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Monday, November 26, 2012

The Food of the Gods (1976) Horror Environmental

 The Food of the Gods (1976) -  This is the stuff I lived for when I was a kid. Although I have no memory of it I have to imagine I saw this movie as a young teen. Fitting into the environment gone wild films of the 1970's this film is a b-movie pleasure I am glad I can now say I have seen. By no means is this a good film. The premise is flimsy, the effects hilarious in their silliness and the climax not so climatic but still I loved watching this movie.Its really a throw back to the mutant monster films of the 1950s, Them! (1954) and Tarantula (1955) and any other number of films. In those films the culprit was radiation but her it is the food of the Gods, an oozing slime from the ground that when mixed with grain makes for some startling results.
  Morgan (Marjoe Gortner) is a star player on a team of ten players, well that is how many guys we see when they are practicing in the establishing scenes.  After some hard practice for the big game the coach tells him he should get some rest and relaxation. It has to be one of the lamest establishing scene I have seen. A five on five drill and then voice over as he is crossing on the ferry to the island.   So he loads up with a couple of his buddies Brian (Jon Cypher) and Davis, who went ahead (Chuck Courtney) and goes off to an island for some rest.The film really wastes no time that one scene and then bam we are ready to go. The premise of the entire film is told to us by Morgan in voice over. He relays that his father said to him, "Morgan one of these days the earth will get even with man for messing her up with his garbage. Just let man pollute the earth the way he is and nature is going to rebel. Its going to be one hell of a rebellion."
 Its a wooded island with a ferry like you would see in Washington state or Oregon or Maine and we see the guys out on horses riding with hunting dogs and a scared deer running this way and that. Davis gets out ahead and immediately we start getting the plot. His horse is spooked and throws him. A buzzing sound makes him look up to see some giant wasps. He screams as he is attacked bringing his friends to the scene. The wasps are gone but poor Davis is a bloated venom filled mess. Morgan heads to the nearest house where he sees a barn and enters. A giant (like 8 feet tall) rooster attacks him and he has to fight and kill it with a pitchfork. When he finally meets the woman who lives at the house, Mrs Skinner (Ida Lupino) his great line of "Where the hell did you get those chickens?" is a memorable one. Very quickly we get the full story. There is an ooze coming from the ground, that when mixed with grain became the food that the chickens ate. They grew very large from it. The Skinner's call it "The Food of the Gods"
  The couple plan to sell the stuff figuring that the world famines will soon be at an end and they will be rich. Here I believe we the audience are supposed to remember that nature is going to rebel. In fact the main story will be about the consequences of this rebellion. While Mr Skinner (John McLiam) tries to get a deal with businessman Jack Bensington (Ralph Meeker), inviting him and his assistant Lorna Scott (Pamela Franklin) to his place. Brian and Morgan have to deal with the dead body of their friend back on the mainland before returning to let the survival story play out. Added to the eventual crew of potential survivors are the unmarried couple, very pregnant Rita (Belinda Balaski) and boyfriend Thomas (Tom Stovall).
  Much of the story from here is interactions with over sized animals, besides the giant chickens,  giant maggots, link inch worms about two feet long, Dealing with the giant wasps nest and mostly the giant rats, dozens of giant rats. The modelling for the animal interactions with humans is pretty flimsy but this is not a great movie so what do you expect. The rats swarming over the little model RV that Thomas and Rita own is just one of the scenes. The Skinners farmhouse is strangely small when compared to the rats. Then when the cast does hand to hand with them the rats seem a bit smaller. Scale it seemed was hard to do.
  While Bensington wants to save the slimy stuff and flee the island it is obvious that this will not happen. He plays the heal that we don't feel empathy for because he is greedy and selfish. Thomas and Rita provide social commentary on out of wedlock marriage. Lorna is the love interest for Morgan our hero, leaving poor the poor Skinners and Brian odd people out. There are elaborate plans to try to fence off the rats but that was destined for failure so in the end there is a lot of Morgan racing around in his jeep before the final sequence and the last survivors are revealed. The special effects of the end of this movie are ridiculously campy and certainly this is not a good movie. It still was a lot of fun to watch and laugh at though. The warning to the world ending is exceptional.
Writer and director Bert I. Gordon who made monster movies as far back as the late 1950s has done it again. He has a group of veteran actors who know how to get the job done. The effects are lousy but, when all is said and done I am recommending this film as campy fun. Not a good film but a silly time you and your friends can sit around laughing at.
Rating (5.0) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others.

