Tuesday, November 30, 2010

'Zombie Cop' should stay in the grave

Zombie Cop (1991)
Starring: Michael Kemper, James Black, Bill Morrison and Ken Jarosz
Director: Lance Randas (aka J.R. Bookwalter)
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

Dr. Death, a psychopathic, drug-dealing, child-murdering Voodoo shaman (Black), kills and curses his nemisis, a police detective named Gil (Kemper), causing him to rise from the grave and walk the Earth as a self-aware zombie. With the help of his former partner (Jarosz), the undead cop sets out to find a way to undo the curse and stop the evil of Dr. Death once and for all.

"Zombie Cop" is one of those sad movies that has a fun idea as its origin point, but which is so badly executed that it's hard to even give the creators the consideration they're due for even making the attempt. Some amateurish productions still manage to succeed on raw talent... but there doesn't seem to be much talent here, raw or otherwise.

(Yes, James Black went onto be part of some pretty high profile projects--as well as more movies will Bookwalter--and he's put on some good shows, but this film is the very definition of "inauspicious beginnings". Not to mention unprofessional beginnings if you can trust the audio commentary by producer/director J.R. Bookwalter. Apparently Black was just making up his lines and character as he went without having even read the script. If this is true, it explains some of the illogical and disconnected "facts" Dr. Death reveals about himself as he rambles on.)

Aside from the awful acting, weak camera work, bad editing and atrocious musical score, the film is padded with the obligatory driving scenes and overlong build-ups to the action scenes. Bookwalter also pads his film with the absolute worst of padding sins... on more than one occasion he included what was obvious intended as two different takes of the same scene, with the actors delivering their lines and/or doing their actions more than once as the camera kept rolling. The most blatant of these is the scene where the heroes are reviewing the facts they know about Dr. Death... and they have the same exchange with some slight variations twice in a row.

All of this padding is in a movie that barely clears sixty minutes worth of running time. "Zombie Cop" truly is 35 minutes of excitement crammed into 60 minutes of running time.

And I haven't even touched on the incredibly offensive "comic relief character" in the form of a badly written and performed even worse stereotypical "towelhead" convenience store clerk. This element of the film was so lazily and cheapily done that the white guy in black face trying to pass himself off as a Hindu is literally wearing a towel on his head. As regular readers know, I'm not one to take offense at cartoony ethnic characters, but this one is so badly done that it offended me in every possible way. I almost knocked the film down a point just for that character, but decided that it was a symptom of the overall awfulness of the script and just let it go.

As bad a job as Bookwalter and friends do with this movie, they do manage to get a few things right... and these things keep the movie at the bottom end of a 3 rating.

I appreciate the fact that the production crew was intelligent enough to look at their resources--both financial and talent-wise--and create the movie's effects and action scenes accordingly.

Clearly, no one on the film was much of a make-up artist... and, even more clearly, there was neither the time nor the money to apply even the basic make-up that would have made the zombie cop seem convincing as a walking dead man to the audience. So, they took the very intelligent step of wrapping him up like a mummy, thus avoiding the need for make-up entirely except in two scenes.

Also, no one on the film was much of a fight choreographer, nor were any of the actors particularly skilled at stage fighting, so the fisticuffs were kept to a minimum and attempts at creative editing was used to make the fights and the violence seem exciting.

Still, the number of things they got wrong far outnumber the things they got right. Even the director/producer himself acknowledges this is a pretty awful movie, as he reissued it on DVD as part of Tempe's "Bad Movie Police" series. This series consists of films directed and/or produced by Bookwalter in the 1990s and it purports to be "evidence" against cinematic terrorists that have been collected by a special branch of law enforcement devoted to protecting the public from unwatchable movies.

While it's great that Bookwalter can laugh at himself (and make a few more bucks in the process), it isn't enough to make this movie worth your time. It's not so bad it's good... it's just bad.

Monday, November 29, 2010

'The Skeleton Key' is worn-out and cliched

The Skeleton Key (2005)
Starring Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, Peter Sarsgaard, and John Hurt
Director: Iain Softley
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

Caroline (Hudson), a hospice nurse with personal issues, is hired to help an elderly woman (Rowlands) with her dying, paralyzed husband (Hurt). They live in a creepy old Southern mansion, deep in the bayou, and surrounded by even creepier villages. Caroline soon discovers that there is more going on in the creepy house than meets the eye and that the man she is tending to is more likely the victim of a magical curse than a stroke. Soon, this young non-believer is drawn into a world of folk-magic, curses, and southern discomfort!

