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Monday, September 24, 2012

Sharon's Baby (1975) Horror Evil Baby

Sharon's Baby (1975) - Out the year before the The Omen, this is not the birth of the antichrist but a much smaller story. In this English horror film Joan Collins is Sharon Carlesi who gives birth to a large 12 pound baby boy. Still not actually as evil as the It's Alive (1974) baby which came out the year before or the absolute evil of Rosemary's Baby(1968) The opening scene is Sharon in labor and it is a difficult one. Difficult to watch as she thrashes and moans like she is feeling something between pain and pleasure. I am not saying that Collins can't pull the scene off I am just guessing that maybe the original script had the conception scene in it and she got confused when doing this one. The doctor makes a point of saying this was one of the strangest births he had ever done. Like the baby didn't want to be born. It is not long before the baby is brought into the room so she can hold it. Born with a set of claws the hours old boy mauls her face in what can only be seen as retaliation for her acting in the scene prior. Also the fact she is in her early forties and playing a first time Mother makes this a strange start.
  Husband Gino (Ralph Bates) reassures her that everything is going to be fine and the couple head home after the mandatory hospital stay. Back in those days when a woman gave birth they didn't rinse the baby and send the people on their way. Instead there was rest and bonding and breast feeding. So Sharon's face is remarkably healed when they arrive back at there townhouse. Since they were not into the concept of the family bed the boy "Little Nicky" was immediately caged in a separate room and a nanny was hired to make sure it did not starve or die of rashes from shitting itself. Apparently the little boy did not like this because it wasn't long before they had put him down for a nap and heard noises coming from the room. Reentering they found the place trashed and the little guy looking as cute as ever in it's crib. This is the warning the parents needed to hear. How did the room get trashed? Who was in the room? This is where this film started losing me. There was never a question from any of the characters about how the room got wrecked. Not one, no police report about a vandalism, no just a vague notion that there was something strange about little Nicky. Instead of following the logical course when you think someone is invading your home the couple goes back to the doctor who brought the baby into the world. Now I love Donald Pleasence as much as the next person, but he has no answers. He can just say the baby is healthy and seems normal.
  Mostly this film is a slow churn, never gaining the heat needed to make it a burn, with some laugh out loud kills in it. A back-story plot that is so ridiculous that it really is quite disappointing. Through Sharon's ditzie friend Mandy Gregory (The beautiful Caroline Munro) we learn that Sharon is a former stripper. We get to see her in action although while dancing she never actually takes off her clothes. She does a show with a dancing midget name Hercules (George Claydon) who makes a small pass at her in the dressing room. Sharon for her part is not a little bit interested and spurns him. While leaving the club he pops out of the shadows and curses her. " You will have the Devil's baby." Oh the power of a midget's curse to make her have a devil baby. Well not quite but you get the picture here.
  Surprisingly there is quite a bit of nudity in this film in particular during the flashback to Sharon's stripping days. Of course none of the nudity includes Collins who was star enough at the making of the film to avoid it. Then there is also the murders which are hilarious but worth the time. Each time little Nicky kills he is shown directly afterwards looking like the cutest baby in the world. No little monster baby here, no sense of dread, just an adorable little child who can't even crawl. When the nanny is pushed into the water to her death we see his little baby hand come up and push, so cute. As the story goes on, the baby is stronger and takes to hiding in the tree outside his second floor bedroom, that is after breaking through the bars (wooden) on the window. Killing Mommy and Daddy will be easy for this kid.
  BUT  There is the catch of Sister Albana (Eileen Atkins) who catches on and comes to perform an exorcism on the child. Will she be successful? How many people will die before the final scenes? Will Sharon win back the soul of her child? All questions that will be answered before the end. I do have to say though I feel really bad for poor Sister Albana, she really does get the short end of the stick.