Event at the Brattle Theater Cambridge MA

  • Part autobiography, part film book, "House of Psychotic Women" lands at the Brattle Theatre on Saturday night! Author Kier-La Janisse will sign copies as well as present Hitchock's MARNIE, one of the many films that she profiles in her book.

    Not since "Go Ask Alice" have I read such an unprimed, bold statement of an adolescence lost. But Janisse's story -- which charts adoption, abuse, cutting, suicide attempts, parental neglect, juvenile lockdown, and even sleeping in a coffin -- is told in a matter-of-fa
    ct manner. You don't feel pity for Janisse so much as are interested in her intricate and difficult upbringing, and how cinema became her sole form of survival. Without an outlet into fantasy in which she identified with such woman-on-the-edge films as Sisters, All the Colors of the Dark, Marnie, Ms. 45, Carrie, and The Brood, she may not have lived to write "House of Psychotic Women" or "A Violent Professional: The Films of Luciano Rossi", founded CineMuerte Horror Film Festival, or programmed for the world-famous Alamo Drafthouse and FanTasia international film festival.

    If you want a unique cinematic experience and yearn for a fantastic genre book, don't miss this! Also makes a perfect holiday gift for the film fanatic.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Christmas Horror Season!

Well with Thanksgiving over and Christmas next on the calendar I have decided to dedicate the season to Christmas Horror! So for the month of December all the movies I cover will be 1. Horror Movies  2. Set in or around Christmas 3. Featuring a winter Christmas type killer or monster. Any of these features will do. And if you do the same and want to generate a bit more traffic for your site we can exchange links to post during the month. First up for me is Christmas Evil (1980) aka "You Better Watch Out"

So review it yourself or watch something else and send me a link to the review to:  movies at edhovey dot com and I will post your link on my site.

Have a great season!

The Guard Post (2008) - Horror Infection

The Guard Post (2008) - "GP506" original title is for Guard post 506 in the demilitarized zone the "DMZ" in Korea, it is the agreed upon line between the north and the south in their stalemated war from the 1950's. To this day troop man outposts on either side a few hundred yards from one another in a state of vigilance in case the other sides decides the war needs to be finished. This film does not deal with the tension between the two sides of Korea, it is instead an isolated outpost where a virus has gotten in and wreaked havoc on the occupants. The setup is that the guard post has not been heard from long enough that a group of South Korean soldiers are sent in to investigate. When they arrive they find lots of body parts and a man standing with a bloody ax. Shooting him when he fails to respond to calls to lower the weapon his coma makes it hard to piece together what happened there.

