Monday, April 4, 2016

Farewell My Friends

It's been a long strange journey, but I'm sad to say that it's time that Midnight Cinephile came to it's end.  I want to thank each and every one of you for being my constant readers these last seven years.  This is not the end of my exploits, but rather a new beginning.....keep your eyes peeled for new projects coming at ya in 2016 and beyond!

Thank you for watching movies past the witching hour with me.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Victor Frankenstein - Bringing Creepy Stuff to life for 200 Years!

Victor Frankenstein
Paul McGuigan
Rated PG-13 - Approx. 110 Min

 - Meet your makers

 - Discover the origin of the monster and his creation.

Alternate Titles:Victor: The Secret History of Dr. Frankenstein

"Igor, you and I shall be at the heart of a scientific enterprise that will change the world. We shall create life out of death!"
                                                                        -Victor Frankenstein                      

Once again, I find myself going to bat for a movie that was much maligned by critics and public alike, yet I found enjoyable.  Victor Frankenstein is a new take on the nearly 200 year old novel by Mary Shelley and while it's certainly not going to end up on any "Best Of" lists, I found it to be an amusing and flashy Frankenstein romp.

Daniel Radcliffe's turn as Igor was exceptional and interestingly, I found his initial appearance in the circus to be a bit of an homage to the 1910 Edison version of The Frankenstein Monster.  Whether or not it was intentional, I don't know...but it was the first thing that I thought of.

In this updated retelling of the legend, Frankenstein finds Igor working as a clown/physician at a traveling circus.  When they first meet, he does not actually have a name.  Frankenstein gives his new friend that name after rescuing him from his abusive employers.

There is a police inspector on their trail as well, due to the fact that their escape from the circus did not go exactly according to plan and some circus folk ended up dead and/or disabled.  Such is the life of a mad scientist, eh?

The pair retreat back to Frankenstein's laboratory, where the good doctor informs Igor that he is in fact, not actually a hunchback, but rather has a large cystic sack of fluid on his back that he proceeds to drain, followed by some rather unorthodox chiropractic procedure.  After all is said and done, Igor is able to stand (mostly) straight with the help of a special harness.

I should probably back up a moment.  The reason that rescues Igor from the circus is because he discovers that Igor has a brilliant mind and is quite skilled in medicine, having performed a dangerous and rapid medical procedure on a fallen trapeze artist with whom he is infatuated.

Anyway, back at the lab, Frankenstein shows Igor the Lazarus Fork.  A special device that when coupled with a solution of certain electrolytes, metals, blah-blah-pseudoscience, etc, can bring life back to dead tissue.  He gives Igor and example with a pair of (I think) simian eyes.  Igor is suitably impressed but informs the good doctor that he's screwed up the nerves which is why the eyes aren't moving in sync.  Frankenstein begins bringing various organs to Igor piecemeal, having him work one organ at a time on his latest biggest experiment:  Bringing and ape back to life.

First of all, this humunculus is one of the most disturbing little critters I have seen in my entire life.  After a night out on the town drinking, Frankenstein brings Igor back to the lab and shows him what he's been working on on this time.  Being the rash and impatient man that he is, Frankenstein immediately takes the ape to the University to show off his findings.  Things predictably go a bit sideways, but none the less, he attracts the attention of a wealthy student there who agrees to fund his further project.  Now armed with all the money he needs, Frankenstein sets off on creating a thinking, intelligent man.

To go further into the plot is to spoil the film and so I shall stop there.  I will say that it was an interesting change to see the story through Igor's eyes.

While there are certainly some flaws in the film and it runs on the longer side, I never once found myself bored.  The cinematography was beautiful and the special effects, though there was a lot of CGI was also excellent.  The Frankenstein Monster is also very cool looking and probably one of my favorite designs.

For a Frankenstein flick, it's actually pretty light on the gore, though there are a few nasty little bits.  The aforementioned eyes.  The various organs and such.

Nope.  PG-13 my friends.

Damn straight!  Frankenstein's Monster!  Not to mention the little humunculus that rampages through the University.

I've got a serious soft spot (I seem to have a lot of those, don't I?) for the classic monsters.  I couldn't even begin to tell you how many Frankenstein movies there are in existence, let alone TV shows, cartoons, comics, video games, books, etc.  There is A LOT of Frankenstein out there.  This is certainly not going to land on the list anywhere near the Universal classics or the Hammer films, but it's a damn sight better than the lackluster '94 Frankenstein with Robert De Niro as the Monster!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Fantastic Four - Inter-Dimensional Travel Is Rough

Fantastic Four
Josh TrankRated PG-13 - Approx 100 Min
Released August 7, 2015

 - Change is coming.
 - When you change the world, prepare to defend it.
 - Beyond darkness... beyond fear... lies the fantastic.

Alternate TitlesFant4astic
Henry Street (False Working Title)

" I need a heat-resistant workshop, and a big-ass sunroof!"
                                                                                    -Johnny Storm

I'd been putting off watching the Fantastic Four reboot after hearing a multitude of reports that the film was terrible.  Then stories started coming out about the troubled production and the feud between Josh Trank and Fox.  It did not bode well and it was looking like Fantastic Four was not going to be the reboot that I'd been hoping for.

This weekend, I finally caved in after puttering around on Amazon Instant Video.  I had just finished watching Victor Frankenstein (keep your eyes peeled for THAT review coming soon!) and was in the mood for something flashy.

And so with mild trepidation, I hit the 48 hour rental button.  You know what?  I'm glad I did, because Fantastic Four isn't nearly as bad as critics and keyboard cowboys would have you believe.  Is it really, really good?  Nope.  But it also isn't really, really bad.

I think that one of the problems with the film is that it's another origin story.  We already got one in the '05 version.  Sure, I get it.  It's a reboot so we need a new origin tale, but I think that it really should have only taken up maybe the first 20 minutes of the film and then let the heroes do what they do best.

Instead we meet Reed Richards and Ben Grimm when they're in the 5th grade.   Then fast forward to high school and Reed being recruited by Dr. Franklin Storm and his adopted daughter Susan at the high school science fair.  Reed goes to work for Baxter Laboratories and it turns out that he's perfected an inter-dimensional teleportation device that they themselves had been trying to work on for six years.

Victor Von Doom is a brilliant scientist who was formerly working on the project and has some attitude problems.  Franklin brings Victor back in as well as his son, Johnny (who's basically being forced to work for the Doc as punishment for street racing.) and the team is complete.

After successfully sending the inter-dimensional  teleportation shuttle with a chimp passenger to another dimension and bringing it back, the big brass inform the team that they'll be taking over and giving the project to NASA.  This does not sit well with the boys.  Not wanting someone else to take the glory for all their hard work (can't say I really blame them) Reed, Victor and Johnny decide to take the shuttle to the other dimension themselves to at least put the first footprint there.  Reed calls Ben and tells him that he won't go across without his best friend at his side.
As I'm sure you can imagine, shit goes sideways and fast!  There's a strange green energy source the flows through the inter-dimensional planet (is it an alternate Earth?  I dunno...) and the foursome accidentally unleashes the power.  Victor falls down a cliff into a swirly green void of alien power and is presumed dead.  The other three beat feet back to the shuttle as the green energy explodes all around them.

Sue is back in the lab trying to bring them back.  Due to various mishaps occurring simultaneously each of them is imbued (yep, I just used the word IMBUED!) with different powers.  Obviously you know who's who and what's what.

Obviously Victor isn't dead and returns when the team builds a new shuttle to try and find a way to reverse their conditions.  Victor of course isn't Victor anymore, but now just calls himself DOOM.  His design is actually pretty cool and a little on the creepy side.  He's got some pretty wicked powers too...there's a neat scene where he's walking down the hall of the research lab pretty much blowing up peoples heads!

It all comes down to a final showdown in the other dimension.  The Fantastic Four start learning to work as a team and naturally save Earth from a nasty end.

Had they allowed the team more time to coalesce and cut back on the origin stuff, it would have helped the movie out a great deal.  The team is pretty much forced together and immediately go out after Doom after his blood hallway rampage.  It felt very rushed.

Still the visuals were great.  I think that this version of The Human Torch looks absolutely stunning.  The Thing looks a lot better than the '05 version as well (let alone the '94 Roger Corman flick).  It's really too bad that the reception to this film was so piss poor, because I wouldn't mind seeing what these versions of the characters could do as a fully formed team.

So if you've been on the fence about seeing Fantastic Four, take the plunge.  It's far from perfect, but it certainly is not the catastrophe that others would have you believe.

There's actually a bit of red stuff!  The aforementioned head popping hallway scene kinda surprised me.

