I'm fortunate to have been born during the era of the 'Monster Kid'...and the work of Ray Harryhausen was a big part of that time. I remember pestering my parents to take my brothers and I to the local drive-in to see The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, and later Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. I recall watching Mighty Joe Young for the first time, and meeting a cinematic ape I loved even more than Kong...seeing cowboys trying to round-up an allosaurus in The Valley of Gwangi...aliens destroying Washington D.C. in Earth vs The Flying Saucers...the Children of the Hydra's Teeth in Jason and the Argonauts...plus many, many more. Harryhausen was one of the great architects of imagination during that special time. His films have a sense of wonder and adventure that is sadly lacking in today's cinema.
Harryhausen's creations didn't just move across the screen...they came to life. He instilled his stop-motion monsters with character that has yet to be duplicated in the CGI realm(and Gollum from LOTR doesn't count, because that was rotoscoped/motion-capture of Andy Sirkis' performance, not created from thin air, as it were). Check out the title character from Mighty Joe Young, if you don't believe me, or maybe those creepy skeletal Children of the Hydra's Teeth, or the prince-turned-baboon and the Troglodyte from Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger...Harryhausen's body of work has many examples such as these.
Harryhausen retired from filmmaking years ago, and now he's retired from this mortal world...luckily for us, his films remain, waiting for us whenever we feel like stepping into another world for a while...a world of apes, dinosaurs, monsters, and adventure...thank you, Ray. Rest In Peace.
Chris Fuchman (Mackenzie Murdock), aka The Father's Day Killer, a notorious serial killer/rapist, was thought to have been killed years ago. However, his reign of terror has begun anew, as Twink (Conor Sweeney), a young street hustler finds out when he sees his father burned alive after being raped by Fuchman. Twink teams up with Father John Sullivan ( Matthew Kennedy), a young priest, Chelsea (Amy Groening), a stripper, and her brother Ahab ( Adam Brooks), an eyepatched , vengeance-seeking badass who thought he stopped Fuchman years ago. They all soon learn there's more to Fuchman than meets the eye, and find they're dealing with much more than just a deranged killer...will any of them survive Father's Day?
Father's Day (2011) is one of my favorites of the films I saw in 2012, and one of my favorite films period. I had the pleasure of seeing it on the big screen at my local Alamo Drafthouse, and later again at Texas Frightmare Weekend last May. Created by the collective known as Astron-6 (Sweeney, Kennedy, Brooks, Jeremy Gillespie, and Steven Kostanski), Father's Day is a wild horror/comedy/exploitation fiim, as well as a love-letter to the genres that spawned it. It's also a tribute to the Age of VHS, as the film is presented to look like you're watching a tape recorded from some TV station, presumably made in the 80s.
The horror-comedy is a hybrid that doesn't always work, but Astron-6 fairly owns it. The film goes from laughs to genuinely creepy moments, never stumbling inbetween, with scenes like Ahab and Twink escaping police notice in disgiuses (drag, complete with rhinestone eyepatch), to Fuchman terrorizing Chelsea in a scene that could have been lifted from a 'normal' horror picture. Another factor that really works in their favor is the attention to detail. In this day and age, there are tons of films that feature exploitive subject matter, throw in some fake film grain and scratches and say, "Look at me! I'm all Grindhouse and shit!" Astron-6 did their homework, though, and gave us a film with colors and lighting straight out of the 80s Argento handbook, a soundtrack that screams 80s (especially the main theme, which sounds like it was lifted from an Italian horror flick back in the day), and touches like the blind priest Father O'Flynn ( Kevin Anderson), whose eyes have that milk-white look from Fulci's The Beyond . It's details like this that really make the difference between a great homage and half-assing it. To the casual viewer it may not make any difference, but to an Old-School Beast such as myself, it's very cool to see.
The actors all do a fine job in Father's Day. The Astron-6 crew are multitalented, it seems. Their comic timing is spot-on, and , as I stated above, Murdock's portrayal of Fuchman is creepy and sinister. The effects are well-done, too (as good as one can rightfully expect on a shoestring budget, especially). Like I said earlier, I really enjoyed this film. It made me almost spit my beer several times when I first watched it, and it still pleases with each revisit. Go watch it already...The Beast says so!
The Impalers are the meanest, most dangerous club of bikers in the South, or anywhere, for that matter. During a typical rampage of killing, raping, and beer-guzzling, they end up at a remote house where an elderly doctor lives with his daughter...but just what is the doctor doing out there...and what's he keep locked up in the basement...and just what the Hell is he feeding out in the woods?
At this year's Texas Frightmare Weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a Midnight screening of 'Dear God No!', an amazing biker/mad Nazi scientist/Sasquatch movie (yes, you read that right) written and directed by James Bickert, and it was the most fun I've ever had at a screening. Bickert was in attendance, as were most of the actors (those who portrayed The Impalers wore their colors). Free beer was at hand ( I already had my own, but it was nice to see), as well as some truly cool touches, such as packets of Bigfoot hair from the monster suit in the film, as well as a certificate stating that you survived the screening without contracting any diseases or crabs. These goodies are truly of the Drive-In/B-Movie tradition, recalling when genre flicks would have things like life insurance policies and blood packets to hand out to the patrons.
As for the film, I absolutely loved it. 'Dear God No!' is gleefully violent, offensive, and over the top. Filmed in 16mm, it actually has the look and feel of the type of film it pays homage to. And unlike some other films that attempt to emulate the Grindhouse/Drive-In style of exploitation film, this one pulls out all the stops...violence, blood, monsters, and copious amounts of nudity of the female variety are on display here...and frankly, nudity is where most so-called 'Grindhouse' films fall short...if you're gonna do it, do it right, after all...and 'Dear God No!' delivers in all categories.
The cast is a perfect match for this film. Jett Byant plays Jett, the president of the Impalers, and does a good job portraying a smart, yet sociopathic guy. Shane Morton as Randal also did effects for the movie. John Collins (Collins), Nik Morgan (Spyder), and Rusty Stache ( Jimbo) round out the Impalers, and all do a fine job. Madeline Brumby also gets special notice for her portrayal of Edna Marco, daughter of Dr. Marco (Paul McComiskey), as does Olivia DeCroix, who plays Evelyn Marco...both ladies are great. Extra special kudos must go out to James Bickert for writing and directing this crazy love-letter to the Drive-In movie in the first place. If you love old-school exploitation/Drive-In flicks, you have to check out 'Dear God No!'...it's Beast tested, Beast approved. if it's showing in your area, go see it already! Go to www.deargodnomovie.com for details, pre-ordering the DVD, and for cool-ass merchandise. 'Don't be a Todd!'
Ninjas (or Shinobi, if you will) from the Iga Clan have just completed a mission , easily taking care of rival Ninjas along the way. On their way back to their village, they see a fireball descending from the sky. They are dispatched to investigate, but what they find is not of this world...they soon find themselves in the fight of their lives, possibly their last. Who will win in Alien vs Ninja ?
Alien vs Ninja (2010) is a blast. It hits the ground running, jumping right into the action, with few breaks to catch one's breath. This is a fun film, one that's not overly serious...if you need a break from serious films, or Real Life in general, this will do the trick.
Written, edited, and directed by Seiji Chiba, AvN is like a comic book come to life, and a Japanese comic (or Manga) at that. The action scenes (directed by Yuji Shimamura) are fast and fierce. Though set in Feudal Japan, the look of the Ninjas' armor (designed by Sochi Umezawa) is anything but ancient or traditional. Using leather and metal, their look is more modern, conributing to the overall comic-book feel . The background music is also modern, a Rock and Techno sound. The alien beasts (also designed by Umezawa) are of the latex suit variety, augmented by CG. This Old School-with-a -bit -of-New School approach works for this type of film, and being a fan of actual monster make-up and suits, this made me happy. Honsetly, do most of the CG-spawned monsters you've seen look any more realistic than a guy in a suit anyway? Anyhow, the aliens in question are definately inspired by the monstrosity from the horror classic Alien (1979), but have almost dolphin-like faces and large spines portruding from the backs of their heads. Also, they spawn nasty little larval aliens from holes/pores in their heads. Overall, the beasties look OK... I would have preferred something scarier, but it's a minor quibble.
There's quite a bit of humor in the film, from the antics of the cowardly Nezumi (Donpei Tsuchihira), to the pretty female Ninja Rin (Mika Hijii) giving the finger to a defeated alien that was trying to grope her breasts. Add to this a battle scene where an alien grabs a sword to battle a Ninja, and you have a fairly light-hearted affair...as I said earlier, the film isn't overly serious.
The rest of the cast does a good job, too. Yamata, the main character, played by Masanori Mimoto, is a hot-headed , charge in-type of hero. Shuji Kashiwabara is Jinnai, a cool , somewhat narcissistic buddy to Yamata. There's just enough backstory for the characters to get by, and things don't get very deep or complicated, because this isn't that kind of film. This was meant to be an action fest, and in that, it succeeds.
The action does get gory at times. While not a crimson splatterfest like, say, Tokyo Gore Police or Samurai Princess, the gore, both human and alien, does flow pretty freely on occasion. There's also some alien larvae/parasites that possess some of the Ninja later in the film, and they're a bit gross. But, that's to be expected in a movie like this, and again, it keeps with the Manga feel of the whole production.
If you're looking for an Action/Martial Arts/Sci Fi flick that's got heaping helpings of action, gore, comedy, and monsters, Alien vs Ninja is a good bet. Go watch it already.
The Beast is back, with a new weekly feature that spotlights ladies who have done some kind of work in the genre. This week's feature is bittersweet, however, because we recently lost this screen siren. The lovely and talented Ingrid Pitt passed away on November 23rd , 2010, at the age of 73.
Ingrid was from Poland, and survived the Nazi camps and managed to escape the Communist police. She went on to become an actress and appear in some pictures in Spain, and eventually went on to star in horror films at the famous Hammer Studios. Films such as The Vampire Lovers and Countess Dracula gained her a following that continues today. Ingrid also appeared in Where Eagles Dare with Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood, as well as the horror classic The Wicker Man with Christopher Lee. By all accounts Ingrid was a class act...in the extras on the Anchor Bay version of The Wicker Man people involved with the film told about another actress behaving like a prima donna while shooting in the brisk Scottish locations, demanding a coat and coffee and such. When someone asked Ingrid if she wanted a coat, she gestured to all the extras and said to the effect, "If they all don't need coats, then I certainly don't need one either!" Even though she was a star, she was a team player.
Ingrid went on to write several books, including her autobiography Life's a Scream. She was still active on the convention scene as well. Ingrid possessed a charm, beauty, and class that few actresses have. She was a wonderful part of horror history, and will be missed. RIP.