Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Coed And The Zombie Stoner (2014)

REVIEW BY: Bobby Lepire


Company: The Asylum

Runtime: 91 mins

Format: BluRay

Plot:
When a nerdy sorority girl falls in love with a zombie, it's only a matter of time before a zombie apocalypse is unleashed on campus. The sorority girl discovers that weed is the cure--now she must smoke out the entire school before it's too late.

Review:
Starting in 2009, The Asylum began going off their beaten path and started producing original comedy fare (this excludes any film they acquired distribution rights to). 18 Year-Old Virgin, Sexpot, and #1 Cheerleader Camp are just a few titles, and their latest foray into comedic territory is The Coed And The Zombie Stoner. I am happy to report it is their most inspired and genuinely funny comedy to date.

Let’s get the bad out of the way as soon as possible. Professor Hagfish (Diane Chambers) serves positively, absolutely no purpose whatsoever. She just complains, gets in the way, and fails to advance the plot or the characters forward in anyway. The ending part with her is also frustratingly pointless, simply taking away from the happy state of mind left behind by the ending proper. Actually, there are a few other scenes and subplots that could be cut out, if you ask me. The whole needing a boyfriend/losing the scholarship bit that effectively begins the plot is awkwardly explained, and Bambi’s endgame (before the whole zombie thing begins to happen) was never made clear. Also not necessary was PJ’s dumping of Chrissy during the first party. I don’t get why she just couldn’t be single, as he being her old flame is of no consequence throughout the film.

With the complaints hashed out (yes, that’s all of them), let’s get to good, sexy, zombified stoner fun that is the bulk of this film.


The movie’s best resource are the two leads. Catherine Annette is brilliant as the chemist/sorority sister lead Chrissy. She talks nonstop, usually about whatever science tidbits float into her head. Annette conveys her character’s ability to only really understand the world through science, and her obliviousness to social cues quite capably. Grant O’Connell as the stoner zombie boyfriend Rigo Fabien has virtually no lines, and thus, most of his acting is facial expressions and body language. Luckily, he has quite the charismatic presence that allows the audience to always know exactly what he’s trying to say, even though he can only grunt. Jamie Noel is bitchy, pseudo-bad gal Bambi. When we first meet her, she seems cartoony levels of dumb, but once the bulk of the story kicks in (read- flashback!) it makes more sense, once we catch up. Spike is a perpetual stoner, with some weird sexual fetishes, that is played to the hilt by Andrew Clements. His timing and deliver were quite on point, and he never failed to make me laugh, no matter the scene. Dora Pereli as bimbo Bunndy and Lena Young as the air-headed valley girl Bibi, fellow sorority sisters, are clearly have a ball, just having a chance to cut loose and have fun. Diane Chambers is solid as cranky old Professor Hagfish, but the movie could have done without her character entirely (as previously mentioned). Dr. Avon is Chrissy’s advisor and mentor, and Louis Dezseran balances just the right mix of exasperation and pride to make his mugging understandable.

Scotty Mullen’s screenplay keeps the jokes and gags coming at a good clip, allowing for a variety of styles in the comedy. Dezseran gets a lot of facial reaction shots, Chrissy and her sorority sisters have some great one liners throughout: “This is an underwear run.” “But… I don’t wear any.” -pause- “Oh yeah! -giggles- Neither do I.” I am not sure if I did that brief exchange justice. Bibi and Bunndy are just so excitable and exuberant that the actress’ deliveries really do make that work.


The Coed and the Zombie Stoner is ostensibly a stoner rom-com, and Mullen has crafted a very believable romance, with a lot of cute touches that make it work. His idea of stoners may rely on cliches a bit, but he does give them some great hero moments though, so I think it balances out. In addition, the zombies are fast and still retain a lot of their personality, which is cause of some hilarious antics. They are still effectively scary when need be, and the detailed make-up is good.

Director Glenn Miller never loses the tone, so even when the major outbreak end sup happening, it's still quite funny. He also edits an amazing dating montage of our leads, which includes them learning to dance together, that recalled to mind “Silver Linings Playbook”, but only better, because seriously, that film was utter rubbish. The song accompanying the montage is sweet and catchy, and works.
While a tad uneven at times, any movie where aerosol-ed weed is a weapon, has imagination. Couple that with quick jokes and a believable romance, and you get a cute rom-com, with zombies! The Asylum has hit their stride, and with each new release, I am only happier as they continue to grow into a direct-to-video force to reckon with.

8/10 rooms in the Psych Ward


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sleeping Beauty (2014)

REVIEW BY: Bobby Lepire


Company: The Asylum

Runtime: 90 mins

Format: BluRay

Plot:
When a young Prince and his trusted aide learn of a beautiful Princess's cursed eternal slumber, they embark on a journey to rescue her. They must battle an evil queen and legions of undead monsters before she will be free.

