Get Out

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2017

Blumhouse Productions/QC Entertainment/Universal Pictures

Directed and Written by Jordan Peele

Produced by Jason Blum/Edward H. Hamm, Jr./Sean McKittrick/Jordan Peele

Years and years ago I was having a discussion with a Caucasian friend of mine. Over copious amounts of alcoholic beverages we discussed movies and he suddenly popped up with a question that had been plaguing him for some time and he felt he could ask me instead of some other black people of his acquaintance as he felt I wouldn’t take it the wrong way. He said that when he went to see horror movies, the black people in the audience were laughing at the terrible things happening to the characters in the movie. Why were they laughing? It confused him because they were, after all, horror movies. Who laughs at horror movies?

My answer: “They’re laughing because white folks do things in horror movies that you’d never catch black people doing. We don’t fool around investigating the supernatural or the paranormal. We don’t think it’s fun or cool to party in graveyards. We don’t go down in the dark basement where we know damn well the killer is hiding. We don’t think it would be a groove to go spend the weekend in a haunted house or at some remote camp where a buncha murders were committed. We don’t go back for our buddy/girlfriend/boyfriend/mother/father if they trip and fall while running from the killer. We don’t go back for the dog or the cat. We don’t split up when we know there’s a mad killer on the loose so that he can pick us off one by one. Got the picture?”

Despite my flippant answer there have been a considerable number of outstanding horror movies with black protagonists. I’m thinking of “The Beast Must Die” “Ganja & Hess” “The People Under The Stairs” “Candyman” “Demon Knight” “Attack The Block” and “Night of The Living Dead” come to mind. GET OUT can be added to the list and may eventually be at the top. It’s a dynamic debut film from Jordan Peele who directs with the confidence and expertise of a much more seasoned director. Psychological horror and social satire are skillfully blended with a dash of comedy mixed in just enough to give us a chance to relax a bit before being plunged back into the nightmarish situation faced by Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya)

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Chris is invited by his girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) to spend the weekend at her parents house. Chris is somewhat apprehensive because he’s black, she’s white and she has not told her parents she’s dating a black man. But she assures Chris that her parents are super cool and everything will be just fine.

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And her parents Dean and Missy (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) do indeed turn out to be pretty cool. Oh, sure Dean bends over so far backwards to show that he’s “down” and sympathetic with black people in such a way that it in itself is borderline racist while Missy is just a little too insistent that Chris allow her to hypnotize him to cure his smoking addiction.

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Chris at first is relieved to see a couple of other black faces at the Armitage estate in the form of the maid Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and the groundskeeper Walter (Marcus Henderson) until he has a chance to talk to them. As he tells his best friend Rod (Lil Rey Howery) they do not act like any black people he’s ever known. Rod of of the opinion that Chris should never have gone up there in the first place. And as the weekend goes on, Chris starts to think his boy just may be onto something. He meets Rose’s brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) who doesn’t bother to hide his creepy hostility toward Chris. And the Armitages host a party where most of the guests seem to know way more about Chris than he’s comfortable with. And that’s all you need to know. It’s not that GET OUT is a movie full of unexpected twists and turns. In fact, the trailers you’ve seen have told more than they should but there’s plenty left in GET OUT to be surprised with. But that is due more to the gradual building of suspense as the weirdness increases. GET OUT isn’t a movie that depends on violence and gore to make it’s point. It actually gets pretty deep in it’s use of horror movie tropes to examine race and racism while telling an entertaining story at the same time. It doesn’t beat you over the head with social commentary on race relations but there’s enough there to give you something to think about and discuss after you leave the theater.

Daniel Kaluuya holds the center of the movie just fine as our likable protagonist who is an everyday guy thrown into a situation way over his head. His character has some psychological baggage that helpes to round out the character and explains some of the choices he makes later on in the movie. But the MVP award has to be shared by Betty Gabriel and Lil Rey Howery. Betty Gabriel’s Georgina is without a doubt the scariest character in the movie and she made me jump more than once.

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Lil Rey Howery provides most of the movie’s comedy, ruthlessly stealing every scene he’s in. Chris calls Rod during the weekend to keep him up to date on the increasing weirdness and later on, Rod takes a more proactive role which leads to probably the funniest scene in the movie, one that he shares with Erika Alexander who plays a police detective.

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So should you see GET OUT? Absolutely. It’s a fascinating piece of work that has been compared to the best episodes of the classic “Twilight Zone” and “The Stepford Wives” and deservedly so. It’s that good. By all means, go see and enjoy.

Rated R

103 Minutes

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do The Time Warp Again

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2016

Fox 21 Television Studios

Directed by Kenny Ortega

Produced by John Ryan

Based on “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” by Jim Sharman and Richard O’Brien

And “The Rocky Horror Show” by Richard O’Brien

The first thing that people said to me when I said on social media that I liked THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW: LET’S DO THE THE TIME WARP AGAIN was: “Well, you must have not seen the original, then.”

Not only did I see the original but I saw the original back in the 1970s when it was a Midnight Movie cultural event. I saw the 1975 “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” twice at the Waverly Theater. The first time I went with a bunch of friends and the second time I went with a girl I was dating (a really hot blonde girl, by the way) at the time. And no, I didn’t go in costume but I really enjoyed the experience of watching the movie with people who were really into the movie and were having a great time jumping up on stage and performing along with the movie. I talked to some of those people after both showings I attended and a lot of them told me they attended every single week, along with their friends, family and acquaintances. It was not just a cultural event or a movie for them. It was a lifestyle. And it’s a lifestyle that simply doesn’t have the shock value that it did back it the 1970s. Back in the 1970s Tim Curry is full drag was shocking, risqué and daring. Now? It’s something we see everyday on “The Maury Povich Show”

Years later after I had settled down, married and matured (HAH!) I rented “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” to watch on VHS. And while watching it I discovered something that most fans of the movie will no doubt crucify me for. But hey, I gotta say it: it’s not a good movie.

Let me explain. The movie itself was simply a film version of the stage play “The Rocky Horror Show” and so the movie version didn’t aspire to be anything more than that. The movie version was a theatrical flop and didn’t become a hit until audiences started showing up in costumes and making fun of it. As a movie it’s a mess. There is no story and it’s driven along simply because there’s a force of nature called Tim Curry as the star. You say “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” to people and I guarantee they’ll say; “that’s the movie Tim Curry is in drag in, right?”

So why did I watch Fox’s production ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW: LET’S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN? Well, I’ll be honest…I thought this was going to be a live production like they did with ‘Grease.’ But a half hour in I didn’t care and I was having a great time watching it.

I was hooked with Ivy Levan as Trixie The Usherette escorting patrons to their seats as she was singing ‘Science Fiction Double Feature.’ The audience she escorts to their seats is the surrogates for the people who back in the day jumped up onstage to perform with the movie playing on screen and it’s a wonderfully imaginative way to start the movie off. And during the running time of the movie they’ll talk back to the screen and perform actions that audiences watching the move back in the day, such as throwing toast and toilet paper at the screen. I’ve read reviews that thought it was corny but I dunno…I like it and thought it was cute.

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The plot is fairly simple: Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Laverne Cox) An alien transvestite scientist decides to hold a convention of her/his fellow aliens from the planet Transsexual to unveil his/her greatest creation, Rocky (Staz Nair) The Perfect Man. This coincides with the unexpected arrival of Janet Weiss (Victoria Justice) and Brad McCartan (Brad Majors) a newly engaged couple who will have their perceptions of sexuality challenged by their stay in Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s castle on this dark and stormy night.

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But the plot doesn’t matter. The story doesn’t matter. Really. What matters are the songs and the performances and the goofy callbacks to the original. So here we go:

Laverne Cox: Is good enough of an actor that she can do the same thing Karl Urban and Zachary Quinto do in the modern “Star Trek” movies with the character of McCoy and Spock. She channels the spirit of Tim Curry without doing an outright imitation of him. And she is having so much fun it’s impossible not to have fun watching her.

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Christina Milan: I’ve been a fan of her ever since you guys dissed her in the “Get Shorty” sequel ‘Get Cool” so don’t expect me to be on your side now. I loved her in this, ‘Nuff said.

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Ben Vereen fills the “Who The Hell Let Him Into This Movie?” Slot.

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I really liked how whenever Tim Curry (The Narrator/Crimonologist) appeared, the faux movie audience gave him a standing ovation.

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“Meatloaf? AGAIN?”

Laverne Cox knocks it out of the park with “I’m Going Home.” And “Wise Up, Janet Weiss”

Annaleigh Ashford actually does her best to give Columbia more characterization than the original and I think she succeeds. Adam Lambert comes in long enough to sing one of the movie’s better songs; “Whatever Happened To Saturday Night?” but I’m with those who say that Jack Black would have been better.

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Like most things in life it comes down to personal taste. I’ve read reviews where the reviewers complain that this version is too polished and too theatrical. But I like it because of that reason. I love how during the run time the movie subtly and gradually turns into a stage production, honoring its roots as a play. And it also gives nods to the 1975 movie as well.

I dunno…I just can’t find it in me to work up such hatred for remakes that most other people do. Especially when it’s a remake that so obviously honors and respects the original. Or maybe I’m just getting to the stage in life when I care more about if my entertainment choices actually entertain me more than anything else. On that basis, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW: LET’S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN has done its job because it certainly did entertain me for two hours. Highly Recommended.

88 Minutes

TV-14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scream And Scream Again

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1970

American International Pictures

Directed by Gordon Hessler

Produced by Max Rosenberg/Milton Subotsky/Louis M. Heyward

Written by Christopher Wicking

Based on the novel “The Disoriented Man” by Peter Saxon

As the opening credits of SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN play out, we’re watching a fit young man jogging through what presumably is a park in London. He sure seems like a healthy bloke which is why it’s a surprise when he suddenly grabs his heart and collapses. He wakes up lying in a hospital bed. A nurse comes into his room and tends to him but refuses to answer his questions. She leaves. The bloke tries to sit up in bed but something’s not quite right. He pulls back the covers to see that one of his legs has been amputated below the knee. Quite understandably he screams bloody murder.

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We will revisit this unlucky chap during the course of the movie’s 95 minute running time and each time we do, he’ll be missing another limb. When Tom Deja and I discussed SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN on a “Better In The Dark” episode we both admitted how we felt guilty watching this movie and laughing at the guy’s plight because after awhile it’s like the blackest of black comedies. Every time the poor bastard goes to sleep, he wakes up missing a limb.

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But we’ve got other things going in the movie. In fact, there are three totally separate stories going on that on the surface seem to be unrelated to each other. In one, Peter Cushing is a highly placed official working for the government of an unidentified European totalitarian county that is clearly supposed to be based on Nazi Germany. One of his junior officers has apparently mastered the Vulcan neck pinch so well that he can kill people with it. He’s moving up the ladder of power, killing the higher-ups as he does so.

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In the second story Dr. Browning (Vincent Price) is a brilliant research physician specializing in limb and organ transplants who is questioned by the police. They’re looking for a serial rapist/killer who apparently has vampiric abilities. Two of Dr. Browning’s assistants have fallen victim to the fiend and needless to say even though the good doctor claims no knowledge at all of how this could be so, the police find him highly suspicious.

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In the third story, Christopher Lee is the chief of an unnamed British intelligence service who finds himself dealing with the political/diplomatic fallout when one of his spy planes has either been shot down or accidentally crashed in a certain unidentified European totalitarian country.

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And while we bounce back and forth between these three seemingly unrelated stories, we keep revisiting that poor bastard in the hospital bed who is trapped in the world’s worst game of Operation!

If you’ve never seen SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN (and I highly recommend you seek it out if you never have) when you see it for the first time you can be forgiven for thinking that this movie must have been put together by a film editor who A: Was high as a cooter on crack and booze when he worked on this. B: Was pissed at the studio or C: Just didn’t give a shit about his job. Because since Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Vincent Price never share a single scene together, the movie plays out for most of its running time as if the film editor took three different movies; one starring Mr. Lee, one starring Mr. Cushing and one starring Mr. Price then haphazardly edited scenes from each of those movies into one. And yeah, you read that right. The three stars of the movie never share a scene together. Mr. Lee and Mr. Price appear on screen together for maybe a minute at the film’s very end.

But here’s the twist: the three separate plots do eventually converge and when they do, you may find yourself nodding your head as I did the first time I saw it and saying; “Okay, that’s a bit of alright.” This is the kind of movie where you shouldn’t even bother trying to play the game of what’s going to happen next or attempt to figure out where the movie is going or how it’s going to end. Trust me; it’s impossible to do that with SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN. Just sit back and enjoy where it takes you. It’s science fiction, it’s black comedy, its horror, it’s a political/paranoia/conspiracy thriller and it’s Highly Recommended.

95 Minutes

Rated R

The Black Cat

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1934

Universal Pictures

Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer

Produced by E.M. Asher

Screenplay by Peter Ruric

Story by Edgar G. Ulmer/Peter Ruric 

You want to know how twisted 1934’s THE BLACK CAT is? Besides the Satanism cult, human sacrifice and necrophilia fetishism? Mollyfoggin’ Bela Lugosi is the hero of this movie. Seriously. When you’re a character in a movie and you have to depend on Bela Lugosi to save your ass then you know the situation has gotten so far out of control it ain’t even funny. But then again, considering that the bad guy in THE BLACK CAT is Boris Karloff, maybe it is appropriate that Bela be the one to come to your rescue.

Bela Lugosi actually did play the hero in the 12 chapter cliffhanger “The Return of Chandu” but it’s this movie that I always point to as his best performance in a heroic role and it’s a shame he didn’t get to do it more because Bela Lugosi plays a very sympathetic hero in THE BLACK CAT. But he also is able to project an air of menace that makes even the American couple he befriends shy away from him. He may be the good guy but that doesn’t mean he’s a good guy.

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The American couple caught in the middle of the bizarre hijinks to come is newlyweds Peter and Joan Alison (David Manners and Julie Bishop). They’re on honeymoon in Hungary (was Hungary the honeymoon destination for American newlyweds in 1934?) and share their train compartment with the mysterious Hungarian psychiatrist Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Bela Lugosi.)

During a curiously touching moment where Werdegast lovingly strokes the hair of the sleeping Joan, he’s caught by Peter who sensing the despair in the older man says nothing and instead listens to his story of how he went to war, leaving his wife, who looked very much like Joan behind at home.  Werdegast has spent the last 15 years in a prison camp and is on his way to see his old friend, the brilliant architect Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff). Poelzig has built his futuristic Art Deco mansion on the ruins of Fort Marmorus which Poelzig commanded during the war and where Werdegast served.

After leaving the train, Werdegast, his servant and the Alisons share a bus which crashes and they all end up at Poelzig’s mansion. It’s here that the plot really kicks in as Werdegast informs Poelzig that he knows Poelzig betrayed the fort to the Russians and intends to avenge their dead comrades. If that wasn’t enough, Poelzig also stole Werdegast’s wife Karen while Werdegast was a prisoner of war. And it gets way kinkier than that. Karen Werdegast died two years after Poelzig married her, telling her that her husband was dead. Poelzig then raised her daughter, also named Karen (Lucille Lund) until she was of age and then he married her.

