Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (1983) – Mini Retro Review

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Space Hunter is one of my personal favorites. Directed by Lamont Johnson, this eclectic blend of various ideas and tropes from sci-fi and fantasy runs on pure cheese and asks no forgiveness. The story line is simple – three beautiful women crash on planet covered in radiation, blight and horny mutants. Space Hunter takes a contract to go rescue the damsels in distress, hopefully before they mussy up their dinnerware.

The film doesn’t take itself too seriously and should come as little surprise. Lindholm other credits for writing include Stripes, Meatballs and Heavy Metal. Peter Strauss take the lead role, teaming up with a pre-John Hughes Molly Ringwald and a hasn’t aged a day Ernie Hudson. The big bad is played perfectly by Michael Ironside, not a surprise.

The movie has cool monsters to include flying wasteland raiders, Amazons and water serpents, greasy mutated fat guys, and little bomb tossing kids that look straight out of The Brood. My main criticism is that the film is pretty misogynistic by today’s standards, treating the females characters as either sexual playthings or poor little girl sidekick. Originally released in 3D, the film came out 1 week before Return of the Jedi. Bad idea.

Space Hunter is a fun film that is worth seeing if you have a fetish for 80s sci-fi or wish Doc Brown’s Delorean was a real thing.

Clown (2016) – Raw Review

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If news reports are to be believed, professional clowns are lamenting the imminent release of the IT remake later this fall. They argue that clowns too often are the victims of public enmity, subject to stereotypes that are perpetuated in popular cinema and the most horrific of true crime. Despite some validity to their argument, the guise of the clown has entrenched itself as a mainstay in popular horror and that doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon. Between the fictional characters Pennywise and Twisty to real life killers like Pogo, something about their abstract appearance and unconventional antics stirs fear in the masses. Harness that fear, channel it into a narrative that is engaging, paint a pallet of menace and uncertainty at once both visceral and thrilling, you get a damned decent horror film in Clown.

In the opening minutes of the movie we see Kent (Andy Powers), a loving and dedicated father, presented with the problem of finding a replacement clown for his six year old son’s birthday party. Kent happens to discover a clown costume in the basement of a foreclosed house he is preparing for sale. Unwilling to disappoint his son, he dons the outfit and saves the day. The next day he finds that it cannot be removed and as time passes it begins to change him.

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Co-written and directed by Jon Watts, the film is not a typical spin on the killer in a clown suit. Toss any expectation of circus style clownery (a la Pennywise) out the window. There are no clown cars, lethal pies or cotton candy guns. Instead, what we receive is a compelling and emotionally charged trip through a horrifying metamorphosis. As the costume assumes more and more authority over Kent’s mind and body, his wife Meg (Laura Allen) sets out in a desperate gambit to save him by uncovering its true nature. This focus and attention to their relationship injects a complexity  into the the film, elevating the emotion and is essential to the success of the closing act.

Watts also handles the subject matter with a deft touch. The gruesome murder of children is certainly not uncommon in horror movies, and filmmakers will often inject dark humor to soften the impact of seeing a child ripped to shreds, but many films make the fatal mistake of crossing the line into exploitation. Inserting violence and gore for shock value, at the expense of story and character development. Watts seems to understand this, and while he gives the audience a significant amount of gore, it is always attune to the needs of the narrative.

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Where the movie suffers a slight hiccup is in the murky and underdeveloped relationship between Kent and Meg’s family. There is a clear level of tension between them, and it’s obvious that Meg’s father does not approve of the marriage, or at the very least Kent, but it is explained well and feels like the result of the editing process. The opening also feels a tad rushed and introduction of the clown costume occurs very nearly before anyone else, even Kent. Fortunately, the film moves forward at brisk pace, sweeping the audience into Kent’s nightmare almost immediately, leaving little time to reflect on the introduction.

Indie (a.k.a. low-budget) horror is an extremely fickle beast. More often than not they appear promising, either due to the presence of an esteemed actor (looking at you Lance Henricksen) or a well cut trailer; yet, more often than not they flounder in a morass of poor storytelling, terrible acting and boredom.

Not Clown. This film is an exception. A strong exception. I will be adding to the rotation for horror movie night.

The Blood of Heroes (1989) – Retro Review

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The Blood of Heroes is one of those films that is far better than you would ever expect. Of course if you go by Rotten Tomatoes then this film is dreck, lacking in any real character development or entertainment value. Fortunately, the critics are not always right, and in this case they are more wrong than usual.

The cast of characters include:
Rutger Hauer as Sallow
Vincent D’Onofrio as Gar
Joan Chen as Kidda
Delroy Lindo as Mbulu
Anna Katarina as Big Cimber

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The Blood of Heroes (or Salute of the Juggers as its also known) is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. On the surface people live in small villages strewn across the blight, eking out survival by growing small crops and raising dogs for meat. Below the surface lay the nine cities. Sprawling industrial caverns, the remnants of an old world. Each city has a professional team they use to settle disputes and maintain their status. There are aristocratic groups that are highly privileged in the cities and while the Juggers are treated like gods, they are not royalty.

The story follows a team of Juggers as they travel the wasteland, moving from village to village, challenging each to compete in The Game. Victory means food, drink and sex are bestowed upon them. The team is lead by Sallow, a former Jugger in the nine cities who was banished for reasons we learn about through the film.

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The game is simple. Five players on each team attempt to place a dog skull on a pike at the opposite end of the playing field. The catch is that only the player known as the “Quick” is able to touch the skull. The other four players fight one another in an attempt to open space for the Quick to score. Each game last for “100 stones, 3 times.” The Quicks do not carry implements, relying on their own fighting skills to beat one another as they try to wrestle the skull from one another.

What makes this film rise above expectation is how screenwriter and director David Peoples establishes the importance of the game and how its woven into the social and political order of the world. Its clear from the get-go that the game is akin to a common law (an expectation if you will) that no one will ignore or disrespect.  The players and peasants sportsmanship and honor for those they compete against is unwavering. The Juggers will crush one another in competition, but after, they drink and celebrate whomever is the victor.

I won’t defend the acting, but the cast is made up of some very fine actors that obviously were taking risks early on in their careers. The stand out performance is Vincent D’Onofrio. Even this early on in his career he was killin it.

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Its not surprising the level of subtleties built into the screenplay. We are provided no explanation of how the world came to be as it is in the film. No history of the game or how it developed. No backstory for anyone save Sallow and Chen. A smart move that avoids the pitfall of making things too complex. Its not surprising. David Peoples is responsible for writing some pretty fantastic and revered screenplays, to include Blade Runner, 12 Monkeys, Ladyhawke, and Unforgiven (yes, THAT Unforgiven).

What the film suffers from is a painfully low budget along allegory on plutocracy that is a bit too on the nose. Fortunately, the game is engaging and fun to watch, which minimizes the faults. The set-up to the final act (a challenge against one of the professional teams form the nine cites) is strong, built up through the film.

In the end, The Blood of Heroes is a sports movie dressed in a post-apocalyptic theme, which is woven together nicely.  The game is engaging and handled deftly enough to make all the rest fall into place. Don’t let the bad reviews fool you, this film deserves cult status.

 

Beacon Point (2017) – Trailer

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Take a trip to Beacon Point this May when the highly-anticipated science-fiction thriller lands on VOD via Uncork’d Entertainment.
The film, called “an intelligent and interestingly innovative inferno of horror, science fiction, folklore and thrills”, hails from talented newcomer Eric Blue.
Zoe has quit her job to hike the Appalachian Trail as a tribute to her deceased father. She joins a small group of inexperienced hikers for an adventure of a lifetime. The group is, Dan, recently divorced and looking for a change from Silicon Valley, Cheese, a 17 year old kid, and Brian, his half brother he has just met. They are led by Drake, a hot headed trail master with a questionable past. They are upbeat as they set out on the ten day trek through the Great Smokey Mountains. Drake leads them away from the main trail and the tourists, promising a grand adventure and sights they’d never see with the standard tour. After a gruesome discovery, they become lost deep in the mountains. The adventure spins out of control when they are terrorized at their campsite by an unseen force.
Rae Olivier, Jon Briddell, Eric Goins, Jason Burkey, and RJ Shearer star in an Eric Blue film, written by Blue and Traci Carroll.
Beacon Point on VOD May 2 and DVD on July 4.

Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988) – Trailer

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“Killer Klowns from outer space…holy shit.”

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Yes, I’m in a clown frenzy today. I’m fully fixated on the horrible rubber nose circus monsters. They’ve been around forever and many a film maker has taken a crack at clowning around the horror genre.

The best of the best of the best be the fabulous Killer Klowns from Outer Space. A elegant movie, from a more civilized decade. Plus, movie trailers from back in the day had so much more heart (and a lot less plot reveal).