Film Review: Conquest (1983)

Also known as: Mace the Outcast (working title), El Bárbaro (Mexico)
Release Date: June 2nd, 1983 (Italy)
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Written by: Gino Capone, Carlos Vasallo, Jose Antonio de la Loma Giovanni Di Clemente
Music by: Claudio Simonetti
Cast: Jorge Rivero, Andrea Occhipinti, Conrado San Martin, Sabrina Siani

Clemi Cinematografica, Clesi Cinematografica, Conquest Productions, 88 Minutes

Review:

“When a man meets a man, you never know which one will die. But when an animal meets a man, it’s always the animal that dies. I’m on the animals’ side.” – Mace, “Isn’t this an animal you’re eating?” – Ilias, “[shrugs] I didn’t kill him.” – Mace, “That’s a pretty strange law.” – Ilias, “Not when you’re hungry.” – Mace

By the time 1983 rolled around, everyone was making sword and sorcery movies, especially the Europeans, who just wanted to make their own version of Conan the Barbarian. Since most of these movies were made in Italy and Spain, it seems natural that Lucio Fulci, mostly known for his horror pictures, would direct his own.

What’s interesting about Fulci doing one of these movies is that he got to tap into his horror skills, adding in some interesting monsters and a darker tone to this sword and sorcery tale.

For the time and the budget, the special effects are pretty decent. The evil sorceress’ henchmen are basically  barbarian werewolves, which was a neat idea. Granted, they look like the lovechild of Joe Dante’s werewolf from The Howling and Chewbacca but still, werewolf barbarians is a cool enough concept to carry its own movie.

On the downside, however, this is a very cheap film and it looks it. I like the practical effects but that’s something I personally have an appreciation for and if you share that sentiment, the hokiness of the production probably won’t bother you. But for most people, this picture won’t cut the mustard. It also doesn’t help that it’s dark, dreary and always looks foggy or as if there is a haze over the camera lens.

That being said, I think the visuals of this film will turn most people away, as it’s not pretty to look at, especially when compared to bigger budget sword and sorcery pictures from the same era, mainly the Schwarzenegger Conan films, Red Sonja and the first Beastmaster.

I still like the movie though, but I have an affinity for these sorts of things. Plus, the one dude shoots light arrows, which is neat and reminds me of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, which is odd because this movie and that TV show came out in the same year.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other Lucio Fulci movies, as well as other European sword and sorcery pictures from the early ’80s.

Film Review: Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning (2004)

Also known as: Ginger Snaps 3, Ginger Snaps: The Prequel (working titles), Licantropia (Italy)
Release Date: July 10th, 2004 (Canada – Fantasia Film Festival)
Directed by: Grant Harvey
Written by: Stephen Massicotte, Christina Ray
Based on: characters by Karen Walton, John Fawcett
Music by: Alex Khaskin
Cast: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Brendan Fletcher

49 Films, Combustion, Lionsgate, 94 Minutes

Review:

“The air is bloody…” – Ginger

Well, here we are, the end of this trilogy. I haven’t really enjoyed it even though I liked the first film like twenty years ago and I thought that the first sequel was a wee bit better for being straight up horror and not a puberty metaphor.

However, this one has a few good spots in it but it is mostly a really dull drudge to get through.

Most of the film is just Ginger and Brigitte wearing Colonial Era cloaks and moping around reminding us that they’re insufferable goth teen cliches. But this isn’t the same Ginger and Brigitte. No, this is somehow a prequel and they’re different characters but whatever. None of that makes sense and this is all a bad idea used to milk this into a franchise that no one wanted other than twelve year-old goth girls and the Canadian film industry.

Anyway, this tries to take itself seriously but it fails. It forgets that it is supposed to have a bit of cheese but it only has bad, unintentional cheese and doesn’t try to emulate what makes the good teen/twentysomething werewolf movies, well… good. There needs to be some humor and characters that you care for, so that the transformation to monsters actually makes the audience care. Look at An American Werewolf In London for a good example of what I’m talking about.

The Ginger Snaps film series is just an ugly, moody bitch. It’s an angsty teen without a sense of humor, doing its damnedest just to piss off mom and dad because “…like the suburbs suck and shit”. This film takes the worse parts about the original and just dumps them into the Canadian wilderness of the 1810s.

Also, the acting seems to have gotten worse.

Now as far as the cool bits, there is a scene at the end where werewolf Ginger opens the gates to the fort and a hoard of werewolves walk in to eat the inhabitants. It looks good, the effects are better than they were in the first two films and you finally get to see multiple werewolves onscreen at the same time. Now the faces of the monsters aren’t very good but overall, I can see that they actually put the budget into the effects. But I guess that’s why they had to film this in a big cabin, fronting as a fort, in some Canadian state park somewhere in the woods.

I don’t know, man. This was boring, tough to get through and it made sure that I’ll probably never rewatch one of these movies again.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Ginger Snaps movies.

