie movie being produced by none other than Dick "Sorority Girl" Miller, she gets what she imagines to be the role of a lifetime: playing a young heiress who had committed suicide after a violent break-in took the lives of her parents! A very stern lady is evidently the director of this heiress epic, and what do you know, Clu Gulager himself, the dad from A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, shows up as the late heiress’s psychiatrist!
Well, ha ha, naturally all is not as it seems, and eventually it’s up to her agent, played by that old rascal Bert “Fastbreak” Remsen, whom you might remember from his role as Gary Busey’s preacher in Eye of the Tiger, to participate in a rescue plan! I’m skipping over a lot of events and double crosses here, because I don’t want to give too much away for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie; but if you’ve seen a picture from 1987 called Dead of Winter, starring Roddy McDowell, then you won’t be surprised by much this movie has to offer!
Of course this picture came first, so you can’t accuse it of plagiarism! But I saw Dead of Winter in the movie theatre, so when I caught up with Lies just the other day, I spent the last two-thirds of the movie just marking time, wondering if it would have its own special path to follow! Nope, not really! But, ha ha, there’s quite a bit of entertainment to be had nevertheless! The cast is great: besides the great Miller and the solid Remsen and the always-fine Gulager, you’ve got Willard himself, Bruce Davison, and a strong performance from Ann Dusenberry in the lead! She is supposed to be giving great performance in an audition tape scene, and usually those sorts of scenes fall pretty flat, but she pretty much pulls it off!
There’s also an entertaining, if utterly illogical, bit of business involving an ill-fated man and an elevator that will stand out for you, even if it undercuts the strength of the story quite a bit! It’s pretty goofy, and really needed a DePalma or perhaps the brothers Coen behind the camera to end up as a really memorable film; but for the cast and certain other strengths it possesses, I’m going to award Lies two surprised, but not too surprised, maintenance men!

Sunday 2 September 2012

Burl reviews Witchtrap! (1988)

Good day, it’s Burl! Yes indeed, it’s time for another movie review, and this time I’m going to tell you about a spooky movie, or at least a movie that’s meant to be spooky, from the director of Witchboard! I remember seeing that one at the local movie theater, which seems such an oddball proposition nowadays, it being such a low-budget picture!
This one is called Witchtrap, which proves that this is a director who enjoys working on a theme! In this case there are no Ouija boards, though; instead it’s a movie in a genre I really like, the haunted house investigation picture! The Haunting is one of the best of these of course, and The Legend of Hell House is another fine example, and the question for anyone going into Witchtrap is: how will this stack up against these ghostly classics?
Ha ha, not too well! But it’s not a simple case of good movie/bad movie, because while Witchtrap is most certainly a bad movie, it’s not without its special charms! I’ll tell you the story: after a prologue in which a rhinestone-jacketed fellow hurtles out the window of a large mansion, the guy who owns the place hires some parapsychologists and a bicker-prone security team to exorcise the evil spirit haunting it, or else prove it’s all just bunkum and honeydew!
I’ll tell you, there’s a lot of arguing in this movie! The hero, whose square-jawed, quasi-Ash appearance underlines this picture’s Evil Dead pretensions, is extremely vocal in his opinion that all this ghost stuff is just so much codswallop! He also doesn’t like his boss much, and says so at every opportunity! It’s a great relief when the killer phantom, who's an evil magician, begins killing off the gang; though he makes a tactical mistake in my opinion by starting with their cameraperson, played by that great star of horror, Linnea Quigley! Ha ha, she gets a pixilated shower head in the throat, which is an odd way to go, but it helps fulfill what I assume is a contractual demand on Quigley’s part that she take off all her clothes at least once per picture!
It’s not a very scary movie, and some of the acting is not just poor but extremely poor, and the interiors of the spook-ridden mansion are not very atmospheric, a crippling condition for any haunted house picture! It seems to have about three times the dialogue required to tell the story, and the behaviour of the characters goes well beyond simple horror movie idiocy into the sort of decision-making you might expect to find in one of Otto Muehl’s Actionist happenings! Ha ha!
But there’s a home movie charm to it, and a few moments of budget cleverness! I liked that it made game attempts to deliver the goods, even if the workmanship on those goods was a bit shoddy, and a number of them had clearly fallen off the back of Sam Raimi’s truck! For trying, I’m going to give Witchtrap a sound one and a half bulletproof handymen!