Monday, March 23, 2015

Animal (2014)


Written by: Thommy Hutson and Catherine Trillo
Directed by: Brett Simmons
Starring:
Elizabeth Gillies as Mandy
Keke Palmer as Alissa
Thorsten Kaye as Carl

Tonight on Wasting My Time So You Don't Have To Theatre, we present Animal for your consideration. This flick should have been called Lazy Bullshit Shortcuts instead. I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised considering how much time and effort clearly went into thinking up such a clever title. It's like a big neon sign saying, “We didn't even fucking try!” right at the beginning of the movie.

I suppose I could tell you what it's about, but I imagine just by being told there's a horror movie called Animal, you already wrote a better one in your head in the time it took me to finish typing this sentence. Oh, very well. Two couples and the inevitable quirky fifth wheel friend go into the woods for a hiking trip. Alissa and Jeff are siblings, and Jeff's girlfriend Mandy is Alissa's best friend. Then there's Alissa's complete non-entity of a boyfriend Matt, and Sean, the aforementioned quirky guy. Mandy is whiny and hates hiking. Alissa is black and Jeff is not because instant diversity! Sean is gay, which is actually important later because he and Jeff were having an affair except that the movie didn't take the time to earn the right to that kind of interesting character moment and then it just gets completely ignored like Lisa's mom's breast cancer in The Room.

About an hour into their hike, Mandy's whining is interrupted by Jeff being eaten by some kind of monster. The rest of them flee blindly through the woods until they luck across a cabin occupied by some people we saw running from the monster in the opening scene. Vicky and Carl are trying to keep the place barricaded against the thing getting in, and Douglas is the requisite asshole who has realized that he doesn't need to outrun the monster, just his friends.

There is much made of checking the barricades for weak spots and reinforcing them. This draws the audience's attention to the fact that the barricades are slats of scrap wood nailed across missing windows with gaps between them at least a food wide and that they are, in fact, nothing but one giant weak spot, as illustrated by the monster effortlessly punching through them whenever the script calls for it. I was going to blame the production designer for that until I realized it was probably an intentional choice on the director's part so he could get some good shots of the monster lurking behind the squabbling characters so the audience would see it coming just before whatever stupid, repetitive argument the characters were having this time got interrupted by someone being eviscerated. You know, just so we can fully appreciate how clever he is. If that was the case, the PD should have swatted the director on the nose with a rolled up magazine and sent him to a corner to think about what he had done.

Eventually everyone is killed but Mandy and Alissa, and even though Alissa is the badass outdoors chick who has repeatedly stated her intention of killing the monster in revenge for her brother and boyfriend, she gets killed and Mandy is the lone survivor because she's the pretty white girl and is pregnant. Fuck you, movie.

Bland characters, paint-by-numbers plots, and passive racism are all things we horror fans are used to. Doesn't mean we have to enjoy putting up with them, but if the monster is handled right, watching a group of personality-free ciphers getting mauled can be enjoyable. Unfortunately, the ball was so thoroughly and comprehensively dropped on this one that I can't think of a single nice thing to say about the movie other than the monster had an interesting face. It's got hints of both insect and rodent, which is neat, but it still looks far too similar to the monsters from Feast. Couple that with the fact that the thing's body is clearly just some recycled monster suits from Feast (FX artist Gary Tunnicliffe worked on both movies), and this just draws the viewer's attention to the fact that, despite a few small changes, even the usually reliable Tunnicliffe was phoning it in and re-using old designs.

Even the sound design of the thing is lazy, just throwing in a bunch of generic monster roars that you'll recognize from dozens of other movies without bothering to make sure it sounds at all like something that would come out of a creature of this size and shape. The only sound it makes that comes off as remotely plausible is the coughing bark it makes as it calls out to its brethren in the surrounding woods that there's an easy buffet of thinly-sketched morons thoughtfully packed into a flimsy plywood box for their dining convenience.

Before our first glimpse of the creature, Sean brings up the Ohio Howl, which is supposedly a recording of a sasquatch moaning in the bayous of Louisiana (just kidding, it's in Ohio). Like his gay fling with Jeff and Lisa's mom's breast cancer, it's never mentioned again, but no other clue as to what the creature could be is ever dropped. One mention of an obscure Bigfoot recording that most people aren't familiar with is our entire backstory? Are we supposed to infer that these creatures are responsible for the Bigfood legend, then? That doesn’t make much sense considering it's no larger than a human and we even get several clear looks at its feet (yet another misstep to add to the list, as it looks like the thing is wearing shower shoes).

It's unlikely the thing is supposed to be some sort of escaped genetic experiment rather than a naturally occurring but previously undiscovered animal. It's right there in the title, after all. It's like the writers and director saw The Descent and wanted their own race of creatures hidden from mankind until now picking off spunky characters in the woods. Yes, there's more than one of the things. Trust me, I didn't spoil any surprises. Even the dullest of wits would have seen that plot twist coming a mile away. That doesn't matter anyway, because they forgot one key element that made the creatures from The Descent work; they evolved and lived in an uncharted cave system in the middle of nowhere and only came out periodically in small groups to hunt wild game. Sure, they had a few human victims now and again, but cavers go missing all the time and the Appalachian wilderness isn't a very forgiving place. Also, they looked like things that could have reasonably evolved in nature had a group of hominids been trapped underground and survived long enough to adapt over generations to thrive there.

Here, Hutson, Trillo, and Simmons are asking us to buy into a race of scaly humanoid rats with faces made of teeth, which are highly aggressive and voracious predators, breeding and hunting (and presumably dying and leaving remains, unless they bury their dead, but this piece of shit movie doesn't deserve to have the audience do that much work for it) in a forest so heavily used by hikers and campers as to have clearly marked and groomed trails, NO MORE THAN A COUPLE OF HOURS' WALK FROM A FUCKING HIGHWAY! AAARGH!

There was a time not long ago when the home video market was so flooded with fuck-awful Nintendo 64-grade CGI creature flicks that making a monster movie with a good old-fashioned practical effects man-in-a-suit monster was enough of a novelty to carry a lousy flick that would otherwise be dismissed as just another piece of crap. Unfortunately for the makers of tonight's movie, that time has long passed. The anti-CGI backlash has brought with it a wave of good, and a few great, monster flicks in the last decade and a half, and we fans once again find ourselves spoiled for choice. There is absolutely no reason to settle for half-assed shit like this anymore.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Pig Hunt (2008)

Written by: Robert Mailer Anderson, Zack Anderson
Directed by: James Isaac
Starring:
Travis Aaron Wade as John Hickman
Tina Huang as Brooks
Howard Johnson, Jr. as Ben
Jason Foster as Jake

I don't know why pigs aren't used as monsters in more movies. They can be goddamn terrifying. My uncle is a pig farmer, and I can remember when we were little my cousins and I were always warned to stay away from the boar pen. When most people think of pigs, they think of cute little market pigs (which can still mess you up pretty good in the right circumstances), but these were big mean breeding boars that probably weighed six or seven hundred pounds and still had their tusks. We were warned to stay away from them not because they might trample us, or they might bite us, but that they might eat us alive. Pigs don't fuck around.

