Friday, June 30, 2017

Junesploitation Day 30: Monsters!

Terror has a new shape!



    Stephen Herek's CRITTERS (1986, 83 min.) on Hulu for the first time.

    The outer-space scenes at the start of this one share the same cinematic DNA as similar scenes in Fred Dekker's "Night of the Creeps" (also released in '86). Once on Earth, though, these 'crites' land in a remote Arkansas town and start wrecking havoc with the locals. Poor Dee Wallace can't catch a break! If its not aliens cuddling with her son ("E.T."), a rabid dog trapping her in a car with a sick child ("Cujo") or a secret enclave of werewolves trying ("The Howling"), it's little furry creatures with spikes terrorizing her family. Once the shit hits the fan the family acts like real people would in this situation (Scott Grimes shines as an average kid that genuinely cares for others), and when alien bounty hunters show up "Critters" becomes an honest-to-goodness horror comedy that doesn't cancel its laughs with gory bits and viceversa. For a "Gremlins" copycat this one is an above-average ripoff that shows what can be accomplished when a little creativity is applied to a formula. Recommended.

    M. Night Shyamalan's THE VILLAGE (2004, 108 min.) on HBO Go for the first time.

    Watching "The Village" now that Shyamalan's career is back on track after more than a decade of consistent failures (this is where the wheels came off the 'M. Night is the new Spielberg' hype train), I found enough to like about it considering the core of the story it's telling (people living in a rural Pennsylvania town terrified of monsters living in the woods surrounding them) is deeply, deeply flawed. William Hurt and Bryce Dallas Howard act their hearts out, and even though his character is annoying Adrien Brody commits to it as much as Joaquin Phoenix sleepwalks through his. Hilary Hanh's violin work for James Newton Howard's score is memorable, and Roger Deakins' cinematography is exquisite. The whole thing falls apart when M. Night reveals the real monster in "The Village" is his runaway ego constructing an expensive-looking movie with such a weak foundation. I guessed correctly the twists from the first trailer back in '04. Watch the "Scary Movie 4" instead so you can at least have some fun.

    Trey Stokes' 2010: MOBY DICK (2010, 87 min.) on ConTV.

    Not saying that this Asylum production is leaps-and-bounds better than their average SyFy-level production, but if you're remotely familiar with Melville's novel there are honest-to-goodness attempts to make this 'nuclear submarines versus giant monster whale' flick have a passing resemblance of a story with some character development. Director Trey Stokes (the "Pink Five" saga, "Arc") uses his background as a special effects artist to make the dodgy special effects shots look a little bit better than they would have if someone else had directed. Listening to Trey in the Frieds In Your Head commentary track take "2010: Moby Dick" apart while sharing behind-the-scenes details, one can't help but be reminded that even the worst movies are the result of hard work. And hey, where else can you see Renée O'Connor (TV's "Xena: Warrior Princess") in a not-so-sexy bikini and Brian Bosworth ("The Rocky Horror Picture Show") pull the Captain Ahab thing with a giant plastic gun that he designed himself because The Asylum wouldn't pay for the prop? Worth a look if you can see the movie without paying for it.

  2. The Howling (1981)

    I didn't plan it this way but this actually makes for a good bridge into my weekend. I'm finishing off my Junesploitation with a Joe Dante film and then I'll be seeing Joe Dante screen films at the Roxie on Saturday and Sunday.

  3. The Ship of Monsters (1960, dir. Rogelio A. Gonzalez)
    Sexy female aliens from Venus and Uranus have spaceship trouble during a mission to collect male specimen for repopulating their female-only planets, and land in Mexico. They meet a comedic singing cowboy known for making up tall tales, and he never shuts up the rest of the movie. Fortunately, the ladies also brought a stable of alien beasts with them plus a friendly robot, so all the scenes are either awful (singing cowboy), or fantastic (alien monsters). The Uranus lady turns out to be a vampire!! She's going to use the monsters to take over earth, but you Don't Mess With Mexes, and they stake her ass.

    Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds (1977, dir. Junji Kurata)
    I had no idea while watching it, but this was apparently a first season MST3K entry. It's a slooooooow giant monster flick about a plesiosaur (like Nessie) in a lake at the foot of Mt. Fuji. Most of the movie is people trying to find the thing, and once in a while it'll pop up to bite someone in half. It's occasionally surprising gory for a kaiju movie, and I think it pretty clearly wanted to be Jaws more than Gamera. At the end a Rhamphorhynchus (fuck) shows up and they roll off into an abyss or some shit together. Yawn. The soundtrack is real funky, though, for some reason. This is a very '70s kaiju flick, which is a bit of a rarity.

    Little Red Riding Hood and the Monsters (1962, dir. Roberto Rodriguez)
    Been meaning to see this for a long time, since it's got its ardent fans. It's pretty bonkers. The fairy tale world is geographically divided into Good and Bad halves, and in the bad half, doing good deeds is punishable by death. I had no ding-dong idea, but apparently this is the fourth or so entry in a franchise, in the first entry of which Red Riding Hood makes friends with the Big Bad Wolf; so, in this entry, he's put on trial and sentenced to death by a jury of his peers, including Frankenstein, evil Siamese twins (one's a caveman, the other's an executioner??), the John Carradine version of Dracula, a pinhead, and the Disney version of the Evil Queen from Snow White. The Wolf's best friend, Stinky the Skunk, goes off to find Red and Tom Thumb. The Queen turns everyone in the land into chimps. Etcetera etcetera etcetera. It's pretty grating, especially since the skunk sounds like a David Seville chipmunk. Worth a look if you like this kind of thing (stuff that makes your head hurt).

    The X from Outer Space (1967, dir. Kazui Nihonmatsu)
    A pretty traditional kaiju picture; I think this was Shochiku's only legitimate attempt to get into genre (they made their own parody of this property, decades after.) The Japanese space program have a lunar base, but are trying to make it to mars, and their rockets keep disappearing. Some flying saucer made out of yellow goop is doing it, and when they find it, it lays a bunch of eggs on our hero's spaceship, and one gets taken to Earth and becomes a giant bug-eyed, antennae'd lizard, etc. Very typical.

    1. The Monster and the Stripper (1968, dir. Ron Ormond)
      Outstanding underappreciated sister film to Orgy of the Dead and The Incredibly Strange Creatures from the people who would later bring us If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? A New Orleans strip club decides what their stage is missing is the monster at large devouring hunters and cattle in the Okefenokee Swamp (a tall dude painted red and wearing crazy fake eyebrows), who will stand in a cage while the girls are writhing, driving the crowd wild. Most of the movie is strippers doing their thing; the thrilling opening act has flaming pastie tassels!!!! Everything you could want from a '60s trash masterpiece is in here. The clothes, the decor, the make-up, the cat-fights, and people saying "daddy-o", and a dueling harmonica number. The monster is played by Sleepy LaBeef, who does a real live geek act. Amazing!

      Stepmonster (1993, dir. Jeremy Stanford)
      Shockingly competent collaboration between Fred Olen Ray and Roger Corman, a family comedic fantasy about a 13 year old kid preventing his dad from marrying a killer troll, played by Robin Riker (who was on a hell of a roll at the time, on the sitcoms Get A Life (Spewy!), Shaky Ground (Matt Frewer!), and Thunder Alley (Haley Joel Osment!), one right after the other.) His dad's Alan Thicke, and his grandpa's George Gaynes! Also with Corey Feldman, Edie McClurg, and John Astin (and Sean Whalen and Bodhi Elfman in very small parts.) Best of all, the kid is a horndog, who spies on his babysitter across the street with a telescope, and snaps polaroids of her in her underwear! She comes over to sit for him, and says "no, no matter how much you beg, I'm not going to give you a bath!" A very nice surprise!

      The House on Bare Mountain (1962, dir. Lee Frost)
      Nudie cutie where Bob Cresse, the man behind Love Camp 7, does Jonathan Winter's grandmother character as the mistress of a school for girls which also has a wolfman making moonshine in its basement. It's nearly plotless, and just an excuse for pin-up models to do calisthenics and other such activities topless. Nearly a third of the one hour running time is a drunken costume party sequence with very little dialogue, where party guests Dracula and Frankenstein spike the punch. It's never clear whether they're the real monsters or just guys in costume. Surprisingly higher quality than these types of affairs are, but after all, they had The Thing With Two Heads' Lee Frost behind the camera.

      And I'm out. Great job, everybody.

    2. I salute you, sir. I don't think anyone has put as much effort into Junesploitation (Patrick excepted, of course) as you have. It was hard enough for me to watch a movie a day, let alone write about these.

      This is for you, Matt. (I'm being sincere here, just in case you might think otherwise)

    3. [CLAPS & BOWS] Well done, sir. We're not worthy. :-)

    4. You did great as well, J.M. Everybody but me has really given their all this month.

      Cock, I'm gonna have to get my cilice out tonight and wrap it around my leg again.

      I'm not even Catholic. Damn you, The Da Vinci Code. No, that's not fair. My own susceptibility to fashions is to blame. Still, that thing really hurts. :(

    5. Thank you for the kind words and praise, you two! If only everyone else also thought watching '60s skin flicks and '80s gorefests was as admirable a pursuit as you do. Oh well, looks like it's suicide again for me.

  4. Attack The Block (2011)

    I don't need to tell anyone how awesome this movie is. But I am going to anyway. My word! This movie was even better than my memory of it. Everything just fits into place.

    1. Lindsay, English people are not monsters; they're just like you and me, frightening and distasteful as they may be. I'm shocked you would insinuate such an offensive idea.

    2. Surprised this one isn't more popular now that then-unknown John Boyega has hit the big time as Finn in the new "Star Wars" movies. In either movie, though, Boyega gives a standout and memorable performance.

    3. LoL E.S.A.D.D I am jealous of their accents, brilliant literature and my inability to be able to use their language :):):).

      And yeah, Boyega is the heart of Attack The Block. I just hope Cornish makes more movies, and this slips into the culture more.

    4. Okay, someone is going to have to explain this to me, because I do not get how Lindsay's original comment was in any way anti-English. I'm feeling like a dummy at the moment, and I do not like feeling like a dummy. I'm English-American, and while the American part of me often misses the joke, the English part of me never does.

      Help me out here, guys.

    5. Is it because Lindsay watched a movie about English people on Monsters Day? If that's wrong, what can I say, I'm American. I've also never seen Attack the Block

    6. Reply came out in the wrong mo-fo place. I'll try again.


      Ah, yes, of course that's it. Stupid me. Thanks, Meredith.

      The aliens in Attack the Block could definitely be thought of as 'monsters'. That's what threw me. My brain shuts down a bit and I go on the defensive when I think someone is insulting the homeland.

      This is how Nigel Farage feels every moment of the day, so I don't feel too bad for experiencing it myself every once in a while. You're not Polish or a Muslim, are you, Meredith? ANSWER THE QUESTION!!

      Sorry, sorry. It's hard to turn off once it's been turned on.

      Fuck Nigel Farage and UKIP and the gubshites who vote for them.

    7. Meredith, you should watch Attack The Block, I think you'd dig it.

    8. Oh my God I loved it. Shit was deep fam. And those kids were ADORABLE. You guys are the best!

  5. Tremors (1990)
    This really is a perfect monster movie. A wonderful blend of horror and humor. A master class in effects tricks with Puffs of dust and lifting boards selling the idea that something huge is just under the surface.
    And damn, I really miss large scale practical effects.
    To this day, Tremors is utterly charming.

  6. And, last but not least, my final Junesploitation! movie. Something that will make me miss the past 30 days and look forward to next year. A little thing called...

    XTRO (1982, 84 min.) on YouTube for the first time.

    HOOOOOO-LY FUCKING SHIT!!! What was the number on the freight train that ran roughshod over me this morning? :-D Plot summary? NO WAY I'M SPOILING THIS ONE, it's up to you to hop aboard this runaway crazy train and find on your own how it is that "Xtro" packs more weird, disgusting, upsetting, gory and depraved imagery (the most nutritious parts of a Junesploitation! breakfast) in its first 21 minutes than most flicks do during their whole running time. And that's before "Xtro" obliterates all rules about what a low-budget horror movie can and should get away with limited resources. About the only major criticism I can summon is that the electronic music (composed by co-writer/director Harry Bromley Davenport) tests my patience and annoyance threshold. Then again, like every other scene as its nutty-but-anchored-by-humanity story gathers momentum, the tunes fit into "Xtro's" self-contained universe. Separately every element of this flick couldn't and shouldn't work; combined they make an awesome little-engine-that-could Junesploitation! powerhouse, one deserving of a loud and mighty DING! DING! DING! WINNAH, WINNAH!

    Wondered for a while why Dennis Atherton was going to the mattress for this little-known flick. Now I know: (a) hometown pride (living proof the Brits can do exploitation as good or better than Americans and Italians), (b) the director's middle name (Bromley, which rhymes with the last name of Patrick's #1 gal) and (c) A-LITTLE-HENTAI-NEVER-HURT-ANYONE-SPLOITATION! :-P

    And Junesploitation! '17 is over. See you next year, sickos.

    1. This is my favourite Comment of the month!
      The Bluray is out anytime soon. Just imagine all the crazyness in HD? I have never been so exited about a film release before and probably never will be again. I'm feel like I am reaching Critical Mass
      I enjoy all of your Reviews JM but this one I will always treasure

      I find it Fantastic that Xtro even works it's magic via the low resolution of YouTube

    2. Missing this bad boy in 35mm at Brookly's Nitehawk earlier this month was painful, but work before pleasure. :-(

    3. Yeah on 35 with the right crowd would of been mind alteringly amazing. It's a shame you could not of made it happen. I still dream of seeing it on the big screen. I'm actually trying to make it happen at Frightfest in Manchester for the UK Bluray release for October by Second Sight but a lot of things need to line up for me to pull this off.

    4. Keep at it, Dennis, and good luck. The greatest gift you can give your fellow man is that little bit of "Xtro" they still don't know they need in their movie diet. :-)

  7. Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

    I watched this wonderful stop-motion animated film from Aardman Studios in honor of the late Peter Sallis, who voiced eccentric cheese-loving inventor Wallace. The film has great fun telling a decidedly British and vegetable-flavored version of the werewolf legend (with a little King Kong thrown in for good measure).

    This was the first Junesploitation I've been able to fully participate in for a few years now, and it's been fantastic. Thanks again to Patrick and F This Movie! for a month-long celebration of cinematic joy.

  8. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)

    Ticked a bunch of Friday movies off the list this month, so decided to finish with one. I really like Jason's design in this one, and that he's all falling apart. He was stuck at the bottom of of a lake so it's fitting.

    The psychokinesis aspect didn't bother me much, but the girl playing it wasn't putting on much of a performance. I wouldn't go so far to say this is the BEST Friday movie, but I'm sure it must be SOMEONES favorite?

    Unfortunately, I don't think I'll have time for anything else today. Thanks to Patrick and Co. for all the extra content this month, and all contributors for sharing!

  9. Who else has not seen Xtro?

    Riske is onnit tonight and Patrick is waiting to see via the new Bluray,

    Has anyone else not yet witnessed the Magic?
    There is no better way to end the month than with some Xtrosplotation

    1. This movie is so lucky to have a fan like you, Dennis :)

  10. The Tingler (1959)

    So glad I decided to finally catch up with this one. Vincent Price is a (possibly maniacal, because Vincent Price) doctor who discovers a creature that looks like an overgrown Wrath of Khan earwig that lives on our spines and feeds on fear. Producer/director William Castle never met a gimmick he didn't like, and while I knew the stories about theaters having some seats rigged to give mild electric shocks when The Tingler was "loose" in the theater in the film's finale, there was another bit I wasn't aware of. The movie is black & white, but in a scene where a woman finds blood running from her faucets the blood is bold, shocking red. Such a cool image and a really fun movie all around, highly recommended.

    Thanks to everyone who's been participating, reading, and recommending (and not recommending!) movies this month. I love Junesploitation, and as happens every year my watchlist has expanded exponentially throughout the month thanks to all of your enthusiasm. This really does give Scary Movie Month a run for its money as the most wonderful time of the year. Thanks everyone (especially Patrick)!

    1. John Goodman's Lawrence Woolsey character in Joe Dante's Matinee was based on William Castle, I believe.

      Mant!, the movie within a movie in that film, is a pastiche of Castle's output.

      "Bill, if you could only listen to the man in you and put the insect aside"

      "Insecticide?! Where?!"

      I love The Tingler too.

    In this version, Frankenstein’s monster is created by the space program to be the perfect astronaut. His ship is shot down by Martians who have come to Earth to abduct human women to repopulate… wow, this is a lot of plot for a 75-minute movie. It’s all good fun, though. The actors camp it up in a big way, which has often been spoofed but is funnier when it’s genuine.

    Some hot air balloonists (!) crash land on an island that’s secretly home to not only Dr. Frankenstein’s lab, but also a tribe of scantily-clad jungle babes. Like most D-level Frankensteins, this one makes you sit through a whole movie of filler before the monster finally shows up at the end.

    Halfway through this, and I discover it’s not a feature but a TV miniseries -- three and a half hours! It’s kinda/sorta the ‘90s TV version of Universal’s current “Dark Universe” ridiculousness. We have vampires, werewolves, and Frankenstein’s monster running around LA, with a group of detectives tracking them all down. It has some fun cheesy moments, but it’s way too slow and filler-heavy. This could easily have been an hour-long pilot instead of a bloated miniseries.

    Coming next summer: Joon-sploitation! Thirty days of nonstop Benny & Joon. Johnny Depp’s charming antics were originally done by Charlie Chaplin, you know.

  12. Gamera: The Giant Monster (Daikaijû Gamera) (1965, dir. Noriaki Yuasa)

    A pretty forgettable Godzilla clone with surprisingly good effects, but the way they finally "defeated" the monster was great and took me by surprise.

    1. Bonus: The Twilight Zone S1E22: The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street (1960, dir. Ronald Winston)

      Another great story about paranoia and mob mentality from Rod Serling.

      Well, it's past midnight here, so that's it for Junesploitation for me. Thank you all for making this a great month!

  13. Xtro (1982)

    I love that Dennis has a movie he loves like he loves Xtro. I enjoyed it strangeness. I don't think this is a movie for my sensibilities but it's well-made and wholly original. Dennis mentioned in his column last October that the movie is like a British version of an Italian Horror movie and I thought that too when I was watching it. My aversion to the grossness (i.e. gore) in those movies was an issue while watching Xtro. Oddly enough '90s gore doesn't bother me like '70s and '80s gore does for some reason. I dunno.

    I feel really bad not loving Xtro but I admired it and am happy I finally got around to seeing it.

    1. That's an interesting aversion to 80s gore you mentioned. For some opposite reason I am drawn to the 80s gore

      Im happy you admired it and enjoyed its strangeness
      It is very unique for its time and it definetly does not follow any standard rules for film making a bit like the Italian films I mentioned. Welcome to the club. A world where you have not experienced Xtro is not a world anyone should live in

  14. "Watch for the weerwolf [sic] break."

    The Beast Must Die (1974, director Paul Annett)

    Richard Connell's The Most Dangerous Game meets Agatha Christie's Ten Little N-words meet a werewolf (or two).

    Peter Cushing in a peculiar wig and accent; Charles Grey with that Mount Rushmore face and extraordinary voice; Calvin Lockhart in a Michelle Pfeiffer Batman Returns leather catsuit; this Peter Griffin moment.

    It's not great. It's not awful either. The werewolves themselves are just big dogs.

    There's a bit where Cushing slaps a lady which is pretty funny. Not the slapping so much (slapping ladies is never cool) as the sound effect when it happens.

    I did not guess or work out who the main werewolf was. In my defence, I don't think I was given enough information to make that determination.

    1. Monsters Day Bonus: Donald Trump's The Art of the Deal: The Movie (2016, dir. Donald Trump)

      Merv Griffin, Ed Koch, Roy Cohn and Donald Trump play themselves in this remarkably honest film, which stands as an antidote to all the fake news the lying liberal media subjects us to nowadays.

      Einstein? No.

      Robert (Rab) Burns? No.

      Aristotle? No.

      Donald John Trump puts the aforementioned individuals in the shade when it comes to sheer intellect, wit, moral fortitude and perspicaciousness.

  15. Godzilla (1954)

    I have been dipping my toes into the Godzilla movies, and have been developing a taste for the colourfulness and anything goes attitudes of the ones from the 60s. It was nice to finally get organised and watch the orginal. I really liked how ernest it was. That look at the conflict between tradition and modernity and their (now I know I am not going to articulate this right) fear or more processing what happened and reaction of nucular destruction.

    Anyway I think that the special effects really do hold up, and the movie itself I enjoyed a lot. I will be watching a lot more Godzilla. His roar is becoming one of my favourite sounds.

    1. Yes! So much good stuff in store for you. I made it my mission to see them all, and it only took me 3 decades! Believe it or not the newest entry Shin Godzilla (2016) is the best of the series since the original.

    2. But there's only what 30 or 40 movies(?) to watch?

      I just saw Shin pop up on VOD here, I will definitely have to check it out!

  16. Under the Bed (2012) (First time viewing):

    I don't want to say anything bad about this movie.

    Now the only monster left is July looming, waiting to kill June. Noo! It's been a blast!

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  18. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
    For those like me that hadn't seen it:

    This movie follows a family that breaks down in the middle of the desert, and is hunted by a vicious family of mutants.

    I actually found this to be weaker than expected in execution, but still terrifying in concept. There's a real grittiness to it that sells a lot of it. I think I vastly prefer Texas Chainsaw or X-files' Home in terms of similar ideas, but it was still very good.

  19. I...I lost Junesploitation.

    I watched The Legend of Boggy Creek for some reason and holy god, was it boring. It's a great example of why crossing the line without intent is a problem, as there were several small rooms with impenetrable geography, so there's that. And I feel pretty confident that Travis Crabtree's Song is the inspiration for every single song that's ever been on South Park. Those were the two positives.

    Other than that, you have a glacially paced docudrama about a Bigfoot-like creature menacing a small town near the Texas-Arkansas border (there's even a cameo by Texarkana!) that seems to be composed almost entirely of B-roll and second unit footage. It's pretty fascinating as an unintentional experimental film until it's not.

    1. It probably helps to have seen it on the tv as a kid when you're too young to know what a docudrama is. It's a movie my brother and I have a fondness for mostly for that reason.

    2. Yeah, that would definitely help. It's also kinda my own fault; I don't know why I decided to watch it at the end of a long day by myself when I was tired. I could definitely see myself enjoying it more in different circumstances. I know a lot of people do have affection for Boggy Creek.

  20. Nightbreed (Director's Cut) (1980)

    Great way to end a great Junesploitation. Based on what I thought I knew about it I was expecting something a little lighter in tone - and it was sometimes - but there's actually a lot of horror in it. Namely, David Cronenberg's acting - yikes! No, I kid, Dave was fine and his character was frequently terrifying.

  21. Empire of the Ants (1977, dir. some guy)

    A bunch of '70s people get stuck on an island (it could be a peninsula; I'm not sure) with giant mutated ants. That's all. Joan Collins is in it. She's the only actor I recognise. To its credit (I'm trying to give it something) the movie tries to do a couple of interesting things with the insect effects. It also attempts to get the viewer invested in the protagonists' relationships and becomes bogged down as a result. Jaws pulled that off, but this film doesn't. Collins is fuckawful.

    Favourite unintentional (one assumes) rhyming exchange of dialogue:

    "They're out there waiting, until the fire dies. Can't you hear them?"

    "Where did they come from? How the hell did they get that size?"

    I like rhymes.

    I like Junesploitation even more.

    May none of you ever be killed by an enormous, obviously fake hymenopteran. I mean that. No, no, I really do.

  22. Q: The Winged Serpent (1982)

    This has been on my list since last October so I was really happy to cross it off. After missing the last two days of Junesploitation I had to go out with a bang. This movie was all kinds of awesome. It kind of felt like the actual monster was sidelined a bit, in favour of a this detective mystery and crime drama. I was more than happy to just watch Carradine and Moriarty do their thing so I was all for it. The monster effects felt pretty dated but the characters made up for it. This was my first Larry Cohen directed movie and I'll definitely have to go back to his catalog. God told me to is definitely next!

  23. Just wanted to drop in and say Junesploitation has made for an awesome month. It's been so fun to be able to follow along this year. Loved seeing what everyone decided to watch everyday, especially when they found something they'll love forever. This has to be one of the best online communal movie events ever.