Tuesday, October 24, 2006

DVD Review

Over at Night of the Living Podcast (the coolest podcast on the Net, by the by) they have an ongoing feature called "Straight to Video Russian Roullette." That's kind of how I feel every time I check out one of these direct to video horror titles. These are the modern equivalents of drive-in movies, so this is where tomorrow's B-movie classics will come from. Every time I watch such a film, though, I run the serious risk of taking a bullet to the head (calm down, people, that's a metaphor). Let's face it, during the drive-in era, for every Night of the Living Dead or Texas Chainsaw Massacre there were twenty films like Movie House Massacre or Curse of the Screaming Dead. I doubt Voodoo Moon is in any danger of being called a classic, but it didn't fire hot lead into my brain pan (metaphorically or literally) and despite a few disappointments it's actual a fun little bit of B movie hokum.

Twenty years ago a young brother and sister were the sole survivors of a demonic slaughter in a small town. The brother, Cole, has spent the years since fighting Daniel, the demon responsible for the murder of his parents and hundreds of others. His sister Heather (Charisma Carpenter) is a successful artist with a habit of sketching things before they happen. When Cole learns that the entity that killed their parents has resurfaced, he recruits Heather, as well as a handful of others who have helped him fight the demon in the past. Cole and his followers congregate at a boarding house near where the mass murder took place, though Cole and Heather's home town is now at the bottom of a man made lake.

Watching Voodoo Moon gave me a sense of deja vu. At first I assumed I had watched the trailer, but I eventually realized I'd actually seen the movie before, or at least parts of it. Voodoo Moon ran on the Sci Fi Channel awhile ago, and I watched several minutes one day while channel surfing. This seems odd, premiering a film on basic cable before releasing it on DVD, but it's become a common practice for the Sci Fi Channel.

I've always loved Charisma Carpenter's name. It sounds like it should belong to an exotic dancer who can build a wicked awesome set of bookshelves. Carpenter was one of the stars of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off series Angel, and her character of Cordelia was an important part of the Buffy-verse. That's why it's so dissatisfying to see her in this role. She's got plenty of screen time, but aside from functioning as a confidant to the hero, damsel in distress, and eye candy, the part has no substance.

Eric Mabius is a bit hard to swallow as Cole, with his soap opera star prettyboy looks and scar over one eye. It makes him look like a comic book character. Rik Young as Daniel seems a bit too young for the role. Sure, I suppose a demon can take on any form it wants, but I think an older actor could have better portrayed a sense of ancient malice.

In the plus column, Reanimator and Star Trek vet Jeffrey Combs is terrific as Police Detective Frank Taggert who is murdered before he can answer Cole's summons, but doesn't let a little thing like his own demise stop him from helping his friend. John Amos, best known for his participation in The Beastmaster and 70s sitcom Good Times plays a biker named Dutch. Amos is one of those actors whose presence can only improve a film and he does not disappoint here. There's also some decent zombie action, killer corn stalks, and the expression "a murder of crows" will take on a whole new meaning after you've watched this. As I said, not a classic, but an enjoyable time-killer.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Godzilla Goes All the Way

The whole YTMND concept is pretty new to me, and I doubt I could describe it without cribbing from somewhere else, so here's the Wikipedia definition as quoted on the "About" page at YTMND.com.

"YTMND, an acronym for "You're The Man Now, Dog!", is a website community that centers around the creation of YTMNDs, which are pages featuring a juxtaposition of a single image, optionally animated or tiled, along with large zooming text and a looping sound file. YTMND is also the general term used to describe any such site."

So go to the site and check it out the infinity of weirdness that awaits. More specifically, though, you have to check out Godzilla Goes All the Way. It's a brief loop consisting of footage from Godzilla Vs. Megalon showing a highly energetic and motivated Godzilla running his scaly ass off. The music that accompanies it is both strangely appropriate and completely addictive. It will be stuck in your head for days. Check it out.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

AMC's Monsterfest

Halloween is my favorite holiday, and one of the best parts of it is all the horror flicks that will be showing up on TV between now and the end of the month. Back in those dark days before affordable DVD I would often mark the occasion by purchasing a bulk quanitity of blank VHS tapes and recording as many of those bad boys as I could. Now, even with the American Movie Classics tenth annual Monsterfest approaching, I find myself wondering why any self-respecting horror buff would want to watch these edited for broadcast versions of films that are so easily accessible in their uncensored format. The schedule, which you can view at the Monsterfest website and/or download in PDF format, represents the big franchises well enough (Halloween, Hellraiser, Child's Play) but I'm betting these will be played to death on the other cable channels before the end of the month. Is there anything to set Monsterfest above other basic cable offerings? Yes, but you'll need to know how to program your VCR or DVDR as the good stuff is scattered throughout the schedule.

  • The 1962 version of Phantom of the Opera
  • The Devil's Rain
  • Them!
  • The Amicus anthology film The House That Dripped Blood
  • The Innocents
  • Rodan
  • The Undying Monster
  • A Name For Evil
  • The Curse of the Fly (with Quatermass star Brian Donlevy)
  • And nearly all the classic Universal Monsters films
Monsterfest runs from October 22 through 31.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Emmanuelle Vs. Dracula
New Release

The Queen of Softcore Smut versus the King of the Undead? Emmanuelle Vs. Dracula is the winner of the 2006 Omega Channel Award for most promising title for a film that you just know will suck in at least three senses of the word.

Premiere Episode Review

Premiere broadcast on 9/25/06. Series broadcasts Mondays at 9:00PM Eastern/8:00 PM Central on NBC and is rebroadcast the following Friday on the Sci-Fi Channel at 7:00PM Eastern/6:00PM Central

The wish fulfillment angle of the Harry Potter books and films is pretty obvious. An orphaned boy forced to live with his abusive aunt and uncle finds out that he's not the unwanted nobody he always thought himself to be, but in fact a wizard, and one with a special destiny at that. What child doesn't want to believe he's special, that there's more to him than it seems?

Heroes follows a similar path with the difference here being that the desire to be special doesn't end after adolescence but carries on into adulthood. Using some of the basic concepts of super hero comics (particularly X-Men) and presenting it in the formula of contemporary TV drama (with Lost being a particularly obvious inspiration) Heroes tells the tale of a handful of individuals who have developed super powers. No radioactive spiders or cosmic storms at work here. Much like the abilities of the characters in X-Men, the powers granted to the cast of Heroes are a natural result of evolution.

This first episode shows the "awakening" of handful of characters whose paths cross briefly, if at all. Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia, formerly of Gilmore Girls) is a nurse with recurring dreams of flight, an ability that he believes he can manifest in reality. Niki Sanders (Ali Larter from Final Destination 2 and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) a single mother, Vegas stripper, and internet porn entrepreneur seems to have a dual personality, with her darker half demonstrating superhuman strength. Hiro Makamura (Masi Oka) is a Japanese office worker and comic book geek who can teleport by using his ability to bend time and space. His first name can't be a coincidence. Claire Bennet (Hayden Panettiere) is a troubled high school cheerleader who can survive seemingly any form of physical trauma. I suspect we will learn that she discovered her ability during a suicide attempt. A heroin-addicted artist named Isaac has the ability to paint images of the future when he is high. It's one of these paintings, shown chillingly at the episode's climax, that apparently defines the long-term direction of the series.

What I suspect will eventually bring all these characters together is Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy) an university professor from India who intends to resume the research his father had been conducting before his murder. Many of the characters seem to represent comic book archetypes. Peter is noble and selfless, Claire is the angst-ridden teen, Hiro is the fanboy, and Niki's alternate personality is a form of secret identity. Several interesting sub-plots are weaved into the story, including Peter's Machiavellian brother who is running for congress, and the fact that Niki owes a lot of money to some very dangerous people. The characters even have what I suspect will become an arch nemesis, though little has been revealed about him so far.

One of the great ironies of television is that you can't really judge a series based on its pilot episode, even though the purpose of a pilot is to see if the concept warrants a series to begin with. While the premiere episode of Heroes didn't wow me as much as I had hoped, it did grab me nonetheless. I felt more should have happened, but it looks like future episodes have some interesting things in store. I liked what I saw enough to ignore the idea that a solar eclipse could occur simultaneously in New York and Tokyo.

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