Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Suckling (1990)

Written by: Francis Teri
Directed by: Francis Teri
Frank Rivera as someone
Marie Michaels as someone
Some other people as characters (can you tell the internet credits are a little spotty on this one?)

I can't think of any more gleefully gross exploitation movie plot than “aborted fetus gets flushed down a toilet, lands in a puddle of toxic waste, and turns into a marauding monster”. When I read about it in the coming-soon-to-video section of Fangoria years ago, I certainly knew I had to see it. I honestly can't remember where I eventually found a copy, although the amusingly inaccurate SCIENCE FICTION genre sticker on the box suggests an ex-rental copy. The sticker is of an unfamiliar style, so I assume I found it at one of the giant video tape liquidation sales that would pop up in the mall once or twice a year. Man, those things were a fucking goldmine. One day you'd go to get a giant cookie (really about the only reason to ever go to our mall anymore, except the cookies have gotten smaller and more expensive, so they're not the temptation they once were) and one of the vacant storefronts would have sprouted table upon table, row upon row of VHS castoffs from rental stores across the country.

Anyway, the last thing you would expect is a movie with that story to, all things considered, show some restraint and actually attempt to succeed in creating some actual drama and tension. No, I take that back. That would be the second to last thing you would expect. The very last thing you would expect is that the movie would, to the extent the limits of its budget and talent of the cast and filmmakers allowed, succeed. But don't worry, there's still some gross baby monster stuff. Just not as much as I would have liked. Wow, I never thought I would find myself wishing for more horrible fetus monster action.

We meet a boy and his girlfriend, whose names were barely ever spoken, and when they were they got absorbed into the muffled audio of the tape and the horrible screeching of the ancient elliptical machine I use to keep myself in some semblance of shape. They arrive at a huge, run-down house in some forgotten corner of Brooklyn, which does double duty as a whorehouse and illegal abortion clinic. The girl is adamant that she's going to carry the baby to term and give it up for adoption, and that she's only going to talk to Big Mama, the madam-cum(huh huh huh)-OB-G-DIE!-N, to placate her boyfriend. Of course, things don't go as planned or this would be a short movie, so Big Mama drugs her, performs the abortion (“Good lord, this is the biggest second term pregnancy I've ever seen!” she exclaims of the fetus she pulls out of the visibly-not-pregnant-at-all girl), and sends her simpleton Girl Friday to flush the thing down the shitter. The little bundle of unwanted joy lands in a puddle of toxic waste leaking into the storm drain from a barrel out behind the house (being from the rural Midwest, I just assume everyone has one of those in New York City) and of course immediately begins to increase in size and grow huge bone-shard praying mantis arms, like you do.

Back in the house, the girl is coming to from her Kool-Aid sedative, tension is rising amongst the secondary cast members like Big Mama's son Axel and the Black Ex-Military Security Guy Whose Name I Also Didn't Catch. One of the hookers goes with Girl Friday to flush her third abortion down the can when the prehensile umbilical tentacle of the Suckling shoots out of the toilet and decapitates Girl Friday. At this point, you're probably thinking we're in for some seriously wacky, tacky, disgusting shit. Would you believe me if I told you that, with the exception of a scene at the very end of the movie, we're pretty much done plumbing the depths of tastelessness the movie bothers with? The Suckling grows to full adult size in what turns out to be a pretty impressive monster suit considering how cheap this flick must have been, surrounds the house with an unbreakable placenta cocoon to keep its prey from escaping, and starts picking off the rest of the characters.

It's interesting that the first to die is the black guy. Interesting in that he doesn't die first because he's the black guy in a cheap horror movie. He dies because he's the only competent character and if he wasn't killed off everyone else would have survived. When the Suckling comes through the wall and grabs him, he's just disarmed the unstable Axel, gotten everyone to stop bickering momentarily, and is about to take his rightful place as leader of this motley group. Usually I write off observations like this as me giving too much credit to stupid coincidences in shitty movies, but there's just enough intelligence on display here to make me think Francis Teri was attempting to play with genre conventions a bit.

We're given enough back story on everyone else to know they're essentially useless. The boyfriend is basically just a kid, and despite coming up with some helpful suggestions like making a battering ram out of a weightlifting set, nothing he tries actually works, and let's not forget this whole mess is his fault to begin with; Big Mama is a clever enough woman to create her own little slum empire, but for all that it's still just a slum; the prostitutes, while shown to have some bonds of friendship and loyalty for each other, are still junkie whores at the end of the day; the one client who gets trapped in the house is a caricature of upper middle class white Republican snobbery, he talks big until he actually has to be brave and decent and then he's just a worthless pile of shit; and Axel is fresh out of his umpteenth stint in prison and is clearly a mentally unstable testosterone case. The only one in the whole place who stands a chance of fighting off the monster and getting everyone out alive is the ex-army security guard. It's hinted at that some shady stuff in his past has kept him from getting a real job despite his veteran status. That and, you know, he's black. He's clearly not happy with his lot in life, and is the only character in the flick to be a decent person in any way. So of course he has to die, because we want to see the rest of these miserable pukes killed off and the one competent, intelligent, genuinely good character is standing between them and the toxic waste sewage fetus. Bravo to Mr. Teri for that.

Of course, everyone eventually dies except for the girl, and she doesn't exactly escape unscathed. What happens to her, you really should see for yourself. I had to rewind it a couple of times to make sure I saw it right. Just don't have a beverage in your mouth at the point where the creature kills its father and starts advancing on its mother, because about two seconds later you're going to be choking on it.

Even on a dime store budget, fake blood can't possibly be that cost prohibitive. There's no way they spent so much on the monster they didn't have enough left over for a few gallons of corn syrup. A movie that starts out with the premise of an angry mutant aborted fetus killing those who have done it wrong should be absolutely the most disgusting and tasteless thing ever put on film. This thing should be Shaun Hutson level reprehensible. Unfortunately, once the monster reaches its full size, the horror elements become pretty tame and paint-by-numbers. There's very little gore, although there is a pretty nifty stop-motion severed hand crawling around at one point. It's obvious that Francis Teri was trying to lift this movie above the gutter-level expectations of its audience (the box states that the movie was compared favorably to Alien and Die Hard, but I'm guessing the only person who ever made that comparison was Teri). Most of the time I would applaud that attempt, and honestly there are times when the writing stops being terrible and the actors dial back the ham and it really does work for a few moments, but when you make a movie like this, you shouldn't strive above the gutter, you should fucking wallow in it. Go ahead and try to make a statement if you want, but don't make it with a polite note in carefully written cursive on classy stationery, splash it all over the goddamn walls with buckets of blood and slime.

I think maybe Teri realized that too late to do anything about the final cut, because the end credits are interspersed with a completely random and impressively gruesome FX scene shot outside the house, where two passersby witness a person staggering around the yard while the flesh melts off their skeleton. It's cool, but it has nothing to do with the rest of the movie and it's too little too late to make up for the dearth of grand guignol in the main body of the picture.

It's a fun flick and definitely worth a watch. Just make sure you go in with tempered expectations and are prepared for a large chunk of mostly bloodless, mostly monsterless, but not completely terrible character drama in between the crazy bits.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Fighting the Good Fight for Net Neutrality

Because I'm computer stupid (there's a reason I do this from Blogger), I can't even get a simple cut and paste widget to work.  There's supposed to be a spinning loading wheel graphic going on right here, with some other stuff, which links to sign a petition to tell the FCC to tell Comhugecoglomeratecast to go fuck themselves and let us have our damn pornography internet the way God Al Gore Nyarlathotep intended.  A whole bunch of people are running this all day September 10th, but since a)I can't get the thing to work and b)I'm not going to be up til midnight because some of us have jobs to get to in the morning, I'm just going to post a link you can click to sign the petition.


Seriously, do something.  It's just a petition, it won't bite.  I know we usually just talk about silly movies here, but this is some serious stuff.  If the communications giants get their way, it might take longer than your lunch break to load this blog to read, and then what would you do while you ate your processed microwaved irradiated pre-chewed food substance product?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Exterminator 2 (1984)

Written by: Mark Buntzman and William Sachs
Directed by: Mark Buntzman
Robert Ginty as John Eastland
Mario van Peebles as X
Frankie Faison as Be Gee
Deborah Geffner as Caroline

Despite the fact that the two movies bear only the slightest resemblance to each other, I could never keep Exterminator 2 and Executioner Part II straight in my head. Probably because virtually all of that similarity is in the titles. Thus it was that when I put this DVD in the player to get ready for this round table, I was convinced I was about to see a vigilante hero shoving grenades down rapists' pants for 90 minutes, despite the fact that I couldn't remember Mario van Peebles having anything to do with it. Turns out I had it wrong, and this is the Cannon-ized, Death Wish-ified sequel to 1980's Exterminator. I believe that confusion is intentional on the part of the makers of Executioner Part II, as there is no Executioner Part I, and Executioner Part II is almost certainly a cash grab at some of the box office for this higher profile picture that came out the same year.

I'm not really sure how Cannon Films came to be making a sequel to a movie that came out four years previous (I didn't have time to listen to the commentary before going to press with this, it's possible the beans are spilled therein) and wasn't a monstrous hit to begin with, but I imagine it had more than a little to do with the fact that their Death Wish series was raking in the bucks. They had already been doing those for a decade by this point, and Bronson wasn't getting any younger, so I'm sure it seemed like a good idea to have another franchiseable vigilante character in the stable, and any name recognition is better than none at all. Problem is, Paul Kersey is a likeable, sympathetic everyman character who is forced to extreme action because outside forces back him into a corner. So was John Eastland the first time around. In this installment, Eastland is a gigantic loser who manages to get everyone around him killed because he's absolutely fucking terrible at being a vigilante.

The streets of New York have been relatively crime free for four years. The threat of fiery death from the vigilante known as the Exterminator has sent most of the thugs packing to safer territory. However, there's a new kingpin in town. His name is X, he dresses like one of the more outlandish pro-wrestlers at the height of their mania for wacky costumes, and he's organizing every two-bit hood rat in the city into a highly efficient criminal army to take back what he feels are their streets.

Meanwhile, John Eastland hasn't held a steady job in four years, but somehow he manages to belong to a members-only nightclub that offers free beer and the debatable allure of a middle-aged Broadway failure doing spazzy step-aerobics to terrible synth pop without ever removing a single article of clothing. One night he hears a robbery in progress on the police scanner, and discovers some thugs have killed the owners of a small convenience store. The thugs get toasted, and soon the word is out that the Executioner is back. X is furious that his revolution is in danger of being over before it starts, and so the hunt is on for the man behind the welding mask. Too bad for all involved, John just hooked up with Caroline the club dancer and got a job with Be Gee the freelance garbage truck driver. Now X will have some soft spots to strike at to bring John down.

The biggest problem with this movie is that the bad guy gets all the good humanizing moments. We spend far more time getting to know X than we do Eastman. Granted, this is a sequel, but it's a sequel four years after the original. The only character development we get with John before he basically becomes a slasher for the last half of the movie is that he has no job because of reasons. He starts up a relationship with Caroline for the sole purpose of having her killed off to up the stakes at the end, but there's no real chemistry or feeling of interest generated in the audience. Compare that to X's impassioned speech about his men not deserving to die because they never had a chance at a real life and have to fight for survival – never mind that they killed an innocent old couple and that it certainly wasn't their first violent crime – and you kinda start to wonder why you're supposed to root for the bum with the flamethrower. Well, it's because he wears an Army jacket, stupid. That's shorthand for “hero”, even if our hero's big happy moment before things go south is drunk driving a garbage truck he barely knows how to handle through crowded city streets so he can get laid.

Thinking about it that way, this almost becomes an anti-vigilante movie, with the villain being the deeper character and the ostensible hero becoming, as I said earlier, almost a slasher figure. Granted the criminals are still criminals, but at least their faces aren't hidden behind masks the whole time. Take away the hero's face and he becomes an inhuman engine of destruction. Put that engine up against a guy who can make speeches that can almost turn you sympathetic to violent thugs, and you really are left wondering whose side you're supposed to take. Except you're not at all, because they killed Caroline and Be Gee, and John was in the Army, and he has a totally boss garbage truck he converted into a tank!

No, of course the movie doesn't really have layers like that. It's a Cannon Films vigilante action movie ferchrissakes! The reason it seems so disjointed is that there was barely two weeks of prep time from, “Hey, we're gonna make this movie”, to “Hey, start making that movie.” Mark Buntzman, who was a producer on the first Exterminator, wrote the original script and shot the original cut of the flick. The Cannon boys didn't like the way it ended, with Caroline surviving (once again, it's a Cannon vigilante movie, if the women aren't all raped and dead by the end of the second act, you did it wrong) and even saving John and getting the final, killing shot on X, so they called in William Sachs to “fix” things, which I have to assume made them considerably worse since the guy who worked on the first movie probably had a much better handle on how things should go.

At least it had a cool garbage truck. And Irwin Keyes's character from the original magically coming back to life.

Cinemasochist Apocalypse is simply the glass of orange juice in the complete breakfast of the Cannon Fodder roundtable, honoring the recently departed Menahem Golan, and discussing the films of Golan-Globus and Cannon Films. You can read more at your local library, and at these other fine sites. But you don't have to take my word for it.

Terrible Claw Reviews:  Lifeforce

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Proxy (2013)

Written by: Kevin Donner and Zack Parker
Directed by: Zack Parker
Alexia Rasmussen as Esther Woodhouse
Alexa Havins as Melanie Michaels
Kristina Klebe as Anika Baron

This is going to be short and sweet.

A woman named Esther, just weeks away from her due date, is attacked on her way home from an OB/GYN appointment. The assailant ambushes her as she passes an alley, knocks her unconscious with a brick and drags her out of sight of the street, then proceeds to smash in her pregnant belly with the brick.

Upon awakening in the hospital, Esther meets with a social worker who informs her that since she has no close friends or family (she was fertilized with a selection from a sperm bank), it will be very important for her to find a support group outside, since once she leaves the hospital the doctors and social workers there will move on to the next internal case and can provide her with no more help.

After a couple of rough days, she finds a support group for victims of violent crimes. And then things go totally apeshit crazy.

That is literally all I can tell you about the movie without ruining everything, and the above takes up ten, maybe fifteen minutes tops of the two hour run time. Proxy is a deftly woven tapestry of insanity. Zack Parker masterfully paces the movie, assaulting the viewer with one WHAT THE HOLY FUCKING SHIT!? moment after another without things ever feeling bogged down by plot twists, or having too long a stretch between them. Just when you think you've got a handle on things, you find out that in fact you do not, and it's much, much worse than you suspected.

Top notch performances all around too. Again, I can't say much about what specifically is good about each performance because it will ruin things, and this is definitely a movie you need to see cold to get the full effect. Just trust me, they're great.

There you have it. One of the best horror movies of the year. I can't even think offhand of one that tops it, so maybe THE best horror movie of the year. Go see Proxy right now. Don't even read the last sentence. Seriously, what the hell are you still doing here?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Inseminoid (1981)

Written by: Nick Maley, Gloria Maley
Directed by: Norman J. Warren
Robin Clarke as Mark
Stephanie Beacham as Kate
Judy Geeson as Sandy

In space, no one can hear you get raped by a giant, phallus-headed bug monster! Well, at least that should have been the tag line for tonight's movie. If you can think of a better one I'll eat my hat. No I won't, it's old and full of sweat and face oil. Just don't tell the Maleys or Mr. Warren, because according to them, this is in no way meant to be a cash-in on a certain space monster movie that was a massive critical and box office success just the year before. Nope. Not at all. Purely a coincidence. And corporations don't have human rights while we're at it.

The Xeno Corporation's health care plan is a hell of a lot better than Hobby Lobby's, as they provide injections of prophylactic drugs on every offworld mission, but the crew of the outpost on the distant planet we're about to visit never gets to find out whether or not they cover space bug abortions. Presumably they wouldn't, though, because if it's a legitimate space monster rape, a woman's body has ways of shutting things down, so clearly she was asking for it. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

A team of archaeologists has set up shop on this barren, inhospitable dump of a planet to figure out what caused the extinction of the ancient and advanced civilization that once populated it. Some kind of citadel or tomb covered in hieroglyphics has been uncovered underneath a looming cliff face, and no sooner is a cavern full of glowing crystals opened up by two of the team – Dean and Ricky – than an explosion puts Dean in a coma and badly injures Ricky.

The team manages to get their two wounded members back to their makeshift base dug into a series of caverns in the opposing cliff face across the valley, and discover that Ricky has some of the strange crystals still clenched in his fist. In a nice little bit of attention to detail, Ricky is clutching the crystals so tight they've cut through his space suit glove and into the flesh of his hand. Not relevant to the plot, mind, just one of those unexpected signs of thought put into an otherwise cheap sleazefest that throw you for a loop and stick with you. It's too bad they couldn't given that much attention to what happens in the next fifteen minutes or so of the movie, because I have no fucking idea, but I'm game to take a crack at it.

Shortly after chemist Mitch and medical officer Karl determine that the crystals give off some kind of bio-electric radiation, Ricky wakes up and goes on a rampage. He grabs a space suit and runs off into the caverns, and several of the crew suit up to go after him and bring him back. He leads them a merry chase around the cave system, during which a brief scuffle knocks a woman named Gwen into some rubble in which her foot gets trapped. Instead of calmly waiting for someone else from the base to suit up and come help her out, she has a spaz attack and rips some of the wiring out of her life support system. Now the situation is a little more pressing, but not insurmountable. All she has to do is listen to the instructions given to her over her radio explaining to her how to hotwire the thing and keep it running until help arrives. Instead of following the directions, she decides to chop her damn leg off with some kind of outer space chainsaw thing, and dies of blood loss and exposure. Eventually Ricky returns to base and traps team reporter Kate in the airlock, where she has to shoot him dead before he depressurizes the whole base.

I imagine what's going on here is that the bio-electric field given off by the strange crystals are driving people mad. It's a very selective madness, though. I would have guessed at first that physical contact had something to do with it since Ricky had the things dug into the palm of his hand, but Mitch and Karl are both unaffected even though they're the ones who've been handling the things, and Gwen hasn't had any contact with them at all that we've seen, so it eventually just comes down to plot convenience I guess. It's time for a gory death but we need Mitch and Karl for the story a little longer so it's up to one of the disposable characters. Still, it's a pretty tense and memorable scene. It's certainly one of the things that stuck with me most in the intervening years between the first time I saw this movie on the Sci-Fi Channel and when I finally found my own copy.

During further exploration of the tomb (which had in the previous scene been said to be off limits until they could figure out what went wrong with Ricky and those crystals, but since it would be a pretty dull movie if they all just sat around safely in the break room until the evac ship arrived, just never you mind about that), Mitch and Sandy are attacked by something. In a sequence creatively edited to not require any special effects, Mitch is torn limb from limb, and Sandy is carried off and raped by the creature, which looks rather like a big, pink, slimy wiener with bug eyes.

Well, I say rape, I more mean artificially inseminated. At least, I think so. It's a very oddly handled sequence, which leaves us with some things to wonder about that the movie never bothers to resolve beyond a couple of hints. Sandy is lying on a table, with the wiener bug sitting between her legs. Karl is present, too, giving her an injection of some kind before the wiener bug shoves a tube into her vagina and starts pumping wiener bug eggs into her. It's possible the whole thing with Karl and the weird medical setting was just something her traumatized brain cooked up to soften the horror of being railed by a six-foot dick insect on the floor of a cave. It's also possible that Karl really was in on the whole thing from the get-go. Once Sandy is safely back with the crew, they do indeed discover a puncture on her arm where Karl gave her a shot in the insemination sequence. When they find out she's pregnant and everyone objects that it's impossible because all the women were given birth control drugs before the mission, we could take that to mean the drugs were simply ineffective against alien biology, or we could take her vision for reality and that Karl gave her some sort of counter-drug before the wiener bug shot her full of space monster jizz. Did the Xeno Corporation send Karl along with something like Special Order 937 to bring back a wiener bug for study?

While we're asking questions, what is the relationship between the crystals and the wiener bug? Is the wiener bug what killed off the ancient civilization, or is it a final surviving member trying to pass on its genetic material in a last ditch attempt to restart its race? The movie doesn't care that you want to know, because now that we've got the inseminating out of the way, the movie switches gears to become a particularly claustrophobic and unpleasant slasher for the remaining run time. Sandy's maternal instinct kicks into murder mode as she starts picking off the remaining crew, and it's a race for survival until the evacuation team arrives. Of course, all there is to pick up when they arrive is a couple of slimy sock puppet wiener bug babies.

Whether you take it for better or worse, this flick is an odd duck in that it's a low-budget Alien ripoff that shows the monster even less than Alien did! In fact, I think the only Alien ripoff with less monster than this is, oddly enough, the in-name-only direct sequel Alien 2: Sulla Terra – a flick so impoverished that not only do you see the monster almost solely through a POV shot from inside its fucking mouth, but that they couldn't even afford to shoot in an abandoned factory so the climax takes place behind the pin setters at a bowling alley! But that's a review for another time. We're here to talk about Inseminoid, after all. So does the lack of monster work like it did for its inspiration? I think so. When there's no silly wiener bug to shake your head at, this thing is a solid little horror flick that packs a pretty nasty punch, especially for something that came out of England right during the beginning of the censorial backlash that led to them banning everything fun in movies for years to follow. It's gritty and sleazy and gory where it can afford it, and the birthing sequence which consists of nothing but Sandy screaming for what must be close to 90 solid seconds somehow manages to start off unnerving, shoot past annoying, slingshot around laughable and come right back around to unnerving again by the time it's over.

What little money they did have was spent very wisely. The movie was originally set on a space ship (just to make it extra hard to deny what they were ripping off), but there was so little money for FX that the production moved to Chiselhurst Caves in Kent, England. With pieces of the set build right into the real rock walls of the caves, and with all those non-styrofoam corridors and caverns to run around in, the movie gains hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of production value at the cost of what a giant pain in the ass it is to shoot a movie in a cave. This is also one of the few movies I've seen where being drastically under-lit wound up being a strike in the movie's favor, as it covers up a lot of the cheapness and adds to the sense of claustrophobic horror.

If it weren't for Creature, this would be hands-down my favorite Alien ripoff. As it is, there's a two-way tie. Creature is more fun and watchable overall, but Inseminoid wins by an intergalactic mile in being unrelentingly vicious and mean-spirited. If you want some wacky fun and Klaus Kinski being an utter sleazeball, Creature is your flick. If you want a movie whose only goal is to hurt your feelings and make you squirm, Inseminoid is where it's at.

 Joining me in paying homage to some of our favorite cinematic plagiarism (but we didn't plagiarize the reviews, we promise), the usual suspects sailing these seas of cheese:

Friday, July 25, 2014

G-Fest XXI: Part 3


Sunday started out a bit hectically, trying to get all our clothes and toiletries and cooler (bringing a cooler full of cereal bars and lunch meat and milk and orange juice saved a fortune on food), plus purchases from the art and dealer rooms packed up and safely back to the car with no broken claws or bent prints and nothing forgotten in the room, and then checking out before the events started for the day.

First up was arguably the main event of the whole Fest (and arguably so only because the concert was so goddamn awesome), the Terror of Mechagodzilla reunion panel with Katsuhiko Sasaki and Tomoko Ai sharing memories of the production. The panel did tend to devolve into Ai giggling as Sasaki talked about how cute he thought she was and was shy to talk to her and also getting in trouble for talking to her because he had just gotten married before production started, but once they started showing clips of the movie for the stars to talk about, the panel sped by and I was sad to see it end. Both stars had lots of memories of the shoot and were very talkative and funny.

After the panel, the kids and I got in line for autographs once again. The tickets for these two each included a free 8 ½ x 11 photo, and I had bought the kids reproduction movie posters (I love my kids, but I'm not spending $200 apiece for authentic posters for their rooms when I won't even drop that kind of scratch on one for myself) and I had Ai sign the killer Terror of Mechagodzilla print I picked up from Jeff Zornow on Friday.

By the time everything was signed, it was time to get in line for the awards lunch, the highlight of which was Bob Eggleton receiving the Mangled Skyscraper Award. Here's a guy who has won piles of major industry awards, but saying that this one meant more to him than all of those because it was given with love by Godzilla fans. I was proud to have been there.

The weekend was pretty well over by this point, with just a couple of smaller panels left to go. Phoenix wanted to attend the one on writing kaiju stories, so we went to check it out. It was a fun and lively discussion, but Phoenix lost interest in the technicalities quickly, Isabella didn't care to begin with, and the advice given seemed to be mostly for people who had never strung together a paragraph outside of a school assignment, so it didn't do much for me. However, one of the panelists had to leave early to try to sell a few more copies of his book in the dealer room before it closed. When he described the book to the audience before he left, it sounded fascinating, and so we followed him back upstairs to buy a copy. His name is Timothy Price, the book is Big In Japan, and having just finished reading my copy, I can say it's a hoot. Put the movie Rockstar, a handful of bonkers 70's tokusatsu shows, and about six pots (yes, pots – not cups, pots) of coffee in a blender and set to puree. That about sums it up. I also found out he's originally from Minnesota, not even two hours from where I live, so we wound up chatting about that and writing for a bit, and then the kids and I made one more pass through the dwindling toy tables. I snagged an original mold Bandai Gigan, you know the black one with only two back sails and a weird-shaped head (I love almost-but-not-quite figures like this one, they're almost cooler than ones that are detail-perfect to the movies), and we headed to Kaiju Konfessions.

Kaiju Konfessions is the traditional farewell ritual of G-Fest, wherein a compilation of songs from monster movies, MST3K episodes, and mash-up music videos are played along with lyrics so the whole crowd can dance and sing along. I don't know if it's been included before or not, but if we manage to get back next year (or any year, really) I hope they put “Mothra” by Those Darn Accordions in the rotation.

Joyce warned me that it's addictive, and that if you come one year you pretty much have to come every year. It's kind of like B-Fest in that regard. I can see how this could easily become more like B-Fest to me in that you come the first time for Godzilla, but come back more and more for the people you meet and the feeling of family you get from hanging out for three days with a bunch of people who love monster movies as much as you do.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

G-Fest XXI: Part 2


First thing on the agenda for Saturday was to get in line for the make-it-and-take-it model painting session, featuring a wonderful Y-MSF sculpt of Megalon. Phoenix made a new friend while waiting in line, and we wound up crossing paths with the boy and his grandparents many times throughout the weekend and even sat at the same table at the awards dinner on Sunday. There are only a limited number of model kits available, so we were there for a while, but it was worth it. The kids had a blast doing their own thing, and of course I wound up getting bogged down in the details and didn't have anywhere near enough time to finish painting. I figure I can buy some paint and finish it at home somewhere. Except the only place in town that sells model paint is Hobby Lobby. Well shit. Gavin Smith of Terrible Claw Reviews, and a good friend from B-Fest, joined us for the rest of the day's festivities.

From there we caught the last few minutes of Katsuhiko Sasaki's first session and sat down for part one of Koichi Kawakita. Even this early in the weekend, poor Robert Scott Field, who was doing translating duties for all the Japanese guests, was starting to sound like Macho Man Randy Savage with emphysema. It was pretty rough going, but the first hour of his session was a really interesting live commentary on his first movie as special effects director, a little-known-in-America WWII Zero pilot drama with a title that translates to something like Big Sky Samurai. Amazingly, there is not one single shot of a real airplane in the movie, and some fantastic aerial battle sequences.

At this point the kids were getting bored, so I took them downstairs to Minya's Place for a quiz show, where they got G-Fest Kaiju Kids t-shirts. We caught the last half hour of Kawakita's session, which was something to do with a GunHed TV ad, and wasn't nearly as cool as the WWII movie. No matter. We were there to get some good seats for the next session in that room: Don Frye.

This was the first of two sessions Frye gave, and covered all aspects of his career – his MMA fighting and other film appearances – instead of just Godzilla: Final Wars, although there was plenty of that too. My reaction upon hearing his answer to the first question of the panel was, “Holy crap, his voice really sounds like that!” I assumed he had put on that gravelly voice for his character of Captain Gordon, but it's the real deal. Mr. Frye seems like a warm, friendly guy, and funny as hell, but thoroughly badass. He fought for a year and a half with a broken neck assuming it was just sore before a trip to the doctor for an unrelated injury revealed the truth. Three months after surgery he was fighting again. After his session we got autographs and a photo with him, and then it was back to the room to drop off signed posters before walking to Giordano's for a pizza.

We returned to the Crowne Plaza in time for the costume parade, which was a highlight for the kids. There were several extremely impressive costumes, but my favorite of the bunch for sheer creativity was MechaGuiron, complete with spinning buzzsaw hand. There was also a great Megalon costume with whirling drills, working mandibles, and a light-up horn. There were also several little kids, around four years old, dressed in fairly generic Godzilla (and one pretty cool Gamera) costumes. It was cool to see these kids up there, posing and roaring in their costumes, because for those few minutes they weren't just little kids in costumes, they were their favorite kaiju, and they were fucking invincible.

 Off to the Pickwick Theater for the part of the weekend I was looking forward to the most. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, a full orchestra was assembled to put on a concert of suites of music from every Godzilla movie Akira Ifukube scored. Sadly, but not surprisingly, Toho said no to the planned DVD of the show, but it was recorded for a CD as a premium for backers and I can't wait to crank that sucker up in the car. It was an amazing, moving night, hearing this thunderous, crushing orchestral monster music played live. I've seen a lot of metal things in my day, and that just might top them all.