Wednesday, January 14, 2009

2 Hours of Blah-chock-guck

Movie • 30 DAYS OF NIGHT • 2007
I should begin by saying I only just found out this picture was based on a graphic novel. It was probably much better presented in that medium, so I’m going to hunt that down, and read that.
I’ll continue by adding that a monster friend of mine told me he saw a version of 30 Days of Night that used subtitles when the vampires spoke. I can imagine that if I knew what these vampires were saying then they would have seemed even less scary. Okay, they were scary, but there were so many flaws in 30 Days of Night, I found myself throwing caramel popcorn at my screen. What a waste of caramel popcorn.
The premise is good. In Barrow Alaska they experience 30 days of night because of the Earth’s axis in their winter. So gypsy vampires come in to fish from a barrel. Two flaws already…
Flaw #1: The sun doesn’t set in this situation as if the last day was full and bright. It’s gradual. And the first sunrise after 30 days doesn’t give you full daylight. I know this because Frankenstein’s monster spent some time in Barrow, and he told me all about it when I was a little corpse.
Flaw #2: These are intelligent vampires. They act savage, but they are intelligent. Ask LilyBat. Their savagery is based on hunger. So, if they take the time to wait until the 30 days of night begins, why would they slaughter everyone they can get their claws on willy-nilly in the first night? That’s wasting food. They should have hunted slowly, so they could savor their cupboard of prey. Maybe having no daytime to sleep drives them batty.
At one point the surviving hiders find a little girl vampire that no one knows. It’s a town of something like 500. They know everyone. It’s safe to say then, this little girl came with the clan. So, why when all the other vampires speak Gluck-chuck-tock-chick does she look up from her midnight snack speaking perfect English to them? “I’m done playing with this one. You want to play with me now?” It was for shock effect, and it failed. Flaw #3.
Flaw #4: 30 days, and no one had to shave?
Flaw #5: At some point the beautiful Megan Franich gets scorched by standing too close to a sunlamp without SPF 50. Yet the rest of the vampires can stand mere inches from a blazing oil fire that engulfs the town without getting so much as a freckle.
Flaw #6: The head of continuity was asleep on the job. At least one vampire who was dispatched of in a way that there is no return shows up in a later confrontation. That’s just plain carelessness.
Now, this is not neccessarily a flaw, but just plain unbelievable. Take care. It’s a spoiler. Highlight to read:
Josh Hartnett does something to fight off the vampires in the end in order to make a diversion so his sweety can escape. he injects himself with vampire blood so he can be strong enough to throw down with the head vampire. Duh. So his strength matches the alpha vampire’s in a few short minutes, but none of the other vampires choose to take him on once he does him in? What is this, Lost Boys lore?
I don’t care to be negative any more. Even with these flaws, I still liked seeing it. I’m reviewing 30 Days of Night as if it was more than a horror movie only because it should have been.
Some things I liked:
The make-up was top-notch.
There was great atmosphere. The distant screams at intervals in the backgound really set the mood.
I caught the Wilhelm Scream at about the 39 minute mark. That was the highlight of the movie for me.

Megan Franich and her sexy blood goatee.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Scale Tipping Horror

In this cautionary tale, The Alligator People, Richard Crane plays a man named Paul Webster who volunteered for experimental treatment after a plane crash. His mangled body heals itself better than any human could because of alligator enzymes in his experimental treatment. But, of course, as with anything experimental in old medicine and old monster movies something goes wrong. Paul is slowly turning into an alligator man.
The story is told through flashback via Paul's wife, Joyce, though she has repressed the memory. She tells the story under hypnosis. It’s really a creative way to make this story more interesting. It comes across as a warning against human testing, and the repercussions of ignoring that warning.
Newlyweds Joyce and Paul Webster are traveling by train on their honeymoon when Paul receives a telegram (ancient form of communication) that changes his chipper mood. He gets off at the next stop, and his wife doesn't see him again… until after years of searching she finds him again. At this point he looks like a pancake batter make-up monster with scales scored into his face.
Eventually, an attempt at a hasty cure is interrupted by an old, drunk man made bitter by a long ago alligator attack that left him one hand short. This incident drives Paul’s metamorphosis into express mode, and he ends up looking like the Gorn from Star Trek.
Except for the costumes and make-up there is very little
camp and cheese here. I can genuinely imagine The Alligator People could be remade in modern day. Not that I don’t appreciate it as is. A modern version would probably be intentionally corny, but it wouldn’t have to be.

Richard Crane just wants a hug.