  It is the job of the investigator played by Ho-jin Cheon to do just that, to figure out through the written reports, journals and the such what happened at the base. When a second survivor is found played by Hyun-jae Cho the story seems to come together, but everything is not quite what it seems. The film is a bit difficult to follow but not impossible, bouncing between two stories without too much notice. First there is the current story of the soldiers checking out the events of the out post. They have significant political pressures from the outside and bureaucratic tension on the inside to contend with so the investigation is not the smoothest thing happening. Our investigator has the scene of the killing disturbed by a doctor who is there to remove the bodies so the higher ups can cover up the massacre. In this part of the story there are more than a dozen characters all in fatigues and helmets. Then when the film flashes back to the original group there are another dozen characters dressed and heads covered the same way. At times it is hard to immediately follow what is going on. Not to say the film is not watchable, it is very much worth the effort of keeping characters straight.  
 The story unfolds in the past with the three soldiers who go out for a hike and come back ill. They develop rashes and then their behavior becomes erratic and violent. When it leads to death and then the virus spreads to the other men in the company it gets more complicated. The company leader is a government big wig's son. He has been taught by his political Father never to admit a problem but to cover it up and deal with it internally. So instead of getting help the group is isolated and as more men get sick and violent the situation gets out of control. The film does a good job early in this story making the problem seem possibly supernatural. The trance like behavior of the infected men is eerie and the violence shocking in its sudden and brutal nature.
  In the present the second survivor says he is the commander and there is some intrigue when it appears he in the present is still trying to destroy documentation that will tell the full story. When the men of the present day group start coming down with the same sickness, it is a race to try to get to the bottom of the viral outbreak. The underground of the guard post is a labyrinth of corridors and rooms and so there is lots of isolation of the soldiers which lets the virus spread undetected for some time. Add to that a land slide on the road out and the place is physically cut off. As the spread of the virus happens in the present we keep having flashbacks to the past taking that story line further along also. There is a twist that although not giant was good enough to make things interesting. The two stories past and present develop at the same pace so like I said earlier it can be confusing if you are not paying attention.
  Now you have to be willing to read subtitles for this film but I think it is very worth it. It is a mystery with scary scenes and violence and towards the end great tension. The outcome is probably inevitable but still getting there is a well told story. What would you do if you know everyone in your group is infected with a violence hallucination creating virus? I am sure that you will do a similar thing to what happens in the climax of this film as one character is trying to get out while another thinks they should stay. I liked this film it is tense enough and interesting all the way through. So yes I am going to recommend this film it was very enjoyable. Available for free on Amazon Prime instant video.
Rating (6.2) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bikini Bloodbath Carwash (2008) Horror Comedy

Bikini Bloodbath Carwash (2008) - Playing into my need to watch low budget film, this entry is everything I hoped. About a year ago I reviewed Bikini Bloodbath (2006) and although the production values were low, the script was a bit simplistic and well, poor. I enjoyed the fun attitude of the movie enough that when this one came from my Netflix queue I was actually excited. It was everything I expected too, boobs, bikinis comedy, practical effects and fun. The ridiculousness of this film can not be over stated, it is a silly story that sort of takes a similar route as the first film. It is a not a remake but it is a sequel and many of the elements of the first film are again on display.
