Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Junesploitation 2022 Day 15: Bugs!



    Not only do you get giant insects, but aliens are also thrown into the mix. Near a small British village, a scientific experiment exposes the people and the animals to dangerous cosmic radiation. Seemingly overnight, giant insects appear and attack. The script for this low-budget British production is preposterous and the effects (close-ups of insects) are very silly, but I cannot say I was bored by it. The film is fine for what it is.

  2. Ok, this is the double feature I'm most proud of. Both are, in wildly different ways, about a crackpot british scientist who is desperately trying to warn the world that insects are going to kill us all.

    The Hellstrom Chronicle (1971)
    "As a scientist, I would very much like to have been on hand during the first seven days of creation. I would have liked to have seen the ironic smile on the creator’s face as he gave each creature a different strength, knowing full well that eventually only two among them would be left to fight for what remained of the earth. Man… and the insect.” - Dr. Nils Hellstrom
    This is a bizarre fake documentary played completely straight, narrated by the enigmatic Dr. Hellstrom. He tells us at the start that if we are familiar with his name it is probably as an infamous crackpot, but that he is in fact a scientist making this documentary in the hopes that some will believe his claim that insects are humanity's ultimate adversary. It is, in most respects, just a very nicely filmed nature documentary. What makes it stand out is Dr. Hellstrom's wonderfully poetic rants about how terrifying bugs are... the man's even scared shitless by butterflies. This movie would make a wonderful double billing with pretty much any insect attack movie, particularly Phase IV, but I went with

    Quatermass and the Pit (1967)
    What a gem of a movie. Clearly a huge influence on John Carpenter - most will notice that this movie's setting is Hobb's End which Carpenter used the name of for In The Mouth Of Madness, but in theme, visuals and atmosphere this movie has a lot in common with Prince of Darkness. Utterly bonkers plot with some awesome sets and ideas, but ultimately it's let down by perhaps the laziest monster puppets I've ever seen. Seriously, they're just unmoving wooden dolls and watching them bob up and down is laughably ridiculous in a movie that otherwise feels up there with the best of old Doctor Who episodes.

    1. Fun fact from the entomology course I did, that seems fitting for this day of insect destruction:
      If there were no barriers to the reproduction of the aphid, in 3 months they would breed so many young that they would cover the earth more than 1km thick... I've always wanted a Bond villain to try and enact this Aphidocalypse.

  3. 'PG-13 K-I-S-S DOUBLE BILL!'

    THEY NEST (2000, TUBI, 92 min.)
    for the first time.

    African killer roaches make their way via a thrown-overboard immigrant into isolated Orrs Island in Casco Bay, Maine. And it just happens that surgeon-that-has-lost-his-nerve Ben Cahill ("Melrose Place's" Thomas Calabro) is there fixing-up the home he once shared with his now-divorced better half. A good hour or so passes in which the good doctor's major roach problem shares importance in the plot with his beef with two locals (John Savage and Tom McBeath's Wald brothers) who once owned the house he lives in. Little humorous touches like a gerbil trying to outrun roaches inside a rat maze aside, "They Nest" ramps-up its quota of gross close-ups and CGI-heavy insects attacking people during a not-too-bad final act. The solution to the problem being a 1-in-a-million blind shot sucks, but where else are you going to see Dean Stockwell make a silly dance and mug to the camera as CG roaches overwhelm his sheriff character in a locked basement? 3 FORGETFUL BAR OWNERS LOCKING THEMSELVES OUTSIDE THEIR ESTABLISHMENTS (out of 5).

    James Suttles' THE NEST (2021, Amazon Prime, 100 min.) for the first time.

    Fell victim to this movie's excellent poster, which promises a type of insect horror film that is 100% NOT what the final product is. Little Meg (Maple Suttles) gets a bug-eyed Teddy bear at a yard sale, and what's lurking inside the bear (which we don't get a full look until very late into the narrative) starts controlling Meg and altering her behavior. This change in behavior puts the already-strained relationship between Beth (Sarah Navratil) and Jack (Kevin Patrick Murphy). Essentially a super slow-burn metaphor for children dependency and an indictment of working mothers (uh?), "The Nest" plays a very deliberate game that offers no surprises (and no explanation of what the sentient beings within the bear are) when you realize early on what's happening. Acting is just a little bit shy of acceptable, helped immensely by having Dee Wallace ("Cujo," "E.T. The Extraterrestrial") as the next-door-neighbor that occasionally babysits Meg. The musical score is punching way above its weight, trying to imply a terror and dramatic heft that the low-rent effects and bland visuals just don't back-up. The last hour of "The Nest" '21 (you'd be surprised how many movies are named "The Nest") is painful to sit through, partially because you do end up feeling sorry for Beth but also because it crosses the line into zero-budget sci-fi misery porn territory that's just no fun to watch. 2.5 FILLED-TO-THE-BRIM SUGAR BOWLS (out of 5).

  4. Love and Monsters (2020 – Michael Matthews)
    I didn’t expect much from this movie that got picked up by Netflix during the pandemic – I first thought this was a Netflix-exclusive production and didn’t realize, that is being actually made by Paramount in the first place. I was wrong. Of course, the backstory isn’t that great, and the whole setting seems to stem out of the character-heavy video game adventures of the recent past, but the latter isn’t to the movie's fault. If you like those games, you’ll probably like this one too. The characters develop a depth that I didn’t expect, the monsters (mostly bugs) look fine (a ton of CGI, though) and it has some real heart to it. I recommend this movie, it’s good.

  5. Mimic (1997, dir. Guillermo del Toro)

    I really enjoyed this. The beginning was very creepy, and once the bugs fully come into the picture, it become full of nice goopy effects. Charles S. Dutton was fantastic in this! Looking forward to the podcast.

  6. The Fly II (1989)
    I should not have attempted to eat a meatball sub during the first 15 minutes of this movie.

  7. Ticks (1993)

    Tony Randel made Hellbound: Hellraiser II and I always hunted down his direct to video movies as a result. Like Amityville 1992: It’s About Time and Fist of the North Star. Ticks is another example, a movie with a cast packed with genre favorites — Seth Green, Clint Howard — and recognizable faces — Alfonso Ribeiro, Peter Scolari, Ami Dolenz — in a movie about exactly what you think it’s about. Ticks.

    Jarvis Tanner (Howard) has been growing a super strain of marijuana that has mutated the local population of ticks, just in time for a camp for bad teens starts up, which includes Tyler Burns (Green), Darrel “Panic” Lumley (Ribeiro), Dee Dee Davenport (Dolenz), Rome Hernandez (Ray Oriel) and Kelly Mishimoto (Dina Dayrit) who are guided by Holly Lambert (Rosalind Allen) and Charles Danson (Scolari), who has brought along his daughter Melissa (Virginya Keehne).

    If you’re an animal fan, well…perhaps this is not the movie for you, as a hamster and a dog get infected by the ticks and immediately die, which leads to Riberio getting a dramatic speech about just what his dog meant. The rest of the film has ticks burrow deep into human beings and cause no small level of calamity.

    Personally, I hate ticks. Remember that lyme disease comes from them. Darryl Hall, of Hall and Oates, nearly died from the lyme disease he got from a tick that he claims came from a deer and as a result, he hates deer. Like, the dude violently hates deer.

    This was written by Brent V. Friedman, who created the TV show Dark Skies and wrote Hollywood Hot Tubs 2: Educating Crystal, Syngenor, American Cyborg: Steel Warrior, Pet Store and has worked on a few of the Halo and Call of Duty games. Speaking of video games, he also wrote Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.

    Also, this day is supposed to be about bugs and ticks are actually arachnids like spiders and scorpions. So I apologize that this is not truly a bug movie. I should have watched those ants brutalize Joan Collins.

  8. Mimic (1997, dir. Guillermo del Toro)

    Guillermo del Toro knows how to create an atmosphere and build tension, and manages to make this movie with a silly plot actually pretty creepy at times.

    A cop investigates murders committed by a mysterious woman. Turns out she's a killer is a metaphorical sense, in that she's murdering no-good men, but also in a literal sense, in that she transforms into an actual giant spider. This was produced by Dan Curtis, creator of Dark Shadows and Trilogy of Terror. He never let stock '70s TV production get in the way of bringing his horror dreams to life on screen. A bunch of familiar character actors take the silly script and play it absolutely straight. It's a little too slow-paced, but fun in a they-don't-make-em-like-this-anymore way.

    Bonus Lloyd Kaufman-sploitation, day 15: TERROR FIRMER (1999)
    Time to get meta as a slasher is stalking a Troma movie set, killing off actors and crewmembers one by one. These movies are famously chaotic behind the scenes, and one goal is to recreate that chaos on screen. There's a paradox at work here, where the movie wants to be shocking and offensive, but it's trying to hard that it circles all the way around to being goofy. And of course, Kaufman is also trying to say something about independent filmmaking. The moral is, it's doesn't matter if your art is good or successful. What matters is that you got out there and made it.

  10. Shivers(1975) dir. David Cronenberg

    A fascinating, if never quite “fun” watch that, if it were made by just anyone, would be an impressively nasty little number. Of course, it’s not made just by anyone, and it both benefits and suffers from being the debut feature by a horror deity- doubly so because David hit’s the ground running with the body-horror themes he’d continue to explore for the next several decades. It makes it a fascinating watch- the provocations are so clearly there, but the sharpness and nuance with which he wields them just hasn’t caught up. Like the shivers themselves, you can see the ideas fighting to get out of much more conventional genre trappings. Moments of traditional titillation are anything but, as cliche exploitation scenes like a woman bathing or two women giving into sudden sapphic desire are suddenly interrupted by closeups of parasitic intrusion- and likewise, moments of horror are portrayed dispassionately, often disconnected from the build-up and release cycle of your typical suspense beats– yet it never really breaks free from its more standard grind house rails, especially compared to what we know is coming in just his next couple outings.

  11. The Fly (1958)

    Although I can't say this is my favorite category, I'm quite happy with my choice of movie for today.

    I think I expected something more quaint, but this was actually really gripping. Unlike Cronenberg, who played up the creepy horror aspect of the story, this original version focuses on the personal tragedy angle, emphasizing the deep emotional bond between the doomed scientist and his wife. It was also a great idea to start at the end and let the mystery of what really happened unravel slowly, through the wife's story, allowing the viewer to be as shocked as the inspector and brother-in-law (Vincent Price in a very gentle performance) who listen to her incredible tale. The man-fly costume is both a little silly and a little scary, and the design of the Disintegrator-Integrator machine is cool as hell. The talking fly at the end is a bit much but hey, it was the 50s.

  12. GENOCIDE (1968, dir. Kazui Nihonmatsu)

    Swarms of killer insects become part of the destruction of mankind in this weird slice of Japanese horror. When a swarm of insects brings down an American B-52 bomber armed with a hydrogen bomb near a Japanese island, the truth about the insects and man’s behavior during the Cold War gets revealed in frequently ridiculous ways. The politics gets very heavy-handed, especially at the conclusion. Still, this is a fun watch with an English dub that approaches the absurd at several moments.

  13. Arachnaphobia (1990, dir. Frank Marshall)

    What can I say? It's great. Spoiler Alert: The recently announced remake will not be as good. P.S. I'm glad the breed of spider used in the filming of this movie is not native to my area. Highly Recommended.

    D: Paul Verhoeven / W: Ed Neumeier
    "Three weeks aboard a starship & you think that you can lick my navs?"

    "If you think you're psychic, maybe you are."

    Probably the first time I've watched this all the way through since seeing it theatrically. Why is it that these digital FX stand up to a huge chunk of digital work TO THIS DAY?
    Sony BluRay

    D: Ellory Elkayem
    If it has more than four legs it's a bug, right?
    Or a more important question: does one pair this with Mike Mendez's BIG ASS SPIDER! or Elkayem's previous killer cockroach flick, CREEPY CRAWLERS (aka THEY NEST)?
    Or the even more important question is why, on this particular day, did I find a few ants on me after I took out the recycling? Or why did the front door have a consistent scattering of what I hope were just baby mayflies? Have you ever watched a bug movie with the very reality-based feeling that bugs were, in fact, crawling on you?
    Warner Bros DVD

  16. The Food Of The Gods (1976) dir. Bert Gordon
    I didn't know this one was gonna focus in on rats specifically, so I have to thank the Junesploitation gods for the giant wasp attack during the first act. Not a good movie, but Marjoe Gortner fighting a giant chicken was funny and kinda cool.

  17. Noooooo! I forgot to comment yesterday! Anyways, I watched Starship Troopers. And it was amazing as always. I'm doing my part!