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I watch a lot of movies but I somehow missed out on a few franchises. Most of them started or have the majority of their sequels released in...

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Graveyard Disturbance (1989)


edit: Instead of a trailer, which was impossible to find since this was made for Italian T.V. I linked the entire movie above. It was available on YouTube so I figured why not. 

Italian cinema, especially the horror/sci-fi exploitation stuff, can be an acquired taste. Sometimes the narrative seems weird, or the dubbing bugs the audience but if you can get past that there is a lot of fun to be had. Graveyard Disturbance is a prime example of this and as an added bonus it was directed by Lamberto Bava of Demons fame for Italian Television. 

The story starts off with a van full of kids ripping off a grocery store for some food. Basically, they shoplift and take off with the police in pursuit! It is implied that there is a crash but the next time we see them they are still trucking on down the road. That is until the van breaks down and they are forced to sleep in a creepy old abandoned church. Well maybe not that abandoned, as they soon find themselves in an odd bar that was built in the basement of the ruins. The locals are a bit weird, but the drinks are cheap, and they have food, so all is good.

Of course, things aren’t as they seem. Eventually the kids are challenged with the chance to spend the night in the catacombs below the bar. If they can survive the night, they win a big bowl of loot. Now that seems like some sort of setup to me, but these kids are pretty dumb. Before you can say “Hey wait a minute!” they are all running around being chased by all sorts of supernatural critters. Zombies, vampires, miniature werewolves… There is a lot going on. They even end up facing death itself before things are all over! 

First off, I have to say that the kid’s van has a sweet paint job! Really it kicks much ass! Now onto the serious stuff. Graveyard Disturbance has the feeling of a movie that was written with the motto “Let’s throw stuff at the screen and see what happens”. You get all sorts of goofiness being pitched at the audience. The creatures are plentiful and oddly grouped. My favorite example of this is the family sitting down for supper that is interrupted by the kids. There is no explanation as to who or what they are. And while some of the other creatures they meet are menacing these flee back into their coffins the moment dinner is interrupted. Yeah, they run away from the kids! Other creatures like the eyeball monster in the pit and the vampires seem to want to do them harm. What is the difference between them? We never find out. 

Speaking of the monsters I thought that the makeup effects work was really good. The mutant lady with tons of eyes and the creature wearing the Kiss t-shirt were highlights for me. You get a couple obvious dudes in a rubber mask moments, including the big finale, but there is quality here as well. Spoiler alert… There aren’t any kills. The ending is a bit goofy and seems to indicate that the kids beat death and crawled out of the ground. At least I think that is what happened. 

This isn’t a movie that you should try to figure out. It is more like a haunted house carnival ride. It is a bit random, but if you turn your brain off it can be fun. Not a classic movie but one that is worth checking out I recommend Graveyard Disturbance. 


© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer





Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Fatman (2020)

 


I get a lot of links for trailers sent to me from friends, family, and people trying to sell me on their flick. Honestly most of the time I’ve already been aware of the movie or am total disinterested. But I always take a couple of minutes to check them out because you just never know. When I clicked on the trailer for Fatman and saw a crusty slightly pissed off Santa Claus movie where he does battle with a hitman, I was all in. Now this is the sort of holiday flick that puts a smile on my face.

The movie kicks off with this snotty annoying overachiever named Billy sending off a letter to Santa. He is a rich kid with an absentee father who steals money from his grandmother to hire a hitman/enforcer to intimidate a young lady into giving him her 1st place Science Fair ribbon because he doesn’t think she should have beat him. Yeah, the kid is a little sociopath with some serious entitlement issues!

Santa, played by Gibson, realizes this and poor Billy ends up with a piece of coal for Christmas. This leads him to send his hitman, portrayed by a scene stealing Walton Goggins, to kill Santa. We see that the hired gun also has an axe to grind with Santa because of his collection of toys made in Santa’s workshop. If that isn’t twisted enough for you, we also see that Santa is subsidized by the government to help stimulate the economy with his holiday cheer, but things have been off and the payments are much shorter then they need to be. So, the elves get hired out making circuit boards for the military’s latest jet fighter.

Eventually there is a big showdown at the North Pole with a lot of bodies hitting the festively snow-covered ground. Santa survives… because you basically can’t kill him. It is like he has mutant healing powers or something. Billy gets a visit from the titular Fatman where he is warned Santa had decided to become more proactive with his naughty list. What does that mean? I hope we find out in a sequel.

He takes the science fair very seriously
I loved this movie. It is so weird which I sort of expected with the crazy concept. Gibson is perfectly cast as the crusty worn-down Santa Claus. Goggins is awesome as the hitman and as I mentioned above steals every scene he is in. These guys are playing this material deadly serious and it works. In fact, I was expecting this to be a comedy and it really isn’t all that funny. Sure, the concepts of Santa’s workshop contracting out as a military supplier is amusing, especially the scenes with the Elves talking to the soldiers, but it isn’t played for laughs. This is more of an action movie with lots of blood spraying and bullets flying. I didn’t expect that at all when I sat down to watch Fatman.

Gibson and Goggins are the only actors doing a great job. Chance Hurstfield shines as the twisted little shit Billy. He is excellent playing what comes off as a prepubescent mafia boss. There is a real sense of danger with the character as you think he might have sent someone to kill his Science Fair rival’s parents in revenge for losing. Again, this could have been played for laughs but it isn’t. This kid is a great actor.

A few other things I wanted to mention. The plot is solid and paced very well. There isn’t a wasted scene between the opening credits and the big showdown at the end. The characters are well established, and the movie does some good worldbuilding setting things up so that the viewer can believe and more importantly become invested in what they are watching. The action sequences are spot on and executed well. There is enough violence to keep action movie fans interested. Honestly, I can’t think of a single thing that I don’t love about Fatman.

This is going to become a new Holiday tradition in my house. I think that Fatman will pair nicely with my other favorite Christmas flick, Die Hard. I see many Gibson and Willis double features in my future. Do yourself a favor and check this one out. I highly recommend it.

 

Ó Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Monday, December 21, 2020

I Trapped the Devil (2019)


Sometimes I find crappy movies and sometimes they find me. This is one that thru no fault of my own I ended up watching. I could tell right away from the trailer that I was in for something not entirely bad, but probably mind numbingly boring. It just had that vibe and I was right.

A man and his wife, Matt and Karen, decide to stop in to check on his brother, Steve. It is Christmas… oh crap this is a Christmas movie! Anyway, they decide to check in on him as he lives at their parent’s old house all alone. Steve clearly doesn’t want them there and tries to get rid of them immediately. But they stick around and after some awkward silence he eventually lets them know he has someone locked in the basement. He believes it is the devil and that he is saving the world from all the evil that would result from him wandering the Earth. Also, the phone keeps ringing and Steve believes that someone is coming to set his prisoner free.

Cool setup, right? Not really because nothing happens. As I thought from the trailer it is a struggle to get thru I Trapped the Devil as it is one of the slowest flicks I’ve seen in a while. I have no idea what they were thinking with this movie. They never explain how Steve came to think the person in the basement was the devil. Why Matt and Karen don’t dial 911 right away to have the police show up isn’t adequately sorted out either. Heck Matt goes from “Oh My God my brother is crazy” to “what if he is right” in a matter of a couple of minutes without explanation. There is also a dream sequence that comes out of nowhere and seems to exist for the shock value of what happens during it. They don’t even try and tie the dream into the plot such as maybe the maybe devil in the basement is responsible.

I will say that the movie has a cool soundtrack and is shot beautifully. Though the basement scenes use red lighting that seems to cause some distortion in the digital cameras they were using. That I didn’t like, but the rest of the movie looks great. The visuals are bleak and seem to be setting the scene for some disturbing tale that never develops. I even think that the actors do a good job with the material given them as all three of our leads sell the story very well and seem like real people in a weird situation. Though again without a cohesive story this is all wasted.

