Friday, June 2, 2023

Junesploitation 2023 Day 2: Monsters!



    I KILL GIANTS (2017, YouTube Free-With-Ads Movie) for the first time. Also streaming (with commercials) on PLUTO TV, TUBI and ROKU CHANNEL.

    With Chris Columbus' 1492 Pictures producing (which might explain why the special effects sequences look studio-level quality), "I Kill Giants" bears more than a passing thematic resemblance to 2016's "Colossal." Madison Wolfe ("Malignant") literally carries the weight of the narrative as an awkward, bullied teenager convinced she's protecting her sleepy East Coast beach town from giant creatures just waiting (in the woods, underwater, etc.) for her rituals to be weakened by self-doubt to destroy it all. Zoe Saldana and Imogen Poots are the school and home adult figures (respectively) struggling to make Barbara aware of her outcast status at school and with her siblings. For a 'PG' movie clearly sold on fantastical creatures (which we get plenty of) this is more of a young adult drama piece, one that goes places that will wreck you if you're open-minded to the filmmakers' ultimate intent. I went into "I Kill Giants" expecting 'A' and got 'K,' 'Q' and 'U' instead... and I'm a happier, better movie lover for stumbling upon this underrated gem because that's what J! experimentation is all about. :') 4.25 COVELESKI HEART-SHAPED SATCHELS (out of 5).

    1. Sounds amazing, adding it to my watchlist right now.

    2. On Netflix and Hoopla in Canada. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE (1976, Amazon Prime) for the first time.

    If you're like me you stepped over a bazillion 'Bigfoot' and/or 'Yeti' monster movie streaming options (most of them very recent DTV no-budget flicks with wildly misleading artwork) on your way to choosing whatever it is you picked for 'Monsters!' day. I went with this 1976 Southern creature feature because (a) the HD transfer is brand-new and clean (a rarity for Prime), (b) Dean Cundey's cinematography stands out (even in dark scenes this one's a colorful looker) and (c) it feels like a more innocent and less cynical pick than the modern cheap CG-enhanced cash grabs I mentioned earlier. For a 47-year old flick about clueless Sasquatch hunters, "Creature From Black Lake" feels rather quaint and, dare I say it, wholesome? :-O

    Except for Jack Elam everybody in the cast are unknown actors (and/or probably local Lousiana folks playing themselves), and the premise straightforward: two Chicago college students are hellbent on proving Bigfoot (though he's not called that in the narrative) is alive and terrorizing local LA folks, but have to gain the trust of a handful of said terrorized folks to even be told where to start looking. Though it feels like sanitized-for-kids "Dukes of Hazzard" lite (the boys really gain the attention of the sheriff's daughters in no time), there are a handful of moments when the monster attacks (particularly the van at night in the swamp) are genuinely terrifying without crossing into gratuitous. If you're in the mood for a Bigfoot movie you can do worse (lots worse) than giving this one a shot. 3 SHIRTLESS GRANDPAS THAT DON'T AGE BETWEEN FLASHBACKS (out of 5).

  3. Steve Miner's LAKE PLACID (1999, TUBI).

    I remember seeing this one a while back and not liking it for the low human body count (throw animal killings into the mix and we're still not anywhere near double-digits) and short-for-a-modern-studio-pic running time (barely 82 minutes with credits). Now that I'm older and a J! veteran I can appreciate "Lake Placid" for its plethora of exploitation idiosyncrasies, mostly derived from David E. Kelley (an Emmy winning TV powerhouse) penning a rather goofy script. Stuff like not following 'the rules' (almost everyone you're sure will get eaten or die doesn't), Stan Winston delivering outstanding creature designs for the giant crocodile (which the filmmakers wisely don't show until deep into the story with passable-for-'99 CG enhancements) and a battle-of-the-sexes combative narrative between Bridget Fonda (playing a rather unlikable New Yorker putting down Maine at every turn) and all the men (Bill Pullman, Oliver Platt, Brendan Gleeson) she interacts with. Betty White got a lot of buzz for her foul-mouthed small role, but I was more floored that Mariska Hargitay appears for a nanosecond (the same year her "Law & Order: SVU" show went on the air) playing the type of role she now shuns completely. "Lake Placid" is not worse or better than you remember, it just is what it is: 'Fine.' 3 REPTILIAN TEETH ENCRUSTED ON HALF-EATEN TORSOS (out of 5).


    Cheating a little because, while it features at least a background cameo/glance of every monster/creature to have ever appeared in a D&D manual (or in the "Baldur's Gates" videogames I've played), you don't come out of this movie raving about how cool the 'Berseker' or 'Ice Mephit' looked. "Honor Among Thieves" won me over by presenting likable characters that go on a cool adventure, and that's my (and everyone that has seen it that hasn't been completely burned by the MCU/"Guardians of the Galaxy" template these filmmakers are clearly borrowing from) pitch to you. Watch this for Chris Pine having even more on-screen fun than in his "Star Trek" and "Wonder Woman" films, Regé-Jean Page proving "Bridgerton" wasn't a one-off, Michelle Rodriguez getting huge laughs by deadpanning marital anger, Hugh Grant crushing it as hard as in Guy Ritchie's "Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre" (J! review for that one coming in a few days! :-P), etc. In an era when dead franchises are getting sequels (new "Transformers" movie in a few weeks) or reboots ("Harry Potter" TV series on streaming) it's a shame one of the most crowd-pleasing, entertaining and just plain fun movies to come out in the past few years is likely to be a one-off. :'( 4.5 UPSIDEDOWN/SIDEWAY PORTAL MIRRORS (out of 5).

  5. Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995, dir. Takao Okawara)

    Boy, Godzilla just can't catch a break! Not only is his heart (which basically functions like a nuclear reactor) about to melt down and his adopted kid is grown up and acting rebellious, he also has to fight a colony of 7-foot tall mutant creatures with crab legs, scorpion tails, Xenomorph mouths, and the ability to Captain Planet themselves into one huge kaiju. Meanwhile, humanity tries to figure out a way to eliminate both sides and prevent the Big G from exploding and taking out the whole planet with it.

    The 22nd movie in Toho's Godzilla franchise was intended to be the last (a decision which lasted a whole four years, until Godzilla 2000 in 1999), and they gave him a big send-off. They also really went out of their way to tie it back to the original, showing clips from the first movie and tying the plot to the weapon that defeated Godzilla the first time around.

    After the previous year's pretty lackluster Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla, this one has a much more engaging plot for both Godzilla and the human characters. I've been watching the Godzilla movies (more or less) in order, and the practical effects keep getting better with each movie. Here the glowing Godzilla looks great and Destoroyah is a great design. The newfangled CGI effects, however, aren't that great. Fortunately there's not a lot of those.

    1. great pick Mikko! I was on a work trip in Japan in 95 and there was a HUUUUGE Godzilla billboard on the side of a building. I went and found out it was a theater..bought a ticket and enjoyed this flick theatrically. One of my fav movie theater experiences ever.

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  7. Lake Placid (1999)

    Forget The Asylum or SyFy channel originals (Sharknado, for example), Lake Placid beat those "so bad it's good...but on purpose" flicks to the punch by a full decade, proving that it's possible to pull off. It's a situational comedy at heart, a buddy cop (except it's a foursome and only half of them are cops - a buddy cop/paleontologist/billionaire? I don't know, I tried...) that totally knows what it's doing when it features a foul-mouthed Betty White, a CG crocodile that seems to get bigger in every scene, and lines like "Obviously some asshole in Hong Kong flushed him down the toilet."

    Perfect for summer, mosquitos and all.

  8. Cloverfield (2008 blu)

    Its a weird mash up of genre's and styles...pretty much a found footage shaky cam take on a modern Godzilla w a smidge of Alien. I can see why some dont connect but i totally enjoy it and all the setpieces..theres a sort of "realness" to the groups journey thru the streets and subways.

  9. Monster Seafood Wars (2020): Yuta once worked at the Institute for Super Physics and Chemistry but lost his job as he was working on a team that was making a way to enlarge living things. Now, he works at his parents’ sushi restaurant at the Tsukiji Fish Market. One day, he accidentally dumps his food into the Sumida River and a kaiju mutant squid arises followed by an octopus. As always, the Japan Self-Defense Forces can’t stop the monster, so they must call upon the SMAT (Seafood Monster Attack Team). But when a giant crab comes out of the water, perhaps mankind is for dinner.

    This is the twenty-seventh movie for Minoru Kawasaki, who also made Executive Koala, The Calamari Wrestler, Monster X Strikes Back: Attack the G8 Summit (a sequel to The X from Outer Space), The World Sinks Except Japan (a comedy take on Nihon Chinbotsu/Japan Sinks) and Super Legend God Hikoza. He has created a movie where rice vinegar cannons blast monsters, where sliced off pieces of kaiju create entirely new foods for food lovers and a giant chef robot with a knife is able to battle for Tokyo’s survival.

    In Japan, this movie’s title translates as Three Giant Monster Gourmet.

    This doesn’t have the effects of even the old Toho movies, but it’s a lot of fun and has some big ideas inside it. However, Monster Seafood Wars does get one thing right. All kaiju and the robots fighting them should use pro wrestling moves.

  10. So many monster films to choose from! I ultimately went with one of the few Showa-era Godzilla films I had not seen before. There were other monster friends as a bonus, too.

    GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (1964, dir. Ishiro Honda) – Japan is once again swarming with monsters. Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra (in larvae form) are back in action, but a new arrival from space threatens to overpower all of them. I really liked the chirping sounds that represent Ghidorah. On the human side of the film, there is plenty of intrigue in a plot of sibling rivalry, a missing princess, a prophet preaching doom coming from space, and many 1960s-style action scenes. Though all of this gets silly, the entertainment factor never waivers. My one complaint is that I would have liked to see more destruction scenes with Ghidorah. From what I read, this film was a turning point in the Godzilla franchise to making the monster more child-friendly viewing.

  11. The Kindred (1987, dir. Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow)

    Pretty lackluster monster movie about a guy who finds out his mother was doing weird genetic experiments resulting in monster antics after he goes back to his childhood home. This was a chore to get through with very bland characters and little satisfying monster effects until the very end. Almost worth watching to see Rod Steiger get washed away in a river of slime (he actually did the stunt), but I'd say skip this one.

  12. New-to-me: ATTACK OF THE EYE CREATURES (1967)
    Alien eye creatures do indeed attack, going after army scientists, cranky hillbillies, and makeout-hungry teens. Turns out this is a comedy. It's highly meta, poking fun at alien invasion B-movies of ten years earlier. It's the "Space Mutants" gags from early Simpsons stretched out to feature length. I was laughing along with the movie at first, but unfortunately it ran out of steam in the second half.

    It occurred to me that I usually only watch this when binge-watching the Universal Monsters, and I rarely give it its due as a stand-alone. Poor Larry Talbot rises from the grave, learning that not even death can rid him of his wolfy curse. Lon Cheney is great, playing the character on the absolute verge of desperation. Bela Lugosi finally dons the Frankenstein makeup, only to have his role shortened and his dialogue removed in editing. But the brawl at the end is worth it, and the gloomy "Monster Town" setting is always nice to visit.

  13. I ended up watching 2 movies that either had a very minimal amount of monsters, or a monster you couldn't see at all!

    Monsters (2010, dir. Gareth Edwards) was more of a "post apocalyptic" movie than a monster one. (Perhaps a future category?). It could also be a Road Trip! movie. You barely see the monsters, but that's not what the movie is about. I enjoyed this, and can see why Edwards was given bigger projects later.

    The Invisible Man (2020, dir. Leigh Whannell) was about an invisible monster. You couldn't even see him! Completely invisible! Finally, he was visible. Or was he? And maybe, in the end, the monster is not what we're thinking of. The ending didn't quite sit right with me, but I thought it was well done.

  14. Monster Squad (1987)

    A bunch of nerdy suburban kids take on an all-star team of classic monsters led by Mr. Alucard himself. The movie looks great, little Phoebe is absolutely adorable, and the big climactic fight gets surprisingly gnarly for such a goofy little flick. But at barely 80 minutes it's so brisk that I felt it didn't really mine the potential of a seriously cool premise (some of the monsters are very underused). I don’t say this often, but this movie could have actually been longer.

  15. Van Helsing (2004)

    Yep. Still gives me a headache.

  16. Island Claws (1980) - Didn't expect the giant crab movie to have such a compelling subplot about Haitian immigration. Also plenty of claw impalings.

    Salem's Lot (2004) - Suffers only because the Tobe Hoope original is pretty much perfect in my book. More faithful to the King novel if that's your thing. Amazing cast and the wraparound feels like something ripped from the prologue of one of Stephen King's Dark Tower sequels.

  17. Beware of the Blob(1972 Dir. Larry Hagman (Yeah that one))

    The film that answers the question "Hey why didn't Larry Hagman direct more movies?". It's supposed to be a comedy horror which I guess means let the actors mumble a couple of riffs for a bit before the jello spills into the room. But sadly the jokes are as unfunny as the scares in this one. The cast is led by Robert Walker(Charlie X Star Trek TOS) and he is probably the best part. He plays the role like a cross between James Dean and Steve McQueen with the charisma of that dude doing vape tricks at the mall. The real issue with him is I don't think anyone told him this is a comedy.
    Thats not really his fault. Honestly, I think half the cast was told they were in a comedy and the other half a monster movie. This movie feels like two bad versions of the same story edited together. One is the blob movie Walker and Gwynne Gilford seem to be in a almost straight retelling of the Blob. The other film is a skit-based comedy based on the original. Almost feels as if it was filmed as straight horror and had the jokes added in when they realized they didn't actually have the budget to make a full-fledged chiller. So, unless you're a Blob completionism or just have to see every Burgess Meredith, Cindy Williams or Gerrit Graham movie made I think it's safe to skip this one.

    1. You really made me hungry for an avocado sandwich!

  18. TROLL HUNTER (2010, d. André Øvredal)
    Rewatch on Magnet/Magnolia Blu-Ray, still 8/10.

  19. The Kindred - 1987, dir. Stephen Carpenter & Jeffrey Obrow

    John is a scientist who’s mother (also a scientist) tasks him with destroying all of her research at their family home as she lays dying. John takes his research team to the house, along with his mother’s mysterious and sexy “I’m something of a scientist myself” protege. They discover John’s massively slimy and tentacled plant sibling living in the cavern under the house. Meanwhile across town, another amoral scientist (and former colleague of the dead mom) has been running a mutant experimentation lab, finds out about the team at the farmhouse and decides to intervene.

    This movie is the perfect argument for why everyone’s parents need a hobby when they retire. If Kim Hunter had decided to just get really good at making banana bread instead of continuing her “fuck it, why not?” approach to genetic experimentation, maybe we wouldn’t have an “Anthony” infestation in the basement. If Rod Steiger had gotten into tattooing or performing exorcisms, there wouldn’t be a lab full of hungry mutants that someone else now has to deal with.

    The rest of the cast is just “doing their jobs”, both literally and figuratively. As you would expect, both Steiger and Hunter have maybe two shooting days worth of screen time, so the rest of the film is precariously orbiting the black hole of charisma that is David Allen Brooks. What’s keeping the film tethered is a ton of excellently goopy makeup and creature effects, courtesy of Matthew Mungle (who would go on to win a Best Makeup Oscar for ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ and be nominated four other times).

    There COULD be more more hiding under the surface considering the plot perfectly sets up avenues to explore themes such as abortion, forced birth, child abuse, the ethics of unbridled scientific exploration, the ethics of experimenting on sentient beings, etc. But there’s not. Instead, one of the science friends is trying to quit smoking and conveniently has a Chekhov’s “one single emergency cigarette” in a quirky automated lighter case.

    dir. Larry Cohen

    NYC terrorized by one of Wallace & Grommit’s friends. And Michael Moriarity plays a piano playing/criminal schlub looking to profit from it all.
    We should have had 8 years of the Michael Roundtree & David Carradine buddy cop TV series.
    “Just your good old fashioned monster.”
    “If any one ate that sandwich I’m gonna shove the Thermos up your asses, one at a time.”

  21. THE DESCENT (2005, d. Neil Marshall)
    Rewatch on Lionsgate BluRay, still 9/10, still one of the best horror pictures of the 2000s.

  22. Tonight’s Junesploitation Triple Feature
    Day 02 Monsters!

    Mothra Vs. Godzilla | 1964 | Ishirô Honda
    Attack the Block | 2011 | Joe Cornish
    The Deadly Spawn | 1983 | Douglas McKeown

    Monsters on the rampage tonight with a new to us watch, an underrated gem and a cult WTF classic!


    What is it, June? Yeah this is in my top ten this year.

  24. Attack of the Beast Creatures (1985)
    What could be more monstrous than the redundantly dubbed Beast Creatures? Turns out, a lot of things, but that didn't stop me from reveling in this SOV effort's spirit and charm. The title nasties' attacks are vicious and hilarious, and the cast is more game then competent, a combo that added up to a chuckle-chocked and enjoyable 80 minute monster movie.

  25. DEMON OF PARADISE (1987, d. Cirio H. Santiago)
    First time watch on Shout! Factory BluRay, 7/10.
    “Turn a panic, into a party.”
    If you like HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP, watch it again.
    If you're looking for a vaguely Italian-scented picture with the nuance of Santiago & Concorde, then join us in Kihono County.
    “Eat mud, newsman.”
    This film capped an accidental sunlight-sensitive creature triple feature, starting with TROLL HUNTER & THE DESCENT.
    “Take a hike, spazz-ass.”

  26. The Fly (1958)

    My first time seeing it, and as a lover of all things Vincent Price, this was awesome. Much more different than the Goldblum one. Great "monster" movie !

  27. Dracula (1931)
    The winner and still champion. “For one who has not lived even a single life, you are a wise man, Van Helsing.”

  28. Watchers (1988 Dir, Jon Hess)
    A really low budget film adaptation of the Dean Koontz novel of the same name. Corey Haim is Travis who after getting chased off by his girlfriends father picks up the recently escaped and genetically enhanced wonder dog, Furface. Furface is part of an experiment where he is telepathically connected to a monster who driven by an urge to kill the dog and everything around the pup. Michael Ironside is the government agent willing to do whatever it takes to track the pair. He is basically George C Scott from Firestarter.
    Haim is Haim. Although he does seem to be giving a little less effort than most his films he at least seems to like the dog. Not getting Feldman to play the dog may have been a mistake but the one they did get is probably more believable that Feld dog would have been anyways. The dog is cool though and there's some fun scenes showing his intelligence, but the Monster is bad and it hurts the rest of the movie. Most of the monster's scenes are just swipes and quick shots of fur with some blood splatters and off camera scream off people unlucky enough to have come in contact with the dog. When you do finally get the full reveal of the monster you understand why you never saw the poor thing. Looking a lot like a cross between a chimp a baboon with the elephant man disease and some sharp teeth the monster design is a mess. Luckily Michael Ironsides is in full on ruthless bad guy mode so he saves a lot of the movie. Sure the character is predictable but Ironside makes him ruthless enough that we have no issue rooting against him.
    Honestly its not really a good movie at all. The makeup isn't great. Most kills again are off screen and half the scenes feel like either rehearsal scenes. But you can have some fun with it if you can't find anything else. There's far worse out there you could watch.*

    *talking about you 'Beware of the Blob'

  29. Godzilla (1954) - the unsubtle metaphor that the monster is nuclear bombs (and by proxy the United States) takes full force in the scene of the newsmen doing the television broadcast from the tower platform where Godzilla's head looks exactly like a mushroom cloud. Also I really like when Godzilla walks across the bridge and it quakes under the weight of the monster's immense coolness

  30. 65 (2023)

    A (boring) adventure 65 million years in the making!

    Am I being too harsh? Maybe. This is one of those "nuff said" movies where morons say things like "Adam Driver vs. Dinosaurs, nuff said." This movie has a lot of fundamental problems, the main one being that it features just 2 characters, who don't speak the same language. Which would be fine if the action was good and, on the whole, it's not. You've got a sequence of Driver going all John Wick on a herd of galamimus, that's about as good as it gets.

    Sorry, I'll try to be more positive tomorrow.

  31. Across The Spider-Verse (2023)

    Counting it! excellent addition to the series. The Empire Strikes Back of Superhero movies.

  32. Godzilla vs. King Gidorah (1991)

    This one is crazy! It took me 15 minutes to realize I'd watched it a couple years ago. Oh well, It's fun to look at. Even extra silly stuff like Dorats look kinda beautiful.

  33. There’s Nothing Out There (1991)

    This was another blind-buy Vinegar Syndrome so I was pleasantly surprised to see it was a Troma movie. A cabin in the woods, horny teens and a weird monster - always a recipe for fun! And it’s got a horror movie fan character who sorta talks about horror movie rules that predated Scream by a few years, so you could say it’s ahead of its time - a bit silly, but I liked it!

  34. THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH. 1964. This is a film that exists.

  35. Tremors (1990)
    A perfect movie. RIP Fred Ward.

    Prey (2022)
    Sure the Predator is technically an alien, but I've always thought of those movies more as monster films. Excellently directed by Dan Trachtenberg, who knows just how to use all the toys in this particular sandbox in fun and interesting ways. This movie rules.