Film Review: Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed (2004)

Release Date: January 30th, 2004 (Canada)
Directed by: Brett Sullivan
Written by: Megan Martin
Based on: characters by Karen Walton, John Fawcett
Music by: Kurt Swinghammer
Cast: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Tatiana Maslany, Eric Johnson, Janet Kidder, Brendan Fletcher

Copperheart Entertainment, Lionsgate, 94 Minutes

Review:

“So this is home, huh, Ghost?… Kind of has the Manson family charm.” – Tyler

I guess this isn’t as beloved as the original film but I actually enjoy this one more.

It’s not bogged down by puberty issues or teen drama, it’s just a straight up horror movie with a really good, dark twist to the story.

The main stars from the first film return but this is focused on Emily Perkins’ Bridgette, as Katharine Isabelle’s Ginger is still dead and just haunts Bridgette as her conscience in the form of a ghost. The rest of the cast is made up of people that work in or are patients of an asylum.

When this story starts, Bridgette is still infected with werewolf blood as the cure from the first movie doesn’t really work. So Bridgette is basically an addict, taking the faulty cure in an effort to prevent the werewolf blood from fully taking over her. But as time goes on, her body becomes more and more immune to her medicine. In the asylum, her “drugs” are taken away from her, so its only a matter of time before she becomes a monster.

I like the setting and vibe of this film more than the original. It felt raw, grittier and it exists to scare its audience, as opposed to using the horror film medium as an analogy for girl’s getting their period.

Plus, I thought that the effects here were better and the film obscured the monster for the most part, as opposed to a big reveal that didn’t payoff due to the cheapness of the budget.

Additionally, I liked the concept of turning Bridgette into a junkie, still possessed by her sister’s overbearing spirit while also throwing in another werewolf and another type of monster altogether.

Ginger Snaps 2 is not a great film but it’s a better horror movie than the first one and it doesn’t beat around the bush. It gives you horror violence from the outset and you actually feel organic danger in this chapter of the trilogy.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Ginger Snaps movies.

Film Review: Howling III: The Marsupials (1987)

Also known as: Howling III (original title), Wolfmen (Germany)
Release Date: May 15th, 1987 (Cannes)
Directed by: Philippe Mora
Written by: Gary Brandner, Philippe Mora
Based on: The Howling III: Echoes by Gary Brandner
Music by: Allan Zavod
Cast: Barry Otto, Imogen Annesley, Leigh Biolos, Ralph Cotterill

Bancannia Holdings Pty. Ltd., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 98 Minutes

Review:

“You know this movie’s about pop culture? In the 60s, Andy Warhol showed us how Pop could be high art. That everything is high art. That’s what this is all about. For example, in your first scene you’ll be gang raped by four monsters.” – Jack Citron

I remember seeing one of the later Howling sequels when I was a kid. I think it was part IV or V. I also remember it being absolute shit. While part II is also crap, it is very endearing, has Christopher Lee in it, Sybil Danning’s breasts and also boasts great music from Babel.

So I have never seen this one but I’ve been intrigued by it for years, because it features werewolves that are marsupials. I don’t know why that would intrigue me but it sounded so batshit crazy that it might work in some way.

It doesn’t work. In fact, this is a movie that hurt my head and I felt like I was in physical and mental pain trying to get to the end.

The werewolves here are Australian and unlike our American (or European) werewolves, they are descended from extinct marsupial thylacines a.k.a. Tasmanian tigers. So they have stomach pouches for their babies, as well as tiger striped asses. Seriously, I’m not making this up.

Anyway, a werewolf girl escapes into normal Sydney society, falls in love, gets preggers and then a strobelight at a party makes here wolf out. The dumb guy that loves her, follows her back into the Outback to have a werewolf family in the wilderness. A government agency gets involved, experiments on werewolves and shit hits the fan.

There is one really cool and really bizarre scene where a ballerina doing a spin starts wolfing out and then eats a male ballerina on stage in front of people. Also, the werewolf nuns are equal parts freaky and stupid.

Howling III is far from a decent movie. It’s really damn bad with bad camerawork, shrill sound and lowest common denominator practical effects.

This made me not want to watch the other sequels but I still probably will because I torture myself just to review all of the terrible cinematic shit on God’s green Earth.

Rating: 3.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Howling sequels.

Film Review: Ginger Snaps (2000)

Also known as: Transformare (Romania)
Release Date: August 1st, 2000 (München Fantasy Filmfest)
Directed by: John Fawcett
Written by: Karen Walton, John Fawcett
Music by: Mike Shields
Cast: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Kris Lemche, Mimi Rogers, Lucy Lawless (voice)

Motion International, 108 Minutes

Review:

“It feels so… good, Brigitte. It’s like touching yourself. You know every move… right on the fucking dot. And after, you see fucking fireworks. Supernovas. I’m a goddamn force of nature. I feel like I could do just about anything.” – Ginger

I remember liking this film when I saw it way back in 2000. I think I watched it again once or twice a year or so after but I haven’t seen it since then, almost twenty years ago now.

Sadly, this doesn’t hold up very well and I’m not sure what I liked about it back in the day, other than I was crushing hard on Katharine Isabelle. Well, until she started transforming and got weird cat eyes and wolf titties.