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Werdegast informs Poelzig that he will wait until the Alisons have left and then they will settle their score. Poelzig offers his old friend a new game: they’ll play chess for Joan Alison. If Werdegast loses, she’ll become a human sacrifice for Poelzig’s Satanic cult. If Werdegast wins he can take the Alisons and Karen away with him. The two men sit down to play but the game will end in a conclusion far stranger and horrifying than either of them could ever imagine…

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Even though this movie claims to be inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s; “The Black Cat” there’s absolutely nothing of that tale in here. Werdegast has a phobic horror of cats and no matter how many he kills (by my count he kills at least three) Poelzig always seems to have another prowling around. I remember watching this movie when I was a kid on PBS. Thank Odin there was somebody there in Programming who apparently loved Universal horror movies, “Dr. Who” and samurai movies. THE BLACK CAT had a profound effect on me because even though we never see anything truly horrifying, the aberrant behavior demonstrated throughout the film is disturbing enough. There’s a lot of dark, twisted psychological horror here, backed up with outstanding visual design and terrific B&W photography that looks even better in HD. I recently watched this movie on Turner Classic Movies and it was like watching a movie that had been made this year. The soundtrack is also memorable as it’s made up entirely of classic music selections, the most notable being the use of ‘Dies Irae’ during a scene where Poelzig leads Werdegast through the lower levels of his mansion and details the rules of the game they will play.

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If you’ve never seen it before and you call yourself a horror movie fan then you need to see THE BLACK CAT at your earliest opportunity. It stars two true Icons of the genre and it teams them in one of the best horror movies ever made. It doesn’t have blood or gore but it has atmosphere, character and intense psychological fears and terrors that I really will believe will stay with you long after you finished watching it. THE BLACK CAT is a masterpiece of the genre. I’ve provided a link below you can check it out for yourself if you’re so inclined.

Ninja III: The Domination

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1984

Cannon Films/MGM/UA

Directed by Sam Firstenberg

Produced by Yoram Globus & Menahem Golan

Written by James R. Silke

What’s the one thing movie fans can unite behind no matter their race, religion or film preference? Remakes. Mention to movie fans that there’s going to be a remake of a beloved movie and stand back. Such a wailing and gnashing of teeth you have never heard in your life. I’ve actually seen with my own eyes people get more upset at the news that a favorite movie of theirs is being remade than at the news of a family member’s death.

What I’ve never quite understood is why movie fans get so upset about remakes when they happen all the time in the theater and theater fans just take it in stride and go on with their lives. You’ll see that every five years or so there’s a new production of “West Side Story” or “Camelot” or “Oklahoma” and theater fans greet it with joy and anticipation.

But I think I have a solution to the problem. Why not remake movies that were flops and failures the first time around and take another crack at bringing to fruition the promise that they showed? And I’ve got my first candidate NINJA III: THE DOMINATION.

Not that it isn’t a whole lotta goofy fun just the way it is. NINJA III: THE DOMINATION has a lot of the elements I love about 1980s movies, up to and including the obvious fact that nobody associated with the production gave a damn about how silly and ridiculous the plot was. I’ve read that Sho Kosugi wasn’t happy with the movie at all and argued strenuously against mixing martial arts with demonic possession. But the results are so jaw-droppingly batshit insane I’m glad that he didn’t get his way. As a result we get a movie that joyfully and wonderfully embraces its weirdness and doesn’t bother one little bit to be embarrassed about it. It’s the kind of movie where you either go with it or leave it alone.

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The Black Ninja (David Chung) comes to an unnamed American city on a mission of assassination. He’s there to kill a scientist. Why? What for? Who hired him? These questions are never answered. The poor bastard is simply a living MacGuffin to get the plot going. The Black Ninja kills the scientist, his wife and/or girlfriend and his four bodyguards while the scientist is playing golf in less time than it took me to describe. He’s surprised by golf course security who call the cops and that takes us into the first but not the last of the many batshit insane action sequences of the movie.

The Black Ninja outruns cops who are on foot, on motorcycles and in cars but there’s too many of them for him to elude and he strikes back, displaying a nice range of ninja weapons while doing so. And I liked the fact that he didn’t simply slice up cops with his sword. He takes them out using his blowgun, throwing stars, blinding powder, chain and sickle, etc. This cat takes out about a hundred cops and even brings down a police helicopter before going down in a hail of gunfire. The cops think he’s dead, get closer and then believe it or not, The Black Ninja jumps up and proceeds to hack and slash to death about a hundred more cops. Having finally gotten sick of this shit, the police do the only sensible thing and form a circle around The Black Ninja then shotgun him to death. Even then this resourceful bastard still gets away by throwing a smoke bomb and seemingly disappears.

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The Black Ninja stumbles on telephone linewoman/aerobics instructor Christie (Lucinda Dickey) and gives her his sword before finally dying. Turns out that The Black Ninja put his spirit inside the sword which in turns possesses Christie and uses her to get revenge on the police officers that killed him. The situation is complicated by Christie’s flowering romance with Billy Secord (Jordan Bennett) one of the cops who killed The Black Ninja. He becomes increasing more and more curious about Christie’s unexplained disappearances which seem to happen just around the same time his fellow officers are being murdered one by one. That’s when our boy Sho Kosugi comes flying in from Japan. He’s got a long standing blood feud with The Black Ninja and he’s quite aware that even death cannot stop his evil. It isn’t long before he and Billy have teamed up to try and save Christie’s soul from the demonic possession of The Black Ninja and defeat him once and for all.

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Where do I begin trying to describe why I like this movie so much? Should I start with the scene where our old friend James Hong as a Shinto priest attempts to exorcise the spirit of The Black Ninja from Christie? Or the scene where the spirit of The Black Ninja, which has apparently taken up residence inside of Christie’s arcade video game machine takes control of her with smoke, laser beams, and neon strobe lighting? Or the love scene where Christie pours V8 all over her neck and chest and invites Billy to lick it off?

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The idea of a movie that’s a mash-up of two very popular movie fads at that time: martial arts and demonic possession isn’t a bad one and I think that maybe the reason it flopped at the box office was because there wasn’t enough of either one to satisfy fans of either genre. Sho Kosugi himself doesn’t show up until halfway though the movie and even then he stays mostly in the background until the final showdown with The Black Ninja whose demonic spirit has revived his body in true zombie style.

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The movie belongs to Lucinda Dickey who played Kelly aka Special K in the cult masterpiece “Breakin’” And it’s a shame she never again starred in an action movie because she acquits herself very well indeed. Supposedly she got the role based solely on the fact that due to her training as a dancer she was athletic enough to do many of her own stunts. It helps that Lucinda Dickey is nuclear hot and has enough personality and screen presence to make up for any acting deficiencies. The camera absolutely loves her and she just as obviously loves it back.

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And thanks be for that as there’s not much else in the way of acting to brag about here. Sho Kosugi isn’t exactly Peter O’Toole but then again, he didn’t have to be. He knew exactly what his role in a movie of this type is and he fulfills that role adequately. Jordan Bennett as Officer Secord comes off as being too much on the uncomfortable side of stalker-ish for my taste. Even by 1980s standards.

As I said earlier, NINJA III: THE DOMINATION is one of those movies that you just have to make up your mind before you start watching that you’re just going to go along for the ride. And if you do, I think you’ll have just as good a time as I did with it. If you’re so inclined, go no further than the YouTube link below and enjoy.

90 Minutes

Rated R

 

 

Sleepaway Camp

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1983

American Eagle Films

Directed and Written by Robert Hiltzik

Produced by Jerry Silva/Michele Tatosian

In a decade dominated by the slasher genre of horror movies, SLEEPAWAY CAMP managed to stand out back in the 1980s and still is being talked about today. Chances are that if you’ve seen it, you might not remember anything else about the movie (well, you might remember the scene with the curling iron. Talk about owtch) but you’ll remember that ending. And boy howdy, what an ending. It’s been compared to the ending of “Psycho” and I have to agree. I watched SLEEPAWAY CAMP yesterday for the first time in something like twenty years and still found myself having an “oh, shit!” moment when the ending came. But SLEEPAWAY CAMP comes by that ending honestly. There’s some solid storytelling and characterization going on here that elevates the movie. Don’t get me wrong. We’re not talking “Halloween” level or even “Friday The 13th” but SLEEPAWAY CAMP is most definitely more than a few notches above your average slasher slice-n-dice.

After the death of her brother and father in a boating mishap in 1975, the traumatized Angela Baker (Felissa Rose) goes to live with her aunt Dr. Martha Thomas (Desiree Gould) and her son, Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten) for the next eight years. Aunt Martha decides it’s time the kids got out on their own and sends them to Camp Arawak for the summer. It’s obvious that some of Aunt Martha’s fuses have long blown and not been replaced. She gives the children documents stating their physicals and admonishes them not to tell anyone they got them from her.

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Once they get to the camp Ricky fits in just fine but the painfully introverted Angela has a hard time making friends. She has no trouble making enemies in the form of her roommate Judy (Karen Fields) and camp counselor Meg (Katherine Kamhi) who delight in tormenting the shy girl every chance they get. Ricky’s friend Paul (Christopher Collet) feels sorry for Angela and takes it upon himself to befriend the lonely girl. A friendship that grows into a romance that drives Judy into a jealous fit.

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And that’s when the murders start. Camp owner Mel Costic (Mike Kellin) starts to notice that anyone who picks on Angela turns up dead. And her cousin Ricky just happens to be nearby just before that person turns up dead. Is Ricky murdering the campers in defense of his cousin? Who else could it be? Who else indeed? (dun dun duuuuuuuuuun)

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To be fair, there’s not a whole lot of suspects in this one so it’s not going to be hard for you to figure out who the killer is. But it’s not that kind of a movie. It works hard at being just as much of a psychological thriller as a slasher and while it doesn’t succeed entirely, the motivations of the filmmakers are genuine and I give them credit for it.

And this is one slasher movie where you don’t mind seeing the kids get killed because they’re such obnoxious little snots. Real teenage actors were used and they’re all pretty good because they act like teenagers. They’re rude, petty, emotional, raging with hormones, cuss like sailors on liberty and downright mean to each other for no reason at all. So when they get bumped off there’s an almost subversive feeling of glee because hey, these brats had it coming. For a slasher movie, the blood and gore is surprisingly kept to a minimum. But that’s because people get killed off in more unusual ways that just being hacked to bloody bits.

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SLEEPAWAY CAMP is one of those 1980s movies that has it’s own vibe, its own peculiar charm that you either will get or you won’t. It’s just that simple. Sure the psychology that explains the killer’s motivation is screwball and some of you will find the homophobia distasteful as it’s strongly implied that Angela and her brother were emotionally/psychologically damaged as a result of their father’s homosexual relationship. But I think that if you can accept the movie as having been made in a less enlightened time (although after having watched the Republican National Convention I wonder how enlightened we can truly claim to be) and look upon it as 90 minutes of disposable popcorn entertainment, you’ll have a good time with it. And you don’t even have to spend a dime. It’s available to watch on YouTube and I’ve provided a link below. Enjoy.

90 Minutes

Rated R

Nightbeast

Nightbeast

1982

Troma Entertainment

Written and Directed by Don Dohler

I know that it must get annoying for younger movie fans to listen to us old geezers go on and on and on about the movies of the 1980s. To hear us tell it, the 1980s was a magical, inspired decade of brilliant filmmaking that we’ll never see again. And truth to tell we did have some exceptionally kick-ass movies come out of the 1980s. “Once Upon A Time In America” “Ghostbusters” “Die Hard” “Back To the Future” “The Princess Bride” “Predator” “Airplane!” “The Shining” “The Outsiders” “The Empire Strikes Back” “Lethal Weapon” “Raiders of The Lost Ark.” And that’s just the tippity-top of a very big iceberg. No doubt about it, the 1980s was a great decade for movies.