"The Skeleton Key" does a nice job of drawing the viewers into the strange environment into which Caroline enters, and it does a fine job at pacing the story, but when it comes to staying involved with the story, viewers have to be willing to accept the fact that everything Caroline does is dictated by plot concerns and horror movie "stupid character" cliches. If viewers don't mind a character who lives her life by "Things Every Horror Movie Character Must Do in Order to Live Up to Bad Writing Principles," the suspense in "The Skeleton Key" never lets up.

When it comes down to it, "The Skeleton Key" is yet another paint-by-numbers supernatural thriller that brings nothing new to the table. It could almost have been a neat film like "Cursed," except that it uses too many of the cliched elements badly. Caroline's behavior and actions is the most glaring of these. The "twist ending" is also so well-worn that I can't comment on it without spoiling the entire movie... but I could have done without it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Saturday Scream Queen: Molly Ringwald

Molly Ringwald is a talented actress with more of a talent for crying than screaming. She was at the height of her fame and acting career when she starred in the 1980s classic teen romantic comedies "The Breakfast Club", "Pretty in Pink", and "Sixteen Candles". She struggled to make a successful transition into adult roles, but she eventually managed to get her acting feet back under her and currently stars in the ensemble series "The Secret Life of the American Teenager".

Along the way, she made several thrillers and a couple of horror films in which she was the best thing they had going for them. She starred in the Australian slasher flick "Cut"; the black comedy "Office Killer", the thrillers "Teaching Miss Tingle", "Malicious", and "Requiem for a Murder"; and the first television mini-series based on Stephen King's "The Stand".

Ringwald's only announced current project is "The Secret Life of the American Teenager", but hopefully she will return to horror films and thrillers soon, because she was the only decent thing about several of the ones she appeared in.

'Cut' doesn't make the grade

Cut (2000)
Starring: Molly Ringwald, Frank Roberts, and Kylie Minogue
Director: Kimble Rendall
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

Scream Queen and TV actress Venassa Turnbull (Ringwald) returns to finish a slasher flick that saw production stop after one of the actors went nuts and murdered the director and tried to kill her. As the new crew of film-students (including one played by pop star Kylie Minogue) looking to make a name for themselves start production in an isolated area on the outskirts of one of Australia's big cities, someone dressed in the costume of the film's burn-scarred mad killer starts butchering them, one by one.

If most of that summary sounds familiar to you, then that's because there's nothing new that this film brings to the table--other than having Ringwald in a rather amusing role as an actress whose demands and ego outstrips her starpower. What's worse, the film, probably in an effort to offer what the script writer felt was deep and insightful commentary, presents us with the rather foolish notion that the film and all its prints are cursed--whenever they're screened, the shears-wielding killer manifests himself in the real world, brought forth by all the "creative energy" put into making the film. Why are the prints cursed? Who knows? The film doesn't bother to provide an explanation that seems credible. Maybe the filmmakers were trying to be satirical--Ringwald's character and some of what the film crew do get up to some funny stuff--but whatever their intent, it's obscured by a script that's bad in just about every way.

While refreshingly light on "stupid character syndrome," and filled with a cast of attractive and talented Australian actors and actresses, not to mention plenty of gore and the always enjoyable Ringwald, the script is both so tired AND ludicrous that "Cut" is a must-miss unless you're a hardest of hardcore slasher flick fans.

(I saw a reference somewhere that this film was planned as the first of a trilogy ala "Scream." Since it's been ten years since "Cut" was released, it's safe to assume that it didn't make a enough money to warrant a follow-up. That's a shame, because there are far worse movies that have spawned sequels.)

Friday, November 26, 2010

'Dream Stalker' is not worth losing sleep over

Dream Stalker (1998)
Starring: Valerie Williams (aka Diane Cardea), Mark Dias, John Tyler, and Pamela Hong
Director: Alan Smithee
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

As Brittany (Williams) tries to move on following the accidental death of her violent and domineering boyfriend (Dias), he reaches out from beyond the veil of death to make sure that if he can't live with her than no one will.