  There are some themes that are in this film that should at least be mentioned. The first is the stereotype of the evil midget. Sure the was spurned by Sharon but the theme that small people are devious, lecherous and evil is really quite persistent in our culture. It is undeserved and it really is ridiculous to think that a curse said in anger by a little person could make a woman have an evil little baby. The hallucination Sharon has where the face of her child turns into the midget are just laugh out loud great.
  Another is the idea that the wealthy are less than loving parents. I really do not think this is true but in movies you see it over and over again. The separate room for the baby, the lack of breast feeding, the nanny to care for the child.When are we going to see involved loving parents who have wealth? You would think they don't exist.
 Overall I did not really dig the film but did get some some unexpected laughs. I don't think the movie intended the laughs but they were there. The evil child was not monstrous enough, the parents not likable, the premise thin and in the end no one wins.
Rating ( 3.7) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Naked Evil (1966) Horror Voodoo

Naked Evil (1966) -In a compelling opening scene we open on a man hurrying through the streets of London. (at least I think it is London). The music is up tempo jazz beats as this man Mr. O'Neil we learn when his land lady tries to stop him when he enters the apartment building. She chases him up the stairs all the while shouting for him to stop. He ignores her trying to get in his apartment on the fourth floor and into his apartment before she catches him. She is not what he is worried about though, he seems scared. When he gets his door locked he is in for a start, as on his table is a bottle full of dirt with feathers stuck into the top. It is an Obeah jar, a jar filled with the dirt from a grave and a hex on the person who receives it. As his landlady bangs on the door it shakes the bottle on the table. O'Neil backs against the window the tension high as the jar gets closer and closer to the tables edge. He is terrified, as the jar falls and he appears to be launched out the window. Some nice editing shows him go out the window, then a point of view as he sees the ground coming, then cut to a woman who is hanging clothes only to see the line ripped away and her reaction to seeing the man fall. Then finally the reaction of two boys when they here the body hit the ground. O'Neil is shown dead on the ground before the opening credits roll. As good establishing sequence, even without the plot we know that Obeah magic is involved and that it can be dangerous.
  Now this film has some very questionable racial views by some of the characters. It can be a bit off putting as you watch and I suppose the time period has something to do with that but then there is writer director Stanley Goulder's decision to have a black club owner name the place "Spady's" after himself mind you. That kind of writing decision is so not cool. The story centers around Spady and his gang receiving Obeah jars from a rival gang lead by Lloyd (Dan Jackson), and how it has wreaked havoc with his business. He wants it to stop and soon discovers that the delivery boy Danny (John Ashley Hamilton), is a student at  a local boys school. This school provides the majority of characters and racial attitudes the film shows. Dean Benson (Basil Dignam) has traveled to Jamaica extensively and has come back and administered this school for international minorities. He has some interesting things to say about some of the students. The Sikhs aare nothing but trouble according to him and the Jamaican boys are "As happy as the day is long." He also brought back the old Obeahman Amizan (Brylo Forde) as his maintenance man, but has wearied of him saying "That filthy old wretch has to go. I'm sick of trying to help him."
  The racial attitudes aside the story is not a bad one. Amizan is making the Obeah jars and selling them to Lloyd, and sending Danny out to deliver them. As there has been a death Inspector Hollis (Richard Coleman) makes inquiries at the school where he meets Benson, his assistants Dick (Anthony Ainley who played the master on Doctor Who 1981-89) and Janet (Suzanne Neve) and we learn that Benson too has been receiving the jars. He drowns his sorrows in alcohol on a nightly basis and there are some great scenes where although people do not confront him on his drinking the do make reference to him being under the weather. One part of the story focuses on Benson and he and his group as they deal with the ever increasing Obeah and we eventually get more on that but it takes awhile. The second storyline is that of Danny and the troubles that befall him because of his decision to deliver the jars. Spady is after him and he is a bit of a fall guy. Innocent and naive he just wants to have his girlfriend and make good grade but by the end of the film is framed for murder.
The balance between believing in the supernatural and that's effect on the character and actual magic is explored through out the film. Can a Obeah curse harm someone if the person has no belief in the magic. Or does there have to be a belief to bring about the bad? When the story towards its clmax takes a strong turn into the realm of magic I was a bit disappointed since I like the question of is it real or not more than the answer. The film's conclusion was stated by Father Goodman (Olaf Pooley who also played in Doctor Who in 1970 as Prof. Stahlman)) when he said "Those who do the Devils work forfeit there souls to the Devil and his torments."
  There are a couple versions of this film, Naked Evil, a fully black and white version and a later colorized version called Exorcism at Midnight. In the latter we have added scenes in color of a group of doctors hearing this story from a survivor of the story who as he talks we actually see the black and white film. They do a trick by coloring some of the scenes in a solid color like green or red depending on the emotion the scene is supposed to be projecting. Jumping out of the story a couple times and book ending it to complete the conversion it really is a repackaging of the exact same movie. Overall the film had some obvious flaws but I found it interesting enough to watch and so the rating is just barely a recommend. Viewers who don't like to racial insensitivity should note that there are some minor affronts.
Rating (5.1) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Machete (2010) - Revisited! Action

Machete (2010) - REVISITED! My original thoughts on Machete were blogged after seeing this film in the theater, and are pretty basic, I didn't want to give too much plot away. Now though I think it is time to revisit this film. Stop complaining you have had two years to see this film so while I am spoiling it, just sit there and shut up. If you want to stop reading right here and go see it that would save you knowing all the details. This film is a wild adventure of a man pushed from his life, who has lost everything he loved. He sees an injustice he can fixed, though doing it by agreeing to assassinate someone is a real jump out of being righteous. When his attempt is revealed to be a setup, he must run and survive until he can bring closure to the situation and his past pain. It is a revenge film that is over the top in violence, the bad characters are evil and ugly making Machete's action seem justified. With a strong political message it turned off many right leaning folks but hey, can't please everyone.
  The first thing that had to be done in this film is to establish the main character as one bad assed mother fucker and create the central struggle of the revenge part of the film. Machete (Danny Trejo) is a Mexican Federale and a damn good one. He and his partner drive towards the hideout of some kidnappers and discuss the wisdom of attempting a rescue.  The girl in the house was to be a witness in a case against Mob leader Rogelio Torrez (Steven Segal) and Machete's partner would prefer they did not go in. In fact a call from Machete's Chief (Alejandro Antonio) can not stop him. As he barrels into gunfire and then directly into the side of the building.  No less than three machine guns are blasting away in this first action and remarkably Machete is unscathed while his partner is riddled with bullets. This establishes the fantasy of the film, it is not a realistic walk through the life of a Federale but a hyper-violent hero story where if you are close to the main character your chances of survival are much less than his. At this point you can stop saying, "Oh that would not happen that way! Impossible!" No it is now establish that this is a fantasy story and all your notions of what could happen in reality should be put away
  Machete leaves the vehicle unharmed and begins his walk through the hideout looking for the girl and easily killing any gangster he comes in contact with. Humor is established by having Machete hack the hand of a gun toting thug and then using the gun hand still attached on the next gangster to enter the room. He then looks at the gun and his blade and tosses the gun away as the least effect weapon choice. He is the skilled warrior and like in so many samurai films of the seventies all who come against him perish quickly. The scene where men enter from three separate doorways to surround him only to have a spinning Machete behead them all takes his prowess to a new level.
  Furthering the fantasy elements of the film happens with the finding of the girl, Chica (Mayra Leal). She is sprawled nude on a bed, light dimming the room through the red curtains. Seventies porn music starts in what can only be seen as comical as the sultry vixen attempts to seduce her rescuer. Not only is he to be seen as a bad ass but as a figure of sexual desire. The contradiction between the hard rough looks of Trejo and the response of the beautiful naked girl creates an almost comical juxtaposition. She can't be on the level can she? When he picks her up and throws her over his shoulder his manhood is established completely. So when she double crosses him and stabs him with his own machete in the leg it turns back to the expected reaction to the man. Then, why this scene exists I can not explain, but the Chica pulls a phone from the only place a nude woman would hide it, and calls in Torrez. The sound effect for this was more than a little squirm inducing.
  All of the opening has been an elaborate setup by Torrez with the help of Machete's boss, the chief because Machete will not be bought out.  As he lays on the floor wincing from his leg wound Torrez and the Chief enter to confront the only straight cop left on the force. Offered one last chance Machete balks, and then the reason for revenge. Torrez brings out Machete's wife and beheads her, and then with all the menace that Segal with his horrible acting ability can muster asks Machete something to the effect of  'Is your little daughter at school? I don't think so."  Then he orders the place burned down with Machete in it. Segal probably the weakest link in this film is the baddest of bad guys. A drug dealing murderer who has no tolerance for not getting his way. Unfortunately or fortunately his character is barely developed into anything resembling real menace. He mostly is the  guy on the other end of the call as he works through his partners on the US side of the border and really in the end when he faces off with Machete it is a bit disappointing. Still though Machete seems doomed and has lost his family to this monster so lets reconvene three years later in Texas.
  Machete is working as a day laborer, hanging by the taco truck waiting for a pickup from a local business to come by and choose him for a day's work. How he survived is never explained but considering what an amazing bad ass he is, you could imagine a path of corpses in his wake. The film starts to establish some of the politics of the story. Luz (Michelle Rodriguez) not only sells food from her taco truck but is secretly head of a secret organization called the Network. A loose connection of illegal and legal immigrants who help immigrants cross the border, settle them and get them papers so they can work. Basically trying to do the service that the immigration service does for immigrants who are not from the south and Spanish speaking. She sees the world as exploitative of the illegals who gather for work, on one hand the Americans complain about the illegals but on the other they have no problem exploiting them for cheap labor. In fact many border businesses rely on the low cost of illegal immigration to maximize profit. In the reality of this movie the immigrant is both disdained and desired. Luz is particularly worried about militant terrorist groups that have sprung up to self patrol the border to stop illegal immigration. They are violent and not being controlled by the government. What are they spending their time doing? Well apparently trying to uncover the Network. We join immigration agent Sartana (Jessica Alba) in her car as she watches and makes notes about Luz and her suspicions about the Network. She is the contrast to Luz, a Latina trying to stop illegal immigration of her own people. Alba was not the best fit for the role either, too damn beautiful for my male mind to buy as a tough cop, she does not pull off hard ass well enough to make the role a winner.
  We then get to see the bad guys with a scene on the border following a group of illegals. The scene opens at night on the border. A group of illegals are making their way into the country when they are surprised by the lights of a vehicle. They are stopped by a border vigilante group lead by Von (Don Johnson) and including Senator John McLaughlin (Robert De Niro). Wounding a child and having his pregnant Mother in his sights Von gives his speech about his motives, "I know anybody born here is a citizen just like you and me. I know people will call us vigilantes when its just about vigilance. Somebody has got to keep watch on this great nation of ours, otherwise Texas will become Mexico again..." He then shoots dead the pregnant woman. The response to this comes from State Senator who agrees and kills the kid. The way over the top portrayal is further evidence that the film is intended as a hyper violent fantasy. The vigilantes are the lowest of beings, arrogant in the accident of birth into this country, lacking morals, decency and being the perfect villains for Machete.
  To further the audiences understanding of how bad the State Senator is we see one of his campaign ad. In it he refers to illegal immigrants as parasite, who are sickening the country, leaching off our system and killing the country from the inside. He calls for an electric fence covering the entire border and no amnesty. Considering that, in real life, there are active border patrols by citizens who believe their policy for the border should supersede the government. That they are actively trying to get a wall and no amnesty for illegals, you can understand that having their ideas co opted by these particularly murderous bad guys can be upsetting to them.  They do not see themselves as the same as these characters and probably did not get that this is a fiction where the bad guys are exaggerations in order to build empathy for the main character and his cause.