I Trapped the Devil can be wrapped up with the phrase ‘All Style no Substance’. The technical stuff and acting deserved a much better story than what we get here and that disappointed me. Clearly, I’m not going to recommend this movie. If you want to watch something with a similar vibe but much better plot check out The House of the Devil.

 

Ó Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Wyvern (2009)


I’ve mostly been covering old seventies made for T.V. movies in these marathons. But I thought I’d switch things up with some newer Sci Fi channel flicks. And yes, I know they have some douchey way of spelling it now. Not going to do it… not ever! With that in mind lets dive into some creature feature goodness with Wyvern.

This is a very simple setup. You have a small Alaskan town coming off of ninety days without night, which is a thing that happens when you go that far north. Everyone is a bit jumpy and ready for a good night’s sleep so when a few locals start talking about a giant flying lizard swooping around no one really buys it. Probably should have since we the viewer know that there is a monster killing off anyone or anything that has the misfortune of crossing its path. The Wyvern, which we find out in a bit of exposition, is a Nordic dragon has been released from the ice due to that pesky global warming stuff. They need to kill it before it kills all of them and before the eggs they found hatch. Luckily our hero has some awesome big rig skills and a new truck that is perfect for the job. 

For a few years there the Sci Fi Channel was cranking out old school “B” monster movies like crazy. This is a perfect example of that as it follows the classic creature feature formula. An isolated group of victims/heroes, a monster that no one saw coming or believes exists, the flawed hero with a past, and a love triangle with a damsel in danger. Here we have an Ice Road Trucker (way to tie another popular show into the movie!) who is doing odd jobs and waiting for his replacement rig to be delivered. Clearly there is something dark and disturbing about how he lost the previous truck and his brother that will play into the big finale. 

Things don't end well for the doc!
We also meet the local doctor who is his primary competition for the love interest that runs the local café. Of course, he doesn’t have much chance of making it, nor does the local law enforcement who definitely are going to end up as Wyvern chow. Now don’t get me wrong in spite of being very predictable this movie does a good job of making you like the characters before they meet their doom. We also have some fun dialogue and set pieces that make the movie very entertaining in the sort of cheesy way that a flick like Wyvern should be enjoyed. Manage your expectations as a viewer and understand what they were trying to do with this one and you will have fun for ninety minutes. 

The creature is all CGI and for the most part looks decent on screen. Towards the end when it attacks the big rig there are a couple cringe worthy shots, but I feel like that is the equivalent of bad stop motion monsters in old school creature features so I’m willing to give Wyvern a pass on that. The kills are mostly off screen and you get a rubber limb here and there. Again, you really need to manage your expectations and understand what you are getting into with this movie. It is meant to be a silly monster movie and is exactly that. 

One final note before I finish up. The late Don Davis plays the local prepper/crazy along the lines of Bert Gummer from the Tremor’s franchise. This is one of the last roles that he filmed before passing away and it is a decent one. It was nice to see him chewing up scenery as the Colonel. He was icing on the cake, a cheesy cake filled with monster movie goodness that harkens back to the “bad” creature features that I grew up watching. I found Wyvern to be surprisingly fun and recommend that you check it out. 


© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The best movies that I watched in 2020

It has been a while since I did a list for the website and since it is almost the end of the year I thought that I'd toss out my list of the best movies that I watched in 2020. Sure it has been a crappy year in general with conventions being shut down and theaters on life support as we all hunker down at home, but there have been some stellar flicks. I should also mention that this is a list contains some older movies that I just found this year which means not all of them were released this year. With the rules in place let me kick things off with the 10th best new to me movie...


10. Bad C.G.I. Sharks (2019) - This movie ended up not being at all what I had expected. Instead of a silly shark flick with a bunch of poorly rendered sharks swimming around the ocean picking off annoying characters it ended up being a really interesting story about a couple of brothers reconnecting all while being chased around town by some badly rendered sharks. I'm not doing justice to how great of a movie that this is. You can watch it for free on Tubi T.V. as of the writing of this article. I highly recommend that you do. It is worth your time. You can check out my full review here

9. Love and Monsters (2020) - A romantic comedy about monsters and the end of the world. Not since Shaun of the Dead have I seen such a wonderfully executed blending of the horror and romance. My wife, who normally isn't into monster movies, watched and enjoyed this one with me. This is a fun movie with cool looking monsters that also has a sweet side with a young man risking it all to reconnect with his high school sweetheart. This is a perfect date night choice for the horror fan trying to get their significant other.