  The surviving character Jenny ( Rachael Robbins) is back and attending college with her friends. The character played by a completely different actress has transformed from a petite brunette to a buxom blonde and since there are many scenes of the girls in bikinis washing cars the change is not without its strengths. She and her equally well endowed friend Sharon (Natalie LaSpina) have to deal with crass sexually aggressive teachers, Professor Shipwreck (Phil Hall) and Dr Zartan (Dick Boland) while also fending off the male college students. This time all the guys have tee shirts that say "College Student" identifying them so no one will wonder and the two strange guys have "German Exchange Student" shirts. It is a joke from the first film carried over here and somewhat amusing. The guy character have their roles, the foreign exchange students say inappropriate things and dance strangely. The lead student Todd ( Jack Flaherty) is the backup intramural quarterback and has a running gag with throwing a football at inopportune times. His heavy buddy is the queer joke guy Gary (Matt Ford) who continually is catty with the girls while making passes at Todd. I appreciated the reduced amount of gay jokes here, limiting it to just the one character. It works alot better making it a personal between the two characters.
 There is going to be a party on the weekend and everyone is going but first there are classes and work. The girls Jenny and Sharon as well as several others, Lucy (Sheri Lynn), Scarlett (Margaret Rose Champagne) [Wow is that a stripper name or what?] Lonnie (Natasha Nielsen), Mercedes (Sarah Dauber), Sam (Dana Fay Ensalata) and Peaches (Kate Gorman) all work at the local car wash. It is run by the "bitter lesbian" Miss Johnson (Debbie Rochon) who pushes the girls to wear skimpy bikinis and secretly wishes she could frolic with them. Even she is gearing up to attend the party on the weekend. Her character is somewhere between abusive and sad as she seem sexually frustrated surrounded by the clueless beauties. She whole heartedly attacks the role and is very funny through out.
  The problem with sequels is that you have to somehow get the killer, who has been disposed of in the first film, back up and killing. In this case the girls at the party? or just before have a seance and  mistakenly raise the killer "The Chef" (Robert Cosgrove Jr) from his grave. Then there is the slashing and killing at the party always in isolation so that one by one the characters can be killed off. The Chef not as featured as in the first movie does have his moments like when he loses his chef hat.
  The special practical effect are better in this one than in Bikini Bloodbath but still this is a low budget affair so they are not great. Alot though was done with camera angles that hid the fakeness of them. So some kudo to the makers of the film Jonathan Gorman and Thomas Edward Seymour. Also I just thought this was a bit more well presented and it made for an enjoyable watch. There were a couple of drawn out sequences that could have been shortened, the car wash scenes, that are shot music video style, then continuing with the guys coming by to break dance on a piece of cardboard leading into the Michael Jackson knife fight between Miss Johnson and Lucy. The dance scene at the party also goes on way too long but otherwise this fun little film was cool. The gore effects were improved in the film and the music pretty decent too. Overall though I thought it was better staged than the first film in the series.
  Again I have to warn that my glowing review will probably not match the experience of most of you. This is far from a mainstream movie. It is a campy fun independent film made by people who just want and love to make movies. It will win no awards and most people will just think it is stupid, but what do they know? They obviously had fun making it and that spirit comes through but it is thinly plotted and not to the standards of most movie goers. Of course after seeing "The Master" I will take this film and all its brother and sisters before sitting through that piece of shit again. The humor is a bit juvenile and it is exploitative in its approach to woman, gays , men, well just about everyone. Still I thought it was okay being that sometime this is just the kind of film I want to see to pull me from my heavy horror movie queue. So if you are looking for some B movie campy fun check this one out.
Rating (5.6) 5.0 and above are recommended, some more recommended than others.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Blancheville Monster (1963) Horror Mystery

The Blancheville Monster (1963) - This is a tale of a family in transition with a curse that will soon come to pass. Emily (Ombretta Colli) almost twenty one is returning home from college to her castle in Brittany (Northern France). It is 1884 and she comes home after her father has past away. She is sad that she did not get to see him being away when he died. Emily is out of sorts as it seems all the servant she grew up with have all been replaced. Her brother Rodrigue De Blancheville, (Gerard Tichy) is the count of the castle now is hospitable when she arrives with her two college friend. The sister and brother the Taylors,  Alice (Iran Eory) and John (Vanni Materassi) are along to make little couple packets where John shows interested in Emily and Alice shows interest in Rodrigue. Add into this Dr. Lerouge (Leo Anchoriz) showing interest in Alice while a the same time having stealthy cryptic conversations with the housekeeper Miss Eleonore (Helga Line) and you have quite the mixture.
  After the introduction of the players we have some mystery building, the howl of a beast in the night. Too human for the explanation Rodrigue gives of a dog on a stormy night. Still explained away until it is heard again in the night by Alice. There is a really nice tension building scene where she Alice wanders in the night, in her shear bedclothes she walks with a candelabrum, a door slams, music builds, a clock tolls, she follows a noise to a room with the door ajar then the shadow coming closer and she faints. It is a well done scene.
  The mystery for her deepen when she wakes in her bed, everything in the room is where it should be and she has to wonder if it was all a dream. Of course the others talk to her and Rodrigue plays it off as her imagination. Even going up to the tower she sees that everything appears empty and unused. It is a very effective way to pull the audience into the mystery of the place. Rodrigue seems at this point to be the bad guy but you have to wonder about Miss Eleonore and Dr. Lerouge also. Could they all be in league together? What are they plotting?
  We don't have to wait long for answers when Rodrigue spills that their father never died but instead was horrible burned and is mad! He has escaped and wants Emily dead because of a prophesy written in the old family tomb. It says that the family Blancheville will end if the daughter of this generation reaches the age 21. Oh no! poor Emily is only five days away. Now that the basic plot is out in the open there is a lot of distracting the audience with hypnotism and red herring characters. They are very conscious to make sure one character above all others seems like the culprit.
  In the end though it is not too hard to figure out the real villain. Emily is not killed although I don't think I am spoiling anything there. There is some death and some nervous times for Emily and her folk but in the end the demise of the killer is unspectacular. This ends up being a middle of the road horror / mystery that does not hold its own.
Rating (4.4) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Bay (2012) Horror Environmental

The Bay (2012) -We have had many movies through the years that look at harm to the environment having adverse effects for us all. In the 1950s there were tons of movies concerning the affects of radiation from bomb testing. Films like "Them (1954)", "Tarantula! (1955)", and "Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957)", warned of the effects of the abomb. In the sixties and seventies this continued but as time went on the shift away from the bomb and more towards other pollutants took over as the main theme. In "Day of the Animals (1977)" a thin ozone layer from using too much aerosol turned all the animals of the woods against us. "Prophecy (1979)" explores pollution in the Maine wood with a mutant bear. In the eighties we had "C.H.U.D.(1984)" with mutant people living under the streets of NYC. Recently we had The Happening (2008) where the trees got pissed at us and released a toxin that made humans kill themselves. It is a long and storied past of how human pollution has very dangerous and unforeseen consequences. At its core The Bay is a cautionary tale about not thinking through the consequences of our waste disposal and food production methods.
  I know people who saw the film are saying it is a horror movie made in the found footage style that has been so popular as of late. That is true but I still think the message behind it is that we are not paying attention to our impact on the environment. When at some point like in this film it comes back to literally bite us, we have set up a system of government more likely to cover up events than address the underlying systematic problems.
  The plot as told through a collection of expertly edited together found footage is a story of disaster for the small Maryland, Chesapeake Bay town of Claridge. On the fourth of July in 2009 they experience a tragedy so disturbing that the federal government has done everything in its power to cover it up. We learn what happened through the narration of Donna Thompson (Kether Donohue) an intern for the local television station. She and her cameraman were right in the thick of things when they went down. In present day we see her in a Skype call to a "wikileaks" type organization trying to get the footage that was not confiscated by the Feds out onto the internet. We see her story and the story of others through an overly extensive variety of cameras and microphones around the town that day. In fact this film could really be a statement about just how far public surveillance has gone in the last decade. There is no place you can get away from being recorded, at least from what we see in this found footage film. A tip of the hat to the writer Michael Wallach for coming up with so many sources.
  Wallach and Director Barry Levinson do a decent job at finding some compelling stories to follow through the multitude of clips. Although I am not a giant fan of the found footage film there is enough here to keep the viewer interested throughout. Levinson is an established enough director to keep the shots for the most part still. He has directed some very good films including Diner (1982), The Natural (1984), Rain Man (1988), and Wag the Dog (1997) so we know he is capable of doing it well. Why he is slumming on a cheap monster movie makes one wonder what happened to his career.  The editing by Aaron Yanes is sharp enough that the pace is solid. It plays a more important role when it is a found footage film and so some credit is due here.
  The primary problem with the premise these gentlemen have presented us with is that everything is too complete. If the Federal Government came in to confiscate material they sure missed the 90 minutes or so of this film. There is enough material in the footage we see to know that the people in charge of the cover up have done a lousy job of it.  Then also there is the gaping hole of all the people on cell phones throughout the day, talking to relatives in other towns and states. How do you keep those people quiet. I would contend that considering the extremes of what happened that day in the modern world it would be impossible to cover it up. Then the logic of why cover up such a tragedy. Sure it would be a costly to a particular industry to have these events get out but damn you would think that knowing the effects of their dumping would be a lesson for all in the field. Then there are the "too good" captured images and sound, the police car camera that not only pans in on an upstairs window but also seems to zoom in.  Sure you could make the argument that Donna put the images together and made the narrative coherent but it all is a bit too clean. That said lets suspend disbelief and focus on the personal stories told in the film.
  First you have Miss Thompson doing her first field reporting and struggling with her confidence. When rashes start breaking out on the town folk she is on the front lines of an epidemic never seen before.  She and her cameraman move around the town reporting. She captures the mood and then the chaos as the problem grows. We get to know her through her reports and her narration of the film so she ends up a character we can connect to who runs through the entire film.
When people are rushed to the hospital or show up on their own with rashes and aching. We see through Skype conversations between the doctor Jack Abrams (Stephen Kunken) in town and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta we watch the professional Don Donaldson (David Andalman) and his crew try to solve what looks like a mass bacterial outbreak. Problem is that too many people are flooding in while the professionals have no answers. Soon they give us most of the story of isopods and steroids from the chicken plant but it takes awhile and through it all is a compelling story of a community suddenly overwhelmed with a horror they did not foresee.
  The other personal story is of the Stephanie (Kristen Connolly) and Alex (Will Rogers) with their infant child heading to Claridge from a nearby town via boat. Alex swims in the bay which is a real sad thing for him. Their home movie video is personal and touching as we already know what is happening and what will happen to Alex. On one hand we need to see them arrive in town so we can see the carnage of the infestation but on the other they are a really nice couple and the end for them can not be good.
  In the end this is a pretty enjoyable movie, and although I have been saying this a lot lately. It really did not need to be a found footage film. In fact the story was good enough that a straight up scene by scene telling would have worked better. Still give the people who worked on this credit. They made it bearable with lots of stationary cameras and did not force us through a shaky camera hell as some other films in this genre have.  The message of having to pay attention to our impact on the environment can not be put into the either enough so that is also a plus in my book.
Rating (6.1) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Goliad Uprising (2012) Sci-Fi

Goliad Uprising (2012) - When the star of Goliad Uprising, Shannon Larkstarted following me on Twitter I thought it appropriate to review something she is in. This is a risky thing as someone who writes about movies I never expect the people who make the movies to see what I jot down. In fact I am shocked anyone reads my drivel. It also created a dilemma for me, What if I did not like the film? What if Miss Lark was offended by my views. Now certainly I don't know the actress but I would feel horrible if I hurt any feelings. Performance is such a personal act and there is know way to perform without connecting to the piece you are doing so each performance has a place. Still I have studied enough screenwriting to know my way around a script. I am a huge science fiction fan and really wanted to see this film when I read about it. So I am bucking up my courage as a mediocre writer and pushing forward.
  This film if it has not already been submitted should be submitted to the Boston Science Fiction Festival, it will fit right in and the festival is a wonderful opportunity to for films to be seen by hardcore science fiction fans. The Festival is in February so there is plenty of time to submit. Miss Lark is a director, writer, producer and actress is the founder of the Viscera Organization. I first saw her in the dark and wonderfully done film Ludlow by Stacie Ponder.
 The film takes place in the near future where there are security forces controlling the people in their everyday lives. Local and national security forces work to keep order and enforce the smallest functions of daily living. In this society is also the latest technology, the Goliad BCI (Brain Computer Interface) a stylish blue tooth looking device that allows the user direct internet and media access through a connection in the brain. It is the iphone of the time with people standing in line for hours to be the first to receive the new version.
 Like all things technological there is a downside to their existence, in this case the BCI is the first step in controlling the perceptions of those wearing it. Goliad Corporation run by a character we know as Brian is developing a perception modifying software version for the device. Described as being able to change what people think and feel and see. It could make the smog of Los Angeles look like blue sky to those wearing it. The social implications of this software is not lost on this viewer and it is also not lost on our main character Ariel (Shannon Lark).
 After an earlier scene establishing Ariel as part of a group of anti government artists who are hounded by security forces for reading poetry, we get to properly meet the character Ariel looking for her phone in a dumpster. (I meet so many women this way.) David (Aaron Weisinger) a janitor at the Goliad company meets her there and assists in helping her find her phone. It is a clever little sequence where she uses his phone to call hers, but also giving her a number in her history to get back in touch with him later. Later when he receives a text from her to meet he thinks he is getting a date. Showing up it seems he was wrong as she is organizing a reading performance and sending those who received her text to a secret location. She brings him along for the ride forever changing the lowly janitors life.
  Ariel and David need to flee when again the party is raided and in so doing are tied together as fugitives the more they are seen together. David starts picking up that the company he works for has dark plans for the people wearing their device and through the seductive flirtation with Ariel soon is involved with her plans to let the world know. She is a wanted women and he by association is on the run too. They seem to be running out of places to hide as the Goliad BCI's everyone is wearing are putting the idea that freedom of speech is a bad thing. So to say something against the government is attacked by those who are wearing them.
  I found this particular piece interesting, as it reminded me of the time just after 9/11 when the Bush administration and the Republicans were pushing the idea that speaking out against their plans to invade Iraq was "Un-American". Also that criticizing the government was not tolerable either with cages called free speech zones at political events. The passing of the Patriot Act which has curtailed the freedoms of Americans was passed in the years after and has been affirmed by both Democrat and Republican parties since trying to limit freedom of speech as is the idea in this film. The scene where the older woman stands at a press conference, holding an anti BCI sign only to be pulled from the room was so reminiscent of those years. I wondered if the writer / director Paul Bright started coming up with the ideas for this story around that time.
  The weakest part of the script is the idea that transmitting the anti government poetry is the solution to the problem. David risks everything to upload a virus that will allow them to broadcast to all the Galiad headsets this performance piece. Now I am in with most people in seeing art as freeing,  but to think that changing the minds of millions only takes a poem is a bit of a stretch. I had to rewatch looking to see if I missed something but could not find any plans besides the broadcast for this whole plan, Really? You have an opportunity to not only get your message out but to put the idea that people should not ever wear these devices again and you stop at artistic performance? Since they change people's perceptions you can make them repulsed by the idea that these things should be worn but instead it is art war? I have to say I did not like that idea.
  I did like the relationship twists of Ariel and Brian (Played by the writer), and of Helen (Cynthia Schiebel) and Michael the workers at the Galiad software division. I also got the idea that Paul Bright has worked in the software field. Being a software QA engineer myself I appreciated the very clear development processed they used at the company. The command to know about IP masking, proxy, and geolocation was also appreciated. I also laughed out loud when Brian Tells Helen to take a risk and get the new version of the software released without QA. Okay enough computer geeking out.
  This seemed like a very low budget production, with the primary gimmick to make us think that it is not present time is that a lot of people wear hats and gloves. I found it a bit distracting and it was probably not necessary. Some of the set design also stuck out, from plastic being hung around the house parties to the T-shirts pinned to the wall in Davids bedroom. I wished more though was put into this aspect of the film. By the way no guy is going to pin a tee to his bedroom wall that says "Our dreams are beautiful, our fate is sad."
  The character development worked for the most part with solid enough acting from the main players. The idea of David taking care of the mouse seemed well thought out in seeing him as a caring individual in a cruel world. Lark was impressive in her seductive manipulative role. She needed to breathe sensuality while playing on the emotions of David and I think she pulled it off. Some of the dialog was uneven between the characters but I wondered if it had more to do with the writing. Dialog is such a hard component of screen writing  and where these characters were getting to know each other while pushing forward a lot of information it made some of the emotions of the characters seem uneven. Moving from one emotion to another too quickly is probably how I would put it.
  Overall I liked the film but the weak central solution and low production values will hurt it with larger audiences. People looking for really polished cinematography and set design will have a hard time watching this. So this will barely get a recommend from me since the primary sci-fi ideas are solid and the twists pretty decent. What's the difference between a film running through the genre circuits and a nationwide hit? About 60 million dollars.
Rating (5.5) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Venomous (2001) Horror Snakes

Venomous (2001) -Well another snake movie this one in the guise of an epidemic film. There has been a lot of these lately and I make no apologies for that, although my views has suffered because of it. I guess snakes are not the new zombies. This one with the always interesting Treat Williams takes place in the California desert and it is a wild adventure ride. Let me not get ahead of myself though, first the setup.
  The opening scene has a scientist Dr Dutton (Marc McClure) help two people he thinks are reporters, into his secret base in the Mojave desert Dept. of Defense research facility. He brings them into a room where there are lots of rattle snakes in cages, and talks to them about how they are doing gene splicing with infective agents. He thinks he is being a whistle blower and setting them up for a great story. What he doesn't know is they are actually Iraqi terrorist here to fight for their homeland. When they see the snakes the two kill Dutton and a couple other people before dying in a shootout outside. The bomb they left behind explodes blasting the building open and releasing all the dangerous snakes.
  The film picks up ten years later in Santa Mira Springs CA. There have been quite a few small earthquakes and we see from shots of rattlers under ground that the shaking is making them active and has them leaving their lairs. Local mechanic Bob Jenkins (Lee de Broux) has to head into town so he calls his dog Gertrude in from the desert. Poor dog is bitten by a rattler on the way in, but Bob does not notice the bite while petting the dog. Sad news for old Bob because on his way into town he suddenly gets ill and collapses in his truck.
  This brings him to the hospital and Dr. David Henning (Treat Williams) and he just doesn't know what is causing the illness. When Bob quickly dies, David calls his wife in Maryland a worker for the Dept. of Defense Virology Research Center asking if she could run some more sophisticated blood test on a sample he will send. They set up that David and wife Susan (Mary Page Keller) are breaking up, hell she is already using her maiden name again. Later when she calls back it is a brand new virus, and she says she will take it to her superiors.
Another case comes in Billy (Brian Poth) who was bitten by a rattler, that fool gets the anti-venom and then heads to his job at the local diner. Cooking for a good portion of the town mean the virus is about to spread really fast. It is not long before people are pouring into the hospital sick and quickly dying. This is a full blown epidemic and so far all the pieces are not in place to be sure it is the rattlers although Henning does have the idea as a possibility. He send more samples to his wife but then a twist happens.
  Her boss Gen Arthur Manchek (Geoff Pierson) knows what this knew virus is but he is not talking. Since we had the opening scene we can put two and two together and see that he and the DoD covered up the escaped snakes ten year before. This virus we learn is similar but not an exact match so breeding in the wild has changed it a bit. So if they deal with this event and send in a cure there will be all kinds of questions that may expose him and his boss Major Gen. Sparks (Tony Denison). They can't have that so they intercept the next shipment of blood samples from Santa Mira and replace them with blood containing e coli. This of course throws the search for a cure for a loop.
  The evil of these guys is not limited to blood samples though. They take the next step which is to quarantine the town and begin lobbying the White House to firebomb the whole area. They figure if they get that option although it will kill everyone in the town it will also kill all the snakes and they will continue to cover their asses. So to help with the lie they tell the Presidents chief of staff that everyone is the town is dying of a mysterious virus and they have to act fast.
  Meanwhile Henning is coping and figuring out that the snake bites and close proximity to someone who was bitten is how the virus is spread. Susan rushes back to the town and soon is working with him to figure out an antiviral medication they can manufacture to save the town. Mixed in with this is snake collecting to milk venom, more victims, people trying and failing to get out of the quarantine, soldiers hassling citizens, and the ever recurring earthquakes, where each time the ground rumbles we get shots of underground snakes breaking out of the ground coming right at the camera fangs bared.
  So the two tracks of the movie are established, the doctors seeking a cure but being hampered by a Department of defense determined to firebomb the region, a thing they call directive 712. It all comes together as the cure is found, but at the same time the Generals lie to the White House and say everyone in town has died of an ebola type virus and the only way to be sure the virus does not spread is to go ahead with directive 712. They get the okay and have to do everything in their power to make sure the media just outside the quarantine zone don't see anyone alive. The plane is in the air when our hero doctors try to make sure Horton hears a who.
  This film overall is pretty lame, sort of a TV movie with decent acting but nothing challenging or surprising. It plays out just as expected even the relationships which were so blatantly set up turn out as expected. The effects with some live snakes but more silly looking rubber ones were disappointing. There were the requisite number of close calls and family and friends sick, to set up a race for the cure but at every step you saw it coming. So I don't think I can recommend this film although I thought it was at least a more complex script that Snake Island (2002) don't go out of your way to find it.
Rating (4.3) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others.