There are plenty of movies that have pigs in them, of course. Hannibal has trained hunting pigs, Paul Naschy's Human Beasts has some pig violence in it, and of course there's the movie called Pigs, which actually has very little pig action and is boring as hell. As far as I know, though, there are only a small handful of movies where pigs are the featured monster. There's the French eco-horror movie Prey (which could have done with more pig action), the South Korean black comedy Chawz (which could have done with being a better movie), the brilliant Australian flick Razorback (one of my all-time favorite horror movies), and tonight's movie.

Pig Hunt is a close second for the best killer pig movie out there, and when the only thing leading you is Razorback, that's high praise indeed. For those of you who have already seen Pig Hunt, you might wonder why I speak so highly of it when just a few sentences ago I was complaining about Prey not having enough pigs in it. After all, the monster hog in Pig Hunt only shows up for the last ten minutes or so of movie. Well, you almost never see the titular beast in Razorback either. Telling a good story with the rest of the movie makes all the difference in the world while you're waiting for the monster to show up.

John, his artist girlfriend Brooks, and his three friends Ben (who looks and sounds so much like Keith David I was surprised to learn they're not related), Wayne and Quincy, are traveling from San Francisco to a remote rural town in Northern California called Boonville to stay at his uncle's cabin and hunt wild pigs (which really do plague that part of the country ever since they were introduced to the area by Russian immigrants). It's a little unclear as to the military status of the group. John wears dog tags, but they're his uncle's (although it took listening to the DVD commentary for me to figure that out). Wayne wears one of those digitized-looking camouflage jackets that are currently in use, but there were no name, rank or unit patches to signify it was anything but a surplus store purchase. Ben, on the other hand, wears head to toe camo, but of a dated variety not in use any more. He's definitely wearing it just because he thinks it makes him look cool, which makes his, “Semper Fi” salute and donation of a dollar to a homeless Viet Nam vet petting a dead puppy really make you root for the pig.

If that and the opening credits playing over the painting “Liberation of Baghdad” by Sandow Birk didn't tip you off, this flick has a very strong anti-war thread running through it, specifically aimed at the Bush administration's monumental clusterfuck in Iraq. Indeed, the basic synopsis of the plot is a bunch of unprepared and under-equipped people with far too much confidence for their own good dive into a situation they don't fully understand and things go horrifically wrong. Sound familiar? It's only been on the news almost every night for the last thirteen years and we're still cleaning up the mess.

Anyway, the first hint of trouble comes when the group stop for gas at a little convenience store (run by blues legend Charlie Musselwhite, in the first of two great musical cameos!). Also making use of the facilities are the nameless Hippie Stranger and a few members of his harem of dope farming cult girls. When the Stranger pulls a huge gurhka blade to save Brooks from a rattlesnake. John shoots the snake with his crossbow before the Stranger can dispatch it, and of course Ben takes the knife as a threat and pulls his big macho Dirty Harry gun to show what a badass he is. In the first of several times American swinging-dick gun culture gets cut off at the knees, the Stranger claims his blade is never drawn without tasting blood. Ben retorts that his gun isn't either, to which the Stranger replies by slicing his arm open, wiping the blood on their car window, and drawing a smiley face in it. Ben holsters his weapon un-blooded and they hightail it the hell out of there.

Eventually they find John's uncle's cabin, which was clearly home to a mind broken by PTSD for a long time before being abandoned. In addition to pig bones and wreckage of hunting gear everywhere, the walls are plastered with articles on the Iraq war and graffiti written in what looks to be blood, with slogans like FALSE FLAG. The place is in no condition for visitors, so they camp in the yard for the night and wake to be greeted by two locals named Jake and Ricky.

Now, the obvious thing to want to call these two is rednecks, but this doesn't take place in the south. One could argue that redneck is a state of mind and that people from Northern California could be rednecks just as well as people from Texas, but producer and co-writer Robert Mailer is insistent on not calling them that. Being a Boonville native (much of the movie was shot in the woods near his home), he says in the commentary that after a generation of their young men came back broken from the war to find the economy had gone to shit and all their jobs were gone, there wasn't much for any of them to do but grow dope and smoke dope and get drunk and shoot pigs. As with any impoverished rural area, a lot of the population live pretty rough and are very self-sufficient when it comes to living off the land. Given how much shit they give John and his friends about serving in the war, it's obvious these two have really seen the violence Ben idolizes in his ignorance, and they don't have the time of day for false machismo. The only one of the group they seem to like at all at first is Quincy, the foppish foodie and camp cook. He doesn't pretend to be tough and he makes good coffee, which is good enough for Jake and Ricky.

Since everyone is out in the woods for the same reason—pig hunting—the two groups join together, and as they trek along we get to know Jake and Ricky a little better. Sure, they may be tweaky alcoholic coke-heads, but it quickly becomes clear that the Deliverance vibe we get from their first appearance was a ruse. They're just some good ol' boys out in the woods looking to get wasted and shoot some pigs. The first attempt goes pear shaped rather quickly, when Jake blows a pig call and they're ambushed by rather more pigs than they expected. Wayne gets kneecapped by a stray tusk, and when the chaos finally settles down, they only got one pig to show for it. Just before Ben can make the killing shot with his revolver, Ricky steps in and hacks the pig to death with a California hook (a rather innocuous nickname for a grappling iron duct-taped to a baseball bat). “Kill guns are for pussies,” he sneers.

As Ricky field dresses the pig, he discovers something alarming. It doesn't have the layer of fatty armor under the skin that most wild pigs have. In fact, aside from the sizable tusks and it already being as large as an adult pig, anatomically it's barely more than a piglet. This, coupled with the ominous signs posted around the forest reading “Death Walks On All Fours” and Quincy's discovery of a trio of half-eaten emus (Apparently there were several real hippie communes around Boonville that raised emus for meat, but the birds got loose and now run wild in the woods along with the pigs. It's not unusual in that area to be awakened in the middle of the night by an emu pecking at your door. They wanted emus stalking the group like the Velociraptors in Jurassic Park as yet another threat, but it proved to be too expensive.), suggest there may be some truth to the legend of the Ripper, a 3,000 pound monster boar that John's uncle had become obsessed with before he died (we know he was actually eaten by the thing because we saw it happen in the opening scene).