The two main characters here are insufferable. It really starts to grate on you about three minutes into the movie. They’re both overly goth-y and obsessed with death like total cliche dark ’90s teens. Now I loved goth chicks around the time that this film came out (and still do) but this is written in a way that is pure cringe and just really fucking awful. It is to goth chicks what The Big Bang Theory is to nerds.

Additionally, no one in this film is likable or has any redeeming qualities except for the pot dealing cool kid who is just trying to help. The mother, played by Mimi Rogers was sweet but by the end of the film, she kind of throws it all away in a weak moment, trying to desperately cling on to her shitty, ungrateful, bitchy daughters.

A lot of people absolutely love this film though and many consider it a classic. I don’t get it, really. The whole werewolf thing is a metaphor for puberty and it’s done in a heavy handed, obvious and predictable way. There is nothing in the film that is surprising or that will catch you off guard.

I think the thing that really drags this film through the mud the most is the dialogue. It’s ’90s edgy teen angst to the nth degree and it is just as much cringe as it is derivative and exhausting.

Also, the movie starts out fairly strong but then it drags and drags and is pretty boring. The big finale is way too long by at least ten minutes. Plus, by that point, you don’t care about anyone in the film.

For something trying so hard to convince its audience that it is edgy and cool, it did so with the strength and steadiness of a nursing home handjob.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequels: Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed and Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning.

Film Review: Wolf Guy (1975)

Also known as: Urufu gai: Moero ôkami-otoko, lit. Wolfguy: Enraged Lycanthrope (Japan)
Release Date: April 5th, 1975 (Japan)
Directed by: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
Written by: Fumio Konami
Based on: Wolf Guy by Kazumasa Hirai
Cast: Sonny Chiba, Kyosuke Machida

Toei, 86 Minutes

Review:

“There is a nastier pathogen than syphilis. It’s the one they call hatred of humans. I had clearly caught that infection from Miki.” – Akira Inugami

Man, this is a bizarre movie. But it’s also a horror Yakuza movie from Toei Studios in the 1970s. They spent a lot of time making tokusatsu television and Sonny Chiba action movies though, so this was a weird hybrid of all the things they were good at back in the mid-’70s.

Chiba is essentially a werewolf. However, we never see him actually turn into a werewolf, there is just dialogue about how he’s channeling his wolf power and his animal instincts. There is also some sort of phantom ghost tiger thing that keeps attacking people and ripping them to shreds.

The films is also full of drugs, whores, gangsters, syphilis and really weird sexual encounters.

At one point, Wolf Guy Chiba meets his mother, who is also his wife and he suckles her breasts. Yeah, it’s fucking weird as shit but hey, this is Japanese cinema where weird shit is allowed to fly, nothing has to make much logical sense and no one really seems to care as long as something really cool happens every five to ten minutes.

If I’m being honest though, I have no idea what the hell I watched. But I did mostly like it. I love Chiba, I love Toei and bizarreness is right up my alley. And luckily, this wasn’t so bizarre that it was like some Takashi Miike shitshow. He’s literally made shitshows, that’s not just an expression.

Wolf Guy is an insane movie. It won’t be a movie for most people. But the right kind of audience should love it. I don’t love it but I guess I appreciate it for what it is: pure madness, but cool pure madness. And not so visually off putting that I have to wash my eyes out for ten hours after seeing it.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: ’70s Japanese horror and tokusatsu, as well as ’70s Sonny Chiba action crime movies.

Film Review: I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957)

Also known as: Blood of the Werewolf (working title), El monstruo adolescente (Argentina)
Release Date: June 19th, 1957
Directed by: Gene Fowler Jr.
Written by: Herman Cohen, Aben Kandel
Music by: Paul Dunlap
Cast: Michael Landon, Whit Bissell, Yvonne Lime

Sunset Productions, American International Pictures, 76 Minutes

Review:

“It’s not for man to interfere in the ways of God.” – Det. Sgt. Donovan

I saw this movie when it first aired on Mystery Science Theater 3000 back in the ’90s. I guess, at the time, I never realized that Michael Landon was the star of this. It’s kind of cool thinking of the star of Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven as a teenage werewolf but it made revisiting this film a bit more enjoyable.

This is a bad movie but it’s also fairly amusing. I loved the cheesy ’50s teen dancing bits and this film felt like it had some heart, despite being made cheaply, quickly and without much concern about actual filmmaking craftsmanship.

For what this picture is, I actually liked the werewolf makeup and Landon looked like a legit snarling beast man.

I love werewolf pictures and this is far from the best of them but it is a better film than more contemporary werewolf pictures by B-level studios. Hell, when I think about it, there aren’t many werewolf films I care about in modern cinema.

This was a fun film and MST3K episode to revisit. It came with good riffs and it wasn’t a film that was so bad that it was a drudge to get through and could only be saved by the humorous flourishes of Mike and the ‘Bots.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: I Was a Teenage Frankenstein and any low budget werewolf movie from the ’40s through ’50s.