Nope.  Unless big naked rock monsters is your thing.  In which case, you are a sick puppy.

No real monsters, but we've got some creatures!  The aforementioned Thing is a hulking rock beast and looks pretty badass.  Doom is much more alien looking than previous incarnations with glowing green eyes.

The tone of the film is much, much darker than that of the '05 film.  I think that may have also contributed to the backlash.  It's certainly not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but if you're a fan of superhero or comic book movies then at least give it a shot.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Unhinged - Slasher In The Old Dark House

(D) Don Gronguist
Unrated - Approx 79 Min
Released October 15, 1982

 - The Nightmare Begins When You Wake Up

 - Get your slice from the reaper. Violence beyond reason, Victims beyond help.

Alternate Titles:

"Don't give me that crap, Marion!  A lot of really weird things are going on around here. Breathing, strange sounds, your Mother, now faces at the window. I can't stand it!"
                                                                                - Terry

I'm sure I've said it here before, but I'll say it again, many times I'm sure.  There's nothing I love more than discovering a hidden gem, especially when when then seemingly come out of nowhere.  I'd never heard of this film before and when I went to research the VHS cover art (figuring it would trigger a memory from video store days) I realized that I was onto something on the rarer side.

By the way the VHS artwork is pretty dang swanky.  I love that The Reaper is holding a big bloody knife instead of a scythe.  On the downside, the killer is not dressed as The Reaper....though someone is killed with a scythe while the killer is wearing a hooded raincoat, so I guess that's sort of Reaperish, right?  Right.

The film follows three girls who get into a car crash on their way to a music festival.  During the ride we hear a news report of two girls having gone missing from a nearby campground, adding to the growing list of disappearances in the region.  After crashing their car en route, they are taken in by a woman named Marion and her mother who live in a big old creepy mansion.  Two of the girls (Terry and Nancy) are only slightly banged up, however their friend Gloria is a bit more injured and is bed-bound.

Terry and Nancy attend dinner with Marion and her mother and discover that the matriarch of the family has some serious anger issues when it comes to her husband and men in general.  She's also a pretty massive bitch to her daughter and all around just an old battle ax.  after an uncomfortable meal, the girls play a game of dominoes in the sitting room while Marion plays the piano.  Que heavy breathing and a shadowy figure spying on the girls from outside.

With both Marion and her mother acting weird, the shadowy figure lurking around and the general uncomfortable ambiance the house gives off (not to mention a thunderstorm every single night!) it becomes abundantly clear that something is not right around here.  The question is:  Who is that shadowy figure?

According to Marion the roads are washed out and the only way into town is to hike two or three miles through the woods, but warns that gives that hiking isn't a very good idea because the "woods are dangerous..."  Like we haven't heard THAT old chestnut before, eh?  Despite the warnings, Nancy decides to head for town to at least call her parents to let them know what's happened.  During the hike, Nancy is murdered by the aforementioned figure in a raincoat with a scythe, in a rare daytime slashing.

Who is behind the killings?  What secrets are Marion and her mother holding?  Why are there so many thunderstorms during October in Oregon?  Some of those questions WILL be answered by the end of Unhinged, but you've gotta watch to find out!

Now, I know that I just told you that this is a hidden gem of a slasher, but that comes with a bit of a disclaimer as well:  This movie is not going to appeal to everyone.  If you're a fan of early 80's slashers and you're expecting something on par with Friday the 13th, The Burning or Sleepaway Camp you're going to be disappointed.  However, if you're a fan of low budget regional cinema and you're in the mood for a slower paced slasher, you'll be alright.

The acting is downright bad.  Dialog is stilted and feels at times like it would be more at home in a live theatrical play than in film, but knowing that most of the cast and crew are local Oregonians (and the actress playing Marion (Janet Penner) comes from a theatrical background) I'm willing to bet that's where most have their experience.

Bad acting however, does not make a bad movie.  When you take that bad acting and stilted dialog and combine it with a pretty rad electronic synth score (of course add a dash or two of nudity and gore) and you've got yourself a strangely atmospheric little flick that is definitely getting put into my regular rotation!

If you go out and get the DVD, a word of warning:  DO NOT listen to the so called "Comedy Commentary" provided on the DVD.  It is nothing more than some MST3K wannabe's ripping the film apart in the most unfunny and juvenile ways.  I couldn't listen to more than 15 minutes of it before I turned it off.

Also provided as an extra is a local TV interview with writer/director Don Gronquist and star Janet Penner.  It is quite possibly one of the most awkward and uncomfortable interviews I have seen in recent memory.  Gronquist looks like he was very nervous and frequently freezes and takes long pauses in his answers, often times not making much sense.  I felt really bad for the guy.

While it's not gratuitous, there is some decent gore on display here.  The aforementioned scythe slashing is just the start.  There's also an ax murder and a pretty brutal machete murder as well.  

Why yes indeed!  We get to see Terry and Nancy take a shower.  Well, actually we get to see Terry take two showers!  Watch out for some serious 80's bush!

A mysterious figure slashing up pretty young nubile girls!

Unhinged has a certain vibe to it that I really enjoyed.  It reminded me of when I was just out of high school.  Still living at home with Mom & Dad.  I worked at my beloved Video Paradise and also delivering for Domino's Pizza.  Sundays were my only day off, so on Saturday nights, I would take out four or five movies from the video store and watch them all day Sunday.  I've got many fond memories of rainy Sunday afternoons watching weird old slashers in my room, with a bag of Doritos and a bottle of Dr. Pepper.  Ahhhh, those were the days!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Color Me Blood Red - Bleeding For Your Art

Color Me Blood Red
H.G. Lewis
Unrated - Approx 79 Min.
Released October 13, 1965

 - Not for the eyes and ears of anyone under 16 years!
 - A Blood-Splattered Study in the Macabre
 - Drenched in Crimson Color
 - Fiendish is the word for it!

 - A Blood-Splattered Study in the Macabre. It Will Leave You AGHAST!

Alternate Titles:
Color Me Red  - Working Title
Model Massacre - Alternate Title

"Holy Bananas! It's a girls leg!!!!!"
                                                 - Jack

Once again, I find myself in highly nostalgic territory.  Color Me Blood Red is another film that haunted my youth in the form of lurid VHS cover art that lined the aisles of my beloved Video Paradise.  Just looking at the image of the VHS box art brings back the smell of must and popcorn that permeated that small mom & pop store and my heart swells.  When I was but knee high to a cacti, I found this particular tape to be highly disturbing.  The girl, chained to the wall with her innards being drained into a bowl gave me nightmares on more than one occasion and the film built itself up into near legendary status in my young mind.

Unfortunately the store's copy of the tape went missing (or broke) before I started working there in high school, and I missed my chance to watch it.  Fast forward twenty or so years and I'm standing in my vast cinema dungeon looking for something to watch while I whittle away the late evening hours.  My eyes fall upon the Something Weird issued DVD of the film and I realize that I've owned the movie for several years and never watched it.  Such is the way of the Midnight Cinephile.  So many films, so little time.

With a stiff cocktail in hand and a bowl of mixed nuts (though I'd kill for a giant plate of pizza rolls, I'm eating healthier these days) I settle in to my reclining throne and let the crimson goodness wash over me.  I found myself giddy with anticipation as the film started.  Thirty years of buildup to near mythic status was surely going to come crashing down and disappoint me, right?, actually.

Having seen H.G. Lewis' other films in advance I had a good idea what I was in for and I've got to tell you that I was not disappointed in the least.  Wonky acting?  Check.  Melted crayon blood?  Check.  Hilariously bonkers dialog?  Check!  What the hell else do you want?

I suppose you could look at Color Me Blood Red as a loose remake of the 1959 cult schlocker A Bucket of Blood, exchanging plaster covered corpses for paintings soaked in the blood of a crazed artist's hapless victims.

Artist Adam Sorg finds himself in a bit of a slump and after accidentally getting blood on one of his paintings in progress, he realizes that the blood is exactly what the painting needs.  He starts slicing his fingers open with a razor blade and feverishly painting with the exsanguinated plasma until his fingers pretty much run dry.  The next day as his girlfriend nags him about how he's going to finish the painting without bleeding himself dry, he stabs her in the face and uses her blood to finish his painting.  Well that escalated quickly!

After a local critic and patron at the Farnsworth Art Gallery swoon over his completed gory masterpiece, it's not long at all before Adam is slaughtering beach-goers outside his beach house.  The second girl he murders is actually the one so prominently featured on the VHS cover.  The scene is actually fairly hilarious as Adam runs out of blood, goes into the next room and "milks" her entrails like an udder to get more blood!

Color Me Blood Red is the final film in Lewis' Blood Trilogy and it is decidedly lighter on gore than Blood Feast and Two Thousand Maniacs, I think.....but the gore that's there is top notch melted crayon style that I find particularly pleasing to the eye.

So, did it reach the mythic status that I had it built up to?  Hell no, but it was still a hell of a good time and I'm glad that I finally got to see it.  I think I may have to watch the Blood Trilogy in a mini marathon sometime soon.

There's a fair amount of the red stuff.  As mentioned already, not as much as the other two Blood flicks, but still a good amount.  That melted crayon grue never gets old for me!

No nudity here, friends, but we are treated to several buxom sixties babes in their bathing suits!

One blood crazed artist!

There's a lot to love on this one:  Bright, colorful cinematography, wonky characters and some really bonkers dialog make this a fun, quick flick.  If you're into H.G. Lewis, then definitely check this one out.....since it's short, you should just watch it with the other two Blood films!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Far From Home - Trailer Park Psycho's In Love

Far From Home
D: Meiert Avis
W: Theodore Gershuny , Tommy Lee Wallace 

S: Matt Frewer, Drew Barrymore, Richard Masur 

 - There is no one you can trust...least of all the one who loves you.
 - Growing up can be murder.
 - One boy wants her love. One boy wants her dead.

 - On the other side of innocence lies fear.

Alternate Titles:
Germany - Lolita Kill
West Germany -Wilder Sand
Finland - Nightmare in the Desert
France - Bad Meetings
Greece - Seduction and Rape
Hungary - Desert Serial Killer

"My first and last night in Banco, Nevada....probably the shittiest place in the whole world."

It wasn't a very good day yesterday.  Nothing terrible happened, really, it just wasn't my day.  So after the Mrs. turned in for the night I decided that I'd settle in with some cocktails and catch up on some of my DVR.  After watching a couple episodes of Freddy's Nightmares (thanks to the El Rey Network!) I came across this flick, which I had completely forgotten that I recorded a while back.  What a pleasant surprise!

First off, what a great cast!  Drew Barrymore!  Matt (Max Headroom) Frewer, Richard (The Thing) Masur, Susan (Big Top Pee-Wee) Tyrell, Dick (Gremlins) Miller & Jennifer (Bride of Chucky) Tilly just to name some!  I mean, come on, that's pretty damn good!

Joleen (Barrymore) and her father Charlie (Frewer) are returning home to Los Angeles after a cross country vacation.  They run out of gas and end up stranded in the small desert trailer park town of Banco, Nevada.  Seems the gas delivery truck is running late and nobody in town has any gas to spare or sell.  Duckett (Masur) is the eccentric, but helpful gas station/repairman who is anti-government and no longer worships the mighty dollar, helping people simply because it's the right thing to do.

Chalie rents a trailer for the night and that's when things start going south.  Joleen meets Jimmy, who is a rather intensely angsty teen (played by Andras Jones...who played Rick in Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master!  Man this flick is full of peeps!) who clearly is interested (probably a bit TOO) in her.  Jimmy has one hell of an attitude problem, which of course 14 year old Joleen finds attractive.

After settling in and going for a swim in the surprisingly clean trailer park swimming pool, Joleen meets another boy named Pinky who seems to be the complete opposite of Jimmy.
Ooh, rival action for Joleen's affection!

That night Jimmy's mother is murdered via an electric fan in her bathtub.  Jimmy (being a complete dick) is of course our prime suspect.  The next day, Jimmy takes Joleen to a car junk yard and then swimming in a pond where he tries to rape her.  Pinky comes to the rescue however and they hide out in an old abandoned apartment building that Pinky uses as his hideout.

I'm not going to go any further into the plot because I'm not a spoiling kinda guy.  There are more murders, however and it becomes evident that there is a psychopathic killer loose in the park and no one is safe.  I was quite surprised by the film and enjoyed it quite a bit.  It's a tight little thriller with a  heck of a cast, so check it out!

There's a little bit of blood here and there, but not a whole lot.

There's a little bit of T&A on display during a raunchy little sex scene between two trailer park residents as Joleen is looking through their window.

One psychotic killer on the loose!

I really don't know how this one managed to slip by me because this definitely looked like something that my sister and I would have rented back in the day....or would have seen on HBO late at night.  At any rate, it's a great flick with a great cast.