  There are two main plots that develop in the film. The first is a man on the run story featuring Machete and the second is a subplot where the Network and the vigilantes are moving towards a war. Machete is recruited by McLaughlin's assistant Michael Booth (Jeff Fahey) to kill the Senator, or at least that is what he tells Machete. In reality he wants to set him up as the fall guy in a plot that includes wounding McLaughlin so he can get sympathy and also so he can establish that the illegals are dangerous. All this to further his anti immigrant agenda, but Booth had no idea who he was hiring and it is only through his conversations with Torrez that he realizes he picked a dangerous man. When Machete escapes the setup he is on the run, a wanted man but one who can fight back.
  This first plot follows a easy to follow path, Machete has close calls but through violence and help from the Network and later Sartana and Luz he escapes those hunting for his again and again. All the while figuring out what is going on and how he can counter it to clear his name. The bad guys have a story arc where they start to find out who they are dealing with and then start to turn on each other as the chances of there scheme gets closer to becoming public. We see that Booth and McLaughlin are in with Torrez and that this will bring the mob leader into the states to face off with our hero.
  There are some memorable scenes between the start of the chase and the final battle between the Network and Von's group. Machete wounded is brought to a Network hospital, as Booth's henchmen close in we here the doctors verbose explanation about the length of the human intestine, only to have the main character use one as a rope as he dives from a window to avoid death. Hilarious!
  • There is also a corkscrew kill that is something else. 
  • A reference to "Cheech and Chong" when Machete visits his brother a priest (Cheech Marin) and makes reference to cigars, as Cubans and then Mexican where he shows large joints like in his old comedy bits.
  • In the final battle the  hopping suspension on the low rider that hops up and comes down on a vigilante's head. Wow!
  • Lindsay Lohan in a nun outfit delivering a kill line.
  • The twins from Grindhouse as nurses in the network arriving at the final battle with uzis.
  • Torrez's silly unnecessary death speech.
  Even less believable is that both Luz and Sartana at times are attracted to Machete, Luz after saving him from Booth's men and then later Sartana shows interest also. I guess we are supposed to suspend disbelief in the movie since Machete is such a bad ass but damn he is not an attractive man. I don't care how much machismo you have there has got to be a believability line here somewhere.
  To push the envelope even further Machete gets to Booth's house and finds his wife June (Alicia Rachel Marek) and daughter April (Lindsay Lohan) skinny dipping in the pool. When the seventies porn music queues we see Machete join them in the pool and while filming the whole thing to leave as a message for Booth again he is the masculine lover. At the same time he finds all the video evidence he needs to take down McLaughlin and Booth. Included in this is the video tape of the Senator shooting the immigrant.
  In the end the first plot merges into the secondary story of Luz getting ready to do battle with Von and his vigilantes. Never well defined the Von threat is really not that great but it allows the writers to make statements about immigration policy through the characters. Alba gets to come around to seeing it through the eyes of Luz and actually has the wonderfully ridiculous line "We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us." ridiculous in delivery not in sentiment.
  Machete who ends up with the Network brings them to Von's hideout in a low rider parade that is absolutely outrageous. Stereotype and parody it is a sight to behold. See when people are getting upset about the film you have to know this is a fantasy through and through. It is a wild ride that takes things to the extreme and really all you can say to them is fucking lighten up. In the end the Good guys win, Luz and the Network defeat the evil vigilantes, Machete gets his revenge on Torrez, Sartana comes to see the light and becomes part of the network, Booth and McLaughlin meet their ends as it seems they deserve. Mc Laughlin in particular gets an ironic end that has to be seen.
  Machete Kill the sequel is do out next year and I am sure will go even further. The cast including Charlie Sheen Amber Heard, Mel Gibson, Venessa Hudgens, Sofia Vergara, Edward James Olmos, Cuba Gooding Jr, and Lady Gaga looks to be pushing the envelope even further. So I can't wait for that. Now for rating the film.... I really liked the movie and enjoyed it through and through. Still on a second viewing some of the acting was not as good as I remembered although Jeff Fahey was just great. So I think my grade comes down a bit to a more reasonable number for this hyper violent fantasy romp.
Rating (7.6) 5.0 and up are recommended, some films just more recommended than others.

Monday, September 3, 2012

[Rec] 3 :Genesis (2012) Horror Demon

[Rec] 3 : Genesis (2012) - QUICK HIT! Not a full review but some initial thoughts after viewing this film. Demonic dogs, now that could be really scary. Cujo on a grand scale with a dog in a shelter infecting all the other and then their escape into the world? Oh wait that has very little to do with [Rec] 3. In fact reaching back to the first of the series we are reminded that the dog of the apartment building was taken to the vet with some new new form of rabies, but we later find out that the whole thing started with a possessed girl, then in the second  film of the series we learn it is a new form of demon possession. One person infects another through bites but all who are infected are demon possessed. So the dog was possessed in the first film and this is the connection to [Rec] 3 : Genesis. The vet Uncle Victor (Emilio Mencheta) who worked on that dog was bitten and comes as a guest to the wedding of his niece Clara (Laticia Dolera) to Koldo (Diego Martin).
  After some introductory shots establishing the wedding and some of the guests, as well as the couple camera people, Adrian (Alex Monner) a camcorder holding cousin who is recruited by professional videographer Atun (Borja Glez. Santolalla) to get some candid shots we see the wedding, and the reception where the action will take place. The hand held POV of the first two films is purposely ended in this film. A more traditional film starts up shortly after the action starts in this on. There is even a death of the camcorder scene so the audience will understand we are transitioning from one format to another. It seems like a good decision to stop this as we are always wondering why the cameraman always keeps filming even though in such a dire situation no one in their right mind would. Sure they always trot out, "the people should know" lines but really is that convincing? I would be more impressed if they said, "Hey, I am gong to sell this footage for thousands of dollars if I live through this.". When the film transitions to the standard format it is welcomed.
  The plot is simple enough to set the stage for some crazy infected action, when Uncle Victor sways on the railing above the dance floor suddenly a wonderful party comes crashing to a halt. He immediately raises from his fall and bites his wife when she comes to check on him, all hell breaks loose. Too quickly the bitten turn into demon possessed infected and a bit too fast the party in a chaotic fight for survival. The guests scatter and in the confusion Clara and Koldo are separated. Koldo and the camera toting men end up barring themselves into the kitchen. The escape is harrowing but effective but always someone else is lost in the effort. That is the thing with this type of film. We know that just about everyone is going to get killed at some point it is just a matter of who and when.
  Clara survives also and is smart and lucky enough to get to the PA system to tell her new husband that she is alive and will see him again. Each senses that the other is alive and this really is a love story with the priority for each newlywed to be reunited with the other. Koldo knows where Clara is and now heads towards her. She on the other hand has to flee and a good section of the movie is their attempts to get find each other. In this fight for survival and reunion each has many close calls and gruesome encounters. In fact one of the high points of the film is the special effects, chainsaws and bites are bloody goodness. The gore and also the humor make this film an enjoyable watch. Mixed in with the blood and guts there are several funny pieces, not laugh out loud funny but enough humor to make it interesting along the way.  So the two love birds cut and slash their way until they are finally reunited.
  After the couple is reunited I was a bit dissatisfied by the ending, it was a bit too predictable. One could argue that it could end no other way than it did. The government closed the parameter around the wedding and so we know that leaving will not be easy. In a change from the earlier films the priest who performed the wedding figured out that the crisis was a demon infestation and come up with a novel way to counter it. Certainly this franchise is set up for at least one more episode. In the end though, even with the blah ending I was quite entertained by the film. I look forward to whatever comes next.
Rating (5.7) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others.