Film Review: Things (1989)

Release Date: September, 1989
Directed by: Andrew Jordan
Written by: Andrew Jordan, Barry J. Gillis
Music by: Jack Procher
Cast: Barry J. Gillis, Amber Lynn, Bruce Roach, Doug Bunston, Jan W. Pachul, Patricia Sadler

Exosphere Motion Pictures, Left Field Productions, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Next time I bring you with me I’m leaving you at home.” – Don Drake

Every time that I think I may have discovered the worst film ever made, something else falls out of the sewer pipes and right into my lap. This time, it came courtesy of Joe Bob Briggs on his show The Last Drive-In.

Those of you who have been around Talking Pulp for awhile, probably know about my lifelong respect and admiration for Joe Bob Briggs. Hell, years back, I wrote a piece called Joe Bob Briggs – A Texan of Exquisite Taste and a Man Who Influenced a Generation.

So this epic betrayal really hit me like a kangaroo punch to the gonads. Sure, my good friend Joe Bob has shown me some really shitty movies over the decades I’ve been watching his various shows on various networks but nothing was even close to being quite this bad.

This was shown on what Joe Bob was calling “VHS Night” and it was paired with Sledgehammer, another VHS horror relic that was filmed on video, as opposed to traditional film. As rough as that film was to get through, this one really elevated Sledgehammer and by comparison, made it look like the Citizen Kane of primitive video horror.

Nothing in this film makes sense, the characters aren’t likable or relatable and everything that could go wrong from a production standpoint… did!

Well, at least the movie featured porn star Amber Lynn. However, even that was handled abysmally bad, as she stays fully clothed in all her scenes and just reads fake news reports off of a cue card that makes her look away from the camera and off to the side.

Normally, I’d be happy to see these guys use practical effects but even the creatures in this movie were terrible. They were basically large plastic ants with sharp teeth glued to their poorly crafted mouths.

Even with the added commentary of Joe Bob, Darcy and special guest Chris Jericho, this movie was incredibly hard to get through.

In the end, I’ve now seen it and I never have to watch it again.

As for Joe Bob, this whole ordeal reminds me of the time my Uncle Denny told me he had WrestleMania tickets but instead, took me to some outlaw wrestling mud show in what I can only assume was the same violent, fantastical, redneck Florida town where Two Thousand Maniacs! took place.

Rating: 0/10
Pairs well with: other horror films shot on video. Also, dental surgery without painkillers.

Film Review: We Summon the Darkness (2019)

Release Date: February 28th, 2019 (Mammoth Film Festival – US)
Directed by: Marc Meyers
Written by: Alan Trezza
Music by: Timothy Williams
Cast: Alexandra Daddario, Keean Johnson, Maddie Hasson, Logan Miller, Amy Forsyth, Austin Swift, Johnny Knoxville

Common Enemy, thefyzz, Magna Entertainment, Saban Films, 91 Minutes

Review:

I grew up in the ’80s and I’ve always been nostalgic about that decade (and the early ’90s, as well). However, Hollywood has kind of ruined that, as they continue to tap ’80s nostalgia, again and again, because they don’t have original ideas and want to piggyback off of the success of the phenomenon that was the first season of Stranger Things, which is now five years-old.

We Summon the Darkness sets itself in 1988 rural Indiana, which is also the state where Stranger Things takes place. However, once you watch the film, it could’ve taken place in any time and didn’t need to be an “eighties” flick. Heavy metal still exists, as do crazy, religious fanatics. But whatever.

The film is also predictable as hell and pretty damn disappointing. I actually like Alexandra Daddario and not just because she’s fucking gorgeous. However, she’s insufferable in this and that’s not because she’s the main villain. Something about the performance is just off-putting where it should actually be really sexy and cool in the same way that hot horror villainesses of the past were sexy and cool.

Maybe this is due to Daddario also being a producer on the movie and she felt like she had to try a lot harder. And really, her performance feels like one of an actor trying way too hard.

The rest of the cast is just okay. No one really stands out but I did enjoy Maddie Hasson’s character, as the sidekick killer that always had to pee. I thought her performance was more natural, less forced and she brought some good comedic timing in at points.

Everyone else is totally forgettable except for Johnny Knoxville, whose role is minor but is still really effective. In fact, there’s one scene where he really has to act and he does fine with it.

As far as the plot, the film follows three females that lure three metal heads to their country mansion after a concert. They then drug the dudes, tie them to chairs and try to murder them in the same fashion as a Satanic cult. They actually aren’t a Satanic cult but they are trying to use the Satanic panic of the time to lure people towards their Jesus cult… or something. I don’t know, the whole premise is kind of retarded.

We Summon the Darkness is just dull and unimpressive and it’s also derivative as hell while believing itself to be cool, edgy and unique.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other horror films about cults, killer families or weird small towns.

Film Review: Those Who Wish Me Dead (2021)

Release Date: May 5th, 2021 (South Korea)
Directed by: Taylor Sheridan
Written by: Michael Koryta, Charles Leavitt, Taylor Sheridan
Based on: Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Finn Little, Nicholas Hoult, Aidan Gillen, Jake Weber, Medina Senghore, Jon Bernthal, Tyler Perry

BRON Studios, Creative Wealth Media Finance, Film Rites, Warner Bros., 100 Minutes

Review:

“I hate this fucking place.” – Jack, “It hates you back.” – Allison

This is the fourth or fifth movie to be released simultaneously in theaters and on the HBO Max streaming service. I decided to watch it on HBO Max, as I probably wouldn’t have seen it in theaters, anyway.

The trailer looked good enough and I’ve mostly liked Taylor Sheridan’s writing and narrative style in films like Hell Or High Water and the Sicario pictures. He hasn’t directed anything I’ve seen yet, so this is my first experience seeing what he can do helming his own picture.

This stars Angelina Jolie, who is believable when she plays tough women. And in this, Sheridan goes against what seems to be the Hollywood trend these days, as he doesn’t make her some invincible Mary Sue. No, she goes through absolute hell in this film and severely gets her ass kicked by scumbag assassins. However, like the Ellen Ripleys and Sarah Connors of motion picture history, her maternal instinct kicks in and she does everything she possibly can do to help a young kid survive the terror that’s coming.

Additionally, Jolie’s character has some serious demons in her past that she needs to exorcize and when shit hits the fan in this picture, she rises to the occasion and does the right thing.

The film also stars Jon Bernthal, Nicolas Hoult and Aidan Gillen. All of these guys were good in this but the movie really let Jolie shine on her own, as the focal point and hero trying to save the kid from assassins and a massive forest fire.

The action sequences were pretty decent and the killers were damn believable and cold as hell. Jolie really shines, though, and the kid was pretty good and didn’t annoy the crap out of me.

Honestly, though, this is a pretty forgettable movie. It’s competently made and the story works but I don’t know if Sheridan, as a director, has everything clicking on all cylinders yet. That certainly doesn’t mean he won’t and this is still a better picture than most directors’ earliest efforts.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other action films of recent years.

Film Review: Class of 1984 (1982)

Release Date: May 19th, 1982 (Cannes)
Directed by: Mark Lester
Written by: Tom Holland, Mark Lester, John Saxton
Music by: Lalo Schifrin
Cast: Perry King, Merrie Lynn Ross, Timothy Van Patten, Lisa Langlois, Stefan Arngrim, Michael Fox, Roddy McDowall

Guerilla High Productions, 98 Minutes

Review:

“Life… is pain. Pain… is everything. You… you will learn!” – Peter Stegman

What’s odd about my history with this film is that there isn’t any. Yes, I’ve known about it since it was fairly current but for whatever reason, I never got around to watching it, even though I knew it’s something I’d probably dig quite a bit.

Well, I’ve finally seen it and it’s pretty entertaining and a damn cool flick.

This uses a popular formula from the ’80s and ’90s. It’s a story about an educator trying to do his job to the best of his ability while the school is infested with violent degenerates. This may be the first movie of its type but this simple plot became a widely used trope in action flicks, drama movies and even comedies.

In this one, we’ve got Perry King as the star. And man, he’s simply awesome, as he tries to be the teacher the school needs but quickly learns that he’s going to have to push back against these inhuman teens that are willing to kill, rape and do hard drugs just for quick thrills. I’ve always liked the hell out of Perry King but this may be my favorite role he’s ever played.

We also get Roddy McDowall and Michael J. Fox in this, which both surprised me and delighted me. McDowall is in so many damn films, some great, some awful, but he always adds something wonderful to whatever production he finds himself in. Yes, even the bad ones. In this, he actually gives two of his greatest single scene performances of his lengthy career. McDowall is just dynamite in this and your heart breaks for him, seeing what he has to go through just trying to do his job in a school full of monsters.

Michael J. Fox’s role isn’t too big and this movie was made before he’d become a big star on the television series Family Ties. Still, for a young actor with little experience in front of the camera, he does pretty good in this.

The primary antagonist in this is played by Timothy Van Patten. I like that they actually gave his character depth, instead of just making him some basic shithead. You come to learn that he has real talent and is the best pianist in the entire school. However, in spite of his gift, he still chooses to make the music teacher’s life a living hell until he gets what’s coming to him.

The supporting cast in this is also really good and all of the characters leave an impression on you, which is impressive for a film like this, which could’ve easily just been exploitative schlock.

Class of 1984 is a better movie that it probably should have been. I think that has a lot to do with the casting but I’ve also got to point out that this was written by Tom Holland, who would go on to direct Fright NightChild’s Play and be involved in some other cult classics.

Additionally, this was directed by Mark Lester, who would go on to make Commando, Firestarter, Showdown In Little Tokyo and a semi-sequel to this movie with a sci-fi twist, Class of 1999.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other teacher/principal versus the school movies.

Film Review: The Pit (1981)

Also known as: Teddy (alternative title)
Release Date: October 23rd, 1981
Directed by: Lew Lehman
Written by: Ian A. Stuart
Music by: Victor Davies
Cast: Sammy Snyders, Jeannie Elias, Sonja Smits

Amulet Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Abergail’s missing and so is Mrs. Oliphant, aren’t they? And Freddy and Christina… They don’t eat chocolate bars. You know what they eat?” – Jamie Benjamin

As cool, bizarre and completely ape shit as this movie is, I can’t believe I had never heard of it until this year. After stumbling upon the trailer, I had to track it down and watch it, immediately.

After seeing this, I have to wonder if those Ted movies ripped it off. They’re very different films, mind you, but both deal with a talking teddy bear. In this film, however, the bear talks to a kid and it’s more like mental voice projection than just straight up having a conversation.

Also, this is horror and the teddy bear coerces the kid to feed people to these trolls that live in a hole in the ground out in the woods. Yes, there is both a psychic talking teddy bear and a pit in the ground full of man-eating trolls. Why settle on one strange monster threat when you can have two strange monster threats?

Additionally, the kid in this is great. He plays creepy and weird really well but he’s also strangely likable and amusing. He’s also sexually frustrated, going through the early stages of puberty and I think that most males can relate to him. But honestly, he’s just a goof and everyone else in the movie, especially other kids, just continually fuck with him.

I though that the other core actors in this were good, which was impressive, as this still mostly unknown Canadian horror flick put together a competent, entertaining cast.

This is a surreal and wonderful film. It does move slow at times but it still keeps your attention because it’s so unique and original that it’s impossible not to be ensnared by it and glued to it.

Now that I know of its existence, I’m pretty sure this will be something I revisit every few years for the rest of my life.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other fantasy horror of the era but this is so bonkers and original that it’s really hard to pair.

Film Review: Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)

Release Date: December 3rd, 2010
Directed by: Panos Cosmatos
Written by: Panos Cosmatos
Music by: Sinoia Caves
Cast: Michael Rogers, Eva Allan, Scott Hylands, Marilyn Norry, Rondel Reynoldson

Chromewood Productions, Magnet Releasing, Mongrel Media, 110 Minutes

Review:

“[while holding baby Elena and before submerging her into the black goo] Your mother’s reabsorption into the cycle of life won’t be for nothing, my darling, Elena. You will be the dawning of a new era for the human race… and the human soul. Let the new age of enlightenment begin!” – Mercurio Arboria

I really dug Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy, a film that sort of came out of nowhere a few years ago that in some ways, boosted and reignited Nicolas Cage’s acting career. I don’t think that it was long-lasting but his role in Mandy proved that the dude can still bring it and excel when given the right part in a movie.

Cosmatos only has one other film and, at this point, it’s already over a decade old. It’s been in my queue since I saw Mandy, however, so I felt like checking it out was long overdue.

Now having seen this, it’s a picture that I’m really split on.

From the visual side of things, it’s pretty close to a masterpiece. From a storytelling point-of-view, it’s pretty sloppy, slow, pointless and boring.

Visuals can salvage a film for me, sometimes. The thing is, there has to be enough meat on the other side of the coin for me to give an extremely artistic picture a pass on its weaker points. This one just doesn’t have enough to make me care about what’s actually going on in the movie.

This has a lot of really cool, bizarre shit thrown in but I don’t want to watch a movie just to see a surrealist painting in motion, I want to connect to it on a visceral level that requires me to care about what I’m watching and the characters within it.

This is one of those films that introduces cool but underdeveloped concepts and ideas but then never really tries to make it make sense. Sure, you can draw allusions based off of bits of dialogue and clues but when the filmmaker wants you to do all the work and see it in your own way, which I assume is the case here, I find that lazy and it makes me think that there was never a clear vision to begin with.

The entire film plays like a dream. You see and experience wild and cool shit but when you get through it and try to piece it together, it’s just a big blob of cool visual shit and a rollercoaster of mixed and underdeveloped emotions. You just think, “Well, I don’t know what the fuck that was about but it was kind of cool in certain parts.”

All that being said, I can’t knock the acting. It’s pretty good even if every character gives a severely understated performance.

Also, the music and sound were really neat and interesting. It added to the surreal effect of the picture quite well.

In the end, I didn’t just find this underwhelming, I also found it to be disappointing. However, I’d still check out whatever Cosmatos comes up with in the future.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy, as well as other modern overly surreal movies like Under the Skin and Enter the Void.

Documentary Review: The Sheik (2014)

Release Date: April 26th, 2014 (Hot Docs International Documentary Festival – Canada)
Directed by: Igal Hecht
Written by: Jian Magen, Jake Neiman, Igal Hecht
Music by: Michael Hanson
Cast: Khosrow Vaziri “The Iron Sheik”, Mick Foley, Seth Green, Jack Black, Bret Hart, Jimmy Hart, Hulk Hogan, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Bob Orton Sr., Bruce Pritchard, Jake Roberts, Jim Ross, Ron Simmons, Koko B. Ware, The Nasty Boys

Magen Boys Entertainment, Big Media, Chutzpa Productions, 95 Minutes

Review:

This film was one of the rare documentaries that I actually got to see in the theater. I think I saw it around 2016, as a small indie theater near me hosted a screening. I was pretty captivated by it and always wanted to watch it again. Since it’s been about five years, I figured I’d revisit it and review it.

I’ve reviewed several wrestler biographical documentaries but most of them don’t match the overall quality of this film. It actually looks like a budget went into it, as it’s really competently shot, edited and brings in some real heavy-hitters for the talking head interviews.

The great cast assembled in this could also be due to the film’s subject, Khosrow Vaziri a.k.a. The Iron Sheik, as he is legitimately a beloved legend who would influence not just many iconic wrestlers but also people from other fields within the larger entertainment sphere.

This film really delves into the Sheik’s backstory and the stuff about his early life is truly fascinating and impressive. It discusses his major accomplishments in the sport of amateur wrestling, why he left Iran for America and then how he adjusted to life in the States and a new career as a professional wrestler, once he moved to Minnesota and found Vern Gagne’s AWA (American Wrestling Association) territory.

We see Sheik come up through the ranks and then eventually make his way to the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) where he reached superstardom after winning the World Championship from Bob Backlund and then helped launch the career of Hulk Hogan, arguably the biggest star in professional wrestling history.

There is a dark side to this story too and that’s where the documentary becomes both compelling and heartbreaking. We see The Sheik struggle with drugs and alcohol and how it has a severely adverse effect on his family life and life in general. That’s not to say that this doesn’t have a happy ending but seeing Sheik at his worst is really difficult, especially for a long-time fan like myself.

This documentary tells a great story, though. While a lot of this may seem all too familiar with the biographical documentaries on other wrestling legends from The Sheik’s generation, this one just tells its story really well. Sheik has infectious charisma and it’s on full display, here, making this one of the best character pieces of its type.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other biographical wrestling documentaries. Many have been reviewed on this site, already.

Film Review: The Invisible Man (2020)

Also known as: Untitled Universal Monster Project (working title)
Release Date: February 24th, 2020 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Leigh Whannell
Written by: Leigh Whannell
Based on: characters and concepts by H. G. Wells for The Invisible Man
Music by: Benjamin Wallfisch
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Nash Edgerton

Goalpost Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, Universal Pictures, 124 Minutes

Review:

“He said that wherever I went, he would find me, walk right up to me, and I wouldn’t be able to see him.” – Cecilia Kass

As a lifelong fan of the Universal Monsters film series and all its reinventions (good and bad), this one just didn’t resonate with me at first glance. I thought the marketing was pretty dull and then it came out just before COVID shoved movie theaters into a flaming dumpster.

I’m glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this, though.

Initially, I wasn’t a big fan of seeing a modernized take on the classic story but honestly, this is just inspired by the original H. G. Wells novel and is very much its own, unique thing.

This takes the Invisible Man formula and brings it in to modern day, showing a psychotic ex-boyfriend using his ability to be invisible to destroy the life of the woman that left him. Since he’s invisible, he obviously does horrible things that only she’s aware of while her friends start to think she’s going insane. As the film rolls on, the scumbag gets more and more ballsy and eventually, people are aware that the woman (now in an asylum) isn’t lying.

Since this takes place in modern times, the Invisible Man in this is a Tony Stark type of inventor that has made a legit stealth camouflage suit. Also, the suit is really f’n cool looking and inventive, being comprised of what appear to be hundreds of small cameras/projectors. The scenes where the suit is partially exposed come off really damn well and the special effects, as a whole, are pretty seamless, believable and impressive.

What I found most impressive about this movie, though, was Elisabeth Moss’ acting. Man, she stepped up to the plate and hit homeruns in just about every scene. What I sincerely appreciate, as a long-time horror fan, is how serious she took the subject matter and put her all into it, giving one of the most believable performances I’ve seen in a horror picture in a really long time.

My only real complaint about the film was the twist ending. I mostly saw it coming and it felt kind of cheap, ending the way it did. At the same time, you really can’t keep the villain alive, as you don’t know what kind of technological tricks he might have up his sleeve.

This doesn’t end in a way that leaves it open for a sequel and I hope there isn’t one, as it would probably diminish the effect of this single, pretty solid picture. Basically, don’t be like Saw.

Now that doesn’t mean that I’d be against other modern takes on the Universal Monsters properties after seeing how well this one was executed. It certainly blew Tom Cruise’s The Mummy out of the water.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the older adaptations of this story, as well as some of the actually good, modern horror flicks.

Film Review: Johnny Mnemonic (1995)

Also known as: JM (Japan)
Release Date: April 15th, 1995 (Japan)
Directed by: Robert Longo
Written by: William Gibson
Based on: Johnny Mnemonic by William Gibson
Music by: Brad Fiedel, Mychael Danna (Japanese release)
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Dina Meyer, Ice-T, Dolph Lundgren, Takeshi Kitano, Denis Akiyama, Henry Rollins, Udo Kier, Tracy Tweed, Don Francks

Alliance Communications Corporation, Cinévision, TriStar Pictures, 103 Minutes

Review:

“You can’t shoot me.” – Johnny Mnemonic, “Not in the head.” – Takahashi

I saw this in 1995 and thought it was a cool movie, even if it was a bit wacky. Watching it in 2021, the year that the film’s story takes place, I can say that it hasn’t aged very well.

Also, they definitely didn’t come close to predicting an accurate 2021.

Still, this is a cool movie, even now, and the fact that it is outdated makes it somewhat endearing.

If I’m being honest, it’s hard not to like Keanu Reeves in anything. But then add in the always alluring Dina Meyer, the badass Dolph Lundgren, punk legend Henry Rollins, gangster rap legend Ice-T, Udo Kier, Takeshi Kitano and set it in a dystopian cyberpunk future and you have what should be a winning formula.

The problem (and for some, a benefit) of the movie is that it is the epitome of ’90s sci-fi action.

For someone like me, that’s a pretty good thing. But with that usually comes strange, experimental special effects, as CGI was really still in its infancy. Plus, there is a certain stylistic panache that makes this seem clunkily crafted with garish, fantastical tech and old tech retrofitted to seem futuristic.

Through modern eyes, films like this can be described “retro futuristic”. With that, it’s near impossible, once dated by a long passage of time, for these movies to not come across as hokey and kind of silly.

Regardless of all that, I still like the movie for the most part. The actors are all fine in their roles, even if a few of them hammed it up a bit too much. But I also don’t blame the actors for that, as the real issues from the movie seem to come from its direction.

It’s hard to really see what the director’s vision was, as the picture is kind of sloppy, confusing and poorly edited. While other people were involved in these aspects of making this film, it still falls on the director to take all these elements and make his vision come through. Johnny Mnemonic, from an artistic standpoint, just feels amateurish.

In the end, this is fairly entertaining if ’90s cyberpunk flicks are your thing. However, without Keanu Reeves, I think that this is a really forgettable movie that probably would’ve never gotten the cult following it obtained had Reeves never been in it.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other cyberpunk movies of the ’80s and ’90s.

Film Review: Heavy Metal (1981)

Also known as: Universo en fantasía (original Spanish language title)
Release Date: July 29th, 1981 (premiere)
Directed by: Gerald Potterton
Written by: Daniel Goldberg
Based on: original art and stories by Richard Corben, Angus McKie, Dan O’Bannon, Thomas Warkentin, Bernie Wrightson
Music by: Elmer Bernstein, various
Cast: Rodger Bumpass, Jackie Burroughs, John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Don Francks, Martin Lavut, Marilyn Lightstone, Eugene Levy, Alice Playten, Harold Ramis, Susan Roman, Richard Romanus, August Schellenberg, John Vernon, Zal Yanovsky

Canadian Film Development Corporation, Guardian Trust Company, Columbia Pictures, 86 Minutes, 90 Minutes (premiere cut)

Review:

“A shadow shall fall over the universe, and evil will grow in its path, and death will come from the skies.” – Narrator

Fuck, this movie is so damn cool!

However, it does lack in the “heavy metal” department, as far as the music goes. That’s not to say the music is bad, this is just a lot less heavy than the title implies. Still, this developed a really strong cult following and for very good reason.

I love the rock and pop tunes in this, though. I mean, where else can you see a sword and sorcery story with sci-fi elements playout to a Devo song? Nowhere!

This entire movie is an animated anthology. The various segments were inspired by some of the stories and art that appeared in the pages of the Heavy Metal comic magazine. This is also a very adult cartoon, as it features nudity, sex and violence. There really isn’t anything here for kids but I saw it as a kid and it blew my mind. The ’80s were a different era, though. Kids today can’t watch Gremlins without needing the light on till they turn thirty.

Anyway, this was produced by Ivan Reitman and it featured a lot of his regular actors in voice roles. It’s kind of neat watching this for the first time in years and hearing John Candy, Harold Ramis, Eugene Levy and Joe Flaherty. It almost needed Bill Murray in there to round it out but it was still pretty dope hearing these comedic legends voices pop up in something like this.

That being said, this is just a really unique experience and it still conjures up a sort of magical feeling when watching it.

Despite the action and violence, the film has a calming, chill vibe to it and I think that has a lot to do with its visual style, tone and the superb use of music to season the already flavorful meal.

Heavy Metal is a weirdly comforting movie that reminds me of a time when filmmakers were still daring and experimental and with that, often times gave us movies that were really interesting, wonderfully eccentric, bizarre and special.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel, as well as other late ’70s and ’80s adult animated films.