8. Blood Vessel (2019) - Low budget horror movies are hard enough to successfully pull off. One set in the past, here during WW II, are even harder. Blood Vessel manages both extremely well. Here we have a batch of characters on a life raft after their ship is sunk by a U-boat. They end up on a mysterious Nazi freighter with some dangerous cargo. Great practical effects work and a creepy setting make for a must see movie. You can check out my full review here

7. Becky (2020) - Kevin James plays a Nazi who terrorizes a family, especially a young teen/pre-teen girl named Becky. Let that sentence sink in for a minute. While I was disappointed with them not going full on racist asshole with the Kevin James character I will admit I might be a bit jaded with all the exploitation movies that I've watched. Still his character is very effective and the ending is disturbing enough that I will be checking it out again soon. This is another great movie that everyone should see. You can check out my review here

6. Tremors: Shrieker Island (2020) - The Tremors franchise is one of my favorite creature feature series. I was excited to check out this latest entry and had a blast watching what appears to be the last adventure of everyone's favorite monster hunter Burt Gummer. Honestly the last thing I needed in 2020 was to see Tremors come to an end. I'm sure they might decide to continue things without Gummer, but it won't be the same. This is a must watch for Graboid fans. 

5. We Summon the Darkness (2019) - There has been a few movies that have come out in the last couple of years that have a distinct retro vibe to them. Either they are set in the past or have an old school vibe to them that makes it feel like they would have fit in on the shelves of a late '80s or early '90s video store shelf. This is one of those and in fact might be the best one of the bunch. Here we have some dudes going to a rock concert and hooking up with some pretty girls. They head back to their place to party and things go sideways on them. Lots of mayhem and fun are had along the way and we get a couple of fun twists and an excellent performance from Alexandra Daddario. Check this one out. I promise you won't be disappointed. 

4. Snatchers (2019) - This twisted bit of fun was a blind buy at a local big box store. I had no idea what I was getting into when I picked it up and man did I have a blast watching. Here we have a high school girl giving into peer pressure and giving up her virginity to her boyfriend. Weird thing is that she gets pregnant... well that isn't the weird bit. The fact that she gives birth to some sort of alien or supernatural killing machine a couple days later is what is odd. This movie has a ton of fun gore, great creature effects, and some of the best dialogue of the year. If you are looking for a crazy bonkers movie to watch then this is the one for you. 

3. Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (2019) - I'm a huge Kevin Smith fan. The guy makes movies with characters that I can relate to. Here we have not only Jay and Silent Bob, but other recurring characters all dealing with getting older. Part nostalgia and part growing up I really enjoyed it. I do wonder if the Reboot will speak to others like it does to me. But there are some funny jokes and performances along the way so if it doesn't pull on your heartstrings I think you will at least get a few laughs out of it. 

2. VFW (2019) - Up until late November this movie was at the top of my list. What we have here is a stylish siege flick with a bunch of vets protecting a girl who stumbles into the VFW from a bunch of drugged up whack jobs sent to kill her and retrieve what she stole from a dealer. Great dialogue, characters, a fantastic cast, and some decent violence/gore make for a fun time. This is as close as we fans are ever going to get to another John Carpenter flick so I highly recommend grabbing yourself a copy. 

1. Fatman (2020) - Mel Gibson is Santa Claus. Worn out and cranky about how the world has turned out he is forced to subcontract with the government to make some circuit boards for their latest fighter jet to keep the workshop doors open. Walton Goggins is the Santa obsessed hitman hired by a little shit of a kid to kill Santa for leaving him a lump of coal. This surprisingly great movie could have been played for laughs but instead of silly they go for serious and it works. This is going to be part of my holiday traditions from here on out. You must check this one out. 

I thought that I'd also point out the movies that I dug but that didn't make my list. I call this my honorable mentions aka. other good stuff. Underwater is a fun Kirsten Stewart flick (never thought I'd say that!) with some Cthulhu action. The Mortuary Collection is a cool little anthology flick. Sweetheart is Cast Away with a female lead and a land shark! Rabid is one of those rare remakes that I think not only is worthy of the original but maybe surpasses it. Bliss is another flick from the director of VFW that I enjoyed almost as much and is an entirely different kind of movie. Patchwork is a wonderful mashup of Frankenhooker and Reanimator with the single greatest line of the year. "Send in the Owlcat!" Finally we get to Killer Racoons 2: Dark Christmas in the Dark which is a sequel to my favorite killer racoon movie ever, Coons Night of the Bandits of the Night. 

I hope that this list maybe pointed you in the direction of some movies you might have missed or want to revisit. Like I said earlier this year has been terrible. I know that I've missed seeing friends, especially the communal experience of going to a screening of an old favorite. Hell I even missed my occasional foray into public to see the latest Hollywood Blockbuster. Fingers crossed that 2021 gets us back to normal or at least some semblance thereof. Until that happens stay safe and have a wonderful holiday season. 

-John


© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

The House that Would Not Die (1970)

One of my favorite things growing up was checking out the made for television horror and science fiction movies that filled the schedule in the seventies and early eighties. I thought it might be fun to check a few more out here at Crappy Movie Reviews.

The legendary Barbara Stanwyck portrays Ruth Bennett who has just inherited an old New England home from a distant aunt. She brings her niece, Sara, with her to check the place out. The locals are friendly and very interested in the house. Not only is it historical but because her deceased aunt was a recluse and unfriendly no one has a clue what it looks like on the inside. This leads to a small party and a séance where things get strange. Sara becomes possessed by the spirit of a long dead girl that has something to share with them. Something that the house or perhaps something else in the house doesn’t want to be known. This leads to all sorts of shenanigans until at last the truth sets the ghost free!

I love old school ghost movies, and this plays out like one of those. You have a creepy house and a new family moving in only to discover their new home has a mysterious past. At first no one believes the haunting, but when faced with more and more proof they decide to help the ghost. But what does it want? This leads to them poking around the city archives, old newspapers and of course the spooky attic. Along the way paintings fly off the wall, doors creak open menacingly, and family diaries are tossed into the fireplace. These are the old Hollywood tricks that were used to create the atmosphere and vibe of ghost stories. Now we get jump scares and CGI nuns… Not a fan. Sorry about the mini rant, now back to the review.

Seances are never a good idea!
What is the big secret and who is haunting the house? I can’t really say more without spoiling things. Though I will say that when you are investigating a haunting and find that the basement has a false wall you can be pretty sure that someone is buried down there. We have all seen these stories enough times to figure that out. Still The House that Would Not Die does give us a cool twist and motive for the shenanigans that have been going down. While comfortably predictable I was still pleased by the ending.

I realize that I’m talking this movie up a lot. As I’ve already mentioned I’m a sucker for old haunted house movies like The Uninvited and The Haunting. This movie isn’t nearly as good as those but has that same sort of charm to it. There is something about a movie that uses doors opening slowly on their own and the wind blowing to give the impression that something unseen is with the characters that puts a smile on my face. Clearly this is the vibe that The House that Would Not Die is going for and they nail it. But if you don’t dig classic Hollywood chillers like this then this isn’t the movie for you. I enjoyed the movie but it likely isn’t for everyone. If you want to give it a chance I've linked to the YouTube link above where you can watch the movie. 

 

Ó Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Monday, December 7, 2020

The Mist (2007)


It is strange that I’ve been at Crappy Movie Reviews for over three years now and I haven’t gotten around to review The Mist. From the first time that I saw it in the theater, which was frigid since the heat was broken, I’ve always liked this movie. The whole siege in a grocery store was a fun gag and that ending… damn. But I don’t want to spoil things so if The Mist is new to you stop reading this review and go check it out. Spoilers will be flowing freely from here on out. You have been warned. 

