Thursday, January 31, 2013

Squirm - Death by Annelids

Directed by - Jeff Lieberman
Written by - Jerff Lieberman
Starring - Don Scardino, Patricia Pearcy, R.A. Dow & Peter Maclean

Tag Lines: 
An avalanche of killer worms.....writhing across the land in a tidal wave of terror!

This was the night of the CRAWLING TERROR!

The Night is Crawling with Killers!

Alternate Titles:
A Noite do Terror Rastejante  (The Creeping Terror Night)  Portugal
I carnivori venuti dalla savana (Carnivores Have Come From The Bush)  Italy
La nuit des vers géants (Night Giant Worms) France
Maskarna (Worms)  Sweden
Squirm - Krälande fasa (Crawling Terror)  Sweden (Video)
Matelijat (Reptiles(?))  Finland
Squirm - Gusanos asesinos (Worms Murderers)  Spain
Squirm - Invasion der Bestien (Invasion of Beasts)  West Germany
Τα σκουληκια (Worms)  Greece

When I was in about 1st grade or so, I remember standing at the bus stop one morning with my sister and a couple neighborhood kids.  I was watching at a couple of earthworms that seemed to be locked in mortal combat, twisting and turning and flipping about in the grass.  I was fascinated by earthworms at the time, I dunno why....but I was.  Anyway, as I watching the wormy cage match, one of the the girls standing with us came over to see what had my attention.  As soon as she looked, she shrieked "Eeeewwww, they're DOING IT!"  Then the whole bus ride to school she excitedly told everyone on the bus.  I was mad at her because I felt that she trespassed into my little worm fight and turned if from a fight to the death it.  Turns out worm reproduction is far more horrifying than what we witnessed.  Earthworms are spontaneous hermaphrodites and they couple up and form slime tubes and splook all over each other.  I just threw up a little in my mouth.

Okay, so anyway, years later, I caught this insane little flick and and somehow that memory and this movie have become forever fused together.  Lucky me.....and lucky you for having that shared with you.  The first time I saw Squirm, it was a Saturday morning and it was on Mystery Science Theater 3000.  It wasn't until maybe ten years ago that I finally saw the film in it's complete and un-MST3K'd format.  The film still retains that fun Saturday morning vibe for me though.....I guess mainly due to nostalgia.

The film starts with one of those fun text crawls that set the mood for the film and give it that "This was based on a true story" vibe.  Then we're treated to scenes of a severe thunderstorm that down power lines which cause thousands upon thousands of worms to wriggle up through the earth and go on a rampage.  No, I'm not kidding.  The flick just gets more and more antique dealer is found partially skeletonized....I just made up that word.  And I like it.  Skeletonized.

We get the usual worms crawling through plumbing and coming out of the shower head bit and a pretty nifty scene of bloodworms burrowing under the skin of a guys face.  That's pretty groovy.  Though it becomes unclear if said redneck is then controlled somehow by these worms or is just driven further nuts by the pain.  I could go back and try to hit the major plot points for you.....but.....after watching the movie again....I really don't want to.  Don't get me wrong, Squirm can be a fun little low budget nature run amok movie but one that you only drag out once every few years to watch.

If you wanna watch this, I would recommend starting with the MST3K version to be honest.  The banter is pretty funny and it definitely helps to get you through the boring talky parts (of which there are a few).  If you dig that, THEN go for the uncut version....which has a little more gore (not much) and worm action.  The climax of the film, in which the worms go on an all out rampage IS a pretty ludicrous spectacle to behold.

Midnight Cinephile Totals:

Boob Count:  We get a shower scene that shows a wee bit of skin, but nothing exciting.

Body Count:  Well, there's the dead Skeletonized™ antique dealer and then there's Roger, the crazed inbred redneck who first gets worms burrowed into his face and then gets tossed into a giant mass of worms.  I think that a bunch of townsfolk died to.....but it's never explicitly said.

Beast Count:  Worms man.  Thousands of worms.  Soooo many worms.  You could say a shit ton of worms.  Doing it.  Not really.  Well, maybe some of them were.....who knows.

Final Thoughts:
There are worse films that you could watch.  If you like Jeff Lieberman's work, this would also be worth checking out.  Lieberman wrote and directed such classics as Blue Sunshine, Just Before Dawn and Satan's Little Helper.  Also The Neverending Story III.....which is not a classic.

Final Rating:
Two Pizza Rolls out of Five

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Black Books: The Grapes of Wrath - Dr Frankenstein Makes Some Wine

As is most often the case for me, the shows that I love best are short lived.  Whether it be the classic 80's sci-fi cop show, Automan (1 Season, 13 Episodes), the awesome 90's War of the Worlds series (2 Seasons, 43 Episodes) or Black Books, which lasted only 3 Seasons, but carried a scant 18 episodes (only 6 per season).

Black Books is possibly the most hilarious British Comedy I have ever seen.  Actually, let me take that a step further.  It may quite possibly be the most hilarious TV Show, EVER.  Each episode is a masterwork in humor.  A perfect mix of dry British humor and absolute absurdity mesh together in the story of Bernard Black (Dylan Moran) and his second-hand bookstore.  Along with his assitant Manny (the ever hilarious Bill Baily) and next door shop owner Fran (Tamsin Grieg), the trio quite often stumble through the daylight hours in various hungover states while getting themselves into ever more ridiculous situations.  Perhaps someday I will write up a full entry on the series, but
today I really want to talk about one of my favorite episodes, called The Grapes of Wrath.

The episode beings with a monastery in 1900 Bordeaux where monks discover grapes grown from a thorned rose bush.  According to a prophecy, these grapes will be made into a wine which would be fit for the Holy Father himself.  Back in present day, we find that Manny is getting distressed by the filth in the store and the living quarters behind it.  He calls in help from a creepy fellow simply called The Cleaner.  Bernard is not very happy with Manny (as usual) protesting that the apartment isn't that dirty.  When the cleaner arrives, they are told that they will need to vacate the living quarters while he cleans.

As it so happens, their friend Freddie is going away and asks the boys to house sit for him.  Not having anywhere else to go, they agree.  Once at Freddie's they are given the tour.  Freddie takes Manny into the basement and shows him two wine racks.  One large one is full of ordinary wine and they can drink as much of it as they like.  Next to it is a smaller rack with old dusty bottles of wine, which are quite expensive.  One of them, called Le Vin du Rosier is to be presented to The Pope.

Freddie leaves and the boys make themselves at home and get to drinking some wine (which is a very common pastime for them).  When going down to the basement to get another bottle, an inebriated Manny mixes up the wine racks, and grabs the Le Vin du Rosier by mistake.  They drink the entire bottle and it is only afterward that Manny realized his mistake.  Looking up Le Vin du Rosier in a wine book, he discovers that it costs £7,000 (over $11,000 USD)!

The two of them concoct a scheme to replace the wine with a homebrew "Super Wine" by combining different wines, some nutmeg and a branch from an Oak tree.  This is one of the most hilarious scenes in the entire series.  Bernard becomes a vineyard Frankenstein, with Manny taking up the role of his Igor.  Manny (after chipping his tooth on some Taffy and an accident with a neck massager which leaves him with a cricked neck and a limp) shuffles back and forth bringing Bernard his needed ingredients.  Bernard cackles maniacally as he (in his mind) skillfully blends the ingredients.....and even beating him after sending out to grab some Oak from the tree outside.  I must have rewound this scene about 12 times, laughing harder each time.  It is truly comedic gold.

There is a subplot involving Fran's date with a clearly gay man, which is pretty humorous as well.  Fran's failed attempts at being seductive are quite amusing, indeed.  Naturally the date fails and at the end of the episode, the shop and Bernard and Manny's apartment are back to messy status.  Manny shows Bernard a newpaper stating that The Pope has died from ingesting inferior wine and Fran shows up with her new date.......The Cleaner.

Black Books is available to watch streaming on Netflix and on Amazon Instant Video.  If you have not seen this series, do so immediately.  If you love British comedies, then you will undoubtedly love Black Books.

The Brady Bunch: Out of This World - Peter and Bobby Have a Close Encounter!

Whoa....what the hell is going on here?  The Brady Bunch on Midnight Cinephile?  You bet!  In particular the classic Season 5 episode, Out of This World in which Peter and Bobby see a UFO and typical Sherwood Schwartz hilarity ensues.  I hadn't thought about The Brady Bunch in a long time, let alone this episode, but I happened upon it late one night and immediately knew that I needed to babble about it here.

"To Peter and Bill...."
 The episode starts with Peter and Bobby getting an autograph from Brigadier General James A. McDivitt, who was being interview on a TV show about his UFO sighting.  That night, Bobby wakes Peter up when he hears a strange sound outside.  The boys look out the window to see a bright red UFO hovering in the sky.  The boys excited tell everyone what they saw and are naturally met with skepticism.  Determined to get proof, the boys camp out in the back yard with Carol's camera and snap photos when the UFO re-appears.

RUUUUNNNNN!  The Invasion has begun!

Bobby and Peter realize that they are about to be probed.....

After the photos are developed, Mike makes a call to the Air Force to have them look at the photos and get their expert opinion.  The Air Force sends Captain McCartney to The Brady residence to investigate.  The Captain doesn't believe in UFO's, until the strange noise is heard again and he see's the glowing red phenomena for himself.  He immediately starts to call his superiors to report the incident.  Things are not quite as them seem however, as it turns out that Greg has been pulling a prank of Peter and Bobby.  He shows the general how he created the UFO with a clear plastic tarp, a red flashlight and a whistle.  Being that this is The Brady Bunch, all's well that ends well and Greg is let off the hook by the Captain in return for Greg's silence that The Captain fell for the prank himself.

There is a fun sequence in which Bobby dreams that the UFO lands he he meets the occupants, little green skin folk called Kaplutians.  They want to take Bobby to their home planet to meet their people.  They promise to have him back in a short amount of time...."about 3,000 years".

I had a caption for this....but it was far from appropriate.

The whole episode is quite charming and while there are many other episodes that are far more recognized such as Season 4's The Subject Was Noses, (in which Marcia makes two dates for Saturday night, then is accidentally hit in the nose by a football that Peter and Bobby are playing with..) this episode really captures what I loved about the show when I was a kid.

Where's Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones when you need them?!?

When I was but a wee little cinephile, I used to get all sorts of books on UFO's from the public library.  I would study all the pictures and try to imagine what it would be like to actually see a real life UFO.  This episode let me kind of see what it would be like.....and incidentally also introduced me to the concept of UFO hoaxing.

Out of This World aired on January 18th, 1974, toward the end of the 5th season (It was episode 16 of 22)  and as far as I'm concerned is one of the best.  If you like finding "out there" episodes of retro tv shows, you can't go wrong with this one!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Tasmanian Devils - Winnie Cooper vs. Carnivorous Marsupials

Tasmanian Devils
Director - Zach Lipovsky
Writer - Brook Durham
Starring - Danica McKellar, Kennith Mitchell, Apolo Ohno

Tag Line:   The Hunt Has Begun

Alternative Titles:  None

Hoo-boy.  As you know, I have a weak spot for bad movies and Syfy is always pretty gracious with their Saturday night flicks.  Enter Tasmanian Devils, a creature feature starring Danica McKellar.  Yep, that's right, Winnie Fucking Cooper!  That was enough to sell me on it.  Was it worth it?  Well....yes and no.

Nailed it!!!!!
Tasmanian Devils is about a group of base jumpers who head to Devil's Peak in Tasmania....which is located in the middle of government protected wilderness.  These geniuses bring along $50k with them to bribe the officials who will most certainly be coming along to arrest them.  Ah yes....good ol' fashioned American egotism.  Anyway, they land their chopper on top of the peak (which is really less of a peak and more of a plateau....but hey....let's not split hairs here...), gear up and head to the cliff face.

The Wonder Years: 20 Years Later - Winnie Got a Gun

Stone is a noob and this is his first jump.....naturally you wouldn't make your first jump something easy and legal.  Nope, you wanna make it a 3,000 foot high chunk of rock in the middle of hostile wilderness in a foreign country.  So, Stone is having second thoughts and after some razzing from his friends takes the plunge.  Then the dumbass waits too long to pull his 'chute.  Crashing through the trees, he manages to fall through a hole in the rocks below....a hole that's about three feet wide.  After falling through said, hole, he then manages to land smack dab on a stalagmite, which naturally impales him.  This doesn't kill him though.  Even more amazing is the fact that he is impaled with a giant stalagmite obviously severing his spine and his legs are still moving!  Anyway, turns out he fell into a cave that the Aborigines used as a sort of sacred sacrificial offering place.  His blood has awakened some ancient monster Tasmanian Devils with glowing mouths.

The jumpers get arrested by Alex (McKellar) and her fellow rangers, but things get out of control fast when her two colleagues mauled by the Devils.  Alex releases the group and they must now stick together a find a way to survive the onslaught of Tasmanian Devil attacks. So as you can see, there's not much in the way of new material here, in terms of story.  However there is some fun gore to be had in this one.

"I'm just gonna stick around here guys......guys?"
We get the aforementioned impalement by stalagmite (which he then gets ripped off of the stalagmite by a Devil), we get a dude who's cheek has been run through by a sharp branch of a tree, effectively pinning him to the tree by his face.  A woman gets ripped in two, a guy gets half of his face swiped off and more!  So there's some good grue here for you gorehounds.

It's just like ET!  Only with no bike, no aliens....and a Tasmanian Devil...
There are plenty of absolutely insane moments that make absolutely no sense as well.  Such as when one of the jumpers (who is an NYC cop....yet is dumb enough to partake in this whole illegal jump) builds a makeshift flamethrower, MacGuyver style.  When he's asked how he knew how to make it, he responds that he once arrested a kid who made one from specs on the internet.  So....yeah.  However this does lead to a rather cool moment with Alex wielding the flamethrower and toasting one of the Devils.  It was very Ripleyesque.

Midnight Cinephile Totals

Body Count:  Seven.  Not really high, but as I mentioned above the deaths are gory and fun.  I think my favorite is the face swipe.

Boob Count:  Keep dreaming.  This is a Syfy original.  Though McKellar is wearing a rather nice white tank top.

Beast Count:  There are six of the titular creatures in all.  Sadly they are all computer animated and it looks like they came out of a Playstation 2 game.  At least one corporeal creature would have been nice, rather than completely digital, but's Syfy.

Final Thoughts:

I was tempted to turn this one off after about half an hour, but I kept with it and ultimately I'm glad I did.  It's completely inept and ridiculous, but not without it's charms....most of all the beautiful Danica McKellar.  I hadn't seen in her in much as of late, save for an appearance on The Big Bang Theory and an interview on Attack of the Show, in which she was promoting the books she had written to help kids learn.  Only researching her a bit more for this review did I find out that she posed for Maxim Magazine and Stuff Magazine a few years ago.  Holy hell, I've fallen in love with Winnie Cooper all over again.

Final Rating:
Two out of Five Pizza Rolls

Thursday, January 24, 2013

John Dies At The End - A Coscarellian Trip Through Time, Space and Dimensions

John Dies At The End
Director - Don Coscarelli
Writer - Don Coscarelli (Screenplay) David Wong (Original Novel)
Starring - Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Fabianne Therese

Tag Line:
Just so you know.....they're sorry for anything that's about to happen.

Alternate Title:
Džon umire na kraju - Serbia

Every so often a film comes along that really speaks to me.  A film that possesses a certain....Je ne sais quoi.  This is one of those films.  It really is quite a magical thing when it happens.  You can't tell when a film will have this effect on you before hand.  Sure you can watch the trailer and say "Gee, that looks neat!", but until you are sitting in the dark while light and shadow dances across the screen, you truly have no idea how you'll come out on the other side.  This time, I came out a slightly different person than I was going in.

This is going to be a little bit of a tricky review....because John Dies At The End is a quite complex film that I suspect has more to reveal to me on subsequent viewings.  It's a truly unique vision that is at once extremely complex, yet so beautifully simple.  You can't just sit back and "check your brain at the door" when watching this movie.  You've got to pay attention.....yet at the same time, don't over think it because it will stop making sense.  There in lies the transcendental beauty of the whole thing.

Here's the need to know basics of it:  There is a drug known as Soy Sauce.  Only it's not exactly a's alive.....sort of.  If you take it, you will be able to see, hear and experience things that no one else can.  I guess it's sorta like the potion that Victor Wong gives Kurt Russell in Big Trouble In Little China.  Only different.  Unfortunately most people who take this drug end up either dead or not human anymore.  Enter our heroes John and Dave.  They've managed to stay alive and human after being injected with Soy Sauce.

This is one of those everything-but-the-kitchen-sink.....oh-no-wait-there-it-is type of movies.  I know that this is going to sound completely whack-o....but it reminded me a bit of Dude Where's My Car?!!!  Not plotwise....but just in the aforementioned what-the-hell-could-possibly-happen-now sense.  Some of the out there sights to behold are a monster made of frozen cuts of meat, a psychic dog that can drive and a mustache ripping off of a man's face and flying around the room.  Just about every scene contains a WTF moment.

If you are a Coscarelli fan, then you definitely cannot afford to miss this one.  It is a total trip and a half.  It is currently available to view VOD (but not for long) and on Amazon to rent before it's in theaters.  It opens in select theaters tomorrow (1/25/13).  See it at any cost, it's totally worth it.

Midnight Cinephile Totals:

Body Count:  There is quite a hefty body count in this one!  I can't even begin to guess the actual number, but it's in the double digits, that's for dang sure!  Gorehounds should be pleased with this one.

Boob Count:  There are quite a few bare breasts in this one too.  They're not spread out throughout the movie though....they are pretty much concentrated into one scene.  But hey...boobs are boobs, are they not?

Beast Count:  There's a shit ton of different monsters, creatures and beasties on display here as well!  The aforementioned meat monster, the sentient flying mustache, an more!

Final Thoughts:
This is a fun roller-coaster ride for sure, but there is one thing that is stuck in my head.  Something one of the characters says.  It's a strange Jamaican (named Robert Marley...HA!) guy who is on the Soy Sauce and demonstrating his supernatural abilities.  To prove his abilities, he reads Dave's mind and tells him about the dream he (Dave) had that morning during a thunderstorm.  In the dream, his ex-girlfriend had a bundle of dynamite and a cartoon style plunger/detonator.  When Dave asks her what she's doing, she simply says "This." and pushes the plunger/detonator.  It explodes with a bang and Dave wakes up to a clap of thunder.  Robert then says:  "But the scary question is, how did your mind know?  How did it know there was going to be a clap of thunder?  It started the dream 30 seconds before there was thunder.  How could it know?"  It IS a rather curious question, isn't it?  This is just one example of the questions about parallel universes and dimensions, time travel and the very essence of existence that this movie raises.  It's mind blowing when you start to sit down and process it all.

Final Rating: