Thursday, June 28, 2012

Creepozoids (1987)

... aka: Creepzone

Directed by:
David DeCoteau

For some reason, this low-budget (75K) monster-running-rampant-sometime-in-the-near-future opus has received more than the usual amount of criticism. It is an ALIEN rip-off, yes. There are a million of them out there, yes. And it's not a even a very good Alien rip-off, yes. But I still didn't find it as bad as some have made it out to be (or even as schlocky as the title suggests) and it has some good moments. Set in 1998, the opening scroll informs us that a nuclear exchange has taken place between superpowers and that the Earth is now a "blackened husk of a planet." Tiny groups of survivors live on the fringes of ruined cities and must constantly be on the lookout for mutants and other dangerous nomads. Five AWOL army soldiers; Blanca (Scream Queen Linnea Quigley), Jake (Richard Hawkins), Butch (Ken Abraham), Kate (Kim McKamy) and Jesse (Michael Aranda), are amongst the last survivors and the group must seek immediate shelter from an upcoming deadly acid rain storm. They pick the wrong building to duck into: a deserted scientific lab where doctors were experimenting with amino acids before the project backfired. But hey, at least there's electricity, food and most important of all: running water.

While Jesse, the brainy guy in the group who studied biochemistry before being drafted, tries to crack into the facilities computer, Linnea Quigley is busy doing the Linnea Quigley thing, which involves sniffing out a functioning shower to fulfill the film's T&A quotient. Seeing how the building has enough supplies to keep them going for awhile, the group ponders just laying low there for awhile. Not like they really have a choice either way because they're stuck until the rain stops. Jesse gets up one night to read one of the scientist's diaries, hears a noise, crawls through an air shaft and ends up coming face to face with a giant, tusked monster. Strangely, the monster doesn't rip him apart on the spot. In a scene directly ripping off the famous stomach-burster sequence from Alien, Jesse starts acting weird, cannot eat and then vomits up a black, tar-like substance, starts to mutate and then keels over dead. The surviving four can only help but wonder "Was it something we ate?" They'll have to worry about more than just that, as the acid-spewing lizard monster and a handful of large stuffed rats, which also infect those they bite and cause them to mutate and kill, creep back into the picture.

Considering the budget (75K) they had to work with and the time schedule for the production (12 days), this really could have been a lot worse than it is. Sure, the acting and dialogue are pretty bad at times, the storyline's nothing new, the photography's murky, there are tons of boring shots of the cast running down the same corridor over and over again and the big climactic scene is horribly paced and seems to last an eternity, but there's also some fun to be had here for B movie fans. One fun in-joke is when someone is going through computer files and sees a list of former employees who used to work in the lab, which includes the names Forrest Ackerman, Roger Corman, Charles Band (the uncredited executive producer), Deb Dion (Band's wife) and David McCabe (DeCoteau's alias when he made gay porn back in the early 80s). The best bit comes toward the end though, when our hero shoots some kind of chemical into the monster and an evil mutant animatronic baby - complete with unbelical cord - suddenly pops out of it! The Guy Moon score is great, as well. I'd rather watch this - with its serious, sincere approach to the material and hand-crafted special effects - any day of the week over what plays on the SyFy Channel on any given day.

The biggest drawing card (both then and now) is probably its star. Quigley (also the associate producer) gets to scream, run around a lot and fight several of the mutant monsters. I distinctly remember renting this on VHS as a kid and her soapy sex-in-the-shower scene was completely scrambled from being rewound and re-watched so many times. The scene is so good that it has even popped up numerous times as filler on both compilations (BIMBO MOVIE BASH, LINNEA QUIGLEY'S HORROR WORKOUT, etc.) and features (DeCoteau's awful THE KILLER EYE). Ken Abraham later found success working behind-the-camera on numerous television shows. He has spoken unfavorably about the B industry in interviews and said one of the bright spots as an actor was working with Quigley (the two also starred together in the comedy VICE ACADEMY and the erotic thriller DEADLY EMBRACE). Kim McKamy previously starred in DeCoteau's 1986 d-t-v hit DREAMANIAC, plus had lead roles in several other horror films before becoming popular 90s adult film actress Ashlyn Gere.

Issued on VHS by United, Urban Classics and Cult Video and on DVD through Full Moon. Fred Olen Ray remade it as HYBRID in 1996.

Lifespan (1974)

... aka: Experiment, The
... aka: Lifespan - Das Geheimnis des Lebens
... aka: Secret of Life, The

Directed by:
Alexander Whitelaw

Young American "wonder kid" doctor Benjamin Land (Hiram Keller), the son of a wealthy plastic surgeon, receives a grant to study geronotology (the science of aging) for a year at the University of Amsterdam. After attending a conference on the subject, Ben meets Dr. Paul Linden (Eric Schneider), who's reputedly on the verge of a breakthrough when it comes to extending human life. Ben's a little more ambitious than that though, claiming he's "not going to settle for anything less than immortality," but agrees to move into Linden's apartment and aid him in his experiments. Before the two men can even get to work, Dr. Linden hangs himself. Though no one wants to discuss the sudden and unexpected suicide, and no note explaining things was left behind, it's rumored that he was having terrible financial troubles trying to support both his own family and his mistress, Anna (Tina Aumont). Some believe he'd taken his own life because he was afraid of losing Anna to another, younger man. Ben decides to stay in Dr. Linden's apartment and continue where he left off... in more ways than one. Meanwhile, Klaus Kinski is always lurking around in the background and we all know that isn't a good sign.

College dean Professor van Arp (Fons Rademakers) assigns Benjamin an assistant, Pim (Frans Mulder), partially because of his science background and fluency in English, but mostly because he's his nephew. The two men retrieve some mice Linden was experimenting with and discover they're over four years old (regular mice have a lifespan of just two years). Further studies into the mice indicate they have activity levels comparable to very young mice and uncommon intelligence (they have no problem quickly and effortlessly navigating their way through a maze). Analysis into their food and water shows that nothing had been added to it, and the mice have no needle marks. Just how did Dr. Linden prolong their lives? Ben's new landlord Lydia throws him a birthday party, where Ben is introduced to Linden's mistress. The two hit it off and before Ben knows it he's tying the young woman up with rope for kinky sex. The knot? In the shape of the  double helix DNA pattern. Back at the lab, Ben and Pim kill one of the mice and analyze it. They discover a protective membrane covering each of the cells which protects the mice from the aging effects of atmospheric radiation.

Wanting more information, Ben decides to confront Anna and drill her about her former lover. She claims to know nothing, but he starts following her around, spies on her from the Anne Frank museum across the street from her apartment and notices she keeps meeting up with Kinski's character, an uber rich Swiss pharmaceutical company president by the name of Nicholas Ulrich, who may have been funding Linden's experiments all along. Ben traces Linden's activities to a retirement home where the doctor had given a handful of patients injections. All but one of his subjects died - supposedly during an influenza epidemic - but Ben is able to get samples from the lone survivor, concert pianist Emil (Albert Van Doorn). In his blood are the completed results of Linden's project: fully and possibly permanently protected cells. Ulrich, who has built a new wing on his company for the sole purpose of trying to re-produce the formula, wants to begin experimenting on humans. He attempts to draft Ben for the project, but the doctor clearly has reservations.

This potentially intriguing film - which has a great soundtrack by Terry Riley - only works in spurts and is partially spoiled by poorly-written and often pointless 'speak down to the audience' narration. Though some of the actors (Kinski, Rademakers among them) appear to be speaking their lines in English, several of the others (Keller, Aumont) are badly dubbed, and since we have to listen to Keller's character narrate the entire film, this becomes a huge debit. Some moral and ethical issues are raised about our desire for eternal life and what good could come of it, as well as what impact that would have on the planet. Professor van Arp believes - probably correctly - that it would only lead to overpopulation, starvation and ultimately the end of life as we know it. These ideas provoke intermittent thought, but the film seems to just peter out by end and the conclusion is very unsatisfying.

The film made little impact upon release and quickly vanished from theaters. The backers were Belgian, British, Dutch and America. Vestron Video handled the U.S. video release and Mondo Macabro handled the DVD. Some version have been cut down to 77 minutes; the full uncut version runs 85.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Igor and the Lunatics (1985)

... aka: Bloodshed

Directed by:
Thomas Doran
Brendan Faulkner
Billy Parolini

There's a good reason this doesn't make much sense: It was filmed over the course of several years by three different directors. Apparently the bulk of the film was made by Billy Parolini, who either didn't finish it or didn't make it exciting enough. Executive producers Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz had Thomas Doran and Brendan Faulkner, who are credited with "directing the horror, action and suspense sequences," added new footage at a later junction. It starts with a scene set in the 1960s, jumps to present day, zips back to the 1960s, jumps ahead to 1983 and then finally catches back up to present day once again. You got that? Flashback, flash-forward, flashback, another flashback set 20 years later, back to present day. That several of the actors look identical in present day to how they looked in the 1960s footage causes some confusion but not as much as character names changing from scene to scene. Despite the title, no one is named "Igor," though the end credits have someone listed as playing "Ygor." The cult guru is named "Paul" and his maniacal right-hand-man is named "Byron." At the very end, they specify the latter's name as being "Paul Byron." Madness! But I guess "Paul and Lunatics" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Things begin in present day with a guy named Tom Turner (Joseph Eero), who grabs a gun from the night stand and sneaks out of his home. He's left behind a note and a diary for his female friend Mary Ann Pierson (Mary Ann Schacht) to read that will explain things. Back in the early 60s, a bunch of brainwashed hippies led by Manson-like guru Paul (T.J. "Michaels" / Glenn) have relocated from a NYC tenement building to the country. Tom was reluctantly and briefly involved in the cult, but managed to get out just in time. One girl wasn't so lucky. After trying to flee, she's captured by Paul and two of his men. She calls them "impotent scum!" so they rip her top open, tie her down and then slice her in half long-ways using a table saw. The cult's days of free love, hallucinogenic drugs and murder are short-lived however after most are apprehended during a police raid. Sharon (Joan Ellen Delaney) was forced to leave her baby (fathered by Tom) behind in the woods. An Indian man named Hawk (Peter Dain) finds the baby and decides to raise it on his own.

Flash-forward to 1983, and a still stark raving mad Paul is finally being set free from prison. He's immediately picked up by Byron and Bernard, two former cult members who are still up to their old tricks. Right away, they pick up a hitchhiker, rip her top off and then slice her open with a scalpel. Byron then removes a few of her ribs then yanks out her heart while laughing maniacally. Tom returns to town after all those years to do some kind of conference and goes on the evening news to denounce the existence of cults. He bumps into Sharon, who's working as a prostitute, and asks about the baby. She tells him she'll get ahold of him later, but doesn't get the chance after Paul sneaks into her apartment and rips her head open with his bare hands. To get Tom to back off, Paul sends him an audio recording of the murder. Meanwhile, Mary Ann gets herself involved by going to a backwoods cabin the cult used to live in. When she returns to her apartment, a teenage boy has broken in. She chases him outside and he breaks his ankle, then asks her to go find his guardian, Hawk. It's Tom's long lost son.

Mary Ann's friend, who starts out being named Lucille then suddenly becomes Colette, goes out in the woods to paint and gets stabbed with an ice pick and then chopped up with a machete by Paul and his followers. Mary Ann goes to the police for help but they ignore her. She's luckily bumps into Tom and the two set out to find the teen boy and the cult. Meanwhile, the cult slash a little boy's throat, beat a guy's head in with a rock and kill a couple of cops. Things end with a clash in a barn, with Paul and Byron sneaking in and trying to make mince meat of Mary Ann, Tom, Tom's son and Hawk. Someone is hacked in the head with a machete, another is stabbed with a pitchfork and lifted off the ground and someone is shot with an arrow. Only a few manage to survive the night and there's a ridiculous twist at the very end. Too bad we never got the sequel: "Igor the Habachi Chef."

The acting is pretty bad, it's confusing and the continuity problems and editing are horrendous to put it mildly. The lengthy table saw death is repeated three different times; twice in its entirety. The only thing even remotely memorable about this one is the ridiculously over-the-top (and highly annoying) performance of Niola. I'd like the learn more about the production history of this one, though. According to the snippet below (taken from a mid-80s edition of Rick Sullivan's Gore Gazette), it was filmed in 1983 under the title Bloodshed and was released theatrically under the Igor title.

Doran and Faulkner also made SPOOKIES (1986), another troubled production which was taken from the directors, recut and had new scenes added.

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