Review:
In 2014 The Ayslum has already outdone themselves with their first offering; Mega Shark Vs. Mecha Shark is quite handily the best of the “Mega Shark” series. Andrioid Cop was a lean, mean, and great looking sci-fi actioner, that caught me by surprise at how smart it was. Even their less ambitious offerings, Apocalypse Pompeii for example, have been tremendous fun. So when I say that Asylum’s Sleeping Beauty is, without a doubt, their single greatest film to date, and an absolute masterpiece, please believe me.

Directed with great flair by Casper Van Dien (one of my favorite actors!), his directorial debut is an assured and visually dazzling work of art; which I don’t say that lightly. The cinematography maximizes the gorgeous Bulgarian castle and surrounding countryside this was filmed at. The camera motions are quite dynamic, adding vigor and energy to each scene. The editing is precise, with a nice rhythm being found early on, which allows everything to flow nicely together.

The Asylum is no stranger to retelling fairy tales, with the most interesting aspect about each is how they were interpreted - Grimm’s Snow White keeps the proper setting, but reimagines the dwarves as elves and the thrust of the plot being about stealing a life energy-giving space rock, while Jack The Giant Killer (a movie I give a 9/10 to on this very site) is a 1950s British steampunk war film (kind of, sort of), and Hansel & Gretel is a completely modern horror film. Sleeping Beauty is easily their most faithful adaptation, and they were still able to add zombies, a wyvern, a leviathan, and a zombie wyvern! Yeah, this movie is so badass it has a zombie wyvern! God bless the Asylum!


We open with a celebration for the birth of Princess Dawn (Grace Van Dien, Casper's real-life daughter) - her name comes straight from the original story. Tambria (Olivia d’Abo) failed to receive an invitation, and due to this slight, curses the baby to die by pricking her finger on a spindle before her 16th birthday. One of the good fairies, color designation blue, counters the curse by making it a “sleep-like death”, since she’s unable to reverse the spell completely. Tambria then fights the blue fairy, plus two other good ones (pink and white), and promptly kills them. Two minutes in, and we get the main villainess cursing babies, killing fairies, and winning. We start at full throttle and things just keep escalating from there.

Flash forward some years. It’s the night before Dawn’s 16th birthday and a massive celebration is underway. During this, Dawn is asked to dance by a local boy. The boy tells Dawn he has a present for her, and steals her away from the crowd. The present is a gorgeous cloak, and she’s enthralled by it. Dawn asks how he was able to make such a thing, and the boy produces a spindle. No longer fearing for her life, Dawn touches it and falls to the ground. The boy was Tambria, magically disguised, who had intentionally screwed with the kingdom’s calendars, to make it appear later in the month (by a few days) than it really was. She’s a cunning, devious, and awesome character. Tambira takes over the kingdom, but is unable to leave or else her magic will wear thin.

A hundred years later, we meet Prince Jayson (Edward Lewis French), of a neighboring kingdom. His whipping boy, Barrow (Finn Jones of Game Of Thrones fame), has learned from teacher Earlin (Clive Sawyer) how to read, and comes across an ancient parchment, written by Dawn before she fell asleep. Upon hearing of the kingdom’s treasures, Jayson, Barrow, Earlin, and a small band of adventurers and a bodyguard loyal to the prince trek out to save the kingdom from the curse. These adventurers are Jacob (Dylan Vox) and Wilhelm (David Elliott), which astute readers will recognize as the names of none other than the Brothers Grimm! And yes, that is exactly who they are. The bodyguard is Gruner (Gil Kolirin), a massive brick house of a man.

Upon reaching the castle entrance, our heroes need to get across the moat. After finding a still working boat, they set forth… only to be attacked by a levithan! The creature looks good, scaly and slimy in believable proportions and while only a basic design, it’s a cool fight that quickly informs the audience of the stakes. Having lost only one member of their party during the encounter, and taking turns blaming each other for how that happened (a choice I love, because it makes all their actions seem more believable), they are then lead to the gardens before the castle. In these gardens, Tambria scrying their position, sends a horde of zombies to attack. This fight is more chaotic and shaky cam-ed than the last, which is entirely appropriate as there’s way more going on and portrays, visually, the confusion of the characters as well. The zombies are tough to kill, but are a tad slow, so escape is achieved after only a few scraps.

There’s also an amazing twist with Jayson’s true motives, that I won’t spoil here, but it adds an incredible amount of depth to the spoiled brat he appears to be at the start. Lewis’s performance is nuanced enough to pull that tricky situation off. Kolirin is good, noble, and his death is awesomely brutal- “Bring me the bald one, I want to play with his head”. Tambria does in fact play with his head. This movie isn’t afraid to go dark and raise the stakes, but never overdoes it.


Joseph Lawson yet again brings his considerable special effects talent to the CGI here. The design of the wyvern is cool, with only narrow eyes, but bulging muscles and imposing jaws. It’s blended in with the environments quite nicely, and is one of my favorite Asylum creatures. It loses an arm early on, and the fact that it still comes across as a hulking menace just goes to show how much effort was put into it. The spheres of magic, conjured up during spells, look impressive, and when being thrown, seem to have a real weight to them.

Olivia d’Abo as Tambria is deliciously evil. Not really hamming it up, but clearly reveling in the despicable acts she’s allowed to do - she’s menacing as all hell. Casper Van Dien and real-life wife, Catherine Oxenberg play Dawn’s parents - King David and Queen Violet - and A) That’s a gorgeous couple! and B) Their real life chemistry is palpable on the screen, allowing their love and goodness to come across in just a few scenes. As the Grimm brothers, Vox and Elliott are solid and fun additions. Each conveys a sense of adventure loving and wonderment that works with what we already know about them. There’s an urchin named Newt (kickass “Aliens” homage), played by Maya Van Dien (No joke, this movie is an entire Van Dien family affair!), and she’s pretty incredible as a streetwise kid that knows how to survive through the horrors of the cursed kingdom.

The two best actors though, are our leads; Finn Jones has a natural charisma, his strapping looks certainly help, that makes one instantly relate to him. He holds his own during the action scenes, and convincingly conveys his intelligence that, due to his life’s lot, he must keep hidden from the prince. His is a great performance, and I hope he’ll continue working with The Asylum for a long time to come. Grace Van Dien as Princess Dawn portrays such confidence behind her big blue eyes, but never betrays the vulnerability the character must have because of the curse. At the end, when she kisses Barrow to save his life (yeah, the changes made from the classic story are pretty sweet), Grace handles the tough as nails, take no prisoners action heavy moments like a true champ.


While Sleeping Beauty is the most accurate fairy tale retelling the Asylum has done thus far, there are still plenty of changes that, in my opinion, are for the best. Gone is the 'marrying the princess while she’s still sleeping' angle, because...well... ew, gross, and the addition of zombies and monsters never felt forced and allowed for a true classic adventure narrative to unfold. At the end, Barrow brings the still-sleeping Dawn out of the castle, as a kind of collateral. He does kiss and awaken her, but Tambria throws a spell and kills Barrow. She then summons all of her undead creatures, previously killed ones included (thus we get a freakin' zombie-wyvern), and the scene is just as awesome as it sounds! After banishing, and effectively neutralizing the evil curse, Dawn kisses Barrow which resurrects him. I really love how that spell worked both ways, and allowed Dawn far more than just a mere damsel in distress. At the very end, Dawn and Barrow have their own child, Day (another name directly from the original source). Day is wee baby Celeste Van Dien (As stated before, complete family affair!)

The closing credits have the song “When You First Kissed Me” written and performed for this movie by Joseph Metcalf and Michelle Aragon. It fits the mood and tone of the film perfectly, and it’s also a really well done song. Strong voices, solid lyrics, great way to finish off the film proper.


I have been watching and loving The Asylum movies for over a decade, and I have greatly enjoyed watching their evolution. However, even with all the genuinely cool stuff they have been putting out lately, nothing prepared me for the beauty and awesomeness of their version of Sleeping Beauty. The Asylum have a ton of films still slated to come out that I am stoked to see - Hercules Reborn, Sharknado 2: The Second One (obviously), and Bermuda Tentacles, which aired on the SyFy Channel earlier this year but still has yet to hit DVD and BluRay, but in all honesty, I have a hard time believing any of their other titles could beat this out as their strongest, most ingenious, and impressive work for me yet.

Casper Van Dien has created the perfect fairy tale adventure film, and B-Movie or otherwise, this film is brilliant, beautiful, and amazing.

10/10 rooms in the Psych Ward


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Early Review of Age of Tomorrow (2014)

REVIEW BY: Jeffrey Long


COMPANY: The Asylum

RUNTIME: 90 mins

FORMAT: Screener

PLOT: When a global extinction-level asteroid heads directly toward Earth, the U.S. Military sends a team up to drill into the core, plant a bomb, and blow the asteroid to pieces before it can hit Earth. However, they soon discover it will not be that easy when the giant asteroid turns out to secretly be an alien mothership, about to launch an attack on Earth.

REVIEW: It's that time of year again, which is my favorite time of year - Hollywood starts releasing their mindless big budget summer popcorn blockbusters and right as habit would have it, The Asylum is right there and ready to go to release their mindless low budget summer popcorn mockbusters in their usual perfectly-timed fashion to coincide with whatever Hollywood monstrosity is coming out that week. In the case of this week, it's Asylum's Age of Tomorrow (or World of Tomorrow for some European markets), which is clearly meant to hilariously capitalize on the Tom Cruise-starring mega hit due out this weekend, Edge of Tomorrow. And like The Asylum usually does with most of their movies, they were pleasant and kind enough to send a screener copy of Age of Tomorrow my way for early review!


Now the first thing to note here is that, for some reason, the plot description for this movie that's posted everywhere, including on Asylum's own website, has NOTHING to do with this movie; No anthropologist characters to be found, no trips to Mexico, nothing to do with or even mentions any Sun Temple and Moon Temple, nothing about having to locate some mystic artifact hidden in one of the temples located directly under the mothership, nothing like any of that, at all. It does sound like a fun movie, and because of that I hope we get to see that movie someday, but it's certainly not this one.