Things keep getting worse when they stumble across a huge marijuana plantation. Jake and Ricky unload a bunch of big garbage bags and start picking. John objects (why he doesn't just walk away and leave them to it I have no idea), and when Ricky tries to shoot him with his own crossbow, Ben finally makes some use of that gun he keeps waving around and puts a slug in Ricky's chest.

Jake runs back home to fetch the rest of his clan, and the chase is on. Quincy is killed by the hillbillies, but Ben is saved by the intervention of the Hippie Stranger. At first he thinks he really lucked out, being nursed by a bunch of pretty nekkid cult girls who ply him with dope and boobies. You can see the questions start to form in his mind when they start drawing symbols on him with wet ashes. And then he gets led out into big pen out back where Wayne is tied to a wall with one of his legs chewed off, and whispers to Ben, “It's eating me.” John and Brooks find the hippie compound not long after, followed closely by Jake, and then the manure really hits the fan. I mean, the movie's called Pig Hunt. Did you really think the Ripper wasn't going to be real?

Thankfully for practical effects fans, the Ripper is real both senses of the word. Not a single CG shot was used to bring the monster pig to life. He's a 100% physical effect, combining two guys in a big furry body suit stuck together like a pantomime horse (admittedly not entirely effective even in the brief glimpse we get of it) and an animatronic head that, while not exactly realistic in the same way that Bruce the shark didn't look exactly like a great white, is expressive and nasty looking and fantastic.

I said before that Charlie Musselwhite was the first of two great musical cameos. The second is the insane backwoods preacher at the head of Jake and Ricky's clan, played by none other than Les Claypool. Les happened to be walking through the building where the special effects guys were sculpting the giant pig and got curious, as anyone would. When he found out they were making it for a monster movie, he got excited and said he had to be in it. When Les Claypool asks to be in your movie, you damn well say yes. He also did a great theme tune called “The Boonville Stomp”, as well as a lot of the incidental music. It's this bizarre, unique and totally perfect music that, for me anyway, helps the movie to stand apart from the crowd, much like Russell Mulcahy's music video-inspired visual aesthetic did for Razorback. Without either thing, you'd still have a great horror movie, but it's that extra ingredient that really makes it special.


Sunday, February 1, 2015

B-Fest 2015 Part 2: The Frogs Made A Miami Connection But They Couldn't Stop the Killdozer

Tim's B-Fest mix CD saw us to the Northwestern campus in good stead, and we got right in without even having to wait in line to pick up our tickets. I put my name on a list to re-sell my spare if someone called in needing an extra, but alas, no takers. Since I was Festing solo, I opted to carry just a small lunch cooler packed with high-density nutritious food like mixed nuts, fiber and protein bars, and a couple of Bolthouse smoothies, rather than a big cooler full of junk food. Traveling light was nice, as I didn't need much extra seat space for storage, and eating real food instead of candy bars and Chex mix makes a big difference in not feeling like utter ass at the end of the Fest.

After a delightful chat catching up with Dr. Megalemur, the lights dimmed and the show began.


Creature With the Atom Brain: Some surprising brutality for a 50's flick, together with a quick pace and a fun script, kept the opening feature cooking along. It's still not a patch on an 80's Cannon or Chuck Norris actioner to get the crowd going, but I enjoyed it. Good use was made of the mix CD driving music gag. I'd still rather listen to the Roky Erickson song any day of the week though.


Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn: As many of you are aware, this movie contains no metalstorms, nor does Jared-Syn get destroyed. What it does contain are a lot of really lame 3D gags, one reasonably cool cyborg, and a lot of boring bullshit. I'm not sure how Charles Band managed to make this much post-apocalyptic mayhem so dull, but he did. It almost surely would have benefited greatly from having been Italian.

I headed down the aisle a bit to watch this one with Paul and Skip. We eschewed our usual down-in-front seats this year to stay nearer the rear exit of the theater for the reason that it sucks dodging an obstacle course of sleeping bodies and coats and stuff in the dark when you need the restroom. It sucks even more coming back in when your eyes haven't yet adjusted to the light and you just have to hope you don't crush anyone's fingers or kick them in the face. The downside to that is most of our crew were still up front, so I jumped back and forth a lot. Also, Paul's amazing cookies were down there. Dude does great things with sugar and flour and eggs.


Frogs: That's more like it. This is one of those movies that I can enjoy equally from a riffing standpoint or entirely on its own merits. Yes, it's not strictly speaking a good movie. Then again, neither are probably 80% of the other movies I love. I care not a whit for your “quality” nonsense. Give me Ray Milland and Sam Elliot fighting toads and monitor lizards any day. I did feel a little ripped off that they shut the movie off before we got to see the little cartoon frog eating the hand at the end of the credits, though. People can be so impatient.


Killdozer: The entry I was looking forward to most this year, I hadn't seen this flick since I caught it on the Sci-Fi Channel as a kid on my grandparents' giant satellite dish. I was surprised to discover it holds up pretty well. Since it's a TV movie, I figured there would be lots of long boring stretches of talking since talk is cheap, but there is a ton of bulldozer action. There's a lot to like about this one, provided you like watching a giant bulldozer smash stuff. Which I do. Skip and I ended up talking through most of it, but it's an easy one to watch with only half your brain because there isn't much to follow. The bit where they bury the guy who tried to hide in a metal pipe and got run over amuses me because they either buried the smashed tube with him in it, or tipped the tube up over the hole and just let the guy sort of dribble into his grave. Either way it's pretty damn funny.

Another friend from home was in attendance this year, albeit not as a part of our regular crew of lunatics. Jacob came over from his seat between most movies to visit and give his impressions of his first B-Fest. I particularly enjoyed his reaction to...

The Wizard of Speed and Time: The stage stomp is Malorie's favorite part of B-Fest, so it didn't seem right to stomp without her. Even just watching everyone thundering away on the stage made my thighs hurt.

Plan 9 from Outer Space: It's been a few years since I've stayed in the theater for this one, and I felt like it was time again. The chants, the plates, the Bela, the Tor! The lineup for the last few years has been so good that any chance for sleep had to be snapped up, but this year there was a big stretch coming up later I didn't care about so I took the opportunity to reacquaint myself with Ed Wood's magnum opus. It's kind of like meeting up with an old friend you haven't seen for a long time. There's no awkwardness, no lack of things to talk about. You fall back into the groove as if you'd never been away.


Black Mama, White Mama: I had completely forgotten I'd seen this movie. Playing in the traditional blaxploitation slot, I was not looking for an Eddie Romero women in prison movie. Sid Haig and Pam Grier never fail to entertain, but I started fading about an hour into it. Sid was already dead, I knew the ending was a bummer, and I was ready for some rest.

Heading out into the lounge area, I had already been beaten to most of the good sleeping spots but found what I thought would be an ideal place beneath a picture window next to a heating vent. I figured I would get some warmth and have a pleasant nap. Two hours later I woke up shivering because the heat was apparently not on and the cold air leaking through the window had found its way under my heavy coat blanket/pillow and froze me out. I stumbled blearily through the lounge looking for refuge and found that someone had abandoned one of the couches. Score! I didn't wake up again until 8:00 when the Starbucks crew turned on their obnoxious new age ambient music. The longest stretch of unbroken sleep I've ever had at B-Fest still didn't quite prepare me for the innocuous stupidity of...

Andy Hardy's Private Secretary: Well, the last fifteen minutes of it, anyway. To the perverted minds of today, that title sounds like it should play in the old blue slot where we've had features like the porno version of Alice In Wonderland in past years. But this is gentle family drama with well-behaved upper class youth hijinks and a hefty side order of sexism. I'm so glad I didn't see the whole thing.


Can't Stop the Music: It's a disco musical dramatizing the fake story of how the Village People came to be. It's got full frontal nekkid schlong. It's two goddamn hours long. It's also a lot of fun at B-Fest. Sometimes the stuff you think you'd rather set your eyes on fire than watch can be the surprise standouts. Then you hit the 90 minute mark and remember it's two goddamn hours long. Even B-Fest itself decided it had had enough, when with about half an hour to go, a power outage not only shut the movie off but caused the screen to retract into the ceiling. Sort of the digital age version of when the film would snag and melt and break on the projector in past years. Sadly the DVD player remembered exactly where we were and we had to finish the movie once they got everything turned back on.


Alien from L.A.: An emotional roller coaster, going from fun to painful to fun and back again for maybe half the movie, before it settles permanently on painful and we all just twiddled our thumbs until it was over. All it really made me want to do was watch Danger Island again. I'm probably going to regret that decision when I get around to it.


Miami Connection: A terrible synth pop band who sing songs about friendship and tae kwon do, which they are also all proficient at, have to use their martial arts skills against a ninja drug cartel. Oh, and they're all orphans who live together in what appears to be a one bedroom apartment. It's certainly goofy and stupid and charming, but I think everyone else loves this movie a lot more than I do. Watching it with the B-Fest crowd greatly enhances its good qualities, but I don't think I could ever sit through it alone.


Viva Knievel: Evel Knievel and Gene Kelly must use the power of all-American stunt biking to defeat Leslie Nielsen and his drug cartel (sadly no ninjas this time, just some doughy white guys). Some cool stunts, as one would expect, but that's about it. It would have been nice to see the kaiju flick in its traditional closing slot instead of smack in the middle of my nap time. Granted I had watched Yongary just a week previous, but I'll take giant monsters over lame action movies any day of the week.

Just like that, it was over. Fond farewells were bid to those not joining us for the post-Fest trip to Portillo's (24 hours of nuts and granola left me ravenous for some greasy fried stuff). Tim made a lovely toast to absent friends, and it got us talking about how B-Fest is now only peripherally about the movies, and had we not made so many great and lasting friendships, none of us would probably still be driving to Chicago in the middle of January to watch some movies that we could just as easily watch at home. It's not a movie marathon any more. It's a family reunion.

May Tor bless you and keep you.
May Criswell make his face to shine upon you,
and be gracious to you.
May Bela lift up his countenance upon you,
and give you peace.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

B-Fest 2015 Part 1: Staring At Jade Carvings and Animals' Butts In Suburbia

The turn of the new year has seen some big changes in the Ragnarok household. Both Malorie and I are starting new jobs. Mine doesn't start until February 1, and so I have the week after B-Fest to run errands, get some writing done, and enjoy the biggest stretch of down time I've had since grade school and, barring a winning lottery ticket or getting lucky enough to become a full time writer, the biggest stretch I will probably see until I retire. Malorie's new gig, on the other hand, started the Wednesday of B-Fest week, and so it was that I set off for Chicago solo for the first time.

A recent update of my GPS maps seems to have altered something in the way Magic Voice sees the world, because barely more than an hour into the trip it took me in a different direction. Instead of taking Highway 20 all the way to the northern suburbs of Chicago, with a little jog at Belvedere to get around Rockford and some tollways, it swung me all the way down to Iowa City and in on a huge loop of interstates. It certainly wasn't as scenic and it definitely added some miles to the trip, with the tradeoff of actually being a little quicker because instead of crawling through a two hundred mile stretch of little towns with 25mph speed limits, you're rocking away at 65-70 the whole time. At the end of the day I think I still prefer the more rural Highway 20 route, but at least the mild panic that Magic Voice had flipped her lid kept things interesting.

I arrived at the Morton Grove Best Western around 2:30, where I met up with the inimitable Tim Lehnerer. Generosity was demonstrated and long-forged alliances were renewed as he presented me with this year's B-Fest mix CD (which includes some great music, as always, but this year also sparked a running joke that will be with us all for a long, long time in the form of the haunting driving theme from Truth or Dare: A Critical Madness) and another box of fantastic-looking books. I'm especially looking forward to reading Metal Rules the Globe. Then it was off to Half Price Books, where I had to show some restraint since although I've got one more paycheck coming from the old job, I am technically unemployed and as the new gig is partially commission-based, unsure of exactly how much money I'll be bringing in until I get good at it. Between trade-ins and a coupon, I got away with spending less than half what I did last year and scored a pile of really cool old Edgar Rice Burroughs pulp novels for dirt cheap, including The Land that Time Forgot, which I've been hunting for for ages.

Later that evening saw the arrival of Scott Ashlin and Jessica Ritchey, and Gavin Smith with his delightful lady friend Tori joined us for a delectable meal at the Palace restaurant. Phenomenal duck and almond pie, plus it's walking distance from the hotel and we all spent an entire day in our damn cars so no one wanted to drive anywhere. Not being on vacation like the rest of us slackers, Gavin and Tori had to skedaddle after supper, but the rest of us went back to the hotel for a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity. I also acquired all the currently available recordings of Scott's killer band, The Schismatics. Look them up, they kick ass. Think a punkier Iron Reagan and you'll be fairly close to the mark. Weary road warriors all of us, we turned in at a reasonable hour to meet up for breakfast the next day and being our suburban adventures.

Suburban adventures? I hear you asking. Well, yes. We've done the Field, the Shedd, the Art Institute, and so many other things in the city multiple times, and were feeling a little burned out on train rides and traffic fighting, so at the behest of Mr. Logistics Person, we headed into Chicagoland to seek new entertainments.

At the suggestion of one of the Best Western employees who always remembers the big dudes with glasses and Godzilla t-shirts who show up every winter, we checked out a diner called Kappy's. It was good, but not as good as Seven Brothers, which is, again, walking distance from the hotel. And of course nothing we've found so far is as good as the Omega Pancake House. From there we were off to the Cernan Space Center, which turned out to be one space suit, a couple of rocket engines, and a tack board with some articles ripped out of science magazines and pinned up. They can't all be winners. At least I got some neat glow-in-the-dark dinosaurs for myself and some freeze-dried astronaut ice cream for the kids, and perhaps the most ideal photo of Tim anyone will ever take.

Telstarman sensibly sets the anti theft system on his space capsule before turning his attentions to the conquest of Earth.
For all that the Space Center was a bust, our next stop at the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Arts was a resounding success. We learned some things about jade carving (despite looking incredibly fragile, it's only a couple of steps down the mineral hardness scale from diamond, which makes its ability to be worked in such fine and magnificent detail easier to understand), viewed many beautiful works of art, and got to look at a piece of rock that was 3.4 billion (yes, with a fucking B) years old. Mighty humbling, that is.

Chalcedony ghost skull is more metal than you.

Finally for Wednesday was Horrorbles, a horror collectibles shop. It occupies a tiny, odd little space with many cramped hallways and rooms, and it was really hard not to spend all of the money I have and ever will earn there. And then we went next door to Reel Art Collectibles, which was full of Godzilla and kaiju toys. Son of a bitch. I managed to restrict myself to a few Gamera chibis and the NECA Crimson Typhoon figure.

Back to the hotel to meet up with Jacob and Natasha, who gave me some lovely presents for my absent wife before we all headed off to the Himalayan for supper with Gavin (thanks for the Godzilla pen!), Edward, and his wife Melanie. Another round of Cards Against Humanity with Sampote Sands's Crocodile as background noise capped off the night.

Brookfield Zoo or bust on Thursday. The upside being it was a free day. The downside being that most of the large outdoor animals were in storage for the winter. We did get to see an Andean condor disembowel and devour a dead rat, and a black rhino taking a whiz, so that was fun. The reptile houses were a real treat, and I got a Mold-O-Rama alligator, but the real highlight was watching the otter run around chirping and being cute. If you don't love otters, you have a problem. The running theme for the day seemed to be that every animal we went to look at was dead set on presenting us with an unobstructed view of its butt. Of course, if I was put on display I would do nothing but moon my visitors too, so I can't really blame them.

Eyelash viper.

Exhausted but happy, we hit a little sandwich shop called Mr. Submarine for a late lunch, and then went to the Galloping Ghost arcade to spend the rest of the day reliving our childhoods. Well, most of us did. I never played many video games as a kid, but they did have the single greatest arcade game of all time: Lucky and Wild. For those not fortunate enough to have had one of these in your hometown arcade, it's a booth game where one person drives and shoots, with a second gun for a passenger. Or, if you're feeling wild and crazy, you can cram three people in and have two shooters while the driver just concentrates on dodging the un-dodgeable obstacles. You play as a pair of cops on the edge who play by their own rules, chasing down a variety of bad guys driving monster trucks, armored tractor-trailers with flamethrowers, Lamborghinis with laser turrets and the like, while their minions in black cars and motorcycles throw Molotov cocktails and grenades at you. Essentially it's Cannon Films: The Video Game. I have no idea how many quarters my friends and I pumped into that thing in high school, but it was a lot and it was money well spent. They also had a Godzilla/Ultraman cabinet that I had seen a console version of at G-Fest, which was neat, but my attention span for video games is fairly short so I spent most of the time playing pinball instead. The Creature from the Black Lagoon table is a beast.



Having downed an enormous and rather late lunch and feeling a little wobbly from either the van ride (typically as long as I'm not riding in the back the motion sickness doesn't get me, but it had been a long day) or the eight pounds of corned beef and garlic fries lodged in my gullet, I considered skipping the Hala Kahiki. I said last year that I had grown weary of the place, but this year it redeemed itself. I figure since I only get to see my B-Fest friends once a year, I should spend every minute with them that I could, and so I decided to give the tiki bar another chance. Since Malorie had to skip this year, Fistula and I decided to bunk together to save a little money. He had arrived while we were out, so we returned to the hotel to regroup and grab him and Lisa and Tim's friend Dave, both of whom had also arrived earlier in the day, and off to fruity booze land we went.

The past few years we've been stuck at the line of tables in front of the door rather than the back room we prefer, and this year was no exception despite Tim calling ahead for the group, but since this year was a sadly slim one for the BMMB regulars, we were able to keep up a lively round of chat. And for all that last year's waitress was surly and inattentive, the gal helping us this year was friendly and always right behind you the second your glass was empty asking if you wanted another. I stuck with lighter vodka drinks, figuring dark heavy rum would really do a number on my already questionable stomach. A few refreshing lemon and grape juice drinks settled things down nicely and before long I was back to full operational power.

Back to Jacob and Natasha's room to watch Daoism Drunkard, but despite the insanity of the watermelon monster, the events of the day began to catch up with us and we turned in to prepare for the Fest of B.

Friday morning saw Fistula and I driving into the city to do some galavanting with Scott, Jessica, and Lisa before the show. A visit to the Gallery bookstore and a used CD/DVD shop the name of which I can never remember, and then Scott aimed his van toward cinemasochist Heaven and we rode to our fate at the hands of A&O Films.



Sunday, January 18, 2015

Beast of Hollow Mountain (1956)

Written by: Robert Hill, Jack Dewitt, and Willis O'Brien
Directed by: Edward Nassour and Ismael Rodriguez
Starring:
Guy Madison as Jimmy Ryan
Patricia Medina as Sarita
Carlos Rivas as Felipe Sanchez


Dinosaurs. I'm willing to bet a solid majority of us b-movie fans can trace our love of monsters back to a childhood obsession with the terrible lizards that ruled our planet for hundreds of millions of years. I certainly can. My earliest movie theater memories are Godzilla vs. the Cosmic Monster and Journey to the Beginning of Time. Talk about truth being stranger than fiction! You dig up a picture of the craziest, most outlandish monster from any movie or Ultraman episode you've ever seen, and I guarantee you I can top it with an actual animal from Earth's prehistory.

Thus it is that I'm kicking off 2015 by joining Checkpoint Telstar by celebrating one of the underdogs of the dinosaur world, the Allosaurus. Today, the Checkpoint is discussing the best cowboys vs. Allosaurus movie ever made, while I will be handling the worst cowboys vs. Allosaurus movie ever made. Mind you, there were only ever two cowboys vs. Allosaurus movies made, this dinosaur theme was Tim's idea so he got to pick the good stuff, and, well, it does say “masochist” right there in the title, doesn't it? Interestingly, the two cowboys vs. Allosaurus movies both come, via the rather circuitous route of Hollywood's digestive system, from the same original script by legendary stop-motion artist Willis O'Brien, mirroring the story of how several collections of fossils originally thought to be from different dinosaurs all turned out to belong to Allosaurus in the end. Funny the ways in which art imitates life, eh?

The first known Allosaurus fossils were sent to astoundingly prolific anatomy and natural history professor Joseph Leidy by fossil collector Ferdinand Vandiveer Hayden (incidentally, I cannot recommend highly enough the book Legacy of the Mastodon by Keith Stewart Thomson if you're interested in the history of American paleontology) in 1869. Initially Leidy lumped it in with an existing genus, but later decided to promote it to its own genus, Antrodemus.

Several years later, Othniel Charles Marsh gave the name Allosaurus to a different set of fossils, and he and his bitter rival Edward Drinker Cope went on a terribly unscientific spree of making up as many new genus and species as they could from extremely incomplete collections gathered throughout the American West. This sort of publish-first-study-evidence-later behavior was so much the norm in the early days of natural history that it's really quite amazing they ever managed to establish a proper science out of it at all. If I go too much farther into it here I'm going to end up writing a thesis paper instead of a movie review, so suffice to say a great deal of those fossils wound up belonging to the same animal, and after several rounds of back-and-forth between Antrodemus and Allosaurus, the scientific community and popular opinion landed on Allosaurus and here we are.

We meet our heroes Jimmy and Felipe, along with their head ranch hand Manuel, searching for a herd of lost cattle in the swampy area around Hollow Mountain, an area said by the locals to be cursed. The superstitious Manuel is convinced that whatever demonic entity occupies the titular geographic landmark has eaten them. The more pragmatic Felipe, on the other hand, is convinced that their competitor Don Enrique has either stolen their cattle or simply driven them into the swamp to drown. The evidence would seem to suggest Felipe is closer to the mark when they find a steer that appears to have been driven into the swamp on purpose to mislead the ranchers. More on this later, as Felipe nearly drowns in a patch of quicksand, and Jimmy calls a halt to their search to head back to town and regroup.

Here it is that we meet Pancho and Panchito, a father/son combo who simultaneously provide the comic relief and the heart of the human drama of the story. I don't think it's actually supposed to be the heart of the human drama, but these two are much better characters than our supposed heroes, so I prefer to think this story is about them and the boring love triangle bullshit is the B plot. Our introduction to the duo is Panchito trying to talk his drunk father out of leaving the local tavern and come back to the house to sleep off a drunken bender that we can infer has lasted for rather a long time. Pancho gets funny fat guy music to dispel any doubts we may have about his place in the world, as if being a drunk fat guy with a droopy mustache isn't enough of a cue in a movie like this. But then we get the much more human scene of Pancho telling his son that he drinks to forget Mrs. Pancho, who is in heaven. Already we get a taste of the schizophrenic way these characters will be presented, with stupid oompah music presenting the comedic Mexican drunk (because it wouldn't be as funny if it was a white guy), immediately followed by giving him a brutally depressing real-life reason for drinking while simultaneously portraying the no-more-than-10-year-old Panchito as not only having lost his mother but having to take care of his drunk father. And then we get a scene of the fat drunk guy comedically attempting to mount a horse immediately followed by his falling off the horse in a scene that it would be a miracle if the stunt man survived without a broken neck!

Luckily Jimmy is riding through town at this moment so he can rescue Pancho and gain his life-long loyalty. If only Pancho knew how short a lifespan he had left to him. But sure enough, the next morning he and Panchito are at Jimmy and Felipe's ranch, milking cows and feeding ducks, to show their commitment to Pancho's savior. Pancho even promises to give up drinking so he can continue to work on the ranch. Of course, his loyalty overtakes his common sense so that he runs off into the swamp to hunt for Jimmy's cattle, and he becomes the first victim of the dinosaur that will soon be causing problems for everyone involved.

Meanwhile, Jimmy has a confrontation with Don Enrique, once more accusing him of cattle rustling, while Enrique slams Jimmy right back about undercutting his prices and stealing his business. He seems genuinely confused and frustrated at Jimmy's continued accusations of cownapping, but hell, if he's destined to be the bad guy of the piece anyway, he may as well play the part. And when he sees his bride-to-be Sarita riding into town the next day on the back of Jimmy's horse (the Allosaurus ate hers, but they don't know that yet and think it just ran away), he seals the deal with fisticuffs and a dastardly plan.

On the day of the wedding of Sarita to Don Enrique, a couple of hired guns are all set to cause a stampede of Jimmy and Felipe's herd outside of town to ruin their business once and for all. Meanwhile, the large congregation of cattle has tempted the ravenous Allosaurus out of its swamp, and the creature sets off the stampede early so it's headed straight for the town. Can Jimmy stop the cattle and the dinosaur before it's too late? Well, it's the 50's, so probably yeah.

The big complaint about this movie is that it takes forever to get to see the dinosaur. Where most movies of this sort would at least give us glimpses of the creature here and there to get us excited for the main action, Beast of Hollow Mountain keeps the monster completely off screen until the movie is damn near over. Obviously that was done just to save money, but it has an effect on the story that I don't think the filmmakers intended. It makes Don Enrique seem not at all villainous. Our only visual cues that he's supposed to be the bad guy is that he wears dark colors and has a very well-groomed bad guy mustache and slicked back hair. On the other hand, he's getting married to the tough, independent daughter of the richest guy in the area. She doesn't seem very enthused about it, like it's more a marriage of convenience because they're both rich and what else would she do, marry a poor guy out of love? But she never seems to hate or fear him, and she's definitely not the type that would put up with any kind of abuse, so he's definitely not some kind of domineering monster. When it comes to dealing with Jimmy, well, constantly being accused of being a violent criminal by your upstart business rival would piss off everyone. Even when Jimmy says he follows government pricing and Enrique overcharges for his beef and does dirty deals under the table, we have no evidence that this is true other than it's a white guy accusing a Mexican. That may have been enough in 1956 to make it clear cut, and even today we're geared to root for the little guy over the big businessman, but all the evidence here points to Don Enrique being rich and successful simply because he's good at what he does, and after months of incessant needling by some chump whose business is failing because he had the godawful shitty luck to set up his ranch as a buffet for a dinosaur, finally just throws up his hands and says, “Fuck it, you want me to be the bad guy? I'll be the goddamn bad guy then if it'll get me rid of you, you little bastard. And stop making eyes at my girl!”

It's not high drama, but it made all the sitting around waiting for the dinosaur to show up a lot more interesting than it probably would have been otherwise. In fact, once the dinosaur shows up, it almost makes you wish the drama would come back. The fact that our first glimpse of the dinosaur is a stuntman wearing a pair of dinosaur feet that are slightly less convincing than those plush Godzilla slippers you can get from Toy Vault sets the mood nicely for the disappointment to follow. While there is a little bit of true stop-motion using an articulated puppet that looks very much like an O'Brien designed creature, the great majority of the beast's scenes are done using a much cheaper and faster technique called replacement animation. This is done using a series of static figures, each sculpted in a slightly different posture. Put one down, shoot a couple of frames, put the next one in the series down, shoot a couple frames, etc.

The biggest downside to this is the replacement animation figures are much smaller and far less detailed than the articulated head used for the closeups, so there's a huge gap in quality between the two (and the less said about those feet the better). There is one sequence of Jimmy and Enrique on horseback being chased by the dinosaur that actually looks pretty damn good aside from the shoddy matte job, where the movement of the creature is very fluid and lifelike as it runs. Unfortunately, it must have been decided that when the dinosaur was just walking it didn't look dynamic enough, so more body movement was required to make it look more realistic. The result is that it constantly waggles its apparently three-foot-long tongue around like Gene Simmons and rolls its hips in a ridiculously jaunty swagger. It's dino burlesque!

This was the first movie to use stop-motion animation and be shot in color and Cinemascope widescreen, so that may go some way toward explaining why they didn't have any money to spend on the dinosaur, but I think at the end of the day it would have been a better business decision to go black and white and have a better looking creature. It has sort of the opposite effect of watching The Land Unknown, which sacrificed color film for production value. Instead of wondering why a movie that should be cheap looks comparatively lavish, with Beast you find yourself captivated by the sweeping vistas and great cinematography, only to be brought crashing back to reality by those goofy floppy monster feet.

Now head on over to Checkpoint Telstar for some more Allosaurus action!

Friday, January 9, 2015

I Still Function...

Fear not, good readers.  I have not abandoned you to the cold and hoary wastes of the internet.  There will be new reviews aplenty this year.  The last couple of months have been extremely hectic and exhausting, but good things are afoot.  I will elaborate once things have finally settled down and are firmly in place. 

I've also been working on a few follow up stories to "Putting the Ground to Sleep", my piece in the mighty fifty-story anthology Dead Harvest: A Collection of Dark Tales, which was published this November.  I hope everyone likes them as much as they seem to have enjoyed the last one.  Or at least enough to publish them somewhere, anyway.

In the meantime, B-Fest is two weeks away, and I am ready for a well-earned vacation.  Unless it's the most boring five days of my existence (and honestly, spending a few quiet days with great friends would be just fine with me, but doubtless there will be misadventure aplenty, generosity demonstrated and alliances forged) the traditional travelogue writeup will follow.

Check back often, follow for updates, shoot me an e-mail, leave a comment, whatever you wish.  I'll see you all soon.  2015 looks to hold great promise, and I want to share it with you all.

Cheers,
Rags


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Mondo Cannibal (2004)

Written by: Bruno Mattei and Giovanni Paolucci
Directed by: Bruno Mattei
Starring:
Helena Wagner as Grace Forsyte
Claudio Morales as Bob Manson
Cindy Matic as Cindy Blair

I thought it would be amusing to bookend Thanksgiving with a couple of cannibal movies, mostly because I had just bought a couple of cannibal movies and figured I needed an excuse to prioritize their viewing above some of the higher quality entertainment that's waiting for me on my shelves. I still haven't finished the Lone Wolf and Cub Blu ray set, for example, nor have I finished the extras on the Criterion Collection edition of Cronos, or even taken the shrink wrap off of Videodrome. Last week, we took a look at Bruno Mattei's Predator/Cannibal Holocaust fusion experiment, In the Land of the Cannibals. This time around, we have his straight up remake of Cannibal Holocaust, which was shot back to back with the other movie and features a lot of the same cast and crew.

This time around, Mattei actually expended a bit of thought on updating the story of his movie, rather than cut-and-pasting exact copies of scenes from other movies together. In one case, he is even so bold as to try to one-up the reigning king of Italian gut-munchers. The result is almost as clumsy and stupid as In the Land of the Cannibals from the writing and acting standpoint, but on a technical level is a much better looking movie. Or at least as much better looking as a movie can be when it's shot on such a low grade of video that it looks like it was produced for a PBS affiliate some time in the late 80's.

Grace Forsyte is a tough-as-nails journalist who hosts a news magazine program called Face to Face. Her ratings have been slipping behind as every other station has jumped on the salacious reality TV bandwagon, pulling in the viewers while she insists on journalistic integrity and real stories. She is called in to her boss's office at TVN, the station she works for, to be informed that her show is being canceled unless she can pull the ratings out of the tank. On the way to work that morning, she saw an old friend on TV who she thinks might just be her way out of this predicament.

I have a hard time believing any place in the world would allow the nauseating footage of real funeral rites shown in this bit on an outdoor public Jumbotron, but then again, as Mattei lets us know in his own special way, this is Hong Kong (these are the people who think rape and ebola are a solid basis for a slapstick comedy, after all).

Marvel at my high-tech screen cap technology!

Meanwhile, activist documentary filmmaker Bob Manson receives a call from his backers informing him that no one cares any more about the rainforests being cut down and native tribes being ruined by contact with civilization and all that other boring hippy-dippy crap he keeps spouting off about, and that his funding has been cut. Before he even has time to consider selling himself as the human cast member of a donkey show to raise money to buy a ticket home, Grace enters the little tavern and offers him a proposition. She wants to team up with him as her guide, using his expertise with local tribes to take them deep into the jungle to find some real live cannibals to put on TV. It's a win-win scenario; Bob gets the full resources of a huge television network to continue his work raising awareness about the plight of the rainforest, and Grace gets to show humans eating other humans on her show. That ought to bring in some ratings. Suck it, Fear Factor!

We all know what happens from here. Turns out most of the local cannibal tribes dropped full-on headhunting warfare generations ago and are now boringly peaceful. However, the film crew hear occasional rumors on their journey about a tribe called the Invisible People, who may be just the band of savages they're looking for. They eventually succeed in finding them, and though a few of their primitive rituals are shocking, it would appear they are no more interesting on the whole than any of the other tribes the film crew has encountered. Inevitably, they decide to stir the pot a bit in an attempt to incite the natives to violent action, but once they get that boulder rolling down the hill, its momentum proves difficult to stop, and the situation gets rapidly, fatally, out of control.

After the occasionally amusing but ultimately disappointing In the Land of the Cannibals, I was prepared to get a few chuckles in but in the end, be let down again. I was pleasantly surprised, then, that Mondo Cannibal is the superior of the two movies. That's not to say it's good, mind you. The movie is still comprised primarily of Bruno swinging for the fences and hitting himself in the face with the bat instead. It's just that whereas the previous movie filled the time between hilarious incompetencies with boredom, this one fills it with some stuff that genuinely works.

To start with, I'll touch a bit more on what I said up top about Mattei actually putting some thought into the script. Much had changed in the world of broadcast journalism and communications technology in the years between 1980 and 2004. Rather than having an entire second cast have to trek expensively into the jungle to retrieve film canisters to compile the atrocity footage later, the film crew in Mondo Cannibal has a digital camera with a satellite uplink that transmits the footage directly back to TVN headquarters, where the show's producer and Dick Cheney impersonator extraordinaire can watch and be sickened by it immediately. In this flick, it's this guy who delivers the, “Who are the real cannibals?” line, staring directly into the camera while doing so.

Smashing down the Fourth Wall, and selling the rebuilding contracts to Halliburton!

The footage is also being edited together as it comes in and broadcast in episodes as part of an ongoing special, so some of the horrors prior to the crew being eaten alive are actually seen by the viewing public to a boom in ratings that practically bankrupts TVN's competition. We see several of the scenes repeated on a TV in the boardroom, presumably showing the finished and broadcast version of events approved by the TVN top brass, which means that when they burn down a village and slaughter most of the residents to make it look like they were attacked by another tribe, the audience at home sees Grace, Bob, and the crew gleefully beating, shooting and burning people alive and cause a ratings coup that makes the Superbowl look like a 3:30am rerun of Perfect Strangers! And you thought Ruggero Deodato's view of humanity was cynical. Damn!

There's also some excellent gore on display. They presumably didn't have the time, money, or know-how to recreate the iconic chick-on-a-stick from Cannibal Holocaust (, but as I said before, Mattei did try to one-up Deodato on another, less well remembered scene. The abortion in Cannibal Holocaust is so unnerving to me precisely because you don't see much of it – just a couple of quick flashes of something pink and vaguely baby-shaped before it gets buried in the mud of a riverbank. Here, Mattei opts for the full-on gore gross out, with the pregnant woman's belly sliced open and the baby removed and displayed to the camera. While it's certainly icky, getting a good look at what appears to be one of those jumbo Gummy Bears covered in raspberry jam takes most of the wind out of the scene's sails. That is, until they drop it on the ground and start stepping on it. No matter how fake it looks, seeing that thing squish up through a bunch of toes is horrible. Not a patch on the original, but still icky.

There's also some full frontal animal violence. The native guide guts and skins a monitor lizard in plain view of the camera. Definitely the low point of the movie, as animal snuff footage always is, but it also brings me to my next point. Mattei may be a total klutz when it comes to writing and getting a performance out of his non-actors, but he's a hell of a visual mimic. The reason there was a dead pig in In the Land... was because there was a dead pig in Predator, and actual dead pigs are cheaper than building realistic special effects pigs. We don't see the demise of the pig in In the Land... not because it was considered too grotesque, but simply because we don't actually see the pig bite it in Predator either.

I think that's a big part of the reason In the Land... was more of a failure than Mondo Cannibal. Mattei simply bit off more than he could chew trying to reproduce big budget action scenes. He copied every set piece as closely as he could, right down to the blocking. Without the money for plasma beams and huge explosions and light-bending alien monsters, all he could manage were a couple of rubber spears and some M80's blowing up buckets of slaughterhouse guts. But playing in the mud with gore and a video camera? Even the most impoverished hack can pull that off reasonably well. And when you're copying from the very best, even your worst can't reach the absolute doldrums of suck. All he needed was a copy of Cannibal Holocaust to cue up whenever he needed to take notes on how to do a particular shot and presto! Instant semi-competent cannibal flick. It's the parts where he tries to make the movie his own where things go off the rails in truly spectacular fashion.

As I said before, we get the “Who are the real cannibals?” bit out of the way well before the movie is over, so what could possibly be the big stinger required to drive home the point that we've already had jackhammered down our throats for the last 90 minutes? I honestly don't have a damn clue because it doesn't make a lick of sense. The final bit of jungle footage ends as the camera man gets his skull crushed by a club, and the TVN board members express dismay not at the brutal ends met by their team, but that they won't have any more atrocity footage to scoop the other networks with (again, making Deodato seem positively cheerful by comparison)! The evil producer guy (not the one who looks like Cheney, but another one who looks like the guy that played Karl Rove on That's My Bush) claims that their money train hasn't pulled into the station yet, because thanks to the wonders of virtual reality, they can claim their team are still alive and have the audience participate in an interactive search for them, and even determine where in the world they'll go next! What the fuck!? I can't even begin to figure out how we're supposed to take that. It's like they realized they'd already done the bit they were supposed to end on and decided the solution would be to take all the drugs they could find in Manila and use the first thing they could come up with in a fit of narcotic insanity.

If you're a fan of the gruesome, the absurd, or the just plain stupid, this one is definitely worth checking out. There's something here for everyone. Unless you like your entertainment to have class and quality. But if that were the case, you wouldn't be reading this, now would you?