Sunday, June 23, 2024

Junesploitation 2024 Day 23: Free Space


  1. The Conspiracy (2012, dir. Christopher MacBride)

    A pair of filmmakers are making a documentary about a conspiracy theorist, but when he suddenly disappears, they start questioning whether there's some truth to his claims. Soon they find themselves in a world of secret societies and arcane rituals.

    They get the look and feel of a low-budget documentary right, but the story is pretty flimsy and the conclusion disappointingly predictable.

    The Wicker Man (1973, dir. Robin Hardy) (rewatch)

    Scottish police officer and devout Christian Sergeant Howe is summoned to a small, remote island to investigate the disappearance of a young girl, but on arrival he finds the task difficult and is appalled that the island's inhabitants have abandoned Christianity and practice pagan manners and rituals.

    A tight script, great acting, beautiful locations, excellent music, and expert direction that beautifully builds an eerie atmosphere and ramps up the tension towards the epic conclusion. Deservedly a classic of folk horror.

    Attack the Block (2011, dir. Joe Cornish)

    A South London gang of teens mugs a woman, but when alien creatures attack their apartment building, they have to team up with her and the other residents to defeat the threat from outer space.

    It's a pretty fun romp, the acting is good across the board (it stars John Boyega before Star Wars and Jodie Whittaker before Doctor Who), the creature design is simple and effective, and with a runtime of under 90 minutes, it doesn't outstay its welcome.

    1. The Astrologer (1975, dir. James Glickenhaus)

      A scientist has discovered how to use astrology to accurately calculate each person's "zodiacal potential", their capacity for ultimate good or ultimate evil. He works for a company that monitors where and when the next Messiah or the next Hitler may be born, and maneuver world events to achieve the desired outcome. Oh, and did I mention he's also married to the next Virgin Mary?

      James Glickenhaus's debut film, made on a $20,000 budget and based on his father-in-law's novel, is brimful of wacky ideas but lacks the cinematic vocabulary to coherently convey them. Scenes end on strange notes, plotlines and character arcs begin and end without much explanation, and most of the runtime is expository dialogue because in Glickenhaus's own words, "I didn't really know what a master was or a cutaway or a closeup. And I had great trouble conveying ideas, except in dialogue." A fascinating oddity, not a particularly good movie.

      The Mangler (1995, dir. Tobe Hooper)

      An employee at an industrial laundry gets pulled inside a mangle and killed. And now that the machine has a taste for blood, it wants more, and the laundry owner seems happy to oblige it. Meanwhile, a newly widowed no-nonsense cop and his new-agey brother-in-law investigate.

      Ted Levine puts weight into his portrayal of a tough and troubled cop while Robert Englund in heavy makeup and leg braces mugs at the camera like a cartoon villain. And somehow Hooper manages to conjure up a pretty solid horror movie out of those extremes and the rather silly premise. The 1995 CGI in the finale is bad but there's mercifully little of it. Someone named Jeremy Crutchley hams it up in two different supporting roles, one of them in obvious prosthetics, and I feel like the movie expects me to know who that is. Sorry, but I don't.

  2. (sploitations: Zombie, 80s Horror, Horror-Comedy)

    Return of the Living Dead II (1988)

    Gives proof to that classic adage: "If at first you DO succeed, Tri, Trioxin-5 again". Ill show myself out.
    The first RotLD is unarguably one of the greatest horror/comedies of all time. This sequel falls pretty far from its predecessor however even so, it is filled with a ton of zombie mahem, slapstick humor, and brrraaaiiiinsss! Also it does something interesting in bringing back the main two actors from the original but in different roles that follow the exact same arc. A perfect midnight movie. (also, im 78% sure they made the entire movie for one silly Thriller video gag).

  3. My third crazy, supernatural anime of the month:
    Ninja Scroll (1993)


  4. Stunt Rock (1978): I forgot I had this in my collection and skipped it for Ozploitation, so I'm catching up for Free Space Day. This mockumentary is just an excuse for showing weird and crazy stunts, and some music videos by the band Sorcery. I mean, the title is pretty much the synopsis for the movie, you get stunts and you get rock music. Sometimes that's all you need. Pretty much a predecessor to Fall Guy, without the glitz and glamour of having a big name Hollywood star attached to it (or a murder-mystery story).

    1. This was my ozploitation pick this month. On paper Stunt Rock should not work, but Brian Trenchard-Smith had the knack for making crazy story ideas come together,

  5. Theodore Rex (1995, dir. Jonathan R. Butuel)

    Buddy Cop movie w/ Whoopi Goldberg and a T-Rex. I was chasing the Troll 2, Mac and Me so-bad-it's-good dragon but failed. Whoopi is actively miserable giving a performance w/ pouting kid put in time-out energy. In her defense, most great performances aren't given under THREAT OF LEGAL ACTION. The Dino effects are fun, mainly because animatronic effects are less commonplace now. For the time they are average. Most baffling is this movie's disinterest in mining any clever or comic material about humans living with dinosaurs. They might as well just be people.

    I should have left this movie where it was destined: A curio tape on a video store shelf that should be commented on or laughed at, but ultimately placed back on the shelf, to never be rented or actually watched by anyone.

  6. The Student Nurses (1970, dir. Stephanie Rothman)

    I was pleasantly surprised by this New World Pictures movie. While being titillating enough, it was a lot less sleazy than I was expecting, to its benefit. Even while the nurses were hooking up with the various men (half of them seem to be gynaecologists), there was a lot of commentary about social issues. There was a lot of interesting camera work, and at times almost felt like a hippy documentary. Really glad I checked this out.

    Rothman also directed Terminal Island which I think I watched last year.

    1. Also watched a little movie by a Canadian director called Terminator 2: Judgement Day. I think this James Cameron guy might go on to do great things!

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Who? You mean Kathryn Bigelow's ex-husband? Never heard of him 😜

  7. Low Tide (2019, dir. Kevin McMullin)

    Gripping neo-noir indie thriller about the lives of teenagers embroiled in crime along the New Jersey shore. Intense atmosphere and character-driven narrative draw striking parallels with Brick (2005) and Mean Creek (2004). Performances in Low Tide are compelling, particularly the fraught relationship between brothers. Awesome cinematography, throwback dialogue and storytelling and suspenseful plot make this one of the biggest discoveries of the year for me. Hidden gem.

  8. WHAT’S UP DOC? (1972)
    An eccentric extrovert falls for a shy musicologist after they meet at a very busy hotel. It’s classic screwball comedy, with a lot of moving parts, mistaken identities, and so on. It took me a while to get into the movie’s vibe, but I was totally in once the farce really took off. I didn’t know what to expect from this, but I’m so glad I gave it a shot.

    THUMBELINA (1994)
    The magical adventures of a teeny-tiny princess. She’s the original Ant-Man! Director Don Bluth allegedly hated Disney, yet here he is chasing Disney’s success. What a bizarre assortment of talent on this one. Jodi Benson of the Little Mermaid voices Thumbelina, with a supporting cast including John Hurt, Gilbert Gottfried, Carol Channing, Tony Jay, and Charo (!), with songs by Barry Manilow (!!). The story and characters are nothing, but the hand-drawn animation will have you longing for the good ol’ days.

    Bonus Universal Monster-sploitation: HOUSE OF DRACULA (1945)
    Another monster mash-up, with the monsters hardly interacting. It wraps up the Wolf Man’s story (or does it?) and it introduces the female hunchback Nina, who’s a real underrated character in these movies. While the movie is goofy fun, I’m left feeling that it could have been much more.

  9. The Conspiracy (2012)

    Pretty much what Mikko said above. Interesting idea for a found footage flick, and it's watchable enough, but I found it to be pretty generic. I kinda wish they'd spent the whole movie doing what the last half hour does (or building toward it more specifically) instead of interviewing conspiracy theorists and surfing the web for the first hour.

  10. THE YOUNG RACERS (1963)
    produced and directed by Roger Corman

    A married American racer in Europe who the other drivers hate because he’s too dangerous and the ladies can’t resist because he’s too dangerous. An obvious inspiration for Cole Trickle, and a favorite of QT. All this and the 60s Grand Prix racing is cool is almost as cool as the clothes, locations and music.

    “The cars are too fast, the roads are too slow, the crowds are too close.”

  11. Candice Rialson! I considered devoting a free day to her this month. With Roger Corman a big part of this Junesploitation schedule, I got my quota of drive-in movies early in the month, including one with her. Maybe her day will come next year.

    As for today...

    THE LOST CONTINENT (1968, dir. Michael Carreras)

    Definitely not the kind of film one tends to think of when Britain’s famous Hammer Studios is mentioned. This is a fantasy sea adventure that is odd and sometimes baffling. Beginning as a tale about an old cargo ship full of nefarious characters, the story meanders into disaster mode and then becomes a monster film with colonial Spanish religious zealots. A very late ‘60s soundtrack adds to the unusual experience. Though I still am not sure what to think about the film, I was not bored watching it. The production values are excellent.

    CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD (1964, dir. Warren Kiefer)

    For a tribute to Donald Sutherland, I turned to the first Christopher Lee box set from Severin. A comedic troupe traveling around Europe after the Napoleonic Wars gets an invitation to perform at the castle of a creepy count (Lee). Being an Italian gothic horror film, death happens. It is entertaining for what it is but not essential in the genre. Interestingly, the director was American. The cast is the best part of the film. Donald Sutherland plays a military/police officer and an old hag.

  12. Desperado (1995)

    El Mariachi is my favorite of the trilogy, with its maxed out levels of manic energy and zany humor... but Desperado has its charms, namely its surface-of-the-sun hot leads (they could make the whole movie out of Salma Hayek walking across the street) and the rocket launcher guy doing that leg-out-to-the-side move.

  13. Dracula 2000 (2000) 2000s Horror! Vampires!

    It's called Dracula 2000 because it features the archetypal master vampire (Dracula) and partially takes place in a Virgin Megastore (no later than the year 2000).

  14. Men in Black (1997)

    If I hear the words "sugar" and "water" in the same sentence, I never fail to become Edgar the Bug. Love this movie.

  15. The Funhouse (1981)

    So high do I hold Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre in esteem that I’ve actively avoided watching many of his less acclaimed works to avoid besmirching my opinion of him. I checked out Eaten Alive earlier this year and really dug it, especially the sweaty, scuzzy vibe Hooper created and carried over from the original TCSM (and effectively conveyed in its sequel, too). The carny-set Funhouse seemed like a natural next step: not much is skuzzier than a fly-by-night carnival and its debased denizens!

    This one started slowly in an effort to build its characters, which didn’t really work, as our four main players were fairly clichéd and didn’t evoke my interest. But once the quartet finally entered the funhouse, Hooper really piled on the atmosphere: I loved the lighting and creepy funhouse effects. Like Neville Brand in Eaten Alive, Kevin Conway was sleazy and spooky as the funhouse barker, and the creature (designed by Rick Baker) was damned ugly. Extra credit for casting Sylvia Miles as the carny’s mitt reader, Madame Zena, and for William Finley’s brief appearance as the midway magician. Overall, despite the sluggish start, I enjoyed this, and saw enough of Hooper’s skills and style to consider it a worthwhile watch. Guess I’ll actually get off my keister and check out Life Force (thanks, F this Movie, for persuading me to do this).

  16. Boy Kills World (2023)

    The vibes were all over the place with this one, but if you want some over the top action, this is for you.

    At least they didn't waste Yayan Ruhian (looking at you The Force Awakens).

  17. Wild in the Streets (1968)

    Is this the only movie with both Richard Pryor AND Shelley Winters? Maybe! It is edited like a 97-minute long episode of the Monkees, but with less-good music. A young rock star starts a national movement to lower the US official voting age to 14. What could go wrong? Soon America's teens are running...wait for it... WILD IN THE STREETS! There's a lot of narration by Paul Frees to stitch things together. As batshit nutty as this movie is, it is also weirdly prescient regarding certain aspects of modern politics. But be warned--if you are OLD, this movie won't be your bag, baby. 14 or Fight!

  18. Wild in the Streets (1968)
    “Crazy” AIP film in which rockstar Max Frost (Christopher Jones) uses his influence with young people to lower the US voting age to 14, then is elected President. He places all citizens over 30 in re-education camps where they are force fed LSD. I am not making this up. Co-starring Shelly Winters, Richard Pryor, and Hal Holbrook. Contains the songs “14 Or Fight,” which once you hear it, is impossible to get out of your head, and “The Shape of Things to Come,” later a minor hit for Paul Revere and the Raiders.
    Watching this, it occurred to me that the very same generation portrayed in the film (Max is 22.) are the very same Baby Boomers who refuse to cede power today. (Max would be 78 today, almost halfway between Trump and Biden.) Kinda makes you think.

  19. Love Lies Bleeding (2024)

    Favorite film so far this year and I'm not sure it's even close. Shocking violence, great performances and some turns you will absolutely not see coming. Delightfully grungy.