Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)

...aka: Beast from Space, The
...aka: Giant Ymir, The

Directed by:
Nathan Juran

Review coming soon.

Score: 7 out of 10

Mutilator, The (1982)

...aka: Fall Break

Directed by:
Buddy Cooper

Just what the world needed; another wholly clichéd slasher movie with terrible acting, obnoxious "teen" characters and a plotline that alternates between senseless and predictable. This one has some great gore effects, though, thanks to Mark Shostrom (EVIL DEAD 2) and Anthony Showe. Six annoying college students go on "fall break" (also the alternate title and the title of the fuzzy, nostalgic opening theme song) to a secluded beach house on a seemingly abandoned island where one's unhinged father used to live. Turns out that "Big Ed" has a grudge against Ed, Jr. (Matt Mitler) for accidentally killing his mom as a kid while cleaning one of dad's rifles, and shows up to get revenge on his son. While there the "teens" find a framed picture of a corpse ("Oh, dad accidentally ran over him with a speed boat"... uhhh, oooook) and missing weapons, but still stay and decide to play play blind man's bluff. They're done in with a battleaxe, machete, hook, topless drowning, dismemberment, decapitation and more, and the victims are pinned to a wall by spikes through their heads. The bloody FX (including a memorably tasteless bit involving a fishing gaff) are very good and are basically the only reason to tune in.
Filmed in 1982 but not actually released until 1985, this was available in R and unrated versions on video but has yet to get an American DVD release (Code Red announced they were going to release it a few years back but it hasn't happened yet). Originally titled FALL BREAK, complete with a cheesy title tune. With Frances Raines and Ben Moore as a cop.


Mom (1988)

Directed by:
Patrick Rand

MOM (filmed in 1988; released in 1990) is effective in many ways. For the most part it works as a black comic horror film. However, it also gets a little heavy handed toward the end and piles on the melodrama. For a movie with a lighter, campier touch much of the time, suddenly trying to be serious and dramatic doesn't always come off as it should. Emily Dwyer (Jeanne Bates, a regular presence in the films of David Lynch and great fun here) is an unhappy widow who lives at home alone and takes comfort in simple "motherly" things like cooking dinner and rare family holiday get-togethers. Desperate for companionship (because her two grown children are always "too busy" to spend time with her), she decides to start renting out an upstairs bedroom to the strange, blind, always-in-shades, deep-voiced Nestor (a very funny Brion James). Unfortunately for her, Nestor also happens to be some kind of cannibalistic monster who bites her and transforms her into one of the same. Now her newscaster son Clay (Mark Thomas Miller) has no choice but to jeopardize his marriage and job to help her out; even resorting to covering up her killing spree and putting steel bars over her bedroom windows to keep her from sneaking out at night!

FLESH EATING MOTHERS and RABID GRANNIES may be better remembered all these years later because of their snappier titles, but this one is better than either of those two and also more ambitious in content. A strong recurring theme here is how the lines between being loyal to your family and trying to have your own life always seem to be hopelessly blurred. Not all of the humor is on target, but most of it works and it's entertaining and sometimes outrageous; so a mild thumbs up from me. Mary Beth McDonough (from the TV series "The Waltons") co-stars as Clay's confused, pregnant girlfriend and cameo appearances are put in by Claudia Christian (who is killed in the opening sequence) and Stella Stevens (in a lively role as a tactless, over-the-hill barfly).


Not of This Earth (1988)

Directed by:
Jim Wynorski

A very fun low-budget comic horror/sci-fi effort that is better than most of its type. Simply put, it's just good, fast-paced B-movie entertainment done the right way by director Jim Wynorski for those who enjoy these types of brainless films. A remake of the semi-famous 1957 cult film directed by Roger Corman (also executive producer of the '88 version), this one stands out on its own merits. The opening credits are even great as we get gory clips from many vintage Corman classics like BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980) and GALAXY OF TERROR (1981). Controversial former underage porn star Traci Lords is sexy, energetic and funny here in her first non-adult leading role; proving she has no problems carrying the weight of a mainstream film by herself. She's plucky nurse Nadine Story, who's hired by the very strange, always-in-shades Mr. Johnson (the amusingly one-note Arthur Roberts) to give him daily blood transfusions. Mr. J turns out to be an alien on Earth to harvest blood, which he sends back home through a special portal in the cellar. In addition, Lenny Juliano fairs well as Jeremy, an ex-con chauffeur also working in the home. His amusing flirty exchanges with Lords throughout actually add a lot of charm and humor to this film. Rounding out the cast are Rebecca Perle as an alien babe in a bikini, an unrecognizable Monique Gabrielle as a mental patient at a bus stop who talks to her tennis racket, Kelli Maroney as a nurse, Becky LeBeau as a happy birthday strip-o-gram and Roxanne Kernohan as an obnoxious hooker.

The violence is only mild (fitting for a lighthearted movie like this), but it's all pretty colorful, entertaining and upbeat. Lords only has two brief nude scenes (this was the last time she has appeared unclothed in a film), but the ones provided by many of the other actresses are gratuitous enough to satisfy our T&A needs. An entire long murder sequence (inspired by Bava) was pinched from director Joe Dante's HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD and another lengthy clip is borrowed from HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP. So if you're a B-movie lover, you're going to find a lot to love here. The same exact story would be filmed several more times in the 1990s; NOT OF THIS EARTH (1995) and STAR PORTAL (1996; with a female cast as the alien) being just two of them.

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