Thomas Jane plays David Drayton, an artist living in Maine. The movie kicks off with a big storm that drops trees and cuts the power. David grabs his son and heads off to town for supplies leaving his wife at home to watch things. Tagging along is his neighbor Brent who isn’t terribly friendly but has a smashed car to deal with. The three head to town and end up at a grocery store. While waiting in line a strange fog or mist rolls into town, the same one his wife had noticed rolling across the lake towards their house before he left. Another local named Dan comes running up bloody screaming that there is something in the mist and they lock the doors. 

Are you hooked yet? The rest of the movie is them discovering that yes there are dangerous and strange creatures in the mist that want nothing more than to make a meal out of them. This includes a mysterious tentacle monster, giant bugs, and spiders that spit an acidic web. As if fighting them weren’t enough to deal with in the store people start to crack and suddenly the local loony, Mrs. Carmody, and her rantings about judgement day begin making sense. This leaves us with David, his son, and a small group of survivors having to make the choice of what is more dangerous. The monsters in the mist or the people in the store. 

I’m a huge fan of the short story/novella that this movie is based on. Normally Kings work has had issues being transferred to the big screen, so I was initially worried if they were going to be able to capture what made the story so great. Not only did writer/director Frank Darabont do a fantastic job, but the one massive change he makes gives the movie an emotional gut punch that lingers with you long after the movie is over. I’ll talk more about that later in the review. 

The characters are written and portrayed in a manner which has you rooting for or against them. Jane is excellent as David Drayton with Andrew Braugher holding his own as the angry neighbor Brent Norton. Though just like in the story Norton makes a decision early on that shall we say removes him from the equation. He leads a group of survivors out into the mist sure that nothing is there. Well, you know how that probably ended for them. Toby Jones and William Sadler are also excellent in supporting roles. But really the best performance is from Marcia Gay Harden as Mrs. Carmody. She manages to be as scary if not scarier than the actual monsters! Finally, if you didn’t know Darabont was also responsible for season one of The Walking Dead so we get a lot of familiar faces here including Jeffrey DeMunn, Laurie Holden, and Melissa McBride. 

So, we have a good adaptation of a bad ass story filled with characters we can root for. These are all great things and makes it much more suspenseful when they are put in danger. This is what the best horror movies do but that isn’t enough for Darabont. He follows thru with an ending that the story only hints at. Drayton, his son, and three others successfully make it out of the store and start driving south hoping to get out of the mist. They eventually run out of gas and we get a stomach twisting scene with no dialogue where he pulls out a gun and counts the bullets. He only has four. Saying he will figure something out and with the tacit agreement of the group he does the unthinkable. He shoots everyone including his young son. Then steps out of the truck and yells for the creatures to take him. There is a loud grumbling sound, and it looks like his wishes will be answered. Only the sound turns out to be a tank and the army is there collecting survivors and killing the monsters. This all happens seconds after he kills everyone. Holy shit did the movie get dark.

This ending is a kick in the butt!
The creatures in the movie are brought to the screen with CGI. Given how otherworldly they are supposed to be I’m okay with that. Plus, the CGI is well done. We get spiders, wasps from hell, tentacles, weird flying lizard creatures that appear to eat the wasps, and finally a giant-sized horror that stomps across their path as they are traveling. Seriously this is a Kaiju sized beast. While the creatures are great there isn’t much in the way of gore. We get some stuff after the fact like the lower half of a guy with some intestines, a few gnarly desiccated bodies from the spiders, and a guy who was used as a hatchery for the spiders. Not bad for a Hollywood flick but I’ve seen much bloodier monster movies. 

Between the story, characters, monsters, and that damn ending The Mist gets a huge recommendation from me. This is a great movie and one of the best monster movies that I’ve ever seen. Considering how many I watch that is saying something. If you have read this far, ignored my spoiler warning, and still haven’t watched this one you need to right away. Too many times fans like to assign classic to a newer movie. Here in my opinion, I think it applies. Check it out!


© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer


Friday, December 4, 2020

Becky (2020)

 


Becky is your typical tween girl, I think she is thirteen, who is taken out of school early by her father. She is still trying to get over the loss of her mother and her Dad, played by comedian Joel McHale, is taking her to their lake house. This annoys Becky since she is angry her father is selling the place as it was apparently important to her late mother. He surprises her with the news that he has changed his mind and that they are keeping the house. Though that news is followed by the arrival of his new girlfriend and her son. Becky is not amused.

This family drama is only half of the story. We are also introduced to a skin head Nazi who with the help of some of his cronies breaks out of jail and murders a bunch of people on his way to retrieving a key that is very important to him. A key that was hidden at the same lake house that Becky and her family are currently spending the weekend at. Of course, she found the key when she was younger and has it tucked away with her other treasures at her clubhouse in the woods. Things get violent, nasty, and bloody as Becky decides to go to war with the men.

Where do I start with this movie? I suppose the first thing I should say is that there will be spoilers coming. This is one of those movies that is almost impossible to talk about without dropping some big plot twists on you. I’d recommend that you go watch the movie before reading any further. Seriously Becky is a great movie that I don’t want to ruin for you. Now that you have been warned I’ll continue.

The story is solid and paced very well. The characters are established quickly and effectively before being tossed to the action. We know who is who and the role they will play in the story. That said I love how the movie throws one huge twist at us. As the story develops Becky goes from your typical angry teenager dealing with the loss of her mother and her father moving on with his life to something else. Right away the story is drawing some interesting parallels between Becky and the killers.

Kevin James is awesome!
The fight at school and the prison sort of mirror each other and in a way begin to set up what happens later. Then of course we have the big speech from the Apex character (one of the killers) who tries to leave and warns Becky that the violence she is committing will “stain” her. When she finally snaps and starts murdering the men whom invaded her home, I did say there were spoilers, it seems logical. The ending with her sitting in the interview room clearly telling the police and social worker what they want to hear is disturbing. From the look on her face and the fact that we just watched her straight up murder people the movie hints that not only is she changed by the violence but that she sort of liked it. That is a cool twist.

Not subtle about him being a bad guy though...
Kevin James is fantastic as the racist gang leader looking for his key. This is a guy that normally plays the loveable goofball but is cast totally against type here. Not only does he pull this role off, but he is genuinely scary. The character isn’t just a unfeeling murderer but the movie also establishes that he is a charismatic leader that can manipulate his followers into doing some horrible stuff, including killing kids. I never would have thought that James would be able to give this sort of performance, but he nails it.

Lulu Wilson, the young actress that portrays Becky, is incredibly good. Her performance could have been over the top but is instead quite subdued. The more violent that her character gets the more glossed over and empty the look on her face is. This is so creepy and is by the end of the movie a huge kick in the butt. The girl wasn’t right to begin with, but we get to watch as she slowly snaps. The fact that this works at all depends heavily on Wilson’s performance and much like James she nails it.

In addition to two excellent performances, we get some violent deaths on screen as well as some implied offscreen. There is a death by craft supplies, an outboard motor to the chest, and an execution with a bullet to the head. That last one was really cold and sort of seals the deal on what we are watching. The fact that it interrupts another big speech from the Apex character sort of tells you where Becky is at by the end of the movie. But my favorite death in the movie has to be the ATV to the face. Well really by the time she rolls off and we see the results there is only half a head left. But still it is obvious what happened. There is also an awesome gag with an eyeball that is the most explicit and extended bit of gore in the movie. It was also informative in that I learned safety scissors aren’t the best way to sever an optic nerve.

Becky is a great movie that I’m going to recommend, but there is one thing that I want to point out. We have the Kevin James character being a racist Nazi whom we have already seen ordering his men to murder children. What I haven’t mentioned is that Becky’s father is dating a black woman, so when the bad guys show up I was expecting things to get really nasty. I mean a mixed-race couple… that had to be on purpose. Other than talking around the issue by using the idea of keeping dogs purebred and not “muddying” the blood this is basically glossed over. Why is our homicidal racist Nazi talking around this? Would he not take the time to be a dick about it?

I get that I watch a lot of exploitation movies which might have my expectations different from your normal movie viewer. I also understand that in the current climate that sort of language might not be acceptable and could hurt the movie’s commercial chances. But it just seems like an odd choice and a missed opportunity. If you are going to put a scumbag character in your flick, then go the whole way and make them realistically shitty. Again, that is just my opinion and, in the end, doesn’t affect my enjoyment of and recommendation for Becky. This is a great flick that I encourage everyone to check out and support.

 

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

 

 

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The Crazies (2010)



Here we have another remake that does a good job acknowledging the original while ramping up the gore and violence. Before I spoil too much, I’ll just point out one thing. Like the Dawn of the Dead remake The Crazies also uses a bad ass Johnny Cash song in the opening credits. Maybe the next time someone decides to make a crappy Day of the Dead flick they should think about adding some Cash to their soundtrack. It certainly couldn’t hurt. Now onto the movie. 

The movie briefly shows us how the town is going to end up before jumping back to before shit hits the fan. We met David, the sheriff of Ogden Marsh, and his wife Judy who is the local doctor. They are expecting their first baby and are generally enjoying life in their small Iowa town. One day while watching the local high school baseball game a local walks out onto the field carrying a shotgun. David tries to calm him down, but it goes poorly, and he ends up shooting the man. The man was a recovering alcoholic, so everyone assumes he fell off the wagon. But then the autopsy comes back with him not having a drop of booze in his blood. 

Soon after this another man kills his family by locking them in a closet and burning the house down. Then more people start acting strange. When some hunters find a body attached to a parachute in the woods the David and his deputy go looking for a plane. They find one crashed in a marsh that feeds into the town’s water supply. Suddenly all communication with the outside world is cut, the army shows up, and people start to get crazier. Our survivors find out that the plane was carrying a bioweapon and when it crashed it was unleashed on the town. Who is sick and who isn’t? That is the question they keep asking themselves as they attempt to dodge both the army and the now homicidal sick people, all of whom are trying to kill them. 

I catch some heat for my love of Romero’s The Crazies, but I don’t care. I think that movie is a wonderful bridge between Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. So, my standards are pretty high, and this movie met them. The pacing is brisk as we get right to the good stuff and never have a slow spot. We see the beginning of the outbreak and watch as the town quickly falls apart. The script does a good job of keeping the characters in the dark until it is revealed by a scientist trying to get out of town exactly what is happening which also serves to fill in the blanks for the audience. By then they have already been thru hell and lost several of their own to the murdering infected. It makes for a fun ride.

If I had to make one observation where this movie was better than the original, it would be the crazies themselves. This is treated as a sickness that has stages. First the infected get real quiet and sort of disconnect with those around them. Then they seem to start with some obsessive behavior before finally snapping and calmly committing murder. Physically the makeup effects change as well. It starts with bloodshot eyes but ends up with pasty skin with veins showing thru. They do a great job of making this disease feel like it is running its course while destroying those infected with it. 

I dig the creature design.
The kills are plentiful in the Crazies with eleven on-screen and many more implied off-screen. Some highlights are a knife to the throat, a hanging, death by oil change, a couple pitchforks to the chest, and my favorite the bone saw to the torso. They don’t shy away from the gore and I appreciate that. The settings for some of the kills are a fun as well. We get people strapped to beds watching a crazy kill people (the aforementioned pitchfork) as well as a surprisingly creepy sequence in a car wash that ends with that hanging. Not only is the gore good but the kills are well thought out and creative. Not too shabby. 

What else can I say about this one. There is a fun cameo from Lynn Lowry who starred in the original which I enjoyed. There is also a fun gimmick with us watching a satellite zoom in and out that foreshadows what is about to happen as well as giving the proceedings some scope. The outbreak is much bigger than the movie shows us. I really can’t think of a bad thing to say about The Crazies. It’s a good movie and I recommend it. 


© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer