Film Review: Cocaine Wars (1985)

Also known as: Top Mission (France), American Scorpion, Vice Wars (alternate English titles – Germany) 
Release Date: August 1st, 1985 (Argentina)
Directed by: Hector Olivera
Written by: Steven M. Krauzer, Hector Olivera, David Vinas
Music by: George Brock, Jorge Lopez Ruiz
Cast: John Schneider, Royal Dano, Federico Luppi, Rodolfo Ranni, Patti Davis

Aries Cinematografica Argentina, New Horizons, Concorde Pictures, 82 Minutes

Review:

“[while applying the cattle prod to Cliff’s teeth] “Tell me, Cliff… where are the papers?… You have no choice because I’m going to kill you…” – General Lujan

Sadly, this movie isn’t anywhere near as badass and cool as its poster. In fact, it’s kind of a letdown, if I’m being honest.

This does star John Schneider of The Dukes of Hazzard, though. So had I seen this as a kid, I probably would’ve loved it.

It also features Royal Dano, a character actor I like in all of his roles.

This was one of the ten films that Roger Corman made down in Argentina. He had some sort of deal with a studio down there and they pumped out a lot of shit like this, as well as pretty bad sword and sorcery flicks at the height of their popularity.

This film sees Schneider take on generic Latin American drug traffickers backed by military might. There’s a lot of action and gun play but overall, most of this stuff is poorly shot and executed.

For action flicks like this, all you need to do is “bring it” with the action shit and the plot and flaws almost don’t matter. However, if you fail at the most important part, everything else comes off looking like shit too.

Still, I did like Schneider and Dano in this but their presence doesn’t save the film in anyway. Well, other than making this not abysmally bad.

It’s still really bad, though and it’s damn forgettable. Schneider probably could’ve evolved into a legit action star if he were given the right vehicle. Cocaine Wars certainly wasn’t that.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: other C-level action films of the ’80s.

Film Review: Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)

Also known as: Space Invaders (Germany), Killer Klowns (Sweden, Mexico, Denmark)
Release Date: May 27th, 1988
Directed by: Stephen Chiodo
Written by: Charles Chiodo, Stephen Chiodo
Music by: John Massari
Cast: Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder, John Allen Nelson, Royal Dano, John Vernon

Chiodo Brothers Productions, Sarlui/Diamant, 88 Minutes

Review:

“They took your wife away in a balloon? Well you don’t need the police, pal, you need a psychiatrist!” – Curtis Mooney

Despite coming out at the height of cinematic cheese, Killer Klowns From Outer Space was still a weird movie even for 1988. From a horror and humor standpoint, the tone reminds me a lot of the Ghoulies films, as well as the first two Return of the Living Deads, Night of the Creeps and Maximum Overdrive. Still, this one is even more bonkers.

Honestly, this is a really unique picture that may have been a dud when it came out but has since amassed a huge fanbase becoming a cult favorite once it hit video store shelves and then got passed around by teens in the ’90s while also being a favorite on late night cable television.

The film also has tonal similarities to the 1990 film Spaced Invaders, but that was more family friendly and harder on the sci-fi while being pretty nil on the horror. But that film shares a star with this one, Royal Dano. Strangely, Dano plays just about the same character in both movies: an old farmer with a dog that grabs his rifle when the aliens land near his home.

This film also features Suzanne Snyder, no stranger to science fiction (and horror), as she is probably most remembered for her role in Weird Science but she was also in The Last Starfighter, Return of the Living Dead, Part II and Night of the Creeps.

The plot of the film is pretty simple, some clown-themed aliens land in a small town and start turning people into giant cotton candy cocoons to harvest them. Their ship looks like a giant circus tent, they use circus-themed weapons like killer, mutant popcorn and they like being pranksters.

I remember this movie really freaking people out and it may be the biggest contributor to the irrational fear of clowns that seemed to become more of a normal thing in the ’90s. I mean, I guess Pennywise from the 1990 miniseries It had a lot to do with it too but I distinctly remember this goofy film scaring the crap out of people. I always just thought it was kind of amusing and batshit crazy in the best way possible.

One thing that has held up really well in this film is the practical special effects, especially in regards to the clowns. The suits are great, each clown looks distinctly different and the animatronic masks were incredible for the time. Hell, this movie was made on a pretty small budget and they certainly got a lot out of their limited resoruces.

Seeing this now, I’m much more impressed by it than I would have been as a kid. It’s far from great but it’s a perfect example of what talented filmmakers with passion can create with very little resources. The fact that it’s held up so well is kind of astounding. But this is also why I’ve always had more respect for practical, real effects over digital ones that can look outdated almost immediately. You can hide your film’s financial limitations with a skilled practical effects artist better than you can with cheap, budget CGI.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other bonkers horror/sci-fi/comedy films of the ’80s.

Film Review: Spaced Invaders (1990)

Also known as: Martians!!! (working title)
Release Date: April 27th, 1990
Directed by: Patrick Read Johnson
Written by: Patrick Read Johnson, Scott Lawrence Alexander
Music by: David Russo
Cast: Douglas Barr, Royal Dano, Ariana Richards, Gregg Berger, Fred Applegate, Wayne Alexander, J. J. Anderson, Patrika Darbo, Tonya Lee Williams, Tony Cox, Orson Welles (voice – archive footage)

Silver Screen Partners IV, Smart Egg Pictures, Buena Vista Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, 100 Minutes

Review:

“Look, when a vastly superior alien culture comes all this way to take over your world, certain basic laws of planetary conquest apply. For example, when someone points a Quad Vectored Hypo Thermic Cosmo Blaster at you, it’s a fair bet you are about to become toast.” – Giggywig, “Will you please sit down and be quiet?” – Mrs. Vanderspool, “[Mrs. Vanderspool is rather overweight] Or perhaps in your case, a whole loaf of toast!” – Giggywig

Some movies just don’t age well. This is one of them.

Granted, I was a kid when I saw this and even though I loved it when I saw it in the theater and then on VHS, a dozen times, it was always a cheesy and goofy movie.

That being said, I still found the movie entertaining enough to sit through for 100 minutes and I loved the practical effects, especially in regards to the animatronics of the Martians.

The story sees a small group of Martians miss the fleet going to war. While searching for the fleet’s signal, they intercept a broadcast from Earth, falsely interpreting that as a news report that the Martians have invaded their insignificant neighboring planet. So these Martians head to Earth to help an invasion that isn’t actually happening.

I can’t quite call this an outright parody, even though it’s an obvious homage to alien invasion science fiction like War of the Worlds, which is actually the broadcast that they perceived to be a legitimate news report in the same vein that many humans did in 1938.

This is almost a stoner comedy for kids but without the drugs. It kind of reminds me of 1986’s Howard the Duck in a lot of respects. I’m also one of the few people on Earth that like that movie, even though George Lucas has since disowned it.

While the film does have a plot, it’s a pretty simple one and the majority of the movie is just a series of humorous gags and jokes with a lot of crude, juvenile humor. You know, the best kind of humor from the best time that kind of humor existed.

I really like Royal Dano in this and I feel like that guy doesn’t get enough credit. He’s a solid and fully committed character actor that, at the very least, brightens any production he’s ever been a part of.

Additionally, I really connected with Ariana Richards in this. She’s most famous for being the young girl in Jurassic Park but, as a kid, I connected with her love of aliens and science fiction. The fact that she spends 75 percent of the film dressed like a xenomorph from the Alien franchise made my day back in 1990 and it’s still kind of cool. I also really enjoyed the little kid dressed like a duck the whole movie, who only removed his duck bill for the film’s big finale.

This is bizarre and borderline corny but I wouldn’t call it a waste of time. It was a decent way of wasting 100 minutes. I don’t think I’ll watch it again in the near future, or ever, but it was fun revisiting all these years later, even if it didn’t live up to my memories of it.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other juvenile sci-fi comedies of the late ’80s/early ’90s.

Film Review: Ghoulies II (1987)

Release Date: October 5th, 1987 (video premiere)
Directed by: Albert Band
Written by: Charlie Dolan, Dennis Paoli
Music by: Fuzzbee Morse
Cast: Damon Martin, Royal Dano, Phil Fondacaro, J. Downing, Kerry Remsen, Dale Wyatt, Jon Pennell, Sasha Jenson

Taryn Productions Inc., Empire Pictures, 89 Minutes

Review:

“I am a magician, you sons of bitches. You can’t kill me!” – Uncle Ned

Ghoulies was a stupid, fun movie. It was hardly great and it certainly isn’t a film that will resonate with most people. I like it. However, I haven’t seen any of the sequels in maybe two decades or so. So how would Ghoulies II fair, after having just revisited the first movie?

Well, I actually like this better than the original film. So let me get into why.

First, as bat shit crazy as the first movie was, this chapter in the franchise really ups the ante and succeeds in making a bigger and even more bat shit crazy motion picture.

I love the carnival setting. Having the Ghoulies run rampant in a horror funhouse was fantastic and a nice nod, intentional or not, to the Tobe Hooper film Funhouse. I also like that the monsters eventually “break out” of the funhouse and take over the carnival itself.

This is also the sort of dumb that I can get behind because it does completely nonsensical things, ignores physics and doesn’t give two shits about it. For instance, in one scene, a Ghoulie bites through a power cable to use it to shock and kill a character. A few minutes later, a Ghoulie is shown to have a weakness to electricity. I mean, what the shit? But I love this sort of nonsense in these kind of movies.

A big highlight was also the big finale, where the heroes summon a large Ghoulie that then goes around and eats all the little ones. However, once that’s done, the big Ghoulie wants to eat the humans that summoned him. It’s not what I would call a twist but it isn’t a situation you probably expected to go down in the movie. I loved it, especially the large Ghoulie’s rubber suit.

This is mindless fun for about 90 minutes. While there are probably a hundred ’80s horror movies that are better than this, this one is too stupid to be ignored.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: The other three Ghoulies films, the Munchies films, Hobgoblins and Sorority Babes In the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama.