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Featured Post - Mystery Movie Marathon

I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Evolution (2001)

This movie has always confused me. I remember seeing it in the theater and enjoying the heck out of it. It has also held up nicely on each subsequent viewing. But It was a commercial failure and many other horror/sci-fi fans that I mention the movie too seem to hate it. I guess you should take everything I say here with a grain of salt. Time to jump in and talk about Evolution… the movie not the thing that makes people homeschool their kids.

A meteor crashes to Earth smashing its way into a cavern below the desert. A couple of professors, Ira and Harry, from a small local college are sent to check out the meteor and collect samples. They do that and soon discover that there is some alien life form growing on what they collected at an incredibly accelerated rate. By the time they return to the site the government has taken over and it is locked down by the military. This leads to some conflict since Ira used to work for them and doesn’t have a great reputation due to slight a miscalculation with some injections. After meeting the scientific team lead by a clumsy woman, Allison (played by Julianne Moore), they are kicked off site and told not to come back.

Hijinks ensue when their research is stolen by the military and the pair break back in to collect more samples to replace what was taken. When they get to the cavern they are greeted by an ecosystem populated by advanced lifeforms. Of course, they are caught and booted out again but not until the facility is attacked by some angry alien primates. Even though the military thinks they have it contained the aliens get out and start wandering around the nearby community. This leads to the decision to napalm them all, which of course backfires. It is up to our heroes to save the day with the help of some goofy college students, a want to be firefighter (Sean William Scott in one of his less annoying roles), and Allison.

I’m not sure what there is here not to like. You have an excellent cast with David Duchovny and Orlando Jones playing our leads Ira and Harry. Julianne Moore is great in her role as the scientist Allison who keeps tripping and falling in some genuinely funny pratfalls. Who knew she could so well with physical comedy? And like I’ve already mentioned Seann William Scott isn’t annoying! This cast provides some great laughs and of course Duchovny acknowledges his X-Files history in a funny but subtle way. Maybe the best bit is provided by Jones when his character is “assaulted” by an alien insect. There are a couple great lines that still work after having seen the movie several times.

I really like the creature design. 
There are a lot of different aliens in the movie. I mean they are evolving at an accelerated rate so we get everything from one celled organisms to alien primates, flying lizard/dinosaur things, and an assortment of creepy bugs. While they are mostly played for laughs there is still a body count involved with the shenanigans, though not explicitly shown on screen. This one is definitely more comedy than it is horror. I should also mention that most of the creatures are brought to life with CGI. Maybe it is because it is so alien looking but I think that it holds up pretty well. I’d would have liked to have seen more practical work, but with this many creatures it wasn’t possible without spending a fortune.

Evolution isn’t a perfect flick, but I dig it. For a silly little monster movie, you can do much worse. Really trust me you could do so much worse. If you are in the mood for some laughs and creatures, then this is what you need. I recommend it.

© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Silver Bullet (1985)

I haven’t covered many Werewolf movies for the blog so I figured I should lead with one of the better ones. This is based off of Stephen King book and stars a couple of icons of the ‘80s as well as someone that the non-horror ladies might recognize. Time to dive into Silver Bullet.

Tarker’s Mills was a nice place to live until the bodies started showing up! Someone is killing the locals, including a kid, and the sheriff seems powerless to stop it. When a posse heads off into the woods and find the killer they get butchered! Into all this a young boy named Marty and his sister Jane stumble over the identity of the killer and more importantly that it is a werewolf! Marty is off one-night shooting fireworks when he is attacked by the werewolf, who he shoots in the eye with a rocket before making his escape. That is why he sends his sister around town looking for someone missing an eye! Sure, enough they find who the werewolf is, but are also discovered in the process.

The kids turn to their uncle Red, since no one else believes them. Red is the guy who gave Marty the fireworks and built his sweet wheelchair called the Silver Bullet. Oh yeah Marty can’t walk… While Red doesn’t believe them he still is their favorite uncle so he melts down some stuff to make a silver bullet and waits with them at the next full moon for the killer to show up. Sure enough, they are attacked and after some drama manage to do away with the werewolf. Not really a spoiler, is it? You had to know they weren’t going to let the werewolf win and eat the kids… Sheesh modern audiences have watched way too many depressingly downer horror flicks!

I haven’t watched this one for years before popping it in for the review. I remember loving it and still really like it. The cast is excellent with both a Corey and Busey, how can you go wrong? This is before Gary Busey got too crazy but was still crazy enough to play the drunken uncle who really tries to buy love with borderline dangerous things. Like giving fireworks to a kid, or building him a wheelchair that is more of a motorcycle! This is the kind of uncle that all of us would want growing up! Silver Bullet also reminded me how great of an actor that Corey Haim was before Hollywood chewed him up. Here he is a sweet kid with the charisma and screen presence to carry the movie.

