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Wednesday, December 28, 2016


ROGUE ONE — sub-headed as "A STAR WARS Story" — is a well-made, visually spectacular, action-packed adventure set in the galaxy far, far away that we all know and love so well. So why didn't I like it? Allow me to explain.

The first of an announced ongoing series of stand-alone STAR WARS flicks that are not part of the serialized main saga, ROGUE ONE squanders the vast galactic toybox that is the STAR WARS realm by once again relying too much on fannish nostalgia and not moving forward. The basic story has to deal with a group of Rebel heroes stealing the plans for the Death Star, the aftermath of which mission leads immediately into the original STAR WARS (1977, and fuck you if you think I'm going to call it "A New Hope"), so we already go into the film knowing that the heroes succeed in their mission, thus killing what suspense may have been generated. The Death Star is trotted out yet again, thus revealing a certain bankruptcy of ideas, and the heroes who seek to thwart it mostly fail to generate any sort of interest because we're simply thrust into the narrative while getting to know little or nothing about them.

The protagonist, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), is the daughter of the designer of the Death Star, as seen in the opening segments, and when we meet her again as an adult, she's in prison for reasons that are given only the merest scrap of explanation. She's broken out of jail by Rebel forces who want to use her to connect them with a guerrilla leader (Forest Whitaker) who may be able to help them locate her dad, who years earlier was press-ganged into helping the Empire build its "planet-killer" of a battle station. Other than Jyn's longing to be reunited with her father, we know absolutely nothing about who she is as a person or what motivates her actions, so her coming to care about the Rebel cause comes from out of nowhere and carries zero weight toward the growth of her character.

The rest of the Rebels that we meet are basically ciphers about whom we are told nothing, and they are so unmemorable that their individual names are almost instantly forgotten by the audience. Other than a few familiar faces from the original STAR WARS trilogy that were shoehorned in here to little or no narrative effect, Jyn Erso, Imperial weapons developer Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) and reprogrammed Imperial enforcer droid K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk) are the only characters whose names stuck with me once they were verbally identified. And the only standout among the Rebels that I cared about was the blind warrior Chirutt Imwe, played by my man Donnie Yen, whose character believes strongly in the Force but is notably not a Jedi, despite wielding a stick with speed and skill that makes Stormtroopers his bitches.

 My man Donnie Yen, whom the whole movie should have been about.

Cool though he undeniably was, Yen's character is given very little by way of backstory to explain why some random blind dude who is, again, not a Jedi whips ass with his walking stick like a deep-space Zatoichi. That's a damned shame, because he totally ruled during the moments when he's given something to do, including being given the film's funniest line — in a film sorely in need of some levity — but the real point of his inclusion was so that the film would have a star who's drawing power with put asses in seats in the Chinese market.

With no developed characters for us to be invested in, the story trusts in the audience's nostalgia and love for previous STAR WARS movies to do all of the narrative heavy-lifting, which just struck me as lazy. For a film about which much was made of its intent to break new ground and bring audiences a "different" kind of STAR WARS movie, it's basically just more of the same, a soulless piece of corporate product of the type that less-demanding moviegoers will eat up and thus pour billions into the coffers of Das Uber-Disney. I won't presume to speak for most of the audience out there, but I was bored during most of ROGUE ONE and had to resist the urge to check my phone's clock multiple times. It's two hours and fifteen minutes of pretty much watching a filmed version of some kid making up a STAR WARS adventure in his backyard with some action figures and vehicle accessories, and I found its dour, "more realistic" war movie tone to be as dull as dirt. Sure, it looked amazing — the special effects are nothing less than stunning — but where were the characters to engage me? Where was the movie magic that transports the viewer? And, most importantly, where was the fun in all of this? I wish I could tell you, but I got nothin'.

As I left the theater, a family followed close behind me, discussing the movie amongst themselves. The mother was clearly not impressed but tried to put a positive spin on things, while her three kids — apparently ranging in age from seven to twelve — all expressed how boring they found it to be. The one enthusiastic voice was dad, who countered their arguments of being bored with "Well, I wasn't bored, because I recognized a lot of stuff from the other movies!" Like I said previously, the filmmakers relied on the audience's nostalgia to do all the work, and more's the pity. And while a similar argument could be made for last year's THE FORCE AWAKENS, I found that film to be far more engaging, complete with characters I gave a damn about, both old and new, and a sense of plain and simple fun entertainment that I felt ROGUE ONE was largely bereft of. Your mileage may vary, probably depending on just how much of  STAR WARS zombie you are, but ROGUE ONE just didn't do it for me. Sitting through it once was enough for me, and I earnestly pray that the subsequent stand-alone films in the series provide us with something a lot more worthy of our time and money. It was a noble experiment but I call it a dud.

Oh, and while Darth Vader does indeed appear during two sequences — one of which is really cool — his inclusion is both short and virtually meaningless to the film's overall plot. He could have been left out entirely and it would have made not a lick of difference to the story. If you're planning on seeing it in hope of a serious Vader fix, forget it.

Poster from the theatrical release.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


I can't speak for the rest of us first-generation STAR WARS kids, but when I first saw the original film at age 11 (a month shy of turning twelve) I fell in love with Princess Leia precisely because she didn't just sit there waiting to be rescued. In fact, it can be argued that she was hands down the toughest "good guy" character in the movie. Yes, Han Solo was cooler than a snowman's dick and Obi-Wan Kenobi was the space-samurai I wanted to be, but it was the Princess who stood out as the story's trope-defier, and I will go to my grave loving her for that. Plus she was refreshingly rude.

 Requiescat en pace, Carrie. Your influence was tremendous and meant a lot more than you may have appreciated.

Monday, October 31, 2016

31 DAYS IF HORROR 2016-Day 31: MAD MONSTER PARTY? (1967)

The Monster enjoys an electrical pick-me-up.

When Dr. Frankenstein (Boris Karloff) decides to retire and name a successor to his position of the world's monster elite, he announces a gala event on his remote island/laboratory and invites an all-star who's-who of baleful creatures of the night. Along with his infamous Monster and its mate (Phyllis Diller), the Invisible Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Hunchback, the Mummy, the Werewolf, and of course Count Dracula all show up, some with their eyes greedily fixed upon the successorship. But Frankenstein throws an unintentional curveball by inviting his nebbishy pharmacist nephew, Felix Flanken, to the proceedings, with the lad firmly in mind as his replacement.

Felix Flanken and his uncle, Dr. Frankenstein (Boris Karloff).

That does not sit well with the glitterati of monsterdom, especially not with Dracula and the Monster's mate, plus to say nothing of Dr. Frankenstein's impossibly gorgeous redheaded assistant, Francesca. The hapless Felix swiftly and utterly unknowingly finds himself the target of multiple half-assed assassination attempts, but an even greater threat looms in the form of a titanic uninvited guest who seeks to wreak vengeful havoc...

A grand monster rally.

Finding appropriate fare for the wee ones around Halloween can be a bitch, since much of the scary movie material about there would be considered wholly inappropriate by most parents. (But not by uncles of my stripe, let me tell you!) That's where the magic world of Rankin/Bass Productions comes to the rescue. Renowned and beloved for their now-classic annual holiday television specials, such as RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER (1964), SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN (1970), THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS (1974, which features the fan-favorite "Heat Miser/Snow Miser" numbers), and the excellent L. Frank Baum adaptation, THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF SANTA CLAUS (1985), the company crafted charming and fun stop-motion animated specials and features brought to life by skilled animators in Japan, and this theatrical feature film was always a favorite and must-watch offering whenever it aired on television during the youth of those of us who are now of a certain age.

The narrative is basically a case of "What if Mad Magazine made HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN?"— an aspect driven home by character designs courtesy of Mad stalwart Jack Davis — with no classic monster trope left untouched and lampooned, with Dracula pretty much stealing film with his snobbish, assholish treachery. He's a riot whenever he's onscreen, and his questionable alliances come back to bite him on his pallid ass.

Dracula and Francesca: Strange bedfellows?

It should also be noted that MAD MONSTER PARTY? features Francesca, the Doctor's buxom redheaded assistant, and if ever there were an animated puppet who gave little boys their first crush, she was it And there's more to her than there seems to be upon first glance...

Little Tibea and the Fibulas performing "It's the Mummy."

The film also features the signature musical scoring of Maury Laws, whose brass-heavy compositions are instantly recognizable to all who grew up on Rankin/Bass' output. MAD MONSTER PARTY? is replete with memorable theme tunes for its characters and a number of great songs, including the quasi-psychedelic "It's the Mummy" (to which the Mummy and the Monster's mate rock out) and the moody, evocative title song by Ethel Ennis. "The Monster Mash" is long overdue for dethroning from its lofty position as the go-to Halloween anthem, and I herewith nominate "Mad Monster Party?" to now bear the crown. Judge for yourself:

In shirt, the family simply cannot go wrong with MAD MONSTER PARTY? and no childhood of true "monster kids" is complete without it.


Poster from the original theatrical release. Art by the legendary Frank Frazetta.

Sunday, October 30, 2016


NOTE: This one's a few years old but nonetheless relevant. Enjoy!

In case some of you somehow failed to notice, Halloween is just twenty-four hours away, and on that most fun day of the year there are many things to enjoy, even if Halloween is in actuality "Satan's birthday" as postulated in the unintentionally hilarious Jack Chick tract "Boo!" (1991).

From the Jack Chick tract "Boo!" (1991): a chainsaw-wielding and pumpkin-masked Satan bursts in and demands a completely different kind of pussy than what's being offered.

But along with the freedom of expression allowed on the mighty 'Ween, there are some things we would all do well to remember. I don't want to get all lecturey here, but in order to make sure we all have a safe and fun Halloween, I'm willing to go there. Because I care.
  • Don't allow your single-digit-aged or tweener daughters to dress as Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Bratz, or any of the other pop culture icons (or permutations thereof) that promote creepy and inappropriate visual sleazery among girls under the age of eighteen. Unless you want to get arrested for pimping a child prostitute, that is.
Oh, HELL no!!!
  • If you're going to escort your little ones on their trick-or-treating rounds, show some decorum ferfucksake and don't do it while drunk. There's plenty of time for the boozing at grownup parties; don't make bad memories that your kids can look back on as adults and see you, clear as day in a scarecrow costume, walking haphazardly door-to-door on the street where you live, "discreetly" sipping from a thermos full of Harvey Wallbangers. (Do people still make those?)
  • And while we're on the subject of Halloween drunkenness, DO NOT under any circumstances drive drunk. I have zero tolerance for this even on my best day, but on Halloween, a time for fun and creative expression and sharing of such with our loved ones and friends, I am especially hard-assed. This is a time you'll want to look back upon with fondness, so don't fuck things up by killing yourself or others. If you're too smashed to drive, admit it and call a cab. There's no shame in not being a dumbass/potential vehicular murderer; a hangover will eventually fade, but a serious injury or a life taken due to inebriated stupidity is a whole other ballgame. And let us not forget that sometimes there are situations worse than death that the innocent are forced to live with thanks to someone else's carelessness. If you don't have a strong constitution, DO NOT click here to see what I mean.
  • Steer clear of exotic Halloween-themed drinks concocted by creative bartenders and stick to the poisons you're familiar with. Many feature grotesque food-coloring that can dye your mouth and fuck up the makeup or costumed look that you worked so hard to achieve, and these drinks also can contain combinations of different hard liquors that should never be imbibed in mass quantities unless your goal for the evening it to become the anal/oral/vaginal pincushion of scruples-free predators out looking for an easy target. Reference the classic Mentors song "Sleep Bandits" for more on the dangers of this.
"The Brain Hemorrhage" or simply "The Brain," a visually splendid concoction of Peach Schnapps, Irish cream liqueur, and a drop of Grenadine. During my truly stupid days in the mid-1980's, one of these made me projectile vomit like Mr. Creosote.
  • Couples costumes always suck. Either the guy or the gal or both look like ass, so don't do it! Some examples of said suckness:

Not cute, not romantic. Simply appalling, especially that last one.
  • Carefully choose your location and specific context if intending to rock blackface, unless you're looking for an ass-kicking.
Sarah Silverman: one who hilariously got away with it.
  • Don't give out "gimmick" candy to the trick-or-treating kids. Candy manufactured to resemble bugs, eyeballs and assorted other gruesome seasonal items may look interesting, but they often taste like mildly-sweet PVC. The kids want recognizable brand name confections, those little bite-size candy bars and such, so stick with that stuff. And no candy apples, homemade stuff (unless you're giving it out to kids you know and whose parents know you and are cool with you doing it) or those crappy popcorn balls.
Visually appealing, virtually guaranteed to taste like plastic.
  • Don't give out candy corn or Peeps, for they are Satan's own dingleberries, retrieved from the actual Devil's ass-crack hairs. You know I'm right about this.
  • Wanna prove to kids how much you genuinely hate them? Give out wax lips. 
Hey, if you want the neighborhood children to look like pint-size Jocelyn Wildensteins, then by all means proceed, but also bear in mind that these insidious, disturbing, and utterly taste-free anti-treats can be put to very questionable use indeed...

  • Don't rock Nazi gear. This one's still quite understandably a touchy outfit and there are even Jews who take umbrage with fellow-Semite Mel Brooks for the brilliant "Springtime for Hitler" number in THE PRODUCERS (1968) so it's best not to go there, even when taking the piss out of the filthy Hun. Seriously, if a member of Britain's royal family couldn't get away with it, do you think you've got a chance?
Way to go, genius!
  • Ladies, fairy tale characters or the Disney-style princess thing is great for pre-pubescent girls but kinda creepy on grownup chicks with tasty curves. Thus, as grownup wimmern folk, please do your level best to corrupt the wholesome angle of the classic princess. Make Sleeping Beauty look like a ready-to-rock, tarted-up porn whore! Turn the fairy princess into a burnt-out, hungover skank!
Little girls everywhere wept: my old buddy POWER GIRL artist Amanda Conner as the "Fairy Fuckin' Princess."

And if it were legal, wouldn't it be great to go out as Topless Tinkerbell? Just puttin' it out there...
  • Last and definitely not least, if at all possible, make sure to have sex with your significant other while still adorned with as much of your costumes as is conducive to such acts. Perhaps not in costumes as straight to point as this,
but instead imagine the twisted scenarios that could be enacted between a spear-brandishing Brunhilde the Valkyrie and the re-animated, smiling corpse of John F. Kennedy! That's just the first thing that popped into my head while writing this, so who knows what you can get up to in real life, dear reader? I'm going stag this year, so please rock the costumed Osh-Osh on my behalf.

So keep all of this in mind and have a bitchin' Aitch-Ween!!!

Just in case you didn't know.

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2016-Day 30: JAWS AT 40

NOTE: This piece originally ran back in June of 2015 but I felt the need to break it out for those who missed it.

There are some movies that are sheer perfection when seen properly projected, and JAWS is one of them. Arguably the first true summer blockbuster, as we have come to understand the form, the film has been re-released for limited screenings during this, its fortieth anniversary, so I hauled myself to the temple of the flickering image to take in an all-too-rare revival of a horror masterpiece.

Seeing it on the big screen (at the Union Square multiplex in Manhattan) for the first time in 40 years transported me right back to being a few days shy of turning 10 and my embracing of it as my favorite movie for a couple of years. In my early years I had my career goal set on being a marine biologist with a concentration on shark studies and I dragged my parents to every shark-related activity that I could gain access to, so seeing JAWS was an inevitability. Though rated PG, the film's poster featured the ominous tacked-on caveat, "MAY BE TOO INTENSE FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN," which only guaranteed the attendance of this budding gorehound, so considering that and the fact that it all boiled down to a story about a huge goddamned shark merrily munching its way through summer season beachgoers (and a hapless dog), you had a recipe for perfect entertainment. (And as long as we're keeping it real, whatever would transpire onscreen couldn't be any more intense or emotionally scarring than the daily witnessing of my parents' marriage rocketing down the bowl.) And when I finally did see JAWS, I fucking loved it. It was a perfect "man versus force of nature" yarn, sort of an ancient seaman's legend writ for the late-20th century, and it's that primal simplicity of the narrative, coupled with some stunning sequences of suspense and stellar characterization, that so resonates. 

It was great to see JAWS again with an audience and when the lights went down, it was like settling in as a skilled elder storyteller wove a yarn to scare and enthrall kids while also instilling in them the strong and basic lesson of taking what lurks in the depths seriously. There were some audience members who were clearly veterans from the first go-round but the majority of attendees were thirty or younger, most of whom had seen the movie numerous times on cable or DVD, and the few who who had never seen it before were easy to spot, thanks to their sudden vocalizations of shock in all the places that scared the motherfucking shit out of us back in the summer of 1975.

The horror from the deep revealed.

For the record, my favorite moment is still the part where Brody chums the water and meets the shark — sea monster, really — face-to-face, after which he backs into the Orca's interior, his face a frozen, stunned mask of horror as he matter-of-factly states, "You're going to need a bigger boat..." Also of note, you could have heard an amoeba fart during Quint's chilling recounting of his experience following the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, so all-consuming was the silence in the auditorium. The moment when Quint describes reaching over to wake up his friend, only to have the man tip over to reveal that he had been devoured from below the waist by one of perhaps a thousand tiger sharks... *SHUDDER*

Quint (Robert Shaw) makes with one of the most riveting and horrifying speeches in the annals of cinema.

Seriously, if it's playing anywhere near you, hie your ass to the theater and pay your respects as a true cinephile by seeing JAWS again as it was intended. I'll never watch it again unless it's projected and you can bet your ass I'll be there for the 50th anniversary.

Saturday, October 29, 2016


In 1954, a dread horror arose from the deep.

Godzilla, king of the monsters. The implacable radioactive leviathan who leaves naught but death and destruction in his wake. That's a description that runs at odds with the goofy/silly image the name conjures up for most casual observers. To most, Godzilla is the epitome of "fakey" special effects and zipper-up-the-back monster suits, and, to be fair, that assessment is not necessarily inaccurate, depending on which of the character's 29 films one sees. Series entries like GODZILLA VS THE SEA MONSTER (1966), GODZILLA'S REVENGE (1969, in which Godzilla does not even attempt revenge),  the infamous GODZILLA VS GIGAN (1972, in which Godzilla and his pal Anguirus talk), and GODZILLA VS MEGALON (1973) largely eclipse the better, more serious-minded and lavish entries in the perception of the general public. But if one goes back to the 1954 GOJIRA, which was later dubbed and released in the U.S. as GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS, one encounters a film that could not be further away from its descendants if it tried.

The 1954 GOJIRA, especially in its unaltered Japanese version, is straight-up horror of the first order, a rumination on nuclear warfare crafted by the only people in history to endure such a scorching nightmare firsthand. Shot in moody black & white, the first Godzilla film presents its titular beast as a radiation-scarred behemoth with no rhyme or reason to its attacks. Godzilla simply is, and what it is is death and destruction given flesh as a force of nature. No punches are pulled when depicting the doom and misery that it brings, as cities are leveled and burned and human life is snuffed out as easily as one would step on an ant. We see buildings collapse on innocent families, emergency wards full to capacity with broken and irradiated victims, and the whole endeavor fairly screams of utter hopelessness and despair. The filmmakers at Toho Studios very successfully communicated the terror of the atomic bomb in no uncertain terms, and anyone who comes away from experiencing the first Godzilla film as anything other than a bleak descent into a science and warfare-spawned hell was obviously not paying attention. All of the subsequent Godzilla movies, wildly varying in quality as they do, are fun matinee and weekend afternoon TV fodder, but the original is a textbook example of a horror movie directly expressing the well-founded fears of the society that created it.

I strongly recommend GOJIRA to those who have not yet seen it, if for no reason other than to experience one of the bleakest films ever made and definitely the darkest effort in the annals of giant monster cinema. A feel-good movie it absolutely ain't.

Poster from the original Japanese theatrical release.

Friday, October 28, 2016


"I am Sutekh the Destroyer. Where I tread, I leave nothing but dust and darkness. I find that good."

1911: Professor Marcus Scarman (Bernard Archard) unearths the tomb of the ancient Egyptian god Sutekh the Destroyer (aka Set), which dooms him to servitude as the evil god's undead slave. Eons ago, the Egyptian gods, led by Osiris himself, waged war against Sutekh and imprisoned him on Mars, hopefully forever, in order to prevent him from wiping out all life in the universe. But now Sutekh has found a possible way out of his imprisonment and employs Scarman and a number of robot mummies to facilitate that goal, and it looks like nothing can prevent the dark deity from unleashing a swath of destruction across the whole of creation. Nothing, that is, until the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and his companion, journalist Sarah Jane Smith (Elizabeth Sladen) interrupt their aimless galavanting through space and time and enter the fray. The pair of intrepid time-traveling adventurers swiftly realize that they have to intervene, lest all be lost, which they see firsthand by jumping to 1980 and finding the Earth a devastated wasteland due to their not getting involved. But how does even someone as formidable as our favorite Time Lord defeat the last of the Osirans, a being of vast cosmic power whose sole purpose is to destroy all life everywhere?

 The Doctor investigates.

PYRAMIDS OF MARS nearly always turns up on lists and polls citing the all-time classic DOCTOR WHO stories, and deservedly so. It's a triumph of solid writing and acting overcoming all-too-obvious budgetary limitations (too put it very kindly), and it evokes the best of the often mishandled Egyptian curse/mummy sub-genre of horror. In many ways, especially when remembering that classic DOCTOR WHO was a straight-up children's program, albeit one that unabashedly brought legitimate scares, this story is the perfect entry level mummy yarn for kids. So what if the mummies are actually robots? They still shamble about and murder people, so they're doing their designated genre trope job.

A horrible way to die: Having one's neck crushed between the pronounced chest ridges of powerful robot mummies.

The atmosphere of England in the early 1900's is perfectly evoked, as is the then-exotic flavor of recently rediscovered ancient Egyptian artifacts and culture. Speaking of which, Sutekh is one of the series' all-time greatest villains, if not the all-time greatest, in that he is a genuine cosmic entity of incalculable power whom it took and entire pantheon of gods to initially imprison, and his threat should he get loose again is on a downright Lovecraftian scale. In fact, Sutekh would have been right at home in one of H.P. Lovecraft's pulp tales of eldritch entities that drive mere mortals to states of gibbering insanity. Portrayed with unforgettable resonance and utter evil arrogance by Gabriel Woolf, Sutekh is hands down my favorite antagonist for the Doctor and I would love to see him brought back in the rebooted series (though considering how this story wraps up, that's pretty fucking unlikely).

Sutekh unmasked.

This story also allows the regulars to shine. Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor is in fine form, even behaving in ways that remind us that first and foremost he is an alien and a pragmatist, especially when forced to deal with something as universally horrific as Sutekh, so his lapses into seemingly cold-hearted handling of matters makes perfect sense. Sarah Jane, who was seldom a damsel in distress type, is given a lot to do here and comes through like the stalwart assistant that she is legendary for being. Once the seriousness of the situation is made apparent, she's right there at  the Doctor's side, showing a surfeit of pluck and good old British take charge no nonsense ass-kickery, especially when wielding an elephant gun.

 Sarah takes care of business.

I've been a DOCTOR WHO fan since the show first hit the States in 1978, and I tuned in every week for the serialized half-hour installments with great eagerness, thanks to stories of the level of quality displayed in PYRAMIDS OF MARS. Old school WHO always treated its audience with intelligence, an attitude that's forever commendable in children's entertainment, and if I'd seen this story when I was in the single digits, I would have felt that I'd stumbled upon something very special indeed. That said, there's one caveat about this story and old school WHO in general that I should offer for the uninitiated. Pre-reboot DOCTOR WHO was a series marked by its impoverished budget and consequent dodgy special effects and sets, much of which is laughable to modern sensibilities, but that's easily overlooked if one just lets oneself go with the stories and remember that they are a product of decades ago and told with a more decompressed style of storytelling. I much prefer DOCTOR WHO in its serialized form, which allowed more time for richer characterization and the fleshing-out of stories, as opposed to the rushed done-in-one (or two) format of the current iteration. Anyway, PYRAMIDS OF MARS is a classic for several good reasons and you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2016-Day 27: TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL (2010)

Our heroes: Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine).

I can't speak for you, but I fucking love "hicksploitation" movies, flicks about ordinary suburbanites running afoul of homicidal rednecks, hillbillies, and other assorted white trash stereotypes. The textbook example of the form would be DELIVERANCE (1972), with TWO THOUSAND MANIACS! (1964), SHANTY TRAMP (1967), POOR PRETTY EDDIE (1975), SOUTHERN COMFORT (1981), and EDEN LAKE (2008) also serving as prime examples, and there are a ton more to delve into. That said, it was only a matter of time before somebody made a film that lampooned the sub-genre, so I'm glad to say that TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL is about as good of a parody of this department as one could hope for.

Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are a pair of hillbillies straight out of reruns of HEE-HAW, and they are about as lovable as humanly possible. The pair take a vacation at a remote fixer-upper cabin deep in the Appalachians, with the intent of restoring the place and enjoying hours of serene fishing, but their deep woods idyll is flushed straight down the shitter when they meet a group of college frat boys and their girlfriends at the local general store. Shy and awkward Dale is smitten by pretty blonde psychology major Allison (Katrina Bowden) but his tongue-tied attempt at talking with her is mis-interpreted as a creepy advance, so the frat gang gets it into their heads that our sweet rednecks are a couple of DELIVERANCE-style potential murderers/arse-rapists.

Frat boy douchebags and their willing females.

Unfortunately, the frat shitheads set up camp near Tucker and Dale's cabin and while out doing some nighttime skinny-dipping while T&D fish and swill Pabst Blue Ribbons nearby, Allison falls off of a rock, knocking herself out, and our heroes come to her rescue, putting her into their boat and rowing her back to their cabin. This is witnessed by the frat assholes, who instantly assume that the hillbillies have kidnapped Allison for all manner of nefarious degradations before her inevitable murder, so the frat bros and their girls, led by the ultra-assholish and clearly psychotic Chad (Jesse Moss), decide to wage a half-assed guerrilla war against the totally innocent and well-intentioned Tucker and Dale.

The lovely Allison (Katrina Bowden).

While holed up and recuperating from her injuries in the cabin, Allison gets to know Dale and finds him to be a sweet and charming teddy bear of a man, and in no time the seeds of romance are planted.    Unfortunately, Allison's frat pals make all the wrong assumptions and attempt to take out Tucker and Dale in ways that violently and gorily backfire on them. In other words, it's like a misunderstanding-fueled French farce gene-spliced with Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol.

A poorly-timed tackle ends in nasty results.

TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL would have been fun if it had merely been a standard comedy, but its knowing ribbing of its genre and its willingness to be outrageously, hilariously gory elevates it above most humor/horror fusions. Horror comedy is a notoriously hard flavor to get just right, as is evidenced by how relatively few good ones there are — ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948), THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (1967), YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974), GHOSTBUSTERS (1984), and DEADALIVE (1992), to name some must-see examples — and this film absolutely nails it.

The unintentional chainsaw chase that made me laugh out loud and was the deciding moment that made me love this movie. Seriously, I actually said out loud, "That's it. I fucking love this movie!!!"

Bottom line: Trust Yer Bunche and check this one out, especially if you're well-versed in the lore of hicksploitation. You will not be disappointed.

Poster from the theatrical release.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2016-Day 26: BIG TITS ZOMBIE (2011)

"Idiot. I've always hated you. Now I'll step on your face. With a shoe full of dog shit."
-Goth stripper Maria, once she's learned how to control the undead and decides to get revenge upon her former colleagues for no adequately explained reason.

Based on the manga series KYONYU DRAGON, this flick is another in the ongoing wave of intentionally over-the-top satirical horror/exploitation flicks to make their way to the Japanese screen, and among that lot it's rather a minor entry.


Given an admittedly great/stupid title for its Western release, the film relates the adventures of five down-on-their-luck dancers who toil at a rinky-dink strip joint in a desolate town in the middle of nowhere. There's the recently-returned-from-Mexico sombreroed/western-themed main heroine Lena Jodo (played by adult film star "Aoi Sola," whose nom de porn translates as "Blue Sky"), morose ex-con Ginko, Goth girl Maria, Neneh, an aging dancer who reads tarot cards and is close to retiring to Tokyo to run a noodle shop, and money-hungry Vietnamese chick Darna, who's working to support her impoverished brothers and sisters, and during the film's first half hour we get to know them and see them get continually screwed over by their shady boss.

Our heroines: (L-R) ex-con Ginko, Goth girl Maria (with the unnatural red hair), cowgirl Lena, soon-to-be-retired Neneh, and money-grubbing Darna (kneeling in front).

They're all fun and interesting to varying degrees, but one does not approach a film entitled BIG TITS ZOMBIE in search of a look into the crapsack lives of exploited strippers, so just as the film passes the half hour mark, the girls discover their dressing room houses a concealed door that leads into the basement of the abandoned house across the street, a place where the previous owner mysteriously committed suicide. Upon entering the basement, the girls find the dead man's creepy inner sanctum filled with arcane artifacts and an impressive collection of rare occult books, identified as such by the Goth chick (natch), who grabs an authentic copy of the Book of the Dead and of course reads aloud from it. The results are not immediate but when the spell takes effect, all hell literally breaks loose and in no time the nation is overrun by the undead from many periods of history, all of whom have escaped from the conveniently-located Well of Souls in the basement. From there it's a cavalcade of re-animated and aggressive sushi, the requisite zombie cannibalism, weaponized wasabi paste, an interesting attempted variant on the old tentacle-rape standby, beheadings, disembowelings, two of our heroines taking on a horde of zombies while wielding a samurai sword and a chainsaw and eventually ending up topless as their twins are rendered a deep shade of red as they are showered by geysers of arterial spray, and the unforgettable sight of the geisha-costumed and newly-zombified Neheh's pussy mutating into something resembling a lamprey's maw that spews fire with range and dispersal equivalent to that of a standard military flamethrower (by far the film's highlight).

Lena takes on all comers with her handy McCullough.

Ginko and Lena, mere moments before their twins are reddened by copious arterial spray.

All of this madness is achieved in a short running time of seventy-three minutes, so it never really gets boring (though the first half hour is definitely slow going), but with a title like BIG TITS ZOMBIE, the film contains far less nudity than one would rightly expect, and the two pairs of dairies on display — specifically Lena's and Ginko's — range from about Japanese-standard proportions to around a C-cup, so we're talking appealing, but not "big" like the title promises. (Well, not by U.S. standards, anyway.) And while the gore is plentiful when it comes, it's definitely a comparatively short blast and the movie is over well before the viewer expects it to be, so there's a profound sense of getting ripped off.

I've certainly seen far worse zombie films, but I've also seen far better in both the serious vein and the zom-com variety, so this flick is only recommended for zombie completists, those who are looking for a short diversion with gore 'n' (brief) tits, and desperate adolescent boys. However, the flamethrower pussy has to be seen to be disbelieved.