Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Thursday 30 May 2019

Burl reviews The Puppet Masters! (1994)

Ha… ha… it… is… me… Burl. Do not be alarmed. I am still… hu-man. I have not been… replaced by a… superior alien consciousness. I am still your same jolly old friend… Burl. Ha… ha.
Ha ha! No, I’m just kidding around! I’m as Burl as I’ve ever been, and I’m here to review a movie about insidious alien takeover, The Puppet Masters! No, it’s not a movie about pod people: the takeover method on display here involves not pods, but slimy alien starfish that can shoot out whips and pull themselves around the room, to slap in your face as they fly by if you’re not careful, or, worse still, to attach themselves to your back, dig in like a giant tick, and bond with your nervous system to achieve complete full-body puppetism!
Right off the bat I have to give this picture some props! The takeover begins right away, and the authorities display a level of good sense and speed of action that forestalls the usual frustrations viewers might feel on waiting for the movie characters to catch up to where we, the audience, have been since seeing the title flash on the screen!
Our main characters are members of some kind of elite CIA-adjacent science force, and the boss of them is a characteristically crusty Donald “Billion Dollar Brain” Sutherland, resplendent in a silver cocksman's beard! Sutherland gets to throw a little action, bopping possessees with his silver-tipped walking stick and pulling a gun on his own son when he suspects the lad to have been taken over!
Sutherland’s son, an agent in this action-science agency, who of course doesn’t get along so well with his dad, is actually the picture’s hero, alongside a lady who serves as a scientist, action partner, and love interest! I recognized neither of the actors and have never seen them since, but they acquit themselves tolerably well!
The picture has a welcomingly familiar supporting cast though! You’ve got stalwarts like Keith David from Road House, Will Patton from Road House 2, and Yaphet Kotto from Truck Turner, whose talents the filmmakers manage to mostly waste! And the Vagrant himself, Marshall “Stand By Me” Bell, is in it too, as an army general who catches a little backdoor parasite action! Ha ha, he ought to be used to sporting rubbery hangers-on - he hosted Mr. Kuato in Total Recall!
But everyone gets a chance to be possessed: all three of our leads take an unwilling turn, and things get a little repetitive! The picture starts spinning its wheels about halfway through, and eventually there are a couple of climaxes and a happier ending than we find in Sutherland’s other body snatcher picture! For many years I had the impression that this was even more bloodless and MOR than it actually is, and in the second half it almost lives down to that assumption!
But I will say this: the creatures are neat! I always like it when the trick effects gang take the time to put together an alien with some biological plausibility - these guys reminded me a bit of the face huggers from Alien, because as with those crustaceous delights in the Ridley Scott picture, The Puppet Masters gives us a dissection scene featuring some realistic-looking organs and glop! Ha ha, so kudos to you, Greg Cannom and Larry Odien! But the movie is more middling than its monsters, so I give it an even two naked shower meltdowns!

Wednesday 29 May 2019

Burl reviews The Strangeness! (1980)

Ha ha and cave paintings, it’s Burl! Yes, it’s my first review in a while, but I’m aiming to get back in the game, and no mistake! Today’s review is of a cave monster movie called The Strangeness, and of the cave monster pictures - a sub(terranean)-genre that includes The Boogens, The Descent and something called simply The Cave, which I’ve never seen - nobody would call it the best! In fact it’s a little drab, and is badly in need of some extra pep!
Of course, movies set in caves or mines are in natural jeopardy of looking dark and feeling samey - ha ha, it’s the rock wall again, the dimly-lighted passage, the stalactites and stalagmites, the false way out! All of these (aside from the rock formations, maybe) are present and accounted for in The Strangeness, along with a tentacled goober monster who roams his way casually through the subterranean labyrinth and gives a good foaming to anyone he meets!
I’ll back up and give you a bit of the storyline, ha ha! It seems there’s a troublesome mine with a history of goober-murders (two of which we witness in an egregious prelude), and a motley gang is assigned by the owners to check it out! We have the nerdy writer, the writer’s good lady wife, a couple of goodtime, meat-and-potatoes pitcrawlers, a lady geologist, an expert on mines imported from England, and the officious company representative! These geniuses manage to trap themselves in the mine immediately on entering it, and spend the rest of the movie moving about various catacombs, which all look like the same one because they probably were! Ha ha, the sets are sometimes convincing, and at other times sport a distinctly canvassy look!
I don’t want to be too hard on the picture, though! It was made by a group of students, and I always like it when students take it upon themselves to mass their resources and produce a genre feature! (Ha ha, I’m looking at you, Dark Star!) And the movie becomes more effective as it wears on, and the trappees become ever more aware of the direness of their situation! It should be noted that some people really do like this picture, and though I can’t say I’m one of them, their position is worth considering!
Much of the affection drizzled over this below-ground affair is aimed at the goober monster, which is a stop-motion ‘mungus who looks a close cousin to the carpet-based spacefarers of The Creeping Terror! But as I say, it’s stop motion, and I’ll always give a pixillated critter like this the time of day, ha ha, even if we don’t see it nearly as much as might be preferred! That goes along with my general complaint that the picture lacks pep! Yes, as so often, here is a movie which could really use some exploitive elements and the willingness to employ them brazenly! Well, at least the death of the company man, who goes bozo a la Fred C. Dobbs and becomes the human bad guy, gets the hideous foaming he deserves!
It’s not the best movie in any of the categories in which it might be fitted into, and in fact, ha ha, in some of those categories it might be the worst! But no 80s low-budget horror completest should fear watching the movie - you may love it, you may not, but the odds are you’ve wasted your time with much direr cinema than this! I give The Strangeness one and a half foaming fits!