Saturday, October 31, 2015

HubrisWeen 2015, Day 26: Zombeavers (2014)

Sometimes, you hear a movie idea and it is like nails on a chalkboard in your mind. You just know that there is no way that anyone could think of that idea and think it was a good idea. Zombeavers was one such idea for me.

Now, this was not so much because I find the idea of zombie beavers unappealing. Rather, it was the assumption that there was no way a movie based on that concept would be anything but an obnoxious, one-joke concept.

Well, let me just say that I always love being proved wrong.

I have to say the opening is not the most promising start, though. We see a medical and toxic waste transport truck cruising down the road (which sadly is not from a company named "Uneeda") and the two guys inside the cab have a conversation about the driver (Bill Burr) taking his girlfriend to get an abortion and then casually mentions having once dated a guy so that the guy in the passenger seat (John Mayer, yes that John Mayer) can try to basically hint at maybe they should date, then. The driver then begins texting, ignoring the passenger's halfhearted warning about the deer in the road.

While the deer is killed by the impact, the only damage the truck suffers is that a single barrel of chemicals falls off the bed and immediately rolls down into the river. The two morons don't notice, of course. And the film delivers its first pleasant surprise as the credits roll over the footage of the barrels floating in the river, accompanied by a cartoon super-imposed on the live-action footage. It's a neat little detail. Eventually the barrel comes to rest at a beaver dam and, as the puppet beavers look at the curious metal object, it promptly springs a leak and sprays them with a green liquid.

"Welp, that's a new one, eh, Earl?"
"Sure is, Ted."
Meanwhile, at a gas station bathroom, college girl Jenn (Lexi Atkins) is tearfully texting her boyfriend, who has apparently cheated on her. After she exits the bathroom, and has an awkward run-in with a trucker, she rejoins her friend Mary (Rachel Melvin) at their car. They're on their way to a cabin owned by Mary's cousin, along with third friend Zoe (Courtney Palm) and her Jack Russell terrier, Gosling. If looked at in typical slasher terms, Jenn seems like a typical Final Girl, Mary is the nerdy girl, and Zoe is the promiscuous one.

In fact, Zoe is very annoyed that they had to make this trip a girl's weekend after Jenn's boyfriend cheated on her. Zoe had really been looking forward to some fun time with her boyfriend, but while she may tease Jenn about the issue and even complains about the lack of sexual opportunities, she is a good enough friend to still go along with the new plan and the rules of no boys and no phones. We can tell that Zoe is the least used to being in the countryside because she thinks the raft in the lake near the cabin is floating garbage upon first sighting it.

As the three friends drive up to the cabin, we see a teenage boy fishing in the river get taken out by a POV cam as a threat-establishing casualty.

Once at the cabin, the girls get to meet the neighbor, Myrne Gregorson (Phyllis Katz) and her husband Winston (Brent Brisxcoe), who's watching from their porch with the couple's golden retriever. Myrne mentions that she hasn't seen Mary in ages. Zoe's brash tongue makes the conversation a bit awkward but, unsurprisingly, the old lady is just as brash. Once she departs, they all go inside to pick rooms and freshen up. To the horror of Jenn and Zoe, it turns out that the "no phones" rule is going to be very easy to enforce because there is no signal in the area.

"I'm just saying, if we had a talking Great Dane we could be a team of young detectives!"
The three decide to go swimming and, to Jenn and Mary's annoyance, Zoe does so topless. Still, it's going fine until Jenn sees a beaver dam and wants to go investigate. The three swim over to the dam and discover it is covered in a revolting green residue that Zoe assumes to be beaver urine. Lucky for them, they don't actually encounter the beavers as a lurking POV cam watches them from the water--but they do find themselves confronted by a bear.

As the three slowly back away, a shot rings out and the bear runs off. A hunter who introduces himself as "Smyth, with a Y" (Rex Linn) then appears. And the guy is delightfully unnerving as he tells them they weren't in any danger from the bear, says some weird things about beavers, and then tells them they ought to be more covered up--and he doesn't just means the woman with no top on.

The girls take their leave of him as fast as they can. At the cabin that night they eat popcorn and play a truly sick game of "Would you rather?" since apparently nobody packed Cards Against Humanity. Then it shifts to truth or dare and we learn here that the last time they played that Mary and Jenn made out, but Jenn objects that that's no fun without guys around to make jealous. Mary thinsk the lady doth protest too much, but as she jokingly moves in for a kiss there's a loud thump outside.

Zoe goes to check with the flashlight and disappears. Mary and Jenn go out to find her, but the door gets blown shut and they're locked outside. Then a shadowy figure charges up--and farts at them. Their attacker is actually Mary's boyfriend, Tommy (Jake Weary). Mary wants to know how he even got there, and the answer appears in the form of Buck (Peter Gilroy) who is carrying Zoe to the porch. Seems he practically dragged Tommy to the cabin, despite the insistence that Mary had warned him that it was just a girl's weekend. Naturally, Zoe is not entirely blameless in this.

And then, to Jenn's disgust, her duplicitous boyfriend, Sam (Hutch Dano) appears from inside the cabin, carrying a baseball bat. Mary tries to be the good friend and send the guys away, despite Zoe and Buck begging to be allowed to bang. Jenn, however, says it's okay. After all, it'll be good for her to face the problem head-on. Though I'm sure she didn't really intend for her and Sam to have to sit on the couch in the living room and listen to the other couples loudly having sex.

Jenn shows Sam the photographic proof of his philandering--a tagged photo of him from a party the weekend before, kissing a brunette whose face is obscured. Sam either can't or won't tell her who the woman in the photo is. And his attempt to seduce her into forgetting her anger ends with him getting a knee to the groin. To be fair, he did deserve that. Meanwhile, in the afterglow Tommy notices Mary seems distracted, which she shrugs off as concern for Jenn.

Jenn goes to take a shower, but as she's undressing she hears something thumping in the bathtub. She assumes it's Buck--that guy must be a real perv, if that's her default assumption--but it's a beaver. A very vicious beaver with white eyes that tries to attack her. It leaps at her but luckily it's clumsy or it might have been able to take a bite out of her.

"I told you never to flush when I'm in the shower!"
Jenn flees to the living room to get Sam's help. The others arrive to find out what's going on and when she tells them about the rabid beaver they all go to investigate, but now it's nowhere to be seen. Buck begins mocking her--only for the beaver to lunge out of a cupboard and try to attack him. Tommy beats it to a pulp with the baseball bat, but it takes a lot of punishment before it stops moving. Tommy tosses it into a garbage bag and leaves it on the porch. Jenn wants to leave right away, but the others talk her into sleeping on it. She agrees, but demands to sleep with Mary for the night. Unbeknownst to them, the garbage bag on the porch is moving...

The next morning, as they head outside to go swimming, Jenn notices the bloody garbage bag is torn open and there are bloody pawprints leading away from it. Tommy dismisses it as nothing but a scavenger finding the corpse and absconding with it. Jenn is not so sure, and feels weird about going in the water, but the others assure her it's fine. She asks them to quit making the obvious beaver jokes and also stays put on the bank instead of joining them in the water.

On the raft, Sam talks to Mary about the mysterious photo that Jenn showed him. Seems that both of them know exactly who was in the photo. He asks if Mary is going to tell Jenn it was her, since she would believe it if Mary says it was nothing, but Mary would rather her friend not hate her. Sam begins to think maybe they need to talk about it, since it sounds to him like maybe it wasn't nothing,

No time for that, though. As soon as Jenn gives in to peer pressure and wades into the water, something swims past her foot. The others mock her until Buck goes under suddenly--and resurfaces holding his own severed foot. Cue Jaws-style trombone shot on Jenn, Tommy is attacked next but he, Buck, and Zoe manage to make it to the raft just as another beaver leaps out to bite Buck on the shoulder until Tommy tosses it away.

Tommy ties a tourniquet around Buck's leg using Gsoling's life-vest. Then Zoe notices Jenn is gone. Well, she ran back to the cabin to call for help with the landline, but the phone lines have been torn out by the beavers. And now the others are not only surrounded by several beavers in the water, they're trying to break through the raft to get at them.

"Look, just take the wood and let us go!"
Meanwhile, the beaver from the night before scratches Jen on the calf and she finds herself wrestling with it on the kitchen floor. The others, seeing their chances at survival rapidly dwindling, begin to get desperate--so Sam decides to be the asshole who makes the unpopular decision of throwing Golsing into the lake as a diversion. Well, as you might imagine, the dog is not able to outswim the beavers and as they're eating him, the others make a swim fro shore,

Jenn has managed to cut the beaver in half, but even with its hind half dnagling by threads of sinew it still chases her up onto the kitchen island. She finally pins it to the the tabletop with a knife to the skull. She then opens the door to the cabin just as the others rush in, the beavers hot on their heels. So now that night is falling, the group realizes they are trapped in a cabin surrounded by beavers who want flesh and whose very biology means it'll only be a matter of time before they chew through the wooden cabin to get at them, and they have all the evidence they need on the counter top that these beavers are actually zombies.

Though they have no idea what's coming. For we all know that if a zombie bites you, you turn into a zombie--but what do you turn into when a zombie beaver bites you?

Never hire a mad scientist to be your orthodontist.
I'm going to cut this review short here because I genuinely think Zombeavers is best experienced without knowing everything that happens. Now, I don't think this film is nearly as good as Late Phases and it is certainly nowhere near as good as What We Do In The Shadows by any stretch. However, it's still a film that is best experienced only knowing some of the delights it has in store.

For one thing, this film commits to its goofy premise. Sure, the zombie beavers are meant to be funny more than scary, but that doesn't mean they don't carry a surprising amount of menace. The shots of their eyes glowing in the night in a few scenes are genuinely unnerving. Hell, even the zombie were-beavers that eventually show up are as menacing as they are silly--though naturally there's a visual gag involving one were-beaver that made me laugh too hard to spoil here,

I also appreciate that, while obviously lots of CGI is used, the film mainly relies on physical props for the beavers. When you think about it, vaguely jerky puppets are the only way to render zombie beavers, anyway, so I'm glad the filmmakers realized that. It's also just always more entertaining to see actors wrestle with prop rubber beavers than to see them try to do the same with CGI.

Certainly, Zombeavers is not perfect. The majority of the characters, whether intentionally or not, are pretty intolerable and far too many of the jokes are the sort of lazily offensive material you'd expect to see on something that thinks it's "edgy" but really, really isn't. However, the difference between this and something like The Watch--the alien invasion flick where it turns out the aliens can only be killed by being shot in the dick because that's where their brains are--is that it manages to rise above some lazy, unexceptional material in its comedic scenes by really nailing it in the horror-comedy ones.

Obviously, this is not a film for everyone and I kind of feel like it maybe needed a couple more passes over the script in order to become truly great, but I had a lot of fun with it. I highly recommend this to horror movie fans, especially those like me who are sick to undeath of zombies already.

Today's review brought to you by the letter Z! Hit the banner above to see what the other Celluloid Zeroes chose for Z!

And with that, dear readers, another HubrisWeen draws to a close. Wasn't sure I was gonna make it, and I feel like I could sleep for a week after rushing to make my deadlines at the end here, but you better believe I'm too foolhardy to not take another swing at it in 2016.

So you better be on the lookout for HubrisWeen: The Final Chapter next year. But stuck around, because I'm not done with my hubris and in mid-November you'll be seeing me try to find something new about a bonafide classic for a Criterion blogathon event.

Oh yes, this joint is about to get classy.

Friday, October 30, 2015

HubrisWeen 2015, Day 25: Yonggary (1999 / 2001)

You would never guess it, given the fact that the original Korean version has seemingly been lost and the US version was released directly to television, but Yongary, Monster From The Deep must have been very influential in South Korea. If you need any convincing of that fact, just look at Shim Hyung-rae's 1993 comedy Young-Goo and Dinosaur Zu-Zu where the director's "child" character befriends a goofy baby Ceratosaurus, only for some local bad guys to kidnap them both and awaken the rage of the baby's mother--who looks exactly like Yongary would if he'd been based on a Ceratosaurus instead of just vaguely resembling one.

On second thought, do not look at Young-Goo and Dinosaur Zu-Zu*. It can be found on some streaming video sites, but completely unsubtitled and even then the film's Komedy is insufferable. Imagine if Adam Sandler made a movie where he was pretending to be a dim-witted grade schooler, with only a tiny portion of the film's running time devoted to a giant monster plot. The film is so insufferable that I gave up on it shortly after the big dinosaur finally burst out of a volcano because I decided sleep was more important--and I wasn't even that tired.

[* If you actually do want to view one of Shim's comedies for some reason, try Tyranno's Claw instead. It's not funny, exactly, but it's a cavemen and dinosaurs movie so its dialogue is all just caveman gibberish--therefore no language barrier to cross if you don't speak Korean--and its dinosaurs are not exactly good but they are fun and memorable]

At any rate, Yongary, Monster From The Deep was influential enough that in the mid-1990s, when it seemed like every kaiju franchise was enjoying a revival, it was decided that Yongary deserved a return engagement. And who would be bringing us a new vision of everyone's (read: no one's) favorite gasoline-drinking dinosaur? Why, Shim Hyung-rae, of course!

It gets worse. When the film was originally announced--and I'm going off of nearly 20-year-old memories here because it's astonishingly hard to track down background on this project--it was going to be taking the expected man-in-suit trashing miniature cities route. No other details were available at that time, aside from a few shots of the Yonggary (as the creature's name was re-Romanized to be more accurate) suit.

The guy you'll be blaming for what's to come is on the left.
Already it was clear that Yonggary had undergone a radical redesign, similar to what happened to Godzilla. The original creature's design was more or less, "What if we put Gamera's head on Godzilla's body and then put a horn on his nose?" The remake's title creature is harder to pin down to any obvious influence: it's an armored creature with a row of bumps in place of any discernable dorsal plates, a tiny nose horn, spiked shouler pads, and a crown of swept-back horns on the back of its head.

"It's Yongary In Name Only!"
Well, then the news dried up for a while. I don't recall for how long, but suddenly the news of Yonggary was all about how it was going use CGI to render its monsters (yes, there was going to be an enemy monster this time around, though you wouldn't have known it from most of the original promotion) and that the cast would be entirely Western and almost competely white. It's hard to say which was the more alarming development. After all, in 1998 when the film's production was ramping up for a 1999 release, even Hollywood was largely avoiding CGI as a principal effects tool because unless you had Industrial Light & Magic doing it for you, your FX were likely to end up looking like upscaled video game graphics or something from a current release from The Asylum.

Actually, that was still likely even if you did hire ILM.
Korea (and even Japan) at this point in time were not exactly known for their CGI. So if Hollywood could barely make CGI work, what could we expect from Korea? Well, it turns out pretty much exactly what you think. Sort of.

You might have noticed the fact that I listed two release dates above. Generally I try to only go with the film's original release date in its country of origin, but in this case that requires I give two dates. You see, unless you were in South Korea or attended the Cannes Film Festival, you haven't actually seen Yonggary in its original form. Oh, clips from the film surfaced on the internet that demonstrated its appalling effects, but apparently the film was so poorly received that Shim Hyung-rae reworked it and released it again in 2001. It was apparently this version that made its way to American home video under the bizarrely generic title Reptilian. Look, I realize Yonggary has zero name recognition value in America, but was that seriously a better title?

I say apparently because there is a lot of disagreement about what, if any changes Shim made. The 2001 re-release was labelled "Upgrade" in South Korea, but no one can exactly confirm if the woeful effects were upgraded. This is because the 1999 cut of the film is supposedly just as lost as the original version of Yongary, Monster From The Deep.

The fact that the 2001 edition is not lost may or may not be considered a good thing.

We open in a cave as a bunch of guys in spelunking gear fumble with a map. One of them asks their leader, who will turn out to be Dr. Campbell (Richard B. Livingston), if they shouldn't wait for Dr. Hughes since it's his map they're consulting. Campbell asserts that he's in charge and they should move out. Meanwhile, an old man we'll later learn is Dr. Hughes (Harrison Young), is lost in a different section of the cave. He decides to sit down and have a smoke, while Dr. Campbell and company discover a stone bridge over a ravine filled with fog and dinosaur skeletons--which is an adorably obvious miniature.

Diorama by Timmy, Mrs. Kelvin's 4th Grade Class.
Hughes, meanwhile, notices his lighter is illuminating various skeletons in the cave wall: a theropod, a pterosaur that looks more like a dragon, and finally a mummified alien. His shocked scream leads one of the other explorers to overact wildly as he tells Campbell they must turn back, but Campbell refuses because they've come too far and, anyway, he's just seen what he's looking for. Hughes examines the alien, noting it's in excellent condition and has an amulet clasped in its claws.

Campbell, meanwhile, has found a glowing symbol on a column of rock. He orders the panicky guy, named Peters, to, "DIG!" Hilariously, after Peters gets out his hammer and chisel, Campbell goes and hides behind a rock. Sure enough, the instant that Peters hits the rock it results in an explosion that blasts the flesh off every single one of the explorers and dashes their skeletons against the rock walls. Peters! NOOO! The alien amulet then glows blue, and this causes the explosion to suck back into the column of rock--revealing some form of hieroglyphic writing. Campbell comes out from his hiding place and cackles that, "It's mine! All mine!"

The credits roll over more hieroglyphs. We return to the film as an alien ship that looks like it escaped from an episode of Babylon 5 passes by the moon. At an observatory of some kind, Captain Parker (Briant Wells) is sitting by a radar screen and doesn't notice it going full static. I presume this is a "Laser Radar" station. Parker gets a phone call, as the power flickers on and off in the building. Cut to the alien ship hovering around the moon, presumably to escape detection. No, I don't know what the phone call was about because we then cut to some totally different guy getting off a phone call.

I have no idea who this guy is, but he's half-dressed and lying in bed with a woman dressed how sex workers usually are in movies. He's ranting about how he's finally gonna bury Bud Black and then whatever publication he works for will have to run his story instead. Um, sure. This sequence is shot with a shaky handheld, to make things even more bizarre. Anyways, half-naked balding guy calls Bud Black (Brad Sergi) to pass on the details of a story about a dinosaur. Bud, who is wearing a leather beret, happily copies down the details, apparently unaware that the guy passing them on to him wants to ruin him.

Bud quickly arrives at some kind of dig site where an excavator is moving dirt around and Campbell is supervising a bunch of workers digging with shovels, accompanied by his lead assistant Holly Davis (Donna Philipson). Bud hops out of his car and immediately takes a flash photo. This annoys Campbell, but Davis is annoyed because she knows Bud from an article he wrote in Time magazine about Ancient Civilizations and she dismisses him as a glory hungry paparazzo. Um, even if he was writing an article about ancient aliens that description wouldn't make sense.

Of course, all the narcissistic Campbell hears is "Time magazine" so he happily switches his tune to welcoming Bud. He explains that they've unearthed a dinosaur "fifty times the size of T-Rex," then offers Bud some iced tea. Bud chuckles about the supposed dinosaur "fifty times the size of T-Rex" until he sees the skeleton being dug up--which is in the opposite direction from where the folks we just saw digging are and Bud would have seen it when he drove up. It's also at least partially a full-scale prop and clearly not fifty times the size of a T-Rex, large though it may be.

"Campbell's all right, but you've got to divide every figure he gives you by ten. Other than he's perfectly all right."
Bud is speechless and Campbell pontificates about how this is big and signifies "the dawn of a new era." A new era of...finding big dinosaurs? Okay, sure. Meanwhile, at the alien spaceship, hordes of smaller CGI fighter craft are flying around for...some reason. As the spaceship approaches Earth, we see a space shuttle orbiting next to a satellite. The shuttle identifies itself as Atlantis Omega II (?) and then radios base control to advise them that they're reading a strange radiation surge--and then the space ship blasts them to smithereens with a laser blast. It destroys the satellite for good measure.

At base control, Lt. O'Neill (Wiley M. Pickett) can't raise Atlantis Omega II, and Parker comes up to ask what's wrong. And I have no idea what branch of the military they're working for that requires them to wear camo in a space mission control room. O'Neill says the shuttle just vanished into thin air. We see the space ship easing into a parking orbit, which you'd think the base should be able to detect but maybe it's undetectable by Earth means.

At the dig site, Davis is sketching dinosaur bones when Hughes suddenly appears and clamps his hand over her mouth. He assures her he's not there to hurt her, but then Campbell appears in the tent with two workers at his side and introduces Hughes to Davis. She expresses surprise that he's the  Dr. Wendel Hughes and Campbell mocks Hughes for becoming a senile old man who wants to stop progress. Hughes warns, "Stop the digging now. There'll be no chance at redemption once Yonggary gets his breath."

And note now that almost no one in the cast will pronounce Yonggary correctly, and most will make it sound like "Young Gary."

Campbell mocks Hughes for being jealous that he decoded the hieroglyphics first and found the skeleton first. Hughes tosses back that Campbell is arrogant and greedy. So Campbell has the workers--one of whom looks like Richard Kiel and spends the entire time looking like he's about to burst into laughter, but I think he's trying to be intimidating--grab Hughes and escort him off the site. Davis asks Campbell if he wasn't being too rough and when Bud enters the tent and asks what's going on, he's assured it's nothing and that he should rest up for the big day tomorrow,

A lightning storm rolls in as we get some adorable miniatures of the dig site and the Yonggary skeleton. The alien spaceship fires a triple laser beam at Earth, which hits near the dig site and sends out a CGI shockwave that causes two workers who see it to explode in sparks. The next morning, their smoking corpses are being photographed by Bud, but Campbell snatches the camera away and rips the film out of it. He tells Bud he will only photograph what Campbell tells him to, then turns to Davis and says, "Holly, how did you let this happen?" in the tone you'd use if your daughter let the dog get into the trash, not if you found two people dead.

Campbell passes it off as an electrical mishap and gives orders to dispose of the bodies (!) and get back to work. Davis points out that two dead people on their dig means the authorities need to be involved, but Campbell tells her this sort of thing happens all the time (?!) and then tells the workers he'll double their pay. That satisfies them and they get back to work. Campbell demands to see Davis in private, whereupon he angrily slams his coffee cup down on a desk and splatters coffee everywhere as he demands to know what's gotten into her. She points out that that was the third incident (!) this week (!!) and the authorities really ought to be brought in.

You know, at a certain point you stop being the unwitting pawn of a madman and become an accomplice.

Davis objects that nothing could be worth so many lives, but Campbell tells her that some things are worth such a steep cost and that the dig will continue with or without her. Meanwhile, Parker and O'Neill are informing Lt. General George Murdock (Dan Cashman, I think, but I assumed that by process of elimination since the IMDb lists three characters who are generals, only one of whom has a picture that does not match this guy, and no name is given at this time) that the shuttle and two satellites are missing. The General berates them that they don't lose shuttles and hardware like a "two dollar crap game" and orders everyone to go on Red Alert. Cue footage of missiles being readied and troops scrambling.

Meanwhile, over drinks Campbell tells Bud that he's going to be famous, though Bud worries it won't pay the bills. Campbell asks him in he ever heard of any famous poor people (um, yes) and assures him he could win the Pulitzer. They drink to that and finally the film gets to the really fun part as we cut back to the space ship and we see two Guyver-like aliens talking. Both are obvious puppets that can only bob their heads and wave their arms, and both speak in English with a voice that sounds vaguely like Zordon on The Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.

The budget for Prometheus sequels just kept getting slashed...
One alien advises that Earth has detected them and they must begin the invasion now. The other counters that Earth cannot harm them, so they should continue with the reanimation process. Back on Earth, while looking at a rotating/ CGI image of the space ship the General observes, "Sure as hell ain't Russian." Parker helpfully replies, "No, sir: it's alien." No! I would never have guessed!

At the dig site, Bud asks about Hughes and Campbell explains that he used to be a leader in their field but they had a disagreement. He then mentions that Davis is no longer with them and Bud at first assumes this means she was killed. After Bud assures Campbell he'll do whatever the man asks as long as he gets his story, Cut to some poor bastard trying to drag a tarp out to cover the enormous skeleton--when the belly of the spaceship glows, which causes teeth to fly out of the ground, throught the hapless worker, and root themselves in Yonggary's jaws. Yonggary's ribs grow, as well, and Bud steps out of a port-a-potty in time to see the dead worker, whom he photographs--so we can get an identical replay of the last time he did that and Campbell caught him. This time, after having his film ripped out, Bud yells at Campbell that he's a photojournalist but Campbell reminds him of the deal from before--and then has him help with moving the body.

Again, accomplice.

Meanwhile, the next morning Davis checks into her motel room, unaware that Hughes is watching her. Campbell is then woken up by a worker because the fossil is growing fangs and they found another body. After almost pointing out that he disposed of the body, Campbell catches himself. When asked by the workers how many more lives will this dig cost, he calmly says that they're free to go--but then reminds them that "you are all illegals, and I'll report every last one of you!" So they shrug and keep digging. Though, at this point, they might as well just kill Campbell and dispose of his body since they've already apparently covered up numerous deaths on the site.

At her motel, Davis phones a "professor" and tells him she quit the job, asks if the professor knew Dr. Hughes (who has apparently been assumed dead by most people), mentions him turning up at the dig site to much consternation, and then asks if the job offer still applies. Someone knocks at her door, but it's just the guy delivering her blankets. She asks him where she can get food and he just points and says, "Bar." At the bar, we see the quirky bartender, Sarah Saunders (Julie Kessler) trying to get some barfly to talk about his breakup, but he understandably flees the conversation so she turns her attention to Davis. Davis orders hot coffee and a chicken sandwich, and the two chat while the bartender pours her coffee.

Davis says it's nice to see another woman's face after being surrounded by men. Sarah asks how that's a problem and Davis assures her that being surrounded by a bunch of "sweaty bone diggers"--dibs on the band name--is no fun at all. Hughes then arrives and asks to talk to Davis in private, explaining he knows she quit the dig. She briefly asks him why he, a "world-famous paleontologist," disappeared for two years and was presumed dead. He explains that in Southeast Asia, he encountered a local shaman who directed him to a sacred cave and told him about the legend of Young Gary, the biggest dinosaur of all who would one day rise from the dead and destroy the world. In that cave he also found a fossil of an alien, but Davis declares him just as crazy as Campbell until he asks if anything odd has happened around the fossil and then tells her he has proof that he can show her somewhere more secret.

General Murdock then meets with a guy in a lab coat somewhere that's full of planes being assembled or worked on or some damn thing. The General advises that he's there because an alien space craft has attacked twice already and he doesn't "recall anything in the handbook about dealing with pissed off aliens." Cut back to Hughes and Davis in her hotel room, going over the hieroglyphics that foretell of the return of a giant dinosaur. She sees nothing in them but some ancient writing, so Hughes explains the last two years he was a "guest" of the government who didn't believe him either, but they were interested in aa dead alien. He shows her the analysis of the non-carbon-based, non-human, non-animal specimen that fossilized 200-220 million years ago. (Um, in the Triassic Period?!) Hughes says, as he's leaving, that he knows that the aliens are coming back and he has to stop Campbell before it's too late. Davis reluctantly decides to go with him after he walks out,

That night at the dig, Bud is muttering to himself and trying to assess the situation, including "more dead bodies than a Tarantino flick," Campbell appears then and reminds him that he is about to record mankind's greatest discovery (um, a really big dinosaur skeleton?), and then word comes that the skeleton has been fully uncovered. Campbell is moved to tears by its beauty and gives Bud permission to take his photos now. And then Hughes and Davis drive up, too late to stop the uncovering.

Cue the alien space ship firing a blast of energy at the skeleton. This causes an explosion that sends cars, equipment, and people flying. Then a glowing diamond appears on Yonggary's skull before he generates flesh, breathes deeply, and then rises up in the full glory of godawful CGI. We are talking video game cutscene from the time this was made, here. Campbell tries to deny what he's seeing, but then immediately tells Davis, "I can talk to him!" Wait, what? What the hell gave you that idea, doc?Hughes meanwhile just suggests that he and Davis get the hell out of there, as Yonggary stomps on the fleeing workers.

"Rar! Who unplugged my rendering computer?!"
Campbell faces down Yonggary as the beast stomps toward him, bellowing at it to stop because "you're my creation!" Yonggary stomps him flat as a counterpoint. And then the spaceship teleports Yonggary away. Hughes, Davis, and Bud stare at the spot where the beast was just standing in stunned silence.

Parker reports to General Murdock that they've found the target area, the site of an excavation 40 miles East of their location. Murdock orders him to go investigate at once. Parker and O'Neil pull up with trucks full of troops before we cut back to Major General Jack Thomas (Dennis Howard) arriving at whatever HQ they're using so Murdock can brief him about the alien attack. Hilariously, when Thomas asks if it's a pre-emptive strike Murdock says it's too early to say.

Meanwhile, Parker is a bit incredulous at Hughes and Davis' story of a 200-million-year-old dinosaur that vanished into thin air after being struck by a light from outer space. (Dude, you're tracking a strike from an orbiting alien spaceship) Hughes and Davis assert that the dinosaur must somehow be stopped before it reaches the city or they're all doomed. Ad then O'Neill calls Parker over to show him a footprint full of dead people. Parker, now convinced, wonders how he'll explain this.

Cut to a shot of the alien ship ad its fleet of fighters doing...nothing. Then, hilariously, a third General (Matt Landers) arrives and Murdock addresses him just as "Boom Boom," so to hell with the full name on the IMDb, that's what I'm calling him. Boom Boom introduces his companions, special task force Sgt. Romisky (Johanna Parker) and Sgt. Michaels (Alex Walters)--though I note that Boom Boom points at them in the wrong order when giving their names. Romisky advises that her objective is, "Destroy the enemy and break their toys, sir." But those were mint-in-package, you monster!

Romisky and Michaels are dismissed, so Boom Boom advises hat radar has deteced several smaller craft around the alien ship, possibly an attack force. Murdock requests that Thomas send Parker a chopper unit as back-up. then word comes in that target is moving (what target, Yonggary?) and Murdock orders the new position be relayed to Parker. Then he requests the other Generals meet him in the War Room.

In the alien vessel, one alien observes their invasion force is ready. The other alien acknowledges this and says they've received a signal from their tracking device. The order is given to dispatch Young Gary to the location. Cut to Hughes and Davis in a jeep driven by some grunt named Sgt. Archie (Derrick Costa), who advises their destination is top secret. He then calls Parker "the Pretty Boy" and explains that Parker's father was a two-star general and complains abut nepotism in ranks. He declares Parker incompetent, then goes on a spiel about the "fake" footprint and Roswell and corn fields.

Hughes, meanwhile, shows Davis a CD-R and explains it contains the rest of the hieroglyphics and need to be decoded. (And, uh, how does a paleontologist learn to decode alien hieroglyphics? Not really a discipline you need when studying dinosaurs)  Davis prods him to explain why he didn't try to find Campbell sooner if he knew what would happen. Hughes explains that when the government classified his data then he was also classified. His supposed disappearance and death was part of the cover-up. Archie cackles at this and turns around to look at Hughes and Davis as he laughs at them--just in time for Yonggary to materialize in front of the jeep.

"Pay the toll!"
While Archie asks what it is and Hughes snidely tells him it's his imagination, Davis hilariously asks, "Where is it?" Uh, do you need glasses, doc?  Archie panics, wanting to try and drive past Yongary, but Hughes warns it will kill them easily. Davis mocks the soldier's courage and then Archie says he's not sticking around--and Shatner-rolls out of the parked vehicle. He then, hilarious pulls his side arm. Hughes gets out and tells him not to shoot, but Archie promises to hit the beast between the eyes. Hughes points out that will get them all killed. Davis, meanwhile is enthralled by the beast as it stares back at them--even down to its smell. ("It smells...old.") Archie insists on trying to shoot the kaiju in front of them, but luckily a CGI helicopter squadron arrives before he can piss off a 200-foot dinosaur.

With Yonggary distracted by the approaching helicopters, Archie, Davis, and Hughes are able to get back in the jeep and drive right under Yonggary's feet. The soldier apologies for doubting Hughes, while Hughes just hopes the choppers can stop Yonggary. To my delight, Yonggary voices his displeasure at the advancing choppers by letting loose the stock roar used for the T-Rex in The Land Unknown, King Kong in the 1976 remake, and (bizarrely) Gamera in Gamera The Brave.

Before you ask, Yonggary did not have a memorable roar in his original film. It sounded like a donkey with a head cold, with a bit of Barugon's roar mixed in.

As Romisky and Michaels monitor the choppers in the control room, they make thier attck run. However, bullets don't even faze Yonggary and he responds by spitting CGI fireballs at ne chopper and smashing another with is claw. Rockets turn out to not fare any better, and Yonggary responds by leaping at the choppers and, I swear to God, the film rips off Godzilla when a pilot radios in "He's on my tail!" as Yonggary snaps at his chopper, barely missing each time because, as in the film it's ripping off, the pilot forgets he can fly up. This ends with Yonggary blasting the chopper with a fireball, though. Romisky is sure her radar screen must be malfunctioning because of all the chopper signals she's losing.

"Eat CGI, you flying jerks!"
Yonggary wipes out several more choppers with his fireballs, so Michaels orders them to break off.  He reports to the Generals that the choppers reported encountering a giant monster. The aliens give the order to "dematerialize Young Gary" and so the immense dinosaur fades from view. Boom Boom takes Murdock aside to tell him that a representative from the expected secret government anti-extraterrestrial agency has arrived. The agent introduces himself as Mr. Mills (Bruce Cornwell) of the N.S.I.A. and explains to the incredulous Murdock that he's not sure if even the president knows of his agency's existence. Mills explains the backstory about Hughes providing them evidence of an advanced alien race visiting Earth 200 million years ago.

Boom Boom gets mad mad when Mills admits the N.S.I.A. knew six months ago that maybe the aliens might one day return, but makes the sensible point that it was pretty unlikely that anyone would have believed that warning before now. Murdock asks how they can stop the aliens, but Mills informs them that some crucial information was taken from their lab and until it is recovered he has no idea. He then suggests capturing the aliens alive, which Boom Boom is not on board with.

They're interrupted then by the report that the spaceship is hovering over the city. (No, they never say which city) Murdock orders troops sent in and then tells Mills to stick around and then heads back to the control room. The satellite uplink has been repaired just in time to get a report of an energy beam from the alien ship striking just outside the city--and then everyone in the control room sees video of Yonggary materializing in the harbor outside the city. Mills mutters something about Hughes being right, but then pretends he knew nothing about this creature.

The alien spaceship is now orbiting the moon--nope, no idea why other than "it looks cool"--and the aliens order their fighters to destroy the satellite that's sending information to the military HQ. Not really sure why it needs to be destroyed now, but doing so deprives the military of their video feed. People in a bridge outside the city stop and gawk at the approaching giant dinosaur, which means they've never seen a kaiju film before. Yonggary smashes through the bridge and then wades into the center of town. For some reason he mainly just walks down a main street as people scream and flee. A motorcycle cop laughably tries to shoot Yonggary, then discovers his radio won't work to call for back-up. So he calls from a clearly not American phone booth, just barely getting in a report of a giant lizard before he has to dive out as Yonggary steps on the booth,

"Wait a minute--I was distinctly promised I would get to destroy a famous city!"
Yonggary then begins smashing buildings. A SWAT team is called in and they try to shoot at him from a rooftop, so he responds to their bullets and shotgun blasts by blasting a hole in the building. All the SWAT guys perish in a fireball. He then shoots fireballs all over the place--including into a crowd of fleeing civilians--causing massive explosions. Finally he takes out a gas station. And, frustratingly, 90% of the destroyed buildings are clearly miniatures and they actually look pretty good. It just makes the awful CGI that brings Yonggary to life that much more egregious.

Hughes and Davis are brought in to HQ and introduced to Murdock. Mills and Hughes have a catty confrontation over Hughes having stolen the discs and Mills having dismissed Hughes as crazy. Archie holds Mills back and Hughes explains that the discs may hold the key to defeating Yonggary. Meanwhile, Yonggary is destroying more of the city and I have less nice things to say about the miniatures in this segment, but at least they don't look like a cartoon. A hotdog cart is taken out by a runaway car, Yonggary knocks the spire off a skyscraper, A squad of ground troops engages Yonggary with bazookas, assault rifles, and 9mm handguns (!) but they just get to do fireball somersaults for their troubles.

Mills tries to flee the HQ, but Murdock won't let him out and has Archie place him under guard. Thomas calls in air support for the ground troops, in this case a squad of F-16s. In a truly odd bit, a bus full of children (in the dead of night?!) sees Yonggary approaching and he smashes the bridge in front of them, but the driver successfully jumps the gap--and then Yonggary sends fireball after fireball at the bus, destroying the bridge behind it but the bus manages to escape as the kids inside jump up and down excitedly yelling "yay!" in front of the fireball that almost killed them. What the Hell, kids?!

The F-16 squad leader reminds them to avoid collateral damage--and then the first plane misses both shots. The second fighter also misses with his missiles and angrily wonders how they're missing. The next fighter hits him in the chest, but the remaining shots all go way over Yonggary's head! He begins returning fire and I notice during the radio chatter that one of the pilots is a woman, which is kind of a cool little detail. Yonggary takes at least three planes out, the last one crashing into a gas truck on the ground and making a huge explosion.

Next, Yonggary takes out another plane and someone yells, "They got Mad Dog!" Then, after the missiles all failed to do anything to their target, the fighters try switching to guns. Obviously that fails, so they switch to sidewinders. This also fails because they keep fucking missing! Now, this is just a damned odd approach. Obviously Yonggary is a more traditional kaiju with the expected invulnerability to conventional weapons--so why they hell are they having the pilots missing like in Godzilla, too?! Though at least here Yonggary is destroying as many buildings when he returns fire as the incompetent military are.

The president calls Murdock and apparently demands the attack be called off to minimize the damage. Except Murdock then says that in roughly four hours the president has ordered a nuclear strike on Yonggary. Boom Boom points out the obvious downside of that plan, but Murdock just says they're under orders. The planes are still fighting Yonggary, though, but they're running out of missiles. As they plan one last strike, Yonggary's forehead suddenly glows and he writhes in pain like his head is hurting--and then he teleports away, which causes one plane to crash into a skyscraper. Which, oof, would be an uncomfortable visual shortly after its release.

At HQ, the Generals discuss a report that Yonggary had some kind of energy field around him that deflected their missiles. As they agonize over whether the beast has any weaknesses, Davis and Hughes are going over a program to translate the disc's hieroglyphics. He puts his jacket over her, which Hollywood has conditioned me to interpret as a romantic gesture and that makes me severely uncomfortable. He tells her the "code word" for the program is "Daddy Loves E.T." No, he's not kidding, he assures Davis.

The translation doesn't really help, just telling them that Yonggary will be given flesh and blood and this new race, called man, will be destroyed by his own intelligence. Wait, the aliens foretold the evolution of humans at a time when the Earth hadn't even evolved shrews yet? At any rate, Murdock asks Thomas if the experimental laser project, T-Force, could penetrate the force field around Yonggary. Thomas counters it's too early in the development process to use that technology and that the jet packs used for that project haven't even been safety tested yet. Murdock orders him to gather their T-Force anyway. Boom Boom then calls for Hughes.

Hughes is busy realizing through the translation that the aliens are using Young Gary as a tool to destroy the Earth, whereupon the aliens will be given new life upon it...somehow. Hilariously, they come upon a reference that says, "The dinosaur shall raise his head and the damon on his forehead will shine." As they puzzle over what a "damon" is, Davis finds a diamond shaped object in Hughes' coat. He explains he found it in the alien cave and Davis realizes that damon is actually diamond. Apparently aliens can't spell for shit.

Davis then realizes she saw the same diamond pattern on Young Gary's forehead and produces the sketch she made of his skull at the dig site. The hieroglyphics end by saying that once the diamond is destroyed, "another light" shall be sent in Yonggary's place. That can't be good. Looking at the clock counting down from 2 hours and 40 minutes until the nuclear strike--because apparently the nuke is just going to be fired at the city even if Yonggary is technically not there anymore, I guess--Thomas advises Murdock that Parker and his T-Force are in position. He makes a joke about their odds in Vegas, but then assures Murdock they're going to win.

Yonggary's signal is reacquired just then. The T-Force is scrambled and loaded into a transport helicopter. In the chopper, Parker gives his St. Crispin's Day speech. Hilariously, a ranger named Lewis (Marvin Poole) gets up and says he wants out because he's scared and doesn't think he can do this. Parker points out that Lewis is responsible for the Hellraiser, which appears to be a minigun, and asks who's qualified to handle it if Lewis steps down. O'Neill stands up says that he can operate the Hellraiser. Parker objects but O'Neill talks him into letting him take over.

In the HQ, as Hughes and Davis arrive to state the obvious (re: Yonggary being alien weapon of mass destruction), it's revealed that Yonggary's position is at the Gleason nuclear plant. Davis observes it makes sense if the aliens want to cause a radioactive catastrophe and kill all life around the plant. The chopper is rerouted to the coordinates as we then see the space ship firing the blast that makes Yonggary appear. So, uh, how was the military tracking that, exactly? In a bit that hilariously presages the HALO jump in Godzilla, the T-Force troops all load up and jump from the chopper. Except instead of flares on their ankles, they're leaving colored trails because they're all wearing silly jet packs!

"I call dibs on Jennifer Connelly!"
"Fine, but I got dibs on Timothy Dalton!"
They zip around Yonggary, annoying him but staying out of his reach. As they group up, Parker says, "Remember, compared to this guy, Godzilla is a pussy!" Wow. Wow, Yonggary, implying your Godzilla rip-off is more badass than the real deal, huh? At any rate, they begin their attack with their little pew-pew laser rifles that function like machine guns. They're able to dodge Yonggary at first, but then he begins to pick them off with his fireballs. Meanwhile, Davis and Hughes show Murdock the "damon" because for some reason they've decided to accept the aliens' spelling error, and explain that it's a device that controls Young Gary on his forehead. In theory, then, the T-Forces could take out the control device. So Parker and his men begin trying to shoot for the diamond. In execution ti doesn't look any different from them shooting wildly at him and they're taking heavy losses, but somehow the aliens react with, "They've discovered the damon," and teleport Yonggary away.

Hilariously, everyone in the control room begins interrogating Mills about the diamond. Equally as hilarious, despite Mills acting shady he seriously doesn't know anything when Boom Boom grabs him by the lapels and threatens him. However, somehow the group realizes that Yonggary is being tracked by the aliens because he generates an energy signature (umm, what?) and maybe they can track ti with infrared. Sure, okay, just start making wild leaps in logic, movie.

Sure enough, when Parker flicks on his infrared tracking he sees what looks like a blue energy tornado moving through the desert. (Never mind that blue usually equals cold on an infrared readout) Parker reports in that Yonggary is heading back to the city. And then Murdock gets a call from the president that, with 90 minutes left on the countdown clock, the president has ordered the nuclear bomber deployed. Of course, when we see the bomber being loaded and taxied down the runway it's an F-117 stealth fighter, not a bomber. I know this because I always thought F-117 was the coolest looking plane ever. I mean, it's also kind of a lemon, but it looks cool.

The rocket troops pursue the Yonggary signal through the desert, which is rendered with a lot of adorable miniatures. Mills, meanwhile, is making a furtive call to "Mr. Speaker" saying that the order for the nuclear strike has been given and, as he sees it, once Yonggary is destroyed the aliens will be forced to land and then they will be able to capture them. That's...that's assuming a lot, even for a duplicitous spook character. At any rate, Yonggary rematerializes in the city, which naturally is still chock full of fleeing civilians and normal traffic patterns despite earlier dialogue about evacuations in progress. The T-Force engages, but mostly get wiped out. Parker dodges several fireballs but the last one causes him to lose control and crash land.

An enraged O'Neill yells insults at Yonggary while firing the Hellraiser, stuff like not getting enough attention as a tadpole and calling him "Dino." Soon only O'Neill is left alive and against Parker's orders, he makes a death run on Yonggary. When Yonggary begins to teleport away again, O'Neill discards his gun and pushes the throttle all the way on his jet pack to suicide bomb the diamond on the beast's forehead. Yonggary stops dematerializing and when an angry Parker starts shooting at him, the beast just reacts with confusion but not aggression. An alarming number of people start crowding around the beast, including a shot of several of them superimposed next to an obvious prop tail that looks way better than the CGI. Parker is confused that Yonggary doesn't want to attack him.

Then a new squadron of F-16s swoops in, Parker tries to radio them to call off their attack, but it's too late. Yonggary dodges their rockets, though, but then they hit buildings that start to topple over onto Parker and the civilians crowding around. Except Yonggary steps in and stops the buildings from falling over. Okay, wow, that's a bit of a jump from "basically gentle monster made an unwitting pawn of evil" to "he's the friend to all children humans." In the HQ, Davis and Hughes observe that Young Gary is on their side now, as the counter ticks down from 28 minutes, Mills, though, insists they kill Yonggary, but the Generals find his motives suspicious and orders the jets away while calling the president to advise that Yonggary is under control. Nobody notices Mills grabbing something from his pocket...

Yonggary: better at saving innocent people than Man of Steel.
The aliens, having realized they lost control of Young Gary, give the order to activate Psychor. Well, it;s actually supposed to be "Cyker" per the official romanization, bu the alien says it "Sigh-Core." Another energy beam is fired at the city, which materializes into a huge fireball that zooms into the city and sets off an Independencee Day-style explosion when it hits the city. Some of this is nfity but crude model work, some is CGI, and it knocks Yonggary ass over tea kettle but we don't see it affect the humans we just saw by his feet. (They're all dead now, presumably) And even though I saw this film back around 2002, it's only now that I begin to wonder if Godzilla: Final Wars  was ripping this movie off. First there's the alien fighter craft in both films looking like arrowheads crossed with fangs and now there's an enemy monster arriving in a meteorite that blows up the city when it lands.

Communications at HQ is cut off by some interference--which turns out to be from Mills. And in the city, an F-16 buzzes over an unconscious Yonggary just as an earthquake begins to shake some miniatures that have fallen between "awful" and "good" to land on "charming." Books fall over in stores, cars rock, and signs fall off buildings. Yonggary struggles to his feet--just as something tears through the ground under the street like a giant Graboid, killing a few people who didn't think to turn and leave the street instead of trying to outrun it. Meanwhile, everyone in HQ approaches Mills carefully, as he warns that his jammer is locked and if he smashes it they'll never get their screens back. Which, uh, I don't think is how a jammer works, actually.

Mills wants A) Yonggary dead and B) to be let out of the HQ. The standoff continues but I don;t give a shit. Meanwhile, giant crab claws burst out of the street as a monster pulls itself up out of the concrete. But we cut away again to HQ as Murdock gives Mills the code to open the door and escape--only to find Archie waiting for him. The device is tossed to Davis and Mills is beaten up by Archie and dragged away.

As Cyker rises up from the street, Parker makes the nonsensical observation that, "This place is turning into a prehistoric petting zoo." Cyker appears to be a cross between an ankylosaurus and a scorpion, with four hind legs and two pincers for arms. And in another clue that this was originally meant to star men in suits, there is no doubt that Cyker's design was intended to be brought to life by two men doing the horse routine--even his legs bend at the knees like human legs would,

Kaiju Centipede: Final Wars Sequence
Cyker charges at Yonggary, just missing him and the two spit fireballs at each other. Cyker's are clearly more destructive, but both miss. The two grapple, but Yonggary ends up being tossed through two buildings. They grapple again and again Cyker gains the upper claw--especially once he shoots Yonggary with his electric tail laser. Yonggary goes limp after that and Cyker moves in for the kill, only for Parker to distract the beast with his laser rifle. That very nearly gets Parker killed instead, but Yonggary recovers and blows Cyker's right arm off with a fireball.

Except Cyker sprouts tentacles from the stump. The tentacles snare Yonggary and then electrocute him. Davis calls for Young Gary to "get up" after he collapses. Well, he doesn't. However, when Cyker moves in for the kill, Yonggary dodges the killing blow, then a fireball--and returns fire, blowing Cyker's head off. (Dig the prop severed head and, again, weep for the lost practical effects that probably did not look like shit) Unfortunately, Cyker is not dead--and Romisky's angry reaction is hilarious.

"Oh God, I did not agree to this!"
Well, when the headless Cyker charges towards Yonggary and lashes out with tentacles from the head stump, Yonggary dodges this time. He bites the tentacles in two and then spits a fireball into the stump after they retract--and Cyker's body explodes. Yonggary collapses as everyone in HQ cheers, only to realize that in 2 minutes they're gonna get nuked, So they radio the bomber with the abort codes and call off the strike just in time.

The aliens decide it's time to beat a hasty retreat before Yonggary discovers his true strength, but swear to return and defeat the humans later. Guys, you had a 200 million  year head start on us and you still lost. They go to warp speed as Boom Boom happily lights a cigar and everyone congratulates each other and thanks Young Gary for his work. And then the unconscious Yonggary flies by, suspended from cables attached to a fleet of helicopters. (An idea clearly lifted from the unproduced Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott Godzilla screenplay in the 90s, as well as King Kong vs. Godzilla) Apparently he's being airlifted to a deserted island to allow him time to get used to the 21st Century. The End.

"This prank is the best! We airlift the sleeping monster away and then he wakes up with no fucking clue where he is!"
So, I went pretty easy on The X From Outer Space because it's not a good film but it's still fun and I find its monster action charming. I feel the same way about Yongary, Monster From The Deep, only moreso. It's a delightfully silly, wrongheaded movie that famously ends with its titular monster appearing to die from rectal hemorrhaging.

Well, this version will make you long for rectal hemorrhaging.

Director Shim Hyung-rae is best known these days for unleashing Dragon Wars on the world. Like this film, that later effort was entirely populated by English-speaking actors reciting dialogue clearly not written by someone who understood English. However, I cannot over emphasize how much better a film that Dragon Wars is for several reasons:

One, Dragon Wars has CGI effects that are surprisingly good. Two, its plot and script are absolutely bonkers.

While the second thing may not sound like a positive, it absolutely is. While Yonggary has a plot that is certainly odd and often nonsensical, it's still incredibly pedestrian and rote. While it may throw you the occasional curve ball like rocket troopers, it's still a very familiar monster tale and one you've seen done before and better. So it's too bland to be entertaining on the merits of seeing what crazy turn it'll take next, and it's neither gloriously terrible nor competent enough to be good.

For one thing, while many of the actors are terrible, few of them are ever terrible in an entertaining way. Most are clearly competent professionals but receiving unclear direction. The special effects are all terrible, yes, but they're terrible in a way that is somehow hard to truly make fun of. This isn't seeing an exploding model plane flip around on its wire, it's just eye-scratchingly bad CGI. While I have actually seen that be amusingly bad, this is not one of those times. It's just bad. Especially since the filmmakers rarely actually use the CGI to do anything they couldn't have done easier and better with a guy in a suit! I mean, both Yonggary and Cyker move like men in suits but they're rendered in CGI anyway.

And that's really too bad, because without the awful CGI that final fight could actually have been pretty awesome. The choreography was pretty sweet and, even though I'm still way more partial to the original Yonggary's design, I have to say the monster designs are really good. It's just a shame they're wasted the way they are. Though at least those puppet aliens are awesome. I wish they got more screen time.

Ultimately, this is a ridiculous film that isn't ridiculous enough. It gets bogged down in the stuff none of us care about and fails to deliver on the stuff we came here for--and when it does deliver, the awful CGI effects shoot it in the foot.

I recommend skipping this one unless you're an absolute kaiju completist. There's some material in it for riffing, but not nearly enough to make it worth the trouble. Stick with the original, since at least there the bad effects are charmingly bad and the moments it goes bonkers are actually bonkers.

Today's review brought to you by the letter Y! Hit the banner above to see what the other Celluloid Zeroes chose for Y!

Only one more day of HubrisWeen, folks! Will our trusty Celluloid Zeroes all make it? Tune in to find out!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

HubrisWeen 2015, Day 24: The X From Outer Space (1967)

When you get right down to it, kaiju are weird. I don't mean in the sense of how strange the basic concept of an enormous monster destroying a city is, I specifically mean Japanese giant monsters. You can almost always tell a Japanese monster from a Western monster because Japanese monsters have no compunctions about being utterly ridiculous.

Just look at the various evil kaiju that Gamera has vanquished over the years. Watch a few episodes of Ultra Q and Ultraman to see some truly weird monsters. Hell, the titular superhero of Ultraseven fought a creature called Dinosaur Tank because it is literally a dinosaur fused to a tank. You see what I mean?

Yet even among the leagues of bizarre kaiju, Guilala is firmly in the lead.

I've spoken about Shochiku Studios on here before, but starting in 1967 they decided to get into the genre game in a big way. At the time, kaiju films and TV shows were all the rage in Japan. So it's not surprising that studios that had never attempted it before decided to jump into the game. (And not just in Japan, but we'll get to Yongary, Monster From The Deep another day) Of course, the newcomers all pretty well proved why Toho and Daiei Studios were the true pros. Just look at Nikkatsu Studios' Gappa: The Triphibian Monster for a good example of why kaiju eiga were best left to Toho and even Daiei.

Now, Shochiku had just as little of an idea of what they were doing as Nikkatsu, and there's no question that The X From Outer Space shows its "amateur" status clear as day. However, unlike Gappa: The Triphibian Monster, which just slapped together various other monster stories and played them off as ts own, this film actually tries to be its own thing. And it's a lot easier to forgive a film with ambitions beyond its reach than a lazy cash-in.

We kick off with the credits rolling over drawings of constellations and set to a theme song that is a delightfully inexplicable jazzy number. We open with a helicopter touching down at the base of Mt. Fuji and disgorging a white guy with a goatee, whose general demeanor screams "scientist in charge of stuff." We'll later discover this is Dr. Berman (Franz Gruber). The helicopter is clearly at some kind of rocket base and a group of guards rushes forward to unload the helicopter's cargo. The last guard does not close the door right afterwards, hilariously providing us the visual of the helicopter door popping back open and then swinging closed again. Naturally, this distracts us from the guard having Dr. Berman sign something.

The cargo is a metal box labeled in Japanese, but the subtitles say it says "Enriched Nuclear Rocket Fuel." So naturally, everybody gets nervous when the guys loading it into a station wagon almost drop it. Inside the rocket base, we see the crew of the AAB Gamma rocket mission to Mars being briefed. They are: mission commander Capt. Sano (Shun'ya Wazaki), medical officer Dr. Shioda (Keisuke Sonoi), mission biologist and token gaijin Lisa NoLastName (Peggy Neal), and the Japanese equivalent of "Brooklyn Guy", communications officer Miyamoto (Shin'ichi Yanagisawa). The director of the FAFC, which is the name of this fictional rocket group but I don't recall the acronym ever being explained, brings them up to speed on what they're facing:

Every Mars mission so far has ended in disastrous failure, after the missions reported back encountering a UFO. Their mission is to identify what this UFO is and, ideally, make it to Mars. Miyamoto uses his "concern" that this may be too scary for Lisa to awkwardly hit on her, but despite the fact that Lisa is the sort of character who seems to say 90% of her dialogue in a flirtatious manner she is not down for his antics. Well, in a 1967 good-natured annoyance kind of way. And then Dr. Shioda jokingly points out that Miyamoto is the one most likely to get anxious and forget stuff--which Lisa laughs way too hard at.

AAB Gamma is launched without a hitch, and separates from its rocket to reveal that it is one swank rocket. It looks like some kind of hot rod in space. And, naturally, as is the way of rockets in sci-fi from this period, it is constantly firing its propulsion rocket. Hilariously, Miyamoto forgets that they're in Zero G and lets his clipboard float away. Lisa starts to unstrap and retrieve it, but Sano stops her and then just flips on the artificial gravity. As is often the case in sci-fi films, we are given zero indication as to how this gravity is generated.

"Let's blast, Space Daddio!"
Almost immediately, AAB Gamma finds itself halfway between the Earth and Mars and is buzzed by the UFO. The UFO is, hilariously, out of focus the entire time. Presumably this is to disguise how silly it looks, since it's a fuzzy-looking flying saucer with blinking lights inside it. Miyamoto describes it as a gigantic "fried egg," while my girlfriend astutely described it more as a hamburger somebody sat on. Whatever the saucer is, it plays havoc with their communications and instruments. This will later be attrtibuted o the vessel being powered by some form of magnetic force.

When Shioda is overcome by some myterious space sickness, Sano makes the call to bugger off to the moon base. Lisa objects that Shioda needs medical attention first, but Sano orders her to strap in--which she does, reluctantly. Luckily for them, the UFO lets them go.

They radio in their arrival to the moonbase, whose communications officer is Michiko (Itoko Harada). It seems there's something between Sano and Michiko, because Lisa excitedly tells Michiko that she's heard so much about her and can't wait to meet her--while Michiko reacts to Lisa's existence with instant icy jealousy. So jealous is Michiko, in fact that she cuts off the communication, overturns the framed photo of Sano on her desk, and rotates her desk so she can walk away. When one of the other moonbase officers points out that AAB Gamma is coming in too fast and needs to be radioed to adjust their speed, Michiko has to be badgered into calling to warn them!

Sure, the AAB Gamma crashing into the landing platform could kill everyone on board and possibly kill everyone in the moonbase, too--but her boyfriend has a woman working on his spaceship!

AAB Gamma does safely land, however. Amusingly, Michiko is totally fine with greeting Sano and Lisa in person now, so I have no idea what was up with her prior outburst. And Lisa is tremendously delighted to meet Michiko still, which I'll come back to later. Shioda, meanwhile, is rushed to Dr. Stein (Mike Daneen), who declares that he just had a minor bout of space sickness but he should stay in the moonbase and rest. Shioda says the Mars mission can't wait for him to get better, but Stein says that's not his problem.

The crew is invited to dinner, where we see that apples grown on the moon grow gigantic--which the moonbase director attributes to unfiltered ultraviolet light. He still prefers the flavor of Earth apples, though, because there's just no pleasing some folks. Oh, and Lisa brought some beautiful earrings for Michiko. Sano points out that those weren't on the manifest and jokingly accuses her of smuggling them aboard. Lisa replies that he ought to be able to overlook it since "after all, I am a woman--and they were for Michiko," which is followed by such a broad wink that Lisa might have wondered out of a bawdy Monty Pytho sketch.

The crew then go and frolic on the moon's surface, which mainly consists of the actors in space suits climbing on rocks--which appear to be mossy--and then bouncing on obvious hidden trampolines in slow-motion. Lisa observes Michiko and Sano with an obvious ping of jealousy, but she apparently handles it better than Michiko because she doesn't disconnect anyone's air hose.

Back in the moon base, Miyamoto and Sano enjoy a hot bath together. When Miyamoto asks how they found water on the moon, Sano explains that the water isn't real. It's somehow derived from moon rock, but when Miyamoto asks how it's different from real water, all Sano can do is go on a dull rant about how it's fake and artficial and how could you enjoy that? So Miyamoto turns on the cold faucet over Sano's head. Meanwhile, Lisa and Michiko are showering in adjacent stalls. Lisa literally drops the soap and then kicks it over to Michicko--which, aside from the obvious joke, seems really unsafe. What if Michiko slipped on it?

At any rate, Michiko and Lisa talk about Sano. Lisa clearly admires him as a commander, but Michiko still somewhat interprets this as Lisa being romantically attracted to Sano. This is because the movie does mean to infer that Lisa has an unrequited crush on Sano--however somehow this got mixed up in the filming process because it's impossible to read Lisa's feelings as anything but her having a crush on Michiko. I mean, seriously, how else can you interpret Lisa's behavior towards Michiko so far? She's barely acknowledged Sano in anything but a professonal capacity, whilst constantly talking about being delighted to meet Michiko and brought her a gift of jewelry! And that wink after she delivered the gift!

As my girlfriend so often says, I ship it.

"Dear Penthouse: I am a radio operator on the moonbase and I never thought this would happen to me..."
At any rate, the orders come through and since Dr. Shioda cannot come along on the Mars mission, FAFC orders Dr. Stein to be the mission doctor. Stein is furious because he was supposed to be going home to his wife soon, and he hates being in space. (He seems to be in the wrong line of work, then) Well, unfortunately for all involved, his whining does not stop once they are back on their way to Mars. When Lisa tries to serve the space food lunch, Stein gets angry about having to eat the foil-packed swill--and we get the feeling the crew has been tolerating his jackassness for days.

Sano has to practically throttle the man to get him to shut up long enough to confirm he is, indeed hearing a meteor shower hitting the outer hull. Hilarity ensues when the crew rushes to strap themselves in--Lisa just drops her lunch to the floor, then Miyamoto oddly hads his to her so she then throws his aside before rushing to her chair. One metoer burns a hole in their hull. They all don their helmets, but in the struggle to get the oxygen in the cabin shut off, Miyamoto is sucked butt-first towards the hull breach. He is spared having his intestines sucked out of his anus when Sano shoves the useless Stein aside and shuts the oxygen off, thus stopping the violent decompression.

They barely have the hull beach patched when the UFO comes calling again. This time it traps them in some kind of tractor beam or magnetic pull. Sano cuts the engines, realizing that a full burn against the force is just wasting their fuel. Stein panics, sure that they're all going to die, and wrests the controls away from Sano. Just as Sano predicted, though, a full burn does nothing but leave them with an empty tank and adrift in space when the UFO apparently loses interest in them. Luckily, this means they can radio the moonbase to bring fuel.

However, Lisa notices their latest brush with the UFO has somehow left some strange objects on their rear rocket. Sano and Lisa do a space walk to investigate. Whatever it is it looks like a fuzzy, powdery substance with flashing chunks of rock inside it. Lisa puts one rock in a sample jar that looks like an empty lantern, while Sano tries to clear the rest of the hull. Luckily, Michiko and her co-pilot soon arrive with more nuclear fuel, which Stein eagerly helps them load. Of note is that Stein is now, inexplicably, helpful and willing to defer to the others' orders. I am therefore outraged that were clearly deprived of the scene where they all took turns kicking Stein in the ribs.

"Let those who worship evil's might, Beware my power, Green Lantern's light!"
Well, the Mars mission is scrubbed for now so the sample of space pollen can be brought back to the FAFC base in Japan for analysis. (But not, you know, the base on the moon where it could be studied with no risk to nearby inhabitated areas) Lisa has barely begun any tests on it when Berman and Kato suggest everyone come to a party at Kato's house to celebrate, leaving the sample alone and unsupervised. So naturally, Kato gets a call from the base guards almost at once that someting has gone wrong at the lab and the sample is missing.

Inside the lab, the group finds a hole burned through the floor that apparently goes deep underground. The sample is not entirely gone, actually, but remains is a brittle outside covering--almost like an eggshell, though nobody makes that observation as Lisa puts it back into another container with tongs. And then Miyamoto notices an impression in the floor and grabs a nearby beaker of liquid (!) to pour into the impression to confirm that it does, in fact, appear to be a three-toed footprint. Sano observes it looks like a chicken, but I wouldn't go that far.

Meanwhile, a power station observes a drastic drop-off in their power output, as though it's being drained from somewhere. Sano, Michiko, Lisa and Miyamoto meanwhile head to a nearby hotel bar for drinks--and one of the hotel staff comes out to mention they've had rolling blackouts lately. Now, this seems to be maybe an hour after they got news of the sample going missing, but it almost sounds like it's been much longer. Anyway, the hotel lights go out as they walk up: and the a nearby hillside explodes as something big groans and growls.

And then Guilala bursts forth from the hillside, framed by explosions as he stretches his arms out like he's in a Busby Berkeley musical and roars. Then, inexplicably, some boiling hot liquid pours down the hillside. Lava? Hot mud? Guilala urine? I have no idea. At any rate, our heroes stand around looking stunned--which is the only possible reaction to Guilala--and we fade to black.

There's really no way to adequately describe Guilala. Like many kaiju his overall body structure suggests a dinosaurish creature, and his bumpy skin does rather suggest scales. His hands are four-fingered claws, his feet are rather bird-like talons, and his tail terminates in a crab-like claw. However, his arms look like big puffy sleeves, his head is shaped vaguely like a Diplocaulus if it had a beak, he has glowing red eyes, a pulsating bulge under his jaw like a frog's vocal sac, and the top of his head has two floppy antennae and a structure that looks rather like an old boat horn. He is, to put it lightly, odd.

"Make 'em laugh!"
The next day, Sano, Miyamoto, Lisa, and Michiko investigate the hill where Guilala appeared. They find a hot spring and then a foootprint. They take a photo of this footprint, apparently, because Sano presents it to a meeting of the big brass. He tries to say it's identical to the footprint found in the lab, but the two photos really don't match. During this conference, it comes out that they are calling the monster Guilala, even though we have no idea why. Naturally, Guilala is heading right for Tokyo, but the JSDF is confident that they can stop it.

To be fair, in this reality the JSDF has never had to discover that they are useless. Unfortunately, they're about to find out in a big way. Guilala wades through Tokyo, unfazed by the tanks and fighter planes opposing him. And, hoo boy, this film makes you respect the work of Toho because the model work in this film is hilariously bad. Buildings crumble with obviously no internal structure, a few model tanks blow up in the process of firing, structures (like satellite dishes, for example) fall off of buildings in a way that implies they were never attached, and the film has not been slowed down nearly enough to lend Guilala any sense of scale.

"Making my way downtown / Moving fast..."
Hilariously, several of the planes attacking Guilala fly too low so he can easily swat them out of the sky. One plane actually flies right into Guilala's head! Then Guilala reveals he can spit fireballs, which he uses to wipe out the tank battalion ahead of him. (Amusingly the corners of his skull flip up (!) as he spits the fireballs) And then what appears to be a passenger jet flies overhead and Guilala gives it the fireball treatment--and the fireball clearly bounces off the plane before the model explodes.

The JSDF command center is apparently either set up in the FAFC HQ or they invited the FAFC personne to surpervise, but to my delight the tactical map the JSDF is using involves a huge wall map of the Tokyo area with one guy on a small scissor lift being pushed around by other guys so he can apply magnetic symbols to represent assets in play. Delightfully, destroyed areas are indicated by red cartoon explosions and Guilala is represented by a magnetic Guilala silhouette.

"We can't let Guilala in here! He'll see the big board!"
After being attacked by the expected useless maser tank knock-offs and destroying them, Guilala finds a seaside refinery and wades into the harbor to pick up a tanker and throw it into the refinery. Well, it's not Pacific Rim's boat-bat, but it'll do. Also, another way you can tell Teruyoshi Nakano was not involved in the special effects is that an exploding refinery results in a few wimpy explosions and some flames. If Nakano had done it, it would be a gigantic fireball--even if his budget didn't really allow for it.

Well, somehow Lisa gets the idea that the best way to defeat Guilala is to encase him in the material that was surrounding his spore in the first place, which she has dubbed the absolutely unpronounceable name "Guilalanium." Seriously, I can't say it aloud and the poor bastards dubbing this couldn't either, given almost none of them pronounces it the same way twice. Lisa and Berman hypothesize that the Guilalanium can be synthesized only in a vacuum, so they need to take the sample into space to make more of it.

Meanwhile, Guilala has still been smashing Tokyo well into the night. After destroying a couple tanks that had apparently been too worn out to shoot at him, he wanders into the countryside to attack a nuclear plant and feed on its energy. Hilariously, during this bit we see the JSDF map and the map guy suddenly gets an update on the location of Guilala and suddenly tosses the magnet to move it what appears to be dozens of miles. And this happens before we see Guilala glow red and turn into a giant glowing red meatball to fly away from the wreckage of the power plant. Just passing over the city in this form exercises the Flying Monster Rule, in that his mere passing blows up buildings for no reason.

And then Guilala-ball crashes into a reservoir which causes the nearby dam to immediately rupture. As he rises out of the water, we discover that they found a way to make him look even worse because the prop or suit for Guilala in the water has a longer, thinner neck and a smaller head.

Well, the Guilalanium synthesis appears to be going well, as far as anyone in the audience can tell--until the UFO shows up again as they're returning to Earth's orbit. As they attempt to flee, Sano notices a power drain, which isn't coming from the UFO. Lisa tracks it to the container of Guilalanium. Unless they can shield it, they will just be stuck in orbit around Earth. Michiko suggests that they put it in the sealed reactor chamber, but Sano points out this means putting it next to their only power supply. Still, they have little choice. Once the container is safely in the reactor chamber, control returns and they leave the UFO in the dust.

And that is, no joke, the last time the UFO will be relevant.

Back on earth, the Guilalanium is quickly unloaded and sent to the JSDF--hilariously transported in metal boxes where the word "Guilalanium" does not fit on the box without separating it with dashes. Unfortunately, Guilala then begins to make his way to the FAFC HQ to feed on the nuclear fuel stored there. (And no, I have no idea why he didn't go there first) Now, despite the fact that Guilala is on foot, when he gets close enough to chuck a crane at the launch pad and cause a massive explosion, the base staff are still loading the fuel onto trucks. Surely you guys had hours of warning!

Michiko delays the removal of the fuel even further by calling to all the men for aid because Lisa has gotten trapped in the wrecked lab. Somehow, what looks like a boiler fell over and pinned her leg under some other rubble. This would be a really uncomfortable sequence, what with the men able to raise the wreckage a little only for it crash back down on her leg, if it weren't so silly. First off, despite the urgency of needing to keep Guilala from eating all that fuel, every ma at the base gradually trickles in to help free Lisa.

Eventually they do--with Lisa somehow only requiring a light bandage on her ankle--but Guilala is now right on top of the base. So it falls to Miyamoto to drive a jeep while Sano sits in the trailer behind it so they can lure Guilala away with some of the fuel. Thus follows a truly adorable chase scene as Guilala pursues the jeep. There's some truly unfortunate shots that try to optically insert Guilala's hands into frame with the live actors, but naturally Guilala would have to be maybe a fourth of his actual size for the hand we see to be the proper scale.

"Oh no, he's getting closer! Turn off the 'The Entertainer', for God's sake!" 
Eventually Guilala does catch the trailer and dumps poor Sano into a ditch. Miyamoto dives out of the jeep just before it goes off an incline, naturally exploding at the top. Guilala eats the fuel and turns back toward the FAFC base for more. Somehow, Michiko and Lisa find their way to where Sano is tending to an injured Miyamoto in a ditch. Sano yells at them not to come down, which they ignore, but for once I'm on the side of the man telling women not to do something because why the hell is Lisa climbing down a steep incline with a busted ankle?!

Well, luckily it's time for the JSDF fighters to engage Guilala with rockets full of Guilalanium. Of course, he gets a few shots in, including one that blows up a jet and leaves its fuselage dangling on a wire like in The Brain From Planet Arous. The truly funny part begins, though, when the Guilalanium starts to take effect. Because holy crap does all the white stuff splattering on Guilala make it look like he's being, um...well...I guess "kaiju bukkake" will be a search keyword to bring folks to this site.

"I better be getting paid extra for this!"
After being splattered in white stuff, Guilala shrinks. Which just makes it funnier, of course. Somehow he shrinks down to the original spore. Lisa recovers it and places it in another lamp, and then it is immediately put onto a rocket and launched into space. According to Sano it's being sent out of our solar system, so hopefully it doesn't end up on an inhabited planet and cause a war. Michiko and Sano embrace romantically. Berman notices Lisa looking sad over this development and tries to comfort her. Lisa tells him that she has learned a lesson from Guilala that things should stay where they belong (!) which means that this film ends with a deliberate anti-interracial romance message.

Cut back to the rocket disappearing into space. The End.

When Teletubbies go bad.
If there was ever a movie that was painfully rooted in the time it was made, The X From Outer Space is it. From the smooth jazz soundtrack that so often sounds like it's supposed to diagetic muzak playing on the various rockets' PA systems, to the space effects, to the ambitious yet incompetent monster scenes, and the painfully awkward attempt at an interracial love triangle.

And I love it so.

Oh, this is not a very good movie in many ways. Having so many token gaijin characters means quite a bit of bad acting--and you can't blame the bad dubbing on the filmmakers, but it's hilariously dire, too. The music is hilariously inappropriate, and in fact repetitive because there only seems to be two or three themes that get repeated. The script also has no idea what should be important, since the mysterious UFO that has prevented the FAFC from reaching Mars turns out to be a complete MacGuffin despite it clearly being something that ought to be the crux of a story like this.

Then there's the monster, the most important part of a kaiju film. The sheer oddity of Guilala manages to carry the creature through and make him charming and memorable, despite the worst efforts of a suit actor who clearly has no clue what he's doing. In half the scenes the suit actor is just halfheartedly stomping forward with his arms dangling at his sides. Inspiring it is not.

Yet, when put all together this film is inexplicably charming. I don't mean in an ironic way, either, though it is certainly fun to mock. No, I mean that this film is just plain delightful in an earnest sort of way. It feels impossible to say anything bad about, despite it not being all that good. I'd be happy to tear Gappa, The Triphibian Monster down to size but I'd feel bad about being too hard on The X From Outer Space. This is a movie that gets by a lot on its simple enthusiasm that outstrips its ability, like an eager yet clumsy puppy in film form.

If you want a good kaiju film, pick up a Godzilla or Gamera flick. But if you want a charming misfire, then Guilala is definitely your friend.

Today's review brought to you by the letter X, the hardest letter of all! Hit the banner above to see what the other Celluloid Zeroes chose for X!