Age of Tomorrow actually follows two entirely separate sub-plots, connected loosely together by the overall main plot of aliens invading. The first sub-plot follows the military, as personified by Robert Picardo, discovering the giant Asteroid and, very much like in Armageddon, they put together a team, which happens to include Kelly Hu's character, to go into space and land on it, drill down to the center, plant a bomb to explode the thing, and than get back off of it again. However, after landing on it and exploring the underground caverns Prometheus-style (complete with space suits that look like they could have come from that movie as well), they find out that this is actually an alien mothership disguised as an asteroid and no sooner does it launch hundreds of fighter drones down to Earth then our cast of roughneck characters here get teleported directly to the savage jungles of the alien homeworld, where they continue on with their out-of-this-world adventure, leading them to one of the alien city-sized workcamps, where they take abducted humans and use them as slaves, experiments, and all that jazz.

The other main sub-plot that takes place during all this is, in my opinion, the far less interesting one. Instead of exploring creepy underground asteroid caverns, or finding new unique-looking alien planets, or going toe-to-toe again vicious aliens, we have a divorced fireman and his co-workers trying to make their way through debris-covered Los Angeles after the aliens have launched their attack, so that he can find his teen daughter that is lost somewhere in the city and trying not to get abducted. That's pretty much it. Sure, there are some pretty exciting action scenes during this portion, and I was never bored per sey, it's just that I kept finding myself wishing these scenes would be over quickly so I could get back to the space explorers' side of the story, as I found that one far more interesting, both from a story stand point in addition to just a visual one. We've seen destroyed cities in Asylum movies before, we've seen fathers trying to make their way through said destroyed cities to find their lost daughters before, everything in this portion of the movie, while fun, we've seen multiple times before. But there's quite a few things in the other portion of the movie, even just on a visual special effects level, that we've never seen in an Asylum movie before - at least not any that I can recall.


Of course, it's no wonder that the special effects here are pretty top-notch when it comes to Asylum fare. As soon as I saw Joseph Lawson's name come up in the opening credits, I knew that at the very least, the movie was going to look amazing. Good 'ol Joe is the man responsible for pretty much every Asylum movie that I've praised the surprisingly high level effects in, movies like Battle of Los Angeles, Shark Week, Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, the very recent Airplane vs Volcano, Nazis at the Center of the Earth, and Age of Dinosaurs just to name a few in his very long list. And those last two he also directed as well. When you see that guy's name attached to one of these, I guarantee that you will be seeing pretty much the highest level of special effects that you'll be getting from an Asylum movie, and this one was no different. From the deadly robotic floating orbs that invaded Earth, to the Queen Alien monstrosity, to the glowing shine filter added to the alien homeworld, to even the practical (yes, practical!) man-in-suit costumes for the alien solders, everything looked simply gorgeous here. The only thing I probably could have done without, and I have no idea if this was a director thing or a visual artist thing, but there was an annoyingly high level of lens flare in this movie. I'm ok with some, but there were times that there was so much lens flares going on, it was difficult to pick out anything else in the shot. Only a minor quibble, and something I won't hold against the movie this time, but it's not something I want to see repeated a whole lot in future productions.

Another area where this movie stood above the average Asylum production, was that the acting from most everyone was actually genuinely good. Sure, there were a few low moments here and there, but nothing groan worthy or to really roll your eyes at, and there was nobody that made me wish they would just stop talking and die already, like you can sometimes come across in fare such as this. Actually, if anything, most of the characters were fairly likeable which just made it all the more surprisingly when some of the get killed off that you weren't expecting. I'm not going to spoil anything by saying how many, who they are, or when it happens in the movie, but much like with Game of Thrones, it's best not to have any favorite characters in this movie because there is more than one surprise main character death waiting for you, and I actually really liked that turn of events. It sets this movie apart from the usual Asylum movies like this, and it really does add a level of suspense knowing that anyone can die at any time in this movie, no matter who they are.


Unfortunately the movie isn't quite perfect. Yes, I did enjoy it quite a lot, and it is most certinly one of the higher-end titles in Asylum's catalog (in a year filled with tons of other great higher-end titles from Asylum. Seriously, they are totally rockin' 2014 here), but there are a few things within this movie that did kind of bug me a bit. Putting aside the fact that I feel the movie could have been a lot stronger had it just focused on the sub-plot of the space explorers instead of dividing it's time with the fireman character still on Earth trying to find his daughter in the wreckage of the city, but we also never actually see the Earth really being invaded. Sure, there's a few scenes of the floating alien orbs causing destruction and killing some of our cast of characters, but it seemed like it went directly from those things showing up to "We're the last surviving humans on Earth and it's time to retaliate." Wait. What? When exactly did the other few billions of people get killed and/or abducted? Asylum loves showing scenes of global destruction from around the entire world, picking a few choice major cities and landmarks to show off getting destroyed, so I have no idea why they totally skipped out on that this time around, when this would have been the perfect movie for those scenes. It certainly would have helped pad things out a bit and not make it so jarring going just quickly to 'all humans are now suddenly gone', being delivered to us in an almost throw-away line of dialog.

In addition, there's a sequence near the end of the movie that Robert Picardo totally shines in, as he leads an army of a few dozen space fighters up to do battle with the mothership in space. That space battle scene overall is tons of fun and very much reminiscent of Star Wars, with quite a few cheer-worthy moments in it. However my issue with it comes from the fact that early in the movie they unveil the spaceship that the main team is to use to go up to the asteroid and it's the first spaceship of it's kind and everyone is wowed by it, and it's this big 'oohhh, ahhh' moment, but now all of a sudden they have an entire army of these ships? Dozens upon dozens of them? Where the hell did they all come from so quickly, especially if the entire human race is mostly killed off and abducted by this point? Don't get me wrong, the scene is a total blast and overall I loved it, but before I could just sit back and enjoy the cheese that it delivered, I was stuck thinking about these things.


Age of Tomorrow, overall, is certainly one of Asylum's higher-tier movies, in a year where they seem to be knocking higher-tier Asylum movies out like they're coming off an assembly line (Mega Shark vs Mecha Shark, Android Cop, Airplane vs Volcano, and now this one are easily all great, fun, times). Not quite perfect, as I do have a few small nagging issues that kind of built up over the course of the movie, but nothing that really took away from my enjoyment of it. Also included here are some really surprising twists and main character deaths that I was not expecting to find in this movie, plus some awesome man-in-suit alien costumes (which is a rarity in any situation these days, but especially in the B-Movie market), and of course the usual top level of B-Movie special effects that always seem to come accompanied by Joseph J. Lawson's name in the credits, and the end result is a movie that takes a little bit of Armageddon and Independence Day, a smidgeon of Prometheus and Predators, a brief taste of Star Wars, and a lot of care, love, and lens flares, put it all into a blender, and served to us in an hour and a half of good, fun, cheesy, low budget entertainment.

If, like me, you always look forward to the next mockbuster released by The Asylum, you'll be able to check out Age of Tomorrow (World of Tomorrow if you're in one of those countries where it's called that) for yourself when it comes out on DVD and BluRay this Tuesday, June 10th. Just don't be fooled by that weird plot synopsis that most sites seem to be posting for it, because that is totally, in no way, the plot of this movie, at all.

8/10 rooms in the Psych Ward


Friday, June 6, 2014

Alien Abduction (2014)

REVIEW BY: Jeffrey Long


COMPANY: Lawrence Bender Productions

RUNTIME: 85 mins

FORMAT: Itunes

PLOT: A vacationing family encounters an alien threat in this thriller based on the real-life Brown Mountain Lights phenomenon in North Carolina.

REVIEW: It's no secret that we here at the B-Movie Shelf love us our found footage movies. I know the majority of movie lovers seem to hate them, but I honestly can't get enough of them, as long as they're made well. I also love a good, creepy, alien abduction movie – something that seems to be rare to find (Fire in the Sky and the 90's Made-for-TV found footage movie Incident in Lake County are really the only two genuinely creepy ones I can think of off the top of my head), so of course when I saw that IFC Midnight was distributing the generically-named Alien Abduction, I just had to check it out and give it a review, especially since it's based off an actual unexplained phenomenon called The Brown Mountain Lights.


For the most part, this one can be added to the small 'genuinely creepy alien abduction movie' list. Hell, you really just need to look at that tunnel scene in the first half of the movie alone, for this movie to be added to that list. I don't want to spoil the whole scene in my review, but there's a part of the movie that takes place in a tunnel within the first half, right before the movie kicks into non-stop high gear for the remainder of its runtime, that is, quite honestly, one of the most unnerving edge-of-your-seat sequences in any found footage movie, ever. In terms of the feeling it leaves you with, think of the birthday party home video scene in Signs, but keep the tension going for a good 5+ minutes as opposed to 10 seconds. Luckily though, there's more creepy to be found here outside of just that one scene. 

The movie does a great job of capturing a growing sense of unease right out of the gate, from the family camping in the wilderness and being woken up by unexplained lights darting around the night sky, to coming across flocks of dead birds on the road, to having repeated car issues, right up to the second half of the movie which is pretty much a non-stop chase sequence as the family runs through the woods in the middle of nowhere, trying to get away from these seemingly omnipotent aliens that are after them; If you're the kind of person that is susceptible to panic attacks, you may want to schedule yourself some breather breaks when you sit down to watch this movie, because you will need them and once shit hits the fan, the movie does not let up or give you a chance to catch your breath at all.

The special effects (what you get to see anyway) are also pretty good and quite realistic which goes a long way to keeping you invested in what's happening in the moment on the screen. Found footage movies so often do a great job of building up the tension, but then completely undoing it at the last minute with laughably bad special effects that do nothing but take you out of the moment and make you laugh instead of being frightened (Happy Camp, I'm looking at you and your cartoony Hulk-Jumping Sasquatches). Here though, everything from the mysterious lights in the sky, to the shots of the UFO, to the blinding light the UFO emits, to the aliens themselves (unlike in the V/H/S 2 segment that this movie will undoubtedly remind people of, the aliens actually look like real aliens and not the Putties from Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers), to people being sucked up into the sky, it all actually looked real and convincing, making it easy to forget that you're only watching a movie and not actual real found footage.


Where the movie does remind you that you're only watching a movie, is with the acting. There are moments that the acting is quite good, but on a whole it really does just come across exactly as what it is – people acting in a movie, and that, more than anything, is where you get taken out of this movie. It also doesn't help that there's almost no characterization to be found here; When the movie ends, you pretty much don't know any of these characters any better than you did when the movie first started, with the only truly interesting angle (that being of the young boy behind the video camera being autistic) merely being glossed over and never really addressed much. Seriously, they state a few times during the movie that he's autistic, but you would never guess that otherwise since he plays the part just like he's a regular young boy, so I don't know why the felt the need to add that extra bit of info and then do absolutely nothing with it whatsoever. I kept expecting it to play some significant role at some point in the movie, but he just remains acting like any other regular little boy. 

In addition, there's a half-crazy loner hillbilly hermit character they randomly come across in the movie when they break into and hide out in his cabin in the middle of the woods, and this character felt totally unnecessary to me. Sure, it added to the bodycount later on, and he actually did genuinely care about helping this family out, which was a nice turn from how these things usually go in these kinds of situations in movies, but he was such the stereotypical cliche' loner hillbilly hermit character that anytime he was on screen he just came across as terribly cartoony and unrealistic, and that mixed with the subpar acting was more than enough to totally take me out of the movie during that middle stretch that took place in his cabin. Luckily, once the movie moves beyond that portion and that character gets done away with, it returns back to it's former creeptastic edge-of-your-seat glory.


In a genre that, IMO, has been hurting for a genuinely creepy movie that leaves you feeling uneasy and uncomfortable while watching, Alien Abduction is a really good step in that direction. It's not quite perfect (the ending also makes no sense whatsoever, in terms of how the camera is discovered), but it's easy to look past its faults when you consider just how often you find yourself having been holding your breath for longer than you probably should have been, during a lot of the movie.

If they had only spent more time on making the acting more believable, perhaps add in even just a couple more solid character-building moments, actually utilized the fact that the young buy is supposedly autistic, completely cut out the hillbilly hermit character, and tweak the final 60 seconds of the movie slightly, and this would have been pretty much a perfect found footage romp. As it stands though, it's still a really good attempt, filled with great special effects, that has pretty much mastered the feeling of dread, and I won't mind owning it on BluRay one day (hopefully) and re-watching from time to time, especially when I have easy-to-scare guests over for a movie night. That tunnel scene alone should be enough to make them ask to turn the lights back on, hahaha.

7/10 rooms in the Psych Ward


 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys (2014)

REVIEW BY: Jeffrey Long


COMPANY: The Asylum

RUNTIME: 84 mins

FORMAT: TV

PLOT: Michael is a fish and wildlife expert who moves to a new town with his wife and kids after being summoned by the town mayor to help deal with its declining fish problem. However after finding out that lampreys, vicious invading eel creatures, are on the loose, the town's residents quickly learn that a casual dip in the pool or routine trip to the toilet can turn deadly as the lampreys hunt for their next victim.

REVIEW: I know it's been a long, long time since my last review (February, I believe), and for that I apologize. Life has just been way too hectic lately, and it'll probably be that way for awhile yet as we're going into Summer and that's the busy season at my work. Still, I'm hoping to get these pumped out a bit more regularly then once every few months. For that reason, I again put out the call for Guest Reviewers. If you've seen a B-Movie recently that you want to do a review for, even if it's for one that's already on here, please do so. Just send me an e-mail with the heading Guest Review followed by the title of the movie. All I ask is that you follow my grading system which is that everything above 5 is positive, everything below 5 is negative, and 5 is when there is just as much stuff you liked as you disliked about it, and the ratings are in relation to other B-Movies, which is to say that a 10/10 for one of these is not saying its as good as Jurassic Park or Lord of the Rings, it's just saying it's exceptional in relation to other B-Movies.

Now, the thing that really made me want to do a review of Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys, really, is the fact that the always-beautiful Ciara Hanna is in it. I mean sure, there are other things to look forward to with this movie – It's another killer animal movie by The Asylum (this time on Animal Planet since SyFy has stated they're majorly cutting down on their Original Movies line-up), it's directed by James Cullen Bressack who did 13/13/13 and the upcoming horror flick, Pernicious (not by Asylum, but also starring Ciara Hanna, Jackie Moore from Atlantic Rim, and The Asylum's hottest couple, Jared Cohn [Atlantic Rim, Jailbait] and Sara Malakul Lane [100 Degrees Below Zero, Jailbait]). I'm quite familiar Ciara Hanna from..erhm...Power Rangers Megaforce and it's second season, Power Rangers Super Megaforce, and she is easily one of the top good things on that show right now, so I was super excited to not only be seeing her branching out into other areas of acting, but that those areas are also another top interest of mine – B-Movies! And ones made by my favorite B-Movie company at that, The Asylum!


I suppose Blood Lake was an 'ok' first foray into B-Movies for her. For fans of these things, the movie wasn't terrible or even bad at all – The acting from everyone (including major stars Shannen Doherty, Jason Brooks, Zack Ward, and Christopher Lloyd) was pretty good, with Lloyd easily stealing the show as the stubborn town mayor that refuses to believe the killer lamprey problem is as bad as it actually is. The characters they all played were written well, were likable, and were fun to watch, and the special effects on display here were what you would expect, with a few moments of being better-than-average, and the entire thing was directed well enough, with some really beautiful shots in there, so what exactly is my issue with the movie? It's just so darn repetitive. 

Honestly, you could tune in at almost any random point in the movie after the first half hour or so, and you would have no idea how far into the movie you were, because once the killer lampreys come out in full force and the town gets evacuated, the rest of the movie has no further escalation and it's pretty much just the same generic 'running from group of attacking killer lampreys, looking for missing family member, fight off group of attacking killer lampreys along the way, discuss how to defeat them' kind of scenes over and over and over. And don't get me wrong, there were tons of fun stuff in some of those scenes, such as a swarm of the things overtaking a police cruiser and killing the cop inside in a pretty bloody fashion, or Ciara Hanna impaling one on a fire poker with what is quite possibly the most hilarious freeze-frame-worthy facial expression to ever grace The Asylum's cameras, or Christopher Lloyd sitting on a toilet and having one swim up into the toilet from the pipes and...well... I'm sure you can guess what happens with that. But there needs to be more than just a few random fun shots, there needs to be some form of continuing escalation, and there needs to be a bit more meat on the bones than just random chase scene after random chase scene that can be viewed in pretty much any mismatched order and the movie still play out the exact same way. You can only see people kicking away, electrocuting, and stabbing lampreys so many times before it just starts getting boring, and sadly that point hit quite a ways before the movie was over.


What did keep my attention though, as briefly mentioned above, was the main cast. Christopher Lloyd easily stole the show, the man can play 'stubborn grumpy town official' beautifully, and Ciara Hanna pulled off 'sassy teen daughter that doesn't want to move to this small town' to perfection (and I'll never complain about all her bikini scenes either). But in addition to them, there was also Jason Brooks (Days of Our Lives, Baywatch) as the main lead, playing as a wildlife officer and father, Shannen Doherty (90210, Charmed) as his wife, Zack Ward (Resident Evil: Apocalypse, BloodRayne 2: Deliverance) as the wildlife officer in charge that Jason Brooks' character moves to town to help assist with his lamprey problem, and Rachel True (The Craft, The Drew Carey Show) as another wildlife officer. All of these people did great with what they had, and slightly better than average for a movie like this. Hell, even first-timer Yar Koosha, playing the younger brother of Ciara Hanna's character, did way better than you would expect from such a young person, and in his first role ever. It also helps that their characters were written well and each were given enough entertaining stand-out moments to grant a few chuckles (and even some full-on laughs in the case of Fred Stoller from Everybody Loves Raymond, who played a rather minor-but-always-hilarious role as the goofball wildlife officer in this movie).

The lampreys themselves made for a pretty entertaining threat as well, being able to scale walls, travel through pipes and the water systems, leap up in a spring-launched attacked, and all that kind of jazz. Like most people, I hadn't even the faintest clue what a lamprey was before this movie came out, but now I'll never forget these creepy little eels-with-teeth critters. The only downside to focusing an entire movie around them is, like I've already stated, there's only so much you can do with them and once you exhaust all those, the movie just gets painfully repetitive. Also, unless I missed it, there never was any sort of explanation given as to exactly how and why these lampreys were growing so large and becoming such a dangerous threat, other than just 'they are'. I admit though that I did find my attention wandering quite a bit in that last 20-30 minute stretch of the movie so it's quite possible it was explained there and I just completely missed it.


For fans of these kinds of movies, there's certainly enough in Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys to enjoy that should warrant a viewing if you haven’t done so yet, but the repetitiveness of the second half of the movie will probably make it difficult to ever feel like revisiting it, which is a shame because I really enjoyed this crop of actors in these roles, and there admittedly were quite a few really fun moments scattered throughout.

Still, it was a decent enough first foray for Animal Planet into the wonderful B-Movie world that is The Asylum, and I really hope to see more of Asylum's future killer animal movies find a home at Animal Planet if SyFy continues their decline in Original Movie products. After all, this channel is no stranger to such low budget B-Movie-esque kind of stuff, having been responsible for the fun low budget found-footage TV series, Lost Tapes. I know the ratings weren’t very high (1.3 mil), but I believe that's about average for these kinds of movies on SyFy, so I'm hoping Animal Planet has around the same expectations, and we continue getting more movies like this on their channel.

6/10 rooms in the Psych Ward



Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Puppet Master II (1991)

REVIEW BY: Jeffrey Long


Company: Full Moon Entertainment

Runtime: 88 mins

Format: BluRay

Plot: The living puppets return to the Bodega Bay Inn and this time they're hunting some Paranormal Researchers to take their brain fluid for the Undead puppet master, Andre Toulon.


Review:
Recently I decided to do a re-watch of the entire Puppet Master saga, leading up to my first-time watch of Puppet Master X: Axis Rising. Even though the rest of the series is a re-watch, I've only seen most of them once before and it was a long time ago, so I remember very little about most of the movies, so it's almost like a first-time watch for the majority of them all over again. With the first movie having gotten a review about a month ago, tonight's movie was the second in the series, Puppet Master II, with the sometimes-subtitle of His Unholy Creations.


Puppet Master II is one of those near-perfect horror sequels, much like Friday the 13th, Part II – It takes what we know from the first movie and builds upon it, extending our knowledge on various things in this universe (in this case the the evil living puppets and how they actually work), while also ultimately being an all-around better, more entertaining movie. For starters, they fixed my biggest problem with the first movie – they wrote out the survivors of that with a few lines of dialog, and replaced them with brand new characters that are much more likable, more relatable, and were competently acted. These characters I didn't mind spending time with at all, so the parts of the movie that weren’t focused on the puppets were still enjoyable and not as difficult to sit through as they were in the first movie (except that really awkward, out of nowhere tacked-on romance subplot that felt pretty disjointed with the rest of the movie).

This time around the human characters are Paranormal Researchers who arrive at the Bodega Bay Inn hotel after hearing about the events of the first movie, to investigate the mysterious going-ons, which is actually an excellent entry in the series to watch this day in age, what with programs like Ghost Hunters, Paranormal State, Destination Truth, and other such being all the rage – Full Moon was ahead of the curb with this one! Of course it isn't long before the evil living puppets come out of the woodwork to cause mayhem for our Paranormal Investigators, and the bloodshed starts all over again. I was also thrilled to discover that this entry returns to the awesome location of the empty shutdown hotel of the first movie, as I felt that that creepy location was one of that entry's strongest aspects and it continues to be a great setting once again here. I actually love the Bodega Bay Inn as a horror setting so much that I honestly wouldn't mind it at all if every entry took place there.

As for the puppets themselves, thankfully they get more screentime in this entry than in the last, and they are much more the focus of the movie, as opposed to last time where they played second and even third fiddle for the majority of it. They still look amazing and move realistically, and all the puppets from the first movie return, plus even a really awesome new one (who oddly enough never shows up ever again in the series, I believe. Also, where was he during the events of Part 1? He just shows up with no explanation and disappears from the series after this entry just as mysteriously).


Even though at this stage in the Puppet Master series the puppets are currently evil, it was still pretty sad to see a couple of them get destroyed as over the course of just these two movies alone, you really start to get a good feel of their personalities and character traits, and it was so easy to fall in love with each of these little critters. But don't let that fool you too much – these are still vicious killing machines that once again are the cause of quite a few excellent blood-filled death scenes that any horror fan should be proud of. Hell, that new puppet I previously mentioned got one of the best kills of the movie – burning a snotty little kid alive with its flamethrower arm; This series does not shy away from child killing like many horror movies do, and even the ending of the movie seemed to hint pretty heavily that the puppets were on their way to a mental institution for children to start causing their murderous mayhem there (an ending that, sadly, gets 100% ignored in all future sequels).

While Puppet Master II is indeed a huge improvement over the first, it's still not quite perfect as I felt it fumbled the ball a little bit with one of its subplots: The original creator of the puppets, Andre' Toulon from the intro of the first movie, is back from the dead here and having the puppets kill our human characters in order to obtain brain fluid from them that he needs to complete the 'puppet master formula' as it's called, basically whatever the secret formula he uses to bring the puppets to life, he's using to bring himself back to life and he needs so much of that brain fluid to complete it and allow him to transition his soul into a life-size doll replica of himself so he can live forever. Thing is, he treats the puppets with such utter hate and disrespect, which is in complete contrast with what little we saw of him in the first movie (and what we will come to see of him in all future entries) – in everything else we see of him, he was a kind and gentle soul that loved those puppets as if they were his children, not the evil hateful creature he seems to be here. Of course you can explain that away by going the 'what's dead should stay dead because when you bring them back, they're not truly who they were before but now something evil' route, but it would have been nice to get some actual in-movie explanation of that being the case. As it stands, it remains an aspect of the movie that I heavily dislike and it stands in the way of making this a perfect entry in the series.


The misstep with Toulon's return aside, as well as that tacked-on out of place romance subplot that came with it, everything good from the first movie is carried over to this one while everything bad about it was greatly improved, in addition to taking the time to add to the overall mythos of the puppets and how they came to be. Puppet Master 2 can go into the books as one of the few horror sequels that manages to not only stand side-by-side its first entry, but completely surpass it.

9/10 rooms in the Psych Ward