Such a great cast
If this weren’t enough for you we also get Evertt McGill who is basically a go to guy for any weird character in a horror movie. Here he plays the town’s reverend and is very creepy in the role. As I mentioned above even the ladies who aren’t into horror will enjoy seeing Megan Follows, old Anne of Green Gables herself, playing Jane. As much as I like teasing my wife I have to admit she is very good in this and pretty much anything else she appears in. This movie has a great cast.

The writing and story are wonderful as well. Both the book and the screenplay were written by Stephen King. The action is paced so that there is always something interesting going on. Either we see an attack, the kids trying to figure out who the killer is, or finally doing battle with the evil! Mixed in are some scenes that reinforce how much Marty, Jane, and Red love each other. This gives Silver Bullet an unexpected sweetness that you normally don’t see in a horror movie. I chalk this up to King being a great author and in this case screenwriter.

Not a fan of the werewolf effects
The one thing that I remember being much better than it is are the werewolf effects. The reverse transformation at the end is decent, but the full-on wolf mode is laughable. I get that the werewolf can be one of the most difficult creatures to bring to the screen, but it has been done much better before and after Silver Bullet was made. Since we see a lot of the creature on screen this gets to be distracting after a while. You know it is bad when the human version of the werewolf is way more intimidating than the wolf version is. Not enough for me to not still like the movie but it does take some of the fun away.

Silver Bullet is a good movie with a great cast and excellent writing. I recommend it with the one warning about the werewolf effects work. I can be found on several budget DVDs without special features on the cheap for less than five bucks. Easily worth every penny.

© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer

Friday, May 25, 2018

Uninvited (1988)

Director Greydon Clark is one of my favorites. I recently watched Wacko for the first time and that got me in the mood to check out some of his other movies. I used to rent Uninvited all the time back in the old days of VHS and the video store. It was one of my favorite tapes to rent, so much so that when I met Clark at a convention a couple years ago I bought a counter display for the movie and had him autograph it! I really do have fond memories of the movie, but does it hold up after all these years?

We have an unusual setup with this one. You have a group of older guys that have gotten some money by less than legal means. They are about to hop on a yacht and sail off to a bank to grab their loot before the authorities catch up to them. Along the way they pick up a couple college girls who are on spring break, mostly for some fun but also as cover. Inadvertently they also end up with some college guys who the girls bring along because they are a bit creeped out by the “old” guys. But the yacht needs a crew so it all works out. Toss in a lady ship captain and our characters are set… well almost.

Earlier in the movie we get to see a cat escape from an experimental lab. This cat carries a very potent poison in its system, as well as the ability to “monster” out when annoyed. Of course, the cat is brought onto the yacht and when things go sideways gets mad and starts killing everyone. How dangerous can a cat be? Well this one will kill you with a scratch! Stupid stuff is done, the boat breaks down, and eventually a lot of people die. About what you would expect from a creature feature.

For me the highlights of Uninvited has to be the cast and the creature. Our dishonest businessmen are played by Alex Cord, George Kennedy, and Clu Gulager. That is a hell of a lot of talent right there! Two of the three (Kennedy and Gulager) are legends of the genre and Cord did a ton of television shows. Director Clark always had a knack for casting solid actors in his movies knowing that a good cast can make all the difference. Watching these guys play off each other in their scenes together is a real joy, though sadly it is clear that they didn’t have them for very many days as both Gulager and Kennedy’s characters are killed off early in the proceedings. Still something is better than nothing.

I've always said cats are EVIL!
The creature design is stellar for the low budget that they had. The cat puppet is decent and has just enough cheese to make it funny while still effective. I’d much rather have a latex puppet then CGI in my monster flick. Here that is exactly what we get. I also liked the wounds that it inflicts on its victims. The pulsing veins is a simple effect but is put to great use in Uninvited.

My only complaint with the movie is the pacing. It starts off fun but after killing off Kennedy’s and Gulager’s characters things slow down. Most of the second half of the movie is them floating in the ocean waiting for the cat to show up. This means we spend a lot of time with the characters and honestly most of the younger cast just isn’t that interesting. It would have been a much better flick had we still had Kennedy and Gulager on screen. This is further reinforced when another genre vet, Austin Stoker, shows up in a glorified cameo at the end. I’d much rather have watched his character.

Maybe it is nostalgia or perhaps the presence of so many great actors, but I still like Uninvited. It has some flaws but there is a killer cat! How can I not like that? If you manage your expectations I think that a good time can be had with the Uninvited. Consider it a recommendation with that caveat.

© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer