Thursday, March 26, 2015

Screener Screamers - Infernal

It's time to bring out a new feature on Midnight Cinephile, which I've decided to caller Screener Screamers!  (Que cheesy spooky organ music).

As you may be able to guess, it is in Screener Screamers (There's that music again!) that I will review film screeners that are sent to me!  Clever, eh?
I've never reviewed a feature film before it's release before and I'm going to be kinda feeling my way through this so bare with me. Obviously I'm going to steer clear of any spoilers while still trying to be the informative and hilariously charming fellow that you've come to know and love.


Tonight's Screamer:  Infernal.

The film starts with sweethearts Nathan and Sophia packing up and getting ready to move.  In what is quite possibly the fastest wedding proposal/wedding/pregnancy in film history, our couple has a little girl named Imogene [sic].  "That's an odd name for a girl these days," I thought to myself "That's like a Shakespearean name!"  So naturally being me I decided to look up the name.  Turns out it was the most popular baby name for girls in 2014.  Who knew!?

I'm guessing you probably didn't come here to learn about popular baby names, so we'll move on.  We're pretty much dropped into the family when Imogene is eight years old.  She's an odd child that has an unhealthy obsession with combing her hair.  She has problems making friends and has a nasty habit of just wandering off and staring off into space.  Nathan and Sophia fear that she may be autistic.  So they bring her to a psychiatrist who has them start filming everything that happens in the house using a teddy bear with a nanny cam imbedded in it (which Imogene names Brandy "Because that's what Mommy drinks every night.") as well as a hand held camera that is used in the rest of their day to day activities.

Imogene's behavior gets stranger and the stress of the situation is clearly getting to both Nathan and Sophia as they start to fight more and more.  It becomes evident that we are dealing with something more than just autism.  There is something evil lurking and waiting to take hold.  Nathan is the first to believe that what is happening may not have a natural explanation.  It takes Sophia a bit longer to accept that there may be some otherworldly forces at work.  Things continue to spiral downward towards the inevitable downbeat conclusion. As far as plot is concerned that's as far as I am going to go.  I think that this film works best when you go in knowing as little as possible. 

I was a bit concerned when I realized that it was going to be a found footage film that it was going to be a
Paranormal Activity clone.  I am happy to report that it is not.  As a matter of fact I found myself forgetting that it was supposed to be found footage several times, only to be reminded when a character would physically grab that camera and move it.  It was quite refreshing to see that this wasn't a shaky-cam fest as are many similar flicks and that there are shots that are beautifully composed.  There are some sequences and shots that had me rewinding my screener to confirm that I wasn't going insane and I really saw what I saw.  Again, I do not want to spoil anything so I can't say anything further on the subject other than:  Keep your eyes open!

The sound design also surprised me quite a bit once the film got going and paranormal elements took hold.  Just as I was concerned with the filming style in the beginning of the film, I was also concerned with the sound design.  The opening scenes are all set to rather generic sounding alternative rock tunes.  I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to be stuck listening to the same for most of the film.  Much to my surprise and relief that was not the case.  Once we're in the thick of it the tacky rock music is gone (save for one brief dance montage scene) and the aural soundscape is a bizarre and unsettling combination of low rumbles and a strange static.  The sounds of dogs howling in the background during various scenes very effectively convey a sense of dread.

There are jump scares, there are scenes of quiet fear and there "WTF" scenes as well....but they all tie together and form a constant sense of impending doom and pervasive dread.  From the very beginning there aren't many moments of humor or levity (even the above mentioned dance scene does little to break the mounting feeling of hopelessness) for the family. 

All in all I enjoyed the film quite a bit.  The acting was a little uneven, but I've never let that stand in the way.  One thing that kept driving me absolutely bonkers was the fact that I kept thinking I'd seen Andy Ostroff (the actor playing Nathan) somewhere before and I just couldn't place him.  After the film ended I jumped on IMDb to see where I may know him from.  Turns out he's from Massachusetts and not far from where I lived for many, many years......so who knows....maybe I saw him around somewhere. 

So like I said, after I got past the 20 minute mark I really started to enjoy the film and by the end it had won me over.  Don't let the found footage thing get in the way of you seeing this film.  It's a bit of a slow burn, but the sense of pervasive dread permeates throughout.  Infernal hits select theaters and VOD on April 10th.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Midnight Cinephile Is About To Ruin Your Childhood Forever!

I have jumped up on the old soapbox before....whether it was defending "bad movies" that most people have no interest in (Nobody's Children - Defending the UnDefendable) or standing up against the myriad horror elitists and so called journalists who engage in active hate mongering on movies, directors, actors, etc (The Problem With Horror Elitists and the Self Appointed Critics or, Roger Ebert Would Be Ashamed of You.).  I'm a pretty upbeat guy and I'm also pretty relaxed, but every now and then I feel the need to address problems that arise that really bother me.

I suppose that this could be considered a continuation of the "Horror Elitist" article......but the problem has run deeper and expanded past said elitists.  In this day and age everyone with a keyboard or a smart phone has a platform to let their feelings be known.  There are some who use this amazing privilege to create blogs and websites that celebrate the things they love.  Then there are others who see the technology as a way to spew their venom and toxic thoughts to plague the rest of us.  For a great example of these dregs of humanity look at the YouTube comments on pretty much any video in existence.  Holy hell.

Anyway....before I go off on a huge tirade about people trolling and such, let's focus back on the task at hand....which in and of itself is really a form of trolling.  I can't believe I'm using the word trolling in an article...what the hell has my life come to.

As I'm sure you are well aware we (and by we I mean Hollywood....not you and I) are in the midst of a long running reboot/remake cycle.  No big thing.....it happens.  There was a big remake boom in the 80's too.  Not quite as big as this one....but it was still there none the less.  In addition to remakes, there is also a trend in which filmmakers who grew up in the 80's (much like myself) are now taking the things they loved in the 80's and turning them into films.

Do you know what the #1 response is to a new 80's toy/cartoon/pop-culture/videogame inspired movie?  "Stop ruining my childhood you ^&$#^&$^)@^&)!!!!!!!"

Really?  Please enlighten me as to how the filmmakers traveled back to 1985, track you down and then proceeded to defile your most beloved toy/etc.  The truth is it does absolutely nothing to your childhood.  Skynet did not go back and erase your childhood.  Just as remakes do not magically erase your DVD's and Blu Ray copies of the original films.  They are still sitting there on your shelf waiting to be watched.

And now to make matters worse, some of these jackasses have managed to start writing for film websites such as WhatCulture which feature one of the most ridiculous articles entitled 10 Ways That The Marvel Cinematic Universe Has Ruined Cinema.   It was one of the most infuriating reads of my life.  Uneducated, biased and complete bullshit.  Sam Hill, the author of said steaming pile of garbage is clearly against Marvel films from the get-go.  Most of his "10 Ways" are the same thing worded slightly different.  I will not go into specifics because the article does not merit nor deserve any additional views.  It is crass, lazy and offensive "journalism" and it frustrates me to no end.

I wish that article was an isolated incident but the sad truth is that if you spend about 5 minutes online you'll come across no less than 20 similarly themed articles.  All written by whiny wanna-be writers who evidently have no joy in life other than sucking the fun out of the air for the rest of us.

If you've read this far, I thank you.  I needed to get that off my chest.  I realize that I haven't been around much and I know that I've already said that I'll be getting back to maintaining a more regular schedule and I still stand by that statement.....it's just taking a bit longer to get to that point than I thought! 


Friday, February 20, 2015

Overlords of the U.F.O.

Overlords of the U.F.O.
1976
Director: G. Brook Stanford
Writer: W. Gordon Allen
Stars: W. Gordon Allen, Trevor James Constable & Juan Fava
Unrated - Approx 94 Min
Scientific News/Tower Investments International Ltd.


PROOF!  The E.T.'s have found us and they're not all friendly!
















This is an "animated" segment, believe it or not!
Run!  It's the Overlords!

If you come here on a regular basis you know how I feel about UFO's, aliens and the whole shebang.  They creep me the hell out, yet I'm obsessively fascinated by them.  It's been that way since I can remember.  I used to take out the same three or four books about UFO's from the Fitchburg Public Library when I was a kid.  I must have read those books a thousand times.  Then in Jr. High through High school (way back in the day glo soaked 90's)  schoolyard and lunchtime conversation was filled with talk of the latest UFO/Alien shows that popped on the FOX network at an alarming rate.  Of course the most famous of these specials was the Alien Autopsy (Fact of Fiction?) special from 1995.  You know the one.  It was hosted by Jonathan Frakes and it is considered to be one of the most controversial specials ever aired.  I won't lie....back in those days I was in full Mulder mode.  I wanted to believe everything.  Clearly the whole thing was a hoax...the creators even came forward and admitted it.  I digress.


UFO documentaries are nothing new.  The earliest known UFO Doc that I know of is a thirteen minute Telenews reel that was shown in theaters in 1952 entitled The Flying Saucer Mystery.  From there there have been many, MANY documentaries covering every aspect of the UFO phenomena.  Today I want to talk about Overlords of the UFO.  Quite possibly one of the weirdest, wonkiest and outright most ridiculous of all documentaries produced on the subject.

BAM!  Wood paneling!  This is SOOO 70's!


Huh.  It's an alien!

Hosted by W. Gordon Allen, Overlords explores the idea that UFO's are not from outer space but are in fact craft sent from another plane of existence by inter-dimensional beings.  As the doc asks about a quarter of a million times:  Who are the Overlords of the UFO?  Who the hell knows.  This thing is all over the place!


According to Mr. Allen, "The UFO" (as he puts it) is an inter-dimensional craft that is able to materialize into the fabric of our universe.  The pilots of these UFO's are said to be robotic servants to these Overlords though the reasoning for sending slave scouts is never really explained.  There is a metric shit ton of information flying at you at all times, yet it's all wonky talk that makes no sense.  However it's spoken with strict authority and given and pure fact, which is odd.  All the incredible claims made in this documentary are just put out there as fact....as if they've officially and without dispute answered the question "Are we alone?" with a resounding "NO!".

Stanton Friedman is one of the only sane people to appear in 90's minutes.

"I saws a flying saucer!"
BAM BAM!  More wood paneling goodness!
Somehow Uri Geller appears in the final third of the film.  We watch as he bends metal (Keys and such) with the power of his mind....using biometric energy or some such thing.  Apparently that's how the Overlords of the UFO power their crafts....biometric energy.  That could explain why electronic equipment fails when UFO's are around......but then why don't your keys bend?


Uri Geller?!??  WTF?  Here, bend my keys.....

Cattle mutilation is also touched upon and the theory is placed forth that cattle mutilations are not the result of extraterrestrials, but in fact because of giant invisible flying "critters" (as they are called) that come down from the atmosphere and feed on the cow's soft tissues, regurgitating their bones and leaving them behind for dismayed farmers to find.  Holy shit, I can't believe I just typed that last sentence.


Of course there are also many terrible photographs of UFO's peppered in.  Most are quite blatantly fake (I'm looking at YOU, Ummo UFO!) and others are just indecipherable....but there are plenty of them!  There's artists renditions of outer space and psychedelic colors swirling around as we listen to sounds from another planet.  It's all really trippy.


This "photograph" was hailed as the best photo evidence ever.  Good grief.
A shot of the "Ummo" UFO.  Apparently they like to put runes on their craft.
Another shot of the "Ummo" ship
This is......a........jellyfish?  Or a UFO.  I'm not sure which.
Oooh, shiny!
A classic "Bell" shaped UFO.  There is video of this one!  All wobbly on a string like.


There's also plenty of  nightmare fuel as artist depictions of UFO encounters and abductions.  These aren't your normal artist renditions of that you would expect to see....they're boldly colored and there is something unsettling about them.  It's hard to put my finger on what exactly what makes them so, but I would definitely NOT want these hanging on my wall.


I don't know exactly what is being depicted here and I don't want to.


That UFO is friggin EVIL looking!  Look at the blood red light!
Nope, I was wrong.  THIS ONE is evil looking!  It's got eyes for Christ's sake!
An artists rendition of the invisible air critters shitting out cattle skeletons.  Joy.
An alleged robotic humanoid UFO pilot.

This brings me to an interesting point about this doc.  It's incredibly ridiculous, it's completely devoid of any actual fact and yet there is something sinister and unsettling about it.  Maybe it's the sounds from Ummo, who knows.  I watched this at about three in the morning, which is the appropriate time to watch something like this.  At times it feels a bit like In Search of.... other times it feels like I should be on some serious mind altering drugs to understand what the hell they are talking about.



W. Gordon Allen looking all authoritative 'n' shit.
So wonky and cliched.  Love it.


The long and short of it is that you NEED to see this.  If you are at all interested in UFO's, the paranormal, or 70's bat shit craziness, then this is for you.  It's easily found in it's entirety on YouTube....or if you want the complete Overlords experience, then you need to pick up a copy on VHS for about $14.99 on Amazon.  Then take it to a room with shag carpeting and wood paneling, immerse yourself and drink the Kool-Aid, man!


GORE
What?  No, dude...this is a documentary on UFO's!

T&A
Yeah.....not so much.

MONSTERS

Well.  There's pictures of aliens.  And invisible air critters.  So that counts.  Right?


Final Thoughts

Like I said, you should watch this.  It's a trip and a half.  Just make sure that you're watching it on a 19" tube TV on a VCR while in a den with shag carpeting and wood paneling.  Perfect.





















VHS: Viral - Terror Gets An Upload

VHS: Viral
2014
Bunch of Directors, Writers and Stars!
Rated R - Approx 82 Min.
 8383 Productions/Bloody Disgusting/Collective Digital Studios
aka  Video Tapes: Virus 
         V/H/S: New Virus 

Mayhem Goes Viral












I sort of think of VHS as this generation's Creepshow....at least in that it's an anthology franchise.  You don't see too many sequels to anthology films.  Sure, we just got The ABC's of Death 2 (which I covered yesterday) but I don't really consider that an anthology so much as a mini film-fest.  When I think of anthology films I think wraparound segment with 3 to 5 stories interspersed between.

If you've seen any of the prior VHS films then you know the score:  Anthology Found Footage Films.  However the series has been evolving with each edition that comes out.  In the first outing everything fit in with the VHS aesthetic. One of the shorts was filmed with a hidden camera in glasses, others with various forms of consumer handy-cams (except for the short that completely took place from a laptop computer's web cam).  They all looked like something you might find on a VHS tape.  In VHS 2, they started to use concepts like a camera in a fake eye, a Go-Pro camera and professional cameras used by a documentary crew.  In VHS: Viral we get cell phone footage, documentary crew footage, police surveillance footage, Go-Pro's and in one of the shorts, the found footage is completely dropped and takes on full cinematic framework!

So let's take a look at the newest entry piece by piece:


Vicious Circles - This is the wrap around segment and it follows the events during a police chase involving an ice cream truck.  Apparently the truck is leading the police in circles and spreading death and destruction in it's wake.  It's unclear really how this is supposed to tie in the other films.  It's quite disjointed and didn't make a lick of sense, but it had a few interesting moments in it.


Dante the Great - The first (and best) of the segments is presented like a documentary.  An aspiring magician living in a trailer park finds fame and fortune after finding a mysterious cape that allows him to perform real magic.  Unfortunately magic comes with a price and the supernatural entity that allows Dante to perform his miraculous feats needs to feed on fresh victims often.  Through various bits of footage (including Dante's own collection of VHS tapes that he keeps a record of the cape's victims on) we witness him descend further and further into darkness as the cape takes over.  When police raid his theater it's a pretty incredible fight as an armed SWAT team befalls terrible deaths at the hands of Dante and his magic.  As a former professional magician, of course I found this to be quite intriguing and if there was to be a rogue magi who was able to perform real magic, I imagine it would go down pretty much like this!  This is the segment in which the found footage aesthetic is dropped when the SWAT team confronts Dante.  Worth the price of admission for this segment.

Parallel Monsters - A man invents a machine that opens up a portal to another universe.  Turns out that his doppleganger from that universe created that same machine.  The two men, excited by their success and discovery decide to swap places for fifteen minutes to explore each other's mirrored universe.  All seems exactly the same at first, only mirrored.  Then a single picture hanging on the wall proves to be different in each universe and leads to the discovery that this are radically different.  There are some fun effects here and while it's not anything we haven't seen before in other films and TV shows, it's still a fun take.  It would have been nice to have been able to explore the parallel universe a little more, we still get a disturbing glimpse into a horrifying world.


Bonestorm - I've got some mixed feelings on this one.  On one hand our man characters are completely deplorable douche bags that you just want to punch in the face as soon as you meet them.  On the other hand, it's got some great practical effects and when shit goes sideways, it happens in the middle of the day....which somehow makes it even more disturbing.  So the "plot" revolves around some skateboard punks who hire a camera man to film them pulling off tricks and stunts.  They end up taking a trip down to Tijuana to drink, smoke weed and film some more.  That's when they run afoul of a Mexican death ritual.  Cult members start attacking them from every angle and after then manage to kill off all the cult members (with their skateboards and a gun that one of them randomly has (?)) they are transformed into skeletal wraiths and begin their attack anew.  What makes this particularly cool is the fact that these skeletal wraiths look A LOT like the Templar zombies from the Blind Dead series!  Also Bonestorm is such a 90's-tastic title!  Sounds like an NES or Sega game I would have played back in the day!

GORE

As usual there is plenty of gore to be had.  Some of the highlights include a SWAT team member having his chest and rib cage ripped open by magic with his innards falling out everywhere.  Various limbs are ripped asunder by various monsters.


T&A
There is some nudity, but not a lot.


MONSTERS
There are a few different monsters on display here.  I don't want to give away too much here, so I'll just reiterate that the Mexican zombies are great!


Final Thoughts

I had a good time with this one.  It's certainly not redefining the genre here, but as far as found footage goes, you could do a lot worse.  I will be very interested to see where the VHS series goes from here.  There was supposed to be a forth segment titled Gorgeous Vortex, which if I'm not mistaken is where the DVD/Blu Ray image comes from.  I'm not sure why the segment was dropped though.








Thursday, February 19, 2015

ABC's of Death 2 - 26 MORE Ways for Die Violently

ABC's of Death 2
2014
Bunch of Directors, Writers and Actors
Not Rated - Approx 124 Min
Drafthouse Films/Magnet Releasing
aka Death Alphabet 2


Some People Never Learn











It's not easy to review an anthology film.  There's usually a couple good segments and one weak link in the grouping.  That's all fine and well when you've got three to five stories that make up the sum, however when you've got 26 segments to get through, it's more like a filmfest than a film in it's own right.  It's like a cinematic centipede and so I will review it as such, taking it letter by letter.  So right off the bat, there are spoilers if you haven't seen the film before in that I'm gonna tell you what word each letter stands for.  So if you don't wanna know and want to play the "What word is being represented" game as you watch....come back after you've seen it.

Okay, good you're still here!  Since I have retired the pizza roll rating system, I will not rate each individual short either....let's just things flow naturally.

A is for Amateur - A good start, Amateur follows the exploits of an amateur assassin.  We first go through his vision of how the plan should be executed and then we follow along as he carries out his death mission.  As you can guess, being an amateur things do NOT go well for him. 

B is for Badger - Fun but dumb.  Found Footage/Cinéma Vérité is the order of the day here as we join in on what I guess is a news report shoot (or maybe a documentary) about badgers being driven from their home near a nuclear facility.  Guess what.  The badgers are still home.  It's goofy and has a nice gore gag but it could have done more.

C is for Capital Punishment - The actors chew up the scenery in this one.  A man is convicted by his neighbors of killing a neighborhood girls and sentenced to death and brought out to the woods to be executed.  I saw the twist coming a mile away, but that's fine.  The gore was a decent mix of practical and CG and was quite visceral.

Capital Punishment is ROUGH!
D is for Deloused - One of my absolute favorites.  This stop motion short was dark, disturbing with balls out gore, yet still brought to mind the artistry of The Brothers Quay and other such masters of stop motion.  I am not even going to attempt a plot synopsis because this is more stream of consciousness horror.  I'll never look at insects the same way again.

Think this is messed up?  You ain't seen nuthin' yet in D is for Deloused!
E is for Equilibrium - One of the weakest entries.  The short follows two castaways on a beach.  They seem to be getting along fine eating fish and making simple tools from wood and rock.  A woman washes up on the beach and causes a rift between them.  This is played more for laughs than terror, but the laughs fall pretty short.  There is no dialog, which is fine.  The two castaways sport beards that are SO fake looking it's distracting.  I've seen better fake facial hair on Saturday Night Live skits.  All in all a pretty misogynistic affair.

F is for Falling - This one started out promising but really didn't seem to end up going anywhere.  The actors were both fine and the cinematography was rather good as well.  Unfortunately it just didn't really pay off.  A female soldier gets caught in a tree after (I guess) parachuting into enemy territory.  She tries to outwit her soon to be captor, but things go awry.

G is for Grandad - A strange entry that was extremely frustrating because it had potential to do something really wild but instead just sort of lingered in a twilight zone sort of place.  That's not necessarily a BAD thing, it was just very disappointing to see what could have been.  A man and his grandfather don't quite see eye to eye and things get a bit messy.  Plus you see geriatric penis, which I could have done without.

H is for Head Games -  Another bit of animation, this time hand drawn, this is Bill Plympton taking his bizarre styling to a gory and disturbing place.  No dialog, no plot....just three minutes of acid trip animation that would have been at home as late night filler material on cable TV back in the 80's and 90's between movies or TV shows.

I is for Invincible - A group of despicable characters are waiting to gain their inheritance from the matriarch of the family.  The only problem is the old woman won't die no matter what they do to her.  This one was fun and was heavier on the horror aspect than some of the others, with good make-up effects.  Could have been a little shorter though.

K is for Knell - Man oh man.  I don't even know what to say about this one.  It's just pure fever dream logic from start to finish with no real explanation of what we're seeing.  There's a strange object over an apartment building where men are murdering their wives and girlfriends as a woman looks on from a neighboring building.  Then.....some other stuff happens.  I've got no idea what the hell was going on but it was a bit unsettling so I would say it did it's job well!

L is for Legacy - Another of the weak entries.  A man is prophesied to be a threat to his fathers village and is sentenced to death.  The priest in charge of his execution releases him, believing that his mother faked the prophesy to dispose of him and take over the village.  The man then turns into a monster and kills a bunch of people. The monster is pretty tacky.  If it was presented on Face Off as a final make up job, the artist would be sent home.  The blood is fairly poor CG and I hate to sound this negative....especially on anything with a monster....but DAMN!

Glenn Hetrick would tear this monster up!
M is for Masticate - Most of the short takes place in slow motion and called to mind the beginning of Zombieland.  Here we have a large hairy dude with freaky blue eyes running in his underwear and his socks through the streets....things get bloody from there.  The short ends with a comedy punch.  It's rather amusing and well done.

Nom nom nom nom nom

N is for Nexus - A strange entry that would feel right at home in something like Tales from the Darkside.  A man dresses up like Frankenstein for Halloween and heads out to meet his girlfriend who is dressed as The Bride of Frankenstein.  As you might guess, a string of incidents lead to a horrible and tragic conclusion.

There is something so "Monster Kid" about watching Frankenstein ride a bike.
O is for Ochlocracy - Ochlocracy means mob rule.  This is an interesting little segment in which zombies regain their sentience and put surviving humans on trial for killing zombies during their uprising.  At first it was a bit confusing but once I figured out what was going on, I found it quite intriguing.

P is for P-P-P-P SCARY! - First of all, this is completely played for comedic effect.  Secondly, it completely fails on that front.  Third......P-P-P-P SCARY?????  I shook my head through out the entire thing....yet I can't say that I hated it.....but at the same time I think I can say with a fair amount of certainty that this is the worst of the shorts.  Dream logic rules this short as three men who all have terrible stutters as they fumble through a completely black void.  They come across a man holding a baby and shit just goes sideways from there.

Q is for Questionnaire - Another short that has a great idea behind it, but ultimately was fairly lackluster.  A man is being given a questionnaire with the sort of logic questions that people post on Facebook stating "If you're smart you'll figure it out....don't tell anyone the answer!"  And then off course forty-six asshats immediately post the answer in the comments.  I digress.  As the man works out the answers to the questions graphic scenes of brain surgery are interspersed.  The "twist" ending wasn't exactly a twist.....

R is for Roulette -  I enjoyed this one quite a bit.  Three people (two men and a woman) are playing a game of Russian Roulette.  There is genuine tension to be found here as the odds increasingly stack up with each successive turn.  The acting is great and the cinematography is a crisp black and white which adds to the unsettling atmosphere.  One of the highlights of the film.

S is for Split -  This is probably the most unsettling of the shorts, depicting a home invasion as experienced by the victim (a woman) and her husband who is on the phone with her while on a business trip to France.  The short plays out with multiple scenes on screen at the same time (sorta like what they do on 24 when a bunch of stuff is happening at once) and it's quite effective.  The end is a surprise little punch.

T is for Torture Porn - The best way that I can describe this is a cross between Lovecraft and Japanesse Hentai gone wrong by way of the Soska Sisters (who just so happen to be the creators of this segment!).  This was a quick, gory bit with some great gore gag effects.  A young woman is at the mercy of sleazy porn producers (one of which is played by Astron 6's Connor Sweeney!) or so it would seem.  As in most of the shorts, shit gets bad real fast for most everyone involved.

U is for Utopia - A well made short that calls to mind films such as Logan's Run.  A very dystopian look at what utopia would be like.  Hint -  It doesn't pay to be outside the beautiful and perfect crowd.  No real plot to speak of, the short feels more like a deleted scene from some unreleased sci-fi thriller.  That's meant as a compliment.

V is for Vacation - HOLY MISOGYNY BATMAN!  This is another of the weak shorts.  Sure there's some gore in it, but the two main characters are such unimaginable douche bags that you're happy to see them get their comeuppance.  Basically two guys go on a tropical "Guys Getaway".  On of the Bros video calls his girlfriend and lies about them chilling and drinking a few beers.  His even douchier friend then blows the whistle grabs the phone and shows her that they've been doing hard drugs and banging prostitutes.  Then, no surprise, bad stuff happens.

W is for Wish - Hands down the BEST short.  The short starts with a mock commercial for a line of toys called Champions of Zorb (like a cosmic version of He-Man) and two kids wishing that they could be part of that universe.  They are immediately sucked into the realm of Zorb and find that the reality of their fantasy war is brutal and gory as they are captured and meet the villain in the flesh.  I would love to see this turned into a full length feature because there is just so much awesomeness to take in!  This short makes sitting through the weak ones well worth it!  I watched it about 5 times in a row.  Highly recommended!

I want Champions of Zorb toys for Christmas
 
I was WRONG!!!! 
  X is for Xylophone - Predictable, but still well made.  A woman sits and reads the newspaper as some old timey music plays on a phonograph.  She is rather goth looking.  A young girl wearing a play set of fairy wings sits on the floor in front of her banging away on a toy xylophone.  The noise is clearly starting to bother the woman.  When the child's parents come home they will see just how much.  Nothing really outstanding in this short, but there are some good visuals.

Y is for Youth - Japanese Bizarro Cinema in short form.  A young teen imagines outlandish body horrors befalling her parents for the wrongs.  Among the visual delights are a giant carnivorous hamburger trying to eat the mother....shooting french fries from it's mouth like poison darts.  Also her mother's transformation into a dog is perhaps one of the most disturbing person to animal transformations I have ever seen.  Watching a guitar neck grow out of her father's mouth recalls films like the Tetsuo series.  Another high point in the film.

Z is for Zygote - More body horror as a woman with abandonment issues refuses to allow her baby to be born after her husband leaves her.  Thirteen years later and she is only able to crawl on the floor while her thirteen year old child remains in her womb....and holds conversations with it's mother.  What happens from there is something I don't think I've ever seen before....and that's saying something!


So there you go!  26 mini-reviews!  Sorta makes up for the fact that I haven't been around much in the past couple months, doesn't it?  WELL DOESN'T IT?  Sorry....sorry......I know I've been neglectful of my poor old blog and my podcast.  Fear not faithful readers, The Midnight Cinephilie WILL return to former glory soon. 

 Let's run the stats, shall we?

GORE:
There is a metric shit ton of gore in this flick.  Pretty much every kind of bodily fluid flows at least once. 

T&A
I think that there is less nudity this time around.  Most shorts go for the blood but neglect the boobs. 

MONSTERS
More monsters than you can shake a stick at.  Some are unseen, some merely suggested, some shown briefly and some are in your face.  Some are silly and some are terrifying.  At the end of the day, you're still getting a butt-load of monsters.

Final Thoughts

It's been quite a while since I've watched the first ABC's of Death, but I was a little let down by this one.  I thought that being the second in the (I assume) series, they would really go for it.  Some of the shorts do.  D is for Delousing and W is for Wish are definitely examples of where the filmmakers went for it....but then you also get stuff like E is for Equilibrium  and P is for P-P-P-P SCARY! that really makes you wonder how those shorts were selected over others.  I mean seriously.  There was NOTHING better in the P category?  The best short they had in their E selections was an SNL sketch?  What the hell, man?

Let's be honest.....26 shorts in 124 minutes is a bit exhausting.  I would say that a little over half (I'm being liberal here) of the shorts were worth watching.  That means that the next time I put this blu ray in, instead of letting the film run through, I'm going to have to just hen peck my way through to watch the decent shorts.  That sucks.  Let's be a bit more judicious in our selections for ABC's 3, shall we?










Saturday, January 17, 2015

TV Terrors: Tales From The Darkside - The Milkman Cometh


It's been a long time since I've reviewed any television episodes.  As a matter of fact the last time was July 12, 2013 when I reviewed The Twilight Zone's classic episode The Invaders!  I think it's time I give some love to the terror tube, considering how much vintage horror/sci-fi/fantasy TV I've been watching lately!  So tonight we're going to take a look at one of it's less talked about episodes:  The Milkman Cometh.  I haven't seen this particular episode probably since it first aired back in the 80's, so it was really quite fun to view it with a fresh pair of eyes.  It was especially fun, as always to see actors that you're familiar with in shows like this. 


The episode revolves around The Cooley Family.  There's the father, Garry (Robert Forster), mother, Ruth (Shannon Wilcox) and son, Sandy (Chad Allen).  One night as Ruth is ironing and Garry is working on his newest ad pitch (apparently he's in marketing), Sandy comes home and asks if he can have a birthday present early because he seems to have lost his watch.  When Ruth replies that he will just have to wait and try looking for his watch, Sandy replies that he'll just ask The Milkman.


 Confused (naturally) Ruth asks him what The Milkman has to do with anything.  Sandy goes on to inform his parents that all over the neighborhood, people are asking The Milkman for things by leaving notes for him in their milk boxes the night before delivery.  Sure enough Ruth scoffs at the idea.  Garry tells his son that he'll buy him a new watch the next day if he still hasn't found it.



Later that night, we see Gary writing a note to The Milkman and putting it out in the milk delivery box.  In the morning, sure as lactose intolerant go-go dancing midgets love chocolate, Sandy has a new watch!  As the episode continues on, we learn that most of the men in the neighborhood are aware of The Milkman's gift giving.  Friends of the family Howard and Edna are over for dinner one night and Howard starts to spill the beans about it.  Garry sends the women to the kitchen and starts to reprimand Howard, until he finds out that Edna knows the deal.  Apparently, Howard has been asking for a new car every week for about two months and the old "I won it in a contest" excuse was running a bit thin.

Everything seems to be going swell for the Cooley's.  Garry's got money coming in (from The Milkman) as well as a ton of great ideas for his novel.  He and Ruth are even expecting the baby girl that they've always wanted.  Ruth is getting a bit suspicious of her husband however and starts to question him about The Milkman.  Garry's been drinking more lately and is a lot more on edge.  One day as he's working on his novel, Howard comes to visit and tells him that Edna is dead.  She died in a car wreck while driving one of his newly won cars. 

I won't spoil the whole thing for you, and will leave off the plot synopsis there.  There's a fun twist to the whole thing and while it's a bit of a slow burn episode, it does have a fun kick at the end that makes it all worth it. 

As I mentioned before, it was fun to see some actors that I recognized.  First of all, there's Robert Forster, whom you may know from a good many different films and shows.  He's been shows like Banyan, Jake & The Fatman and of course Police Story as well as films like Jackie Brown, SuperNova & Me, Myself & Irene!  Even if after looking through these six examples he's not ringing a bell, once you see him you'll go "OH YEAH!  THAT GUY!".


Chad Allen was a popular child star in the 80's, appearing in the show Webster as one of Webster's friends, though I'm sure most people will recognize him more from his roles in St. Elsewhere and Our House.  Though if you're reading this then you're like me and you know him best as Sherman in TerrorVision!  Hell yeah!

Though this was a "slower" episode so to speak, it still had that fantastic Tales from the Darkside vibe that most of the shows carried with them.  To be perfectly honest, this almost felt like it early Stephen King at times, though this episode was penned by Charles L. Grant and Donald Wollner.  Mr. Grant having been a former president and trustee of the Horror Writers Association....so that's gotta count for something!


This episode was directed by John Strysik.  Mr. Strysik has not directed a lot of other shows or films, but what he has directed is quite notable:  Six episodes of Tales from the Darkside, one episode of Monsters, three episodes of Land of the Lost as well as several other features.  Most interestingly, a short film in 1980 based on H.P. Lovecraft's The Music of Erich Zann, which I am now on a quest to find and watch!

The Milkman Cometh first aired on January 25, 1987 and is Episode #13 on Season 3. 

*Due to some technical difficulties, I do not have any screen captures of my own right now, so I was at the mercy of the internet to find some screen caps.  Please do forgive me this one time.  I will go back and reinsert my own screencaps at the closest convenience! 

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Disappearance of Flight 412 - UFO Shadow Ops

The Disappearance of Flight 412
1974
D: Jud Taylor
W: George Simpson & Neal R. Burger

S: Glenn Ford, Bradford Dillman & David Soul
Not Rated - Approx 72 Min.
Cine Films/Cinemobile Productions



Taglines:
 - If One Tenth Of 1% Of UFO Sightings Are Real, Flight 412 Found It...



Alternate Titles:
Az eltűnt járat rejtélye - (Mystery of the Missing Flight) Hungary






"You want me to keep quiet?  Then give me an order.  I WANT AN ORDER!"
                                                                         - Capt. Roy Bishop


Aliens.  UFO's.  If you've read Midnight Cinephile for any length of time you know that I have a love/hate relationship with them.  Actually it's more of a fascination/terror kind of thing.  On one hand the thought that we could be alone in the universe is a deeply depressing thought.  What a waste of space....literally.  In an ever expanding universe that is, quite frankly, bigger than any of us realize, it's a deeply troubling thought that there is no one else out there.  From what we can see in our little drop of water in the ocean of space, it's a beautiful place full of wonder and beauty.  What good is all that wonder and beauty if there is no one there to appreciate it.

Everyone drinks coffee while they're watching radar!  

See those three blips in the upper left?  Thems UFO'S!

On the flip side of the coin is the utterly terrifying notion that we are NOT alone.  That there are other planets out there with life completely unlike our own.  That really boils down to the basics, doesn't it?  We fear the unknown.  We fear what we cannot and do not understand.  Are they friendly?  Are they hostile?  I guess we'll never know that until we get full disclosure on the subject.

That brings me to another aspect of the whole alien/UFO enigma:  Goverment Cover-Ups.  Area 51.  Roswell.  MiB,  The Battle of Los Angeles in 1942.  Eisenhower's 1954 Extraterrestrial Meeting.  There are so many more incidents that are now infamous, yet we still do not know the truth about them.  Is the government concealing and covering up the truth about aliens?  Why?  Is it to protect us or are there more sinister motivations at play?

"I can't believe what I'm hearing!"

This is a typical scene.  Lots of phone calls and people standing around.
I could go on all day long about aliens, UFO's, government conspiracies and the such, but you didn't come here for that.  You came here to hear about a little made for TV flick called The Disappearance of Flight 412.

The film starts us off with a photograph of a UFO.  The narrator informs us that people have been viewing and photographing UFO's for years.  Thousands of people all testifying to seeing these bizarre craft in our skies.  Some turn out to be hoaxes....but if even one out of all the thousands of reports turns out to be real.....that is still one very real UFO.

"So, the jet's just disappeared, eh?  I saw David Copperfield do that trick before..."

This is Trottman.  He's a dick.

The film takes an almost documentary style approach.  We are introduced to Colonel Pete Moore who is heading up the Whitney Radar Test Group.  They've been experiencing some technical difficulties lately and so he sends a crew of four men, led by Captain Roy Bishop out on a test flight mission.  Flight 412 detects three anomalous blips on their radar and two fighter jets are scrambled to intercept.  The jets vanish right before the crew's eyes. So technically, it's really not the vanishing of Flight 412....but that's neither here nor there.

After the jets vanish, Flight 412 is ordered to land by a top secret military controlled organization who are basically a shadow op that is trying to keep a lid on UFO activity.  The crew lands and they are split into twos and  detained in separate rooms.  Digger Control is housed in a dilapidated complex, which struck me as pretty strange.  Sure, it looks nondescript from the outside and you certainly wouldn't guess that there's a shadow op going on there....but this place is literally falling apart at the seems.  It looks like it's been abandoned for 30 years before they moved in.  Very odd.

Colonel Moore is being kept out of the loop on the status of his men and so along with Major Dunning, he seeks out the operation and goes to get his men back.  We learn that Digger Control is run by a Lt. Col. Trottman.  Apparently no one except the grunts wear any kind of uniforms on this base...they're all decked out in 70's-tastic plaid and sunglasses.  At night.  Inside a broken down building.  Bunch of weirdos.

Colonel Moore and Major Dunning to the rescue!

After sitting around Digger Control for 18 hours, it's time to head home.

Anywhoo, as the Colonel and Major are kept waiting, Trottman and his team continue their "debriefing" of the crew of Flight 412.  Essentially breaking them down little by little, making them question their own integrity and such.  You know....typical shadow op stuff.  Jerks.  At one point Captain Bishop tries to make a break for the aircraft to radio the Colonel but gets caught and sent back to his room.  Close but no cigar, buddy.

What's especially interesting about the film is the fact that other than the photograph of the UFO shown at the beginning of the film (which is just a random photo and not one of the craft that Flight 412 encountered) we never see and extraterrestrial aircraft.  All we see are three blips on the radar screen, but you know....that's enough.  They still manage to soak tension out of the whole sequence.  After the jet fighters vanish and Flight 412 lands, it becomes more of a shadow op thriller.

GORE
Not one single solitary drop of blood.

T&A
Negative, good buddy.

MONSTERS
Nuh-uh.  Unless you wanna count the radar blips, which represent UFO's which may or may not be piloted by beings from another planet.

FINAL THOUGHTS
This is not, I repeat NOT and action flick.  While it's not explicitly based off of any particular real life incident, you can find similar happens all over the place if you do a little research into UFO's.  There have been many accounts of airplane pilots reporting strange objects in the sky.  Personally, I found the whole film to be fascinating.  If you're serious about UFO films then you may very well enjoy it as well.  This is more of a rainy afternoon movie than a late night romp.

VIDEO CLIP:
Flight 412 encounters something unexplained.

video