"Dream Stalker" deals with the ultimate possessive boyfriend... one whose domineering ways isn't even stopped by death. It is fairly good when compared to other ultra-low budget horror flicks shot on video. The acting is slightly better than average, the camera work is mostly okay, and what effects and make-up it features aren't bad either. The pacing is mostly pretty good, and, although the script could have done with another draft or two to make the dialogue a little better, there aren't too many characters behaving stupidly or illogically due to plot dictates.

That said, the film is marred by some of the worst sound work I've ever witnessed. In several scenes, the dialogue is drowned out almost completely by background noise, as if the crew was using microphones on their video cameras instead of mikes on the actors or booms. It's certainly obvious that the filmmakers never heard of the concept of tracking/rerecording dialogue in post-production.

Even with that annoying techincal flaw, "Dream Stalker" might have earned Four or Five Stars if the last quarter of so of the story hadn't started to fall apart when it should have been building to its climax; it was almost as if the writer or director traded in story for wild hacking and slashing.

Trivia: Alan Smithee is the name a director puts on a film when he wants to disavow himself from it. Someone didn't like the way "Dream Stalker" turned out so he or she is probably thrilled the film will probably never make the transition to DVD!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

'The Reptile' is Hammer at its most gothic

The Reptile (1966)
Starring: David Baron, Jennifer Daniel, Noel Williams, Jacqueline Pearce, and Michael Ripper
Director: John Gilling
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

A retired military officer and his wife (Baron and Daniel) inherit a cottage in a small Cornish village after his brother dies under mysterious circumstances. When he moves there with his wife (Daniel), he discovers that there has been a rash of deaths and that all of them can be attributed to a rare poisonous animal found only in far-away India. The obvious perpetrator behind these dastardly deeds is the reclusive doctor of theology (Williams) who has made a career out of studying obscure religions in the Far East and who keeps his daughter a virtual prisoner in their manor house. But throw in a mysterious swarthy fellow, the daughter’s strangely hypnotic effect on her father when she plays the sitar, and things are a little less clear. Will the newly arrived couple’s only ally in the area (Ripper) help them stop the spreading evil before it consumes them all?

“The Reptile” is the most strongly gothic-in-genre of all the Hammer horror flicks. There’s the ogre-like father and the oppressed daughter; there’s the mysterious Outsiders who are bringing a corrupting influence to wholesome British society, and there are curses and victims and victimizers who may not be what they seem. It’s a well-mounted film that contains several moments of genuine chills.

“The Reptile” would have gotten an 8-Star rating if not for the inexplicable over-acting displayed by all the principles in the first half of the movie; inexplicable because the leads in the film director John Gilling helmed immediately prior to this one (“Plague of the Zombies", which even used many of the same sets) was blessed with beautifully restrained performances that made the film even creepier and more believable. It’s even odder because Michael Ripper gives the same type of understated performance he did in “Plague.”)

As the film evolves, the over-blown performances start to fit with the tenor of the going-ons, but they seem so out of place early in the film that it’s an irritant. The movie’s resolution is also a bit weak, with the title creature going down without much of a fight. The combination of the overacting in the first reel and the shaky climax were enough to knock off a Star. Still, it’s an entertaining film if you enjoy Hammer-style movies or gothic tales.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mr. Karloff

In celebration of Boris Karloff's birthday, I present a review of one of last great screen appearances. For more reviews of films featuring this great actor, visit The Boris Karloff Collection.

Targets (1968)
Starring: Boris Karloff, Tim O'Kelly, Nancy Hsueh and Peter Bogdanovich
Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

As aging horror movie star Byron Orlok (Karloff) prepares to announce his retirement, a seemingly average young man, Bobby (O'Kelly), embarks on a killing spree. The creator of make-believe monsters and the real-life monster come face to face when Bobby's day of terror culminates with a sniper rampage at the drive-in where Orlok is making his final public appearance.

In "Targets", Bogdanovich expertly interweaves two storylines that only really connect in a single scene at the film's climax. In the process, he manages to build a tremendous amount of tension, because we come to like and care about Orlock, his secretary (Hsueh), and the young writer/director (Bogdanovich) who is trying to convince him to make at least one last movie--his movie. The audience can see that these three characters are going to walk head-long into Bobby's gun-sights, and Bogdanovich establishes that he is a good shot.

Although the entire film is perfectly paced, well-acted--with Karloff in particular shining, despite his health being poor at the time--and looks far better than the shoe-string budget it was shot on should allow, it's the scene where the two stories finally completely merge, with Orlok and Bobby confronting each other that really makes the movie for me.

This is a film that's definately worth seeing for fans for suspense and horror movies and admirers of Boris Karloff. It's the last good movie in Karloff's career and like so many of his films it holds up spectacularly well.

As I make this post, "Targets" is officially unavailable commercially. A few copies may still be had at retailers and you want to make sure you get the "Paramount Widescreen Collection" DVD version of the film. That disc includes an interview with Bogdanovich. It gives some fascinating insights into how the movie came to be. It's a very different film than it started out as--a throw-away Roger Corman production made to fulfill Karloff's contractual obligations to the producer--and it's a story that illustrates that pure business decisions can sometimes lead to great art, even on shoe-string budgets and tight shooting schedules.

Monday, November 22, 2010

'Devil Hunter Yohko' is weakened
by too much sexual content

Devil Hunter Yohko, Episode One (1991)
Director: Katsuhisa Yamada
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

In "Devil Hunter Yohko," a typical (well, typical for late 80s/early 90s Japanese cartoons) 16-year-old girl discovers that her birthright and duty is to assume the role of "devil hunter" and turn back an impending demonic invasion of Earth.

"Devil Hunter Yohko" is an early 1990s direct-to-video animated series from Japan. There are some glimmers of cool ideas in the 45-minute first episode, but they are overwhelmed by a crass, hypersexual attitude that runs through the story. The episode starts with Yohko waking up from a prophetic wet dream, and it continues through her friends being corrupted by "lust demons" who want to make sure she loses her virginity before she awakens to her devil hunter powers--because they only manifest if the girl is pure in mind and body. That stuff is sort of tasteless and leads to a softcore cartoon porn scene between a couple of teenaged characters--one of them possessed by a demon--but the show is very crass and tasteless in its portrayal of Yohko's mother who seems to want to see her daughter sleep with any available male... doesn't care who, so long as Yohko is spreading her legs.

Although I imagine that this series would be highly placed on any Top Ten Anime Series list compiled by Gary Glitter or Roman Polanski.

I am not a prude, but the sexual references and themes in the first episode of "Devil Hunter Yohko" were just too tasteless for me. I understand the series gets better, so I may give the next installment a try.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saturday Scream Queen: Hazel Court

British actress Hazel Court brought beauty, grace, and even a little menace when she starred in a string of horror and suspense movies between the years of 1952 and 1964, after which she retired from acting to focus  on her family and a career as a sculpture. Before appearing in "Ghost Ship" (1952), she had been on  the path to be a more traditional leading lady-type actress, but horror fans are forever grateful for the turn her career took at that point.

Among the two dozen or so horror pictures she appeared in are superb films like "The Curse of Frankenstein" and "Masque of the Red Death" and "classics" like "Devil Girl from Mars."

Hazel Court passed away in 2008 at the age of 72.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's not always the hitcher who's dangerous

Road Kill (aka "Road-Kill U.S.A.") (1994)
Starring: Sean Bridgers, Andrew Porter, Deanna Perry, Nick Searcy, Jeff Pillars, and Andy Boswell
Director: Tony Elwood
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

Josh (Bridger), a naive kid hitchhiking his way to California, is picked up by a couple (Perry and Porter) who are murdering and robbing their way across the United States.

"Road Kill" is a strange movie. I'm not entirely sure what the overall point of it was, but my enjoyment in watching came from guessing when Josh, who must be the most sheltered of sheltered small-town boys, was going to realize there was something seriously wrong with the people he was traveling with. I also got a kick out of the way the film drifts further and further into a reality that exists separate from anywhere else, a place when the mad-dog killers and their clueless passenger can pick up a hitchhiking clown (literally... with balloons, big shoes, and full facepaint) in the middle of nowhere!

I'm hesitant to say much more about the actual content of the film, as it's one of those movies that's best experienced with an unbiased mind... my summary above may even give away a little too much about the flick. Think of it as "The Hitcher" in reverse--the innocent sap is picked up by the maniac instead of the other way around--but with more humor and far stranger. (And with a creepier death scene... one of the victims is murdered by having his nose and mouth super glued shut!)

This is the third movie I've seen by Tony Elwood, and it confirms without a doubt that he is a master of making low-budget movies with nasty edges to them. If you want to see a film that truly embodies the "grindhouse" vibe that everyone was talking about a few years back--and which is being dragged out again in the context of the "I Spit On Your Grave" remake--and you want to make sure you're not subjecting yourself to complete and utter crap, you need to get a copy of this film, the underrated horror classic "Killer" (review here), or Elwood's most recent film "Cold Storage" (review here). He has a great eye for how to set up a scene, and he knows to get the most drama and suspense out of what he has to work with. And in a picture where much of the action is fairly static--there are a lot of conversations in cars and hotel rooms--this is a valuable ability.

"Road Kill" is a quirky thriller that's definately worth a look. The low budget origins of the film are visible at times--there are some issues with sound quality and color correction here and there--but the film offers more than enough excitement and content in other areas to make up for such minor blemishes. With a clever and strange script, a cast of decent actors--Andrew Porter as the psychotic driver Clint, Jeff Pillars as a slimey hotel owner, and Nick Searcy as a clown that I think any of us might want to kill if subjected to him, are especially effective in their roles--and some gruesome death scenes, it's a ride you should take.

For more information on this and other films by Tony Elwood, visit the website for production company Synthetic Fur by clicking here.

Speaking of production companies and distribution, I found it extremely amusing to compare the current DVD cover artwork with the original VHS artwork that distributor API promoted it with. Here they are, side by side.

While I love the sort of art on the right--as anyone who worked with me when I've been in positions to commission artwork for covers and interior illustrations--one has to wonder exactly what movie the artist was painting this image for. While if you squint and turn out head at a sharp angle, you can kinda-sorta see the characters from the film, nothing else in that picture reflects what's in the movie. The big-head photo montage from the DVD release actually captures the mood of the film more accurately. (And, yeah, I used a non-representative picture as the main illo for this article, but that's because I was unable to get any screen captures I liked from the DVD.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

'Little Corey Gorey' should be avoided

Little Corey Gorey (1993)
Starring: Todd Fortune, Pat Gallagher, Brenda Pope, and Greg Sachs
Director: William Morroni
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

A high school student (Fortune) who suffers non-stop abuse at the hands of sadistic stepmother (Gallagher) and stepbrother (Sachs) finds freedom from torment through a string of mishaps and murders. But will he also find romance with the school slut (Pope)?

"Little Corey Gorey" is an attempted dark comedy that does everything wrong. It's got a bad script that is a chaotic mess with several subplots that don't amount to anything, it's got a cast of actors that range from weak to awful, indifferent camerawork, virtually bloodless murders (despite the implication in the title and the fact they're committed with chunks of glass, a table saw, an ax, and a car), and some very bad re-dubbing of scenes at many occassions.

It's a film that's only fit for a bad movie night. However, the characters, their actions, and the bizarre, twisted modern-day fairy tale vibe that echoes through the film are sufficiently strange to make it a perfect candidate for such.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Independent film seeking distributor

Producer Matt Compton dropped me (and several others) an email to call attention to "Midnight Son", a vampire movie that is currently in the final stages of production, but still without a distributor.

Compton describes the movie as "a gritty, realistic new look at the vampire genre."

Here's the preview for the film, currently found on YouTube:

It certainly looks interesting to me, and I hope that I'll be able to see the full movie some day. But with the economy as it is and the ongoing contraction of the home video rental stores, I can only imagine how hard it must be to get an independent horror film in front of audiences while making sure you, your actors and crew, and your investors get paid at the end of the day.

For more information about "Midnight Son," click here to visit the official website.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday Scream Queen: Debbie Rochon

Since her film debut in the late 1980s, Debbie Rochon has been a familiar and much-loved face (and body) for watchers of cheap horror movies and even cheaper erotica. She has appeared in over 160 films from the likes of Lloyd Kaufman, Charles Band, JR Bookwalter, and John Bachus. From soft core porn spoofs of popular horror movies, to slasher films, to thrillers, to sci-fi, Rochon has appeared in just about every conceivable kind of low-budget movie. Her better roles so far have been in the films from Band and Kaufman, however.

Now in her 40s, Rochon remains one of the busiest Scream Queens working today. She is featured in 15 forthcoming films that are in varying states of completion, such as "Mark of the Beast, an adaptation of a Ruyard Kipling story in which she co-stars with Ellen Muth; and "Don't Look in the Basement!", a remake of the 1970s proto-slasher flick.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Japanese demons run wild in 'Ninja Wars'

Ninja Wars (aka "Death of a Ninja", "Iga Magic Story" and "Black Magic Story") (1982)
Starring: Hiroyuki Sanada, Noriko Watanabe, Akira Nakao, Jun Miho, Mikio Narita, Noboru Matsuhashi, and Sonny Chiba
Director: Mitsumasa Saito
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

A feudal warlord (Nakao) allies with a demon (Narita) and the five monks in his service after it is prophesied that if he wins the heart of a beautiful princess (Watanabe), he will someday rule the world. To ensure their success, the demon monks kidnap the princess's virginal twin sister (also Watanabe) who was being secretly raised as a ninja, and from whose tears they hope to brew a love potion. But they didn't take her fellow ninja and sweetheart Jotaro (Sanada) into account, nor the ferocity with which he would attempt to rescue his love.

"Ninja Wars" is a big-budget, epic fantasy movie set during the Warring States period of Japan's history. It's got a wild, twisting and turning plot that the above-summary only touches on part of, because to say more would ruin some of the film's surprises. It's got romance, spectacular battles, and black magic applied in bizarre ways. It's got pure-hearted virgins, brave ninjas, honorless nobles, and Samurai who are more than what they seem. It's a film that will surprise you, because scene after scene will have you saying, "No... they didn't just do THAT, did they?!"

The version I watched (which was titled "Death of a Ninja") featured some dodgy dubbing--with weak acting and clearly mistranslated dialogues--but the superior quality of the film still shined through that hobbling. It's nearly perfectly paced, and it keeps the viewers attention through fast action and a steady stream of unexpected developments. The only two things that annoyed me about the film was a flashback sequence that flashed back to things we had just seen on screen some ten minutes earlier, and the somewhat unsatisfying ending. (It's a fitting end, but it wasn't strong enough for my tastes.)

Fans of tales set in 15th through 17th century Japan, fans of Samurai epics, and fans of quirky martial arts and fantasy movies should find much to enjoy here. And horror fans will certainly enjoy the bizarre demonic machinations and certain shocking scenes I don't want to detail, because I will spoil their impact.

The deadliest of blogathons....

Saturday, November 6, 2010

'Suburban Sasquatch' is great gory fun

Suburban Sasquatch (2004)
Starring: Sue Lynn Sanchez, Bill Ushler, Dave Bonavita, and Juan Fernandez
Director: Dave Wascavage
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

If you like old time comedies, horror movies and adventure flicks like I do, you've undoubtedly noticed that extremely fake-looking gorilla suit that seems to appear in every third movie from the 1930s and early 1940s.

Well, sixty-plus years later, the old monkey suit appears to still be in service. You can see it on display with some minor alterations in Dave Wascavage's "Suburban Sasquatch"!

In "Suburban Sasquatch", a Sasquatch (aka a Bigfoot if you're in the American Northwest, or Abomniable Snowman if you're in the Himilayas) goes on a rampage in a new housing development, because humanity has either encrouched too close to its natural habitat or because the hairy beast has a personal vendetta against John Rush (Bovavita), a police officer who moved to here after Bigfoot killed his wife some years ago. A young Native American, Talla (Sanchez), is equipped with magical arrows and handaxes and set to kill the beast before the life-force he's absorbing from his victims make him unstoppable and unkillable. Along the way, she manages to find love in the form of a reporter (Ushler) who is also on the trail of the Sasquatch.

"Suburban Sasquatch" is a campy, low-budget monster flick that brings to mind numerous drive-in movie "classics" and a number of B-movies from the 1940s and 1950s--and not just because of the cheap gorilla suit that serves as the Bigfoot costume in the flick. The acting is as bad as it was in most of those flicks, the special effects are as dodgy (even if they're 21st century dodgy... such as CGI effects that are so horrible they've obviously been MADE to be horrible), the story poorly thought out, the dialogue is delightfully cheesy, and the characters hilariously cliched.

This film is far more fun to watch than the ones it emulates, because there's a sense here that that actors and director weren't trying to make a movie we're supposed to take serious, but were instead making the exact sort of goof it turned out to be. No one part of this film is more laughably bad than any other part, and this consistency, coupled with the fact that most of the film moves along at a fast pace--it is blissfully padding-free!--makes this fun to watch if you have a soft spot for B-movies. Plus, how can you not enjoy a movie where Bigfoot rips a guy's arm off and throws it at another victim? (Of course, if Wescavage and Friends WERE making a serious monster movie, then they came up with the perfect fusion of crapitude and created an accidental piece of art.)

This is not the perfect Bad Movie, however. Although the film moves quickly in most spots, there are times where it grinds to a near-complete stop, such as when our intrepid (yet whiny) reporter is having redundant meetings with his editor or redundant badgering sessions with the cops, or when he whines to Talla about how he's a storyteller and she's a warrior. In fact, just about any scene with the reporter that doesn't also involve Talla shooting badly done computer-animation arrows at Big Foot, or Big Foot trying to rip someone limb-from-limb are dead spots that drag the film down.

Another weak point is the back story involving John Rush and his previous Big Foot encounter. The film would have been stronger if the simple approach that the new housing development was built too close to the Sasquatch's hunting grounds had been what the film had offered up. It's one that's more in keeping with the whole Native American angle, and it's one that makes more sense than the Sasquatch trailing John from his old home to his new one. (Yeah, I know I just asked for a film titled "Suburban Sasquatch" to make sense....)

For all of the low-budget badness (and, despite the fact that I'm tickled by it, it is still bad) there is one aspect of the film that impressed me. I was very impressed with the actor wearing the monkey-suit, particularly in the medium and long shots where he adopts a gait that is exactly like the creature that appears in that famous blurry footage of a Bigfoot crossing a rocky clearing (or a stream or something). The low-budget camera-tricks of the "teleporting" mystically charged Bigfoot also work in the context of the film, and they even manage to bring a little spookiness to the proceedings.

Is "Suburban Sasquatch" a film you should seek out? I think I have to come down on "no", unless you pick it up as part of of a DVD multipack (such as "Depraved Degenerates" six-pack, available from Amazon.com for $7, or the "Decrepit Crypt of Nightmares" 50 movie pack, which can be from Amazon.com for a mere $13), because I think getting the film as a stand-alone might mean you're not getting your money's worth. As much as I admire the consistent level of badness here, and the fact that Wescavage avoids many of the faults typically found in films at this level, I still can only give it a low 5 rating... and that might even be a bit generous. (I may be kinder to this film than I should be, becuase I so loved Wescavage's utterly wild "Fungicide". This movie isn't nearly as insane, however.)

If acquired economically, "Suburban Sasquatch" would be an entertaining secondary feature for a Bad Movie Night. It might be even more amusing if you have someone in your circle who is ultra-PC. (I can imagine how some of the more hysterical, super-liberal and super-sensitive types will react to the miniskirt-wearing mystic Native American warrior chick in this film.)

"Suburban Sasquatch" is currently available as part of the "Depraved Degenerates" and the "Decrepit Crypt of Nightmares" collections from Pendulum Pictures.

For more movies with guys in bad ape suits, click here to visit Shades of Gray.

Saturday Scream Queen: Anna Paquin

Born in Canada, but raised in New Zealand, Anna Paquin made a big splash with her very first major film appearance in "The Piano". At the age of 11, she won the 1993 Best Actress in a Supporting Role, becoming the second youngest person to win an Academy Award.

Paquin appeared in a string of acclaimed dramatic pictures, but made the move to the sci-fi/fantasy genre when she portrayed comic book hero Rogue in the "X-Men" movies. She the stepped over into the horror genre, beginning with the misfire "Darkness", following up with the much-better "Trick 'r Treat", and eventually starring in the very popular sci-fi/horror television series "True Blood", where she plays a psychic waitress who has a relationship with a vampire.

In recent years, Paquin has been balancing her screen career with stage acting. On the horror horizon, aside from starring in at least one more season of "True Blood", Paquin has a small role in Wes Craven's "Scream 4".