But with bitter waters must come with the sweet and the truth is this: that for every great movie that hit the cinemas, there were at least three or four utter crappy movies that somehow crawled onto the movie screens with no warning at all. Which brings us to NIGHTBEAST.

An alien starship passing by Earth is struck by an asteroid and crash-lands on the outskirts of the small town of Perry Hall, Maryland. The pilot survives, a monstrous, hideous looking sucka sporting a snappy, pristine silver jumpsuit. And an honest-to-Buck Rogers disintegrator ray gun that it promptly uses to disintegrate a couple of hunters who were camping nearby and came to investigate the crash.

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And the alien doesn’t stop there. He promptly commits a home invasion, killing the couple within. He kills an uncle taking his niece and nephew out for a drive. And what kind of uncle just happens to be driving way the hell out the country with his niece and nephew in the middle of the night, hmm? And the alien still doesn’t stop there. He continues to disintegrate everybody he comes across. Even after his ray gun is destroyed he continues his bloody rampage, disemboweling, ripping heads off, snapping necks and in general just carrying on cranky. Why? Don’t ask me. Never once does the movie explain why the alien goes berserk. Presumably it’s intelligent since it knows how to operate a starship; it’s wearing clean clothes and packs a gat. But the alien never even tries to make contact or ask for help. It just runs around killing everything that moves.

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After an encounter with the alien that leaves more people dead, Country Sheriff Jack Cinder (Tom Griffith) decides to evacuate the entire town until The National Guard can be called in to help. This doesn’t sit very well with Mayor Bert Wicker (Richard Dyszel) who apparently went to the same school of mayoring as Larry Vaughn from “Jaws.” Wicker is throwing a lavish party for the governor in order to further his own political career and he doesn’t need Cinder running around screaming that there’s an alien in town disintegrating everybody in sight. It’s up to Cinder, his loyal deputy Lisa (Karin Kardian) and Jamie (Jamie Zemarel) to stop the blood-soaked frenzy of the alien. Who’s Jamie? Don’t ask me. He’s a guy who just shows up and he’s plainly more capable than anyone else in the movie of dealing with the situation. My favorite scene in the movie is when Cinder interrupts the mayor’s party and tries to reason with him to get the governor out of town before the alien drops by for drinks. Jamie coolly takes Lisa’s gun, fires a couple of shots for attention and then tells everybody there’s a dangerous gas leak and they need to get the hell out. He then calmly steps out of the way of the stampede.

Other than the scenes with Jamie (and some welcome gratuitous nudity courtesy of Karin Kardian and Monica Neff who plays Suzie, the girlfriend of the town rapist, Drago (Don Leifert) there’s not much else I can recommend about NIGHTBEAST. It may interest you that this movie boasts the first official screen credit of J.J. Abrams (as Jeffrey Abrams) so there’s that.

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The movie was filmed on a budget of $42,000 and I’m surprised they spent that much. The special effects are painfully bad but the special effects guys do go all out on the gore when the alien attacks. But I have to give the cast credit for being professionals. They give it their best and never once wink at the camera or treat the material as anything less than serious. I only wish they had a better script to work with. And that’s really all NIGHTBEAST needed to be a better movie. While I was watching it, I was mentally rewriting the story in my head which I usually do when the movie is really bad or really stupid. But don’t get me wrong. It’s not a totally worthless movie. It’s the kind of movie that’s made for when you’re having a drinking party and you and your guests need to have something to goof on while you’re getting blitzed. NIGHTBEAST is just that kind of movie. And you don’t even have to pay to see it. It’s available on YouTube and I’ve even been so good as to provide a link if you want to see how bad it is for yourself. Enjoy.

90 Minutes

Rated R