Lon Chaney, Jr. (credited as Lon Chaney) plays the part of hook-handed Cajun “Manon,” A lovable old coot who is obsessed with harassing gators.
Thanks, Margali for the correction ;)

Friday, January 9, 2009

IT’s the cute, smiley monster from Mars

Movie • IT! THE TERROR from BEYOND SPACE • 1958
As I suspected, IT! The TERROR from BEYOND SPACE was an inspiration for the original Alien. Don’t expect the same kind of terror, though. This creature from Mars has a permanent frown plastered on his face, and that's about as scary as he gets. That's not to say, of course, that this picture wasn't brilliant! IT! The TERROR from BEYOND SPACE was a double feature with The Monster That Challenged The World, and I loved both :) I wish I could turn his frown upside down because he makes me so happy.
An astronaut crew crash lands on Mars in January of 1973… Ooh, fu-ture ;) Edward Carruthers is the only survivor, and is suspected of killing his crew to survive longer. It’s really a simple and believable set-up. His rescuers are bringing him back home to Earth to face trial. We learn this in the press room back on Earth where reporters smoke cigarettes freely in a small room… Blech!
Of course, an emergency air lock is left open by mistake, and our frowny creature sneaks in to hide among the cargo, plotting his viscious attacks for the return trip. Carruthers is subject to accusations and requests of confession early on. I thought it would be good to continue that tension after the creature starts killing, but the rescue crew knows right away that he’s not involved.
After the first victim goes missing, everyone is darting around looking under tea cups for him as if he was an Easter egg. This hour and ten minutes had me chuckling the whole time.
I guess it was a fifties thing, but I had to wonder what a rescue rocket was doing loaded with hand grenades and gas masks. I felt like I was watching Lost for an instant! But then the creature bent a rifle with a wood stock, and I was all better. Chuckles all the way through - including the tetherless space-walk.
IT! The TERROR from BEYOND SPACE was only a little over an hour, so you have no excuse but to give this gem a look-see.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Gastropoda need love too

Thanks, I needed that! After so many modern movies, I was beginning to think I was losing my appetite for monsters and scary. The Monster That Challenged The World revived me ;)
While the monster never actually “challenged” the world (not in a Mr. T way, anyway), it challenged a ragtag group of Navy people. We begin as many black and white monster movies begin: in a documentary style narration using stock military footage for filler and setting.
Then the cheese is served up on a plate, and I gorged myself! It”s funny how obvious it used to be that writers never seemed to be aware that there is protocol in the military.
The atomic age monster makes an early appearance, and sheesh, he’s too cute! Then you find out there are many. A gaggle of cutsey wormy monsters who drink your blood, and leave you looking like a raisin. They would make great pets :)
Take note of the styles scenes that seem to translate directly into Jaws scenes. One in particular comes at the 24 minute mark. It’s almost exactly the same swimming death “tug” scene that happens at the beginning of Jaws.
A young couple out for a swim is lost to the snacking slug in the middle of the night. The monster leaves radioactive secretions wherever it has been, so I was a little confused as to why his secretions would be left near the spot they changed into their suits. That’s exactly the kind of inconsistency that I love about old monster movies. They put so much into the monster, they must have hired writers without continuity experience. Still, The Monster That Challenged The World made my day!

My bonus fun moment to watch out for is the contrived, but charming scene where the autopsy doctor pulls his lunch from the cold drawer where bodies are usually kept.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Wolf bites

Movie • WOLF • 1994
Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of a werewolf in Wolf is simply wonderful, but his performance barely saves this picture. In the end it turns out no better than a rainy day flick for when you don’t have any cookies to bake.
There is an attempt at a classic monster movie opening with the stylized film-work and soundtrack. It almost convinced me that the movie had promise, but it quickly turned into a slowly drawn out action romance. While the “bite” seems reasonable enough, the transformation is slow, albeit realistic. Where was the dramatic movie magic? Even in 1994 special effects were good enough to do a more convincing job.
The plot is a bit more involved than, say, an original Universal monster movie; but it doesn’t make the movie any more appealing. Michelle Pfeiffer was decent, but her strong presence makes it difficult to see her as a distressed damsel. This seems like a mistake, but instead it becomes an obvious hint of what’s to come. James Spader was what he always is… a jerk. I guess he’s typecast.
Forget the animatronics. Poor. The fight choreography was about as good as what you might see on a soap opera. This movie had great potential, but really ended up flopping like puppy ears.

Bonus coolness: Look for the cool skull behind David Hyde Pierce in his opening scene.