Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Hubri5Ween 2017, Day 26: Zombie Holocaust (1980)

There's really nothing quite like a rip-off of a rip-off. Not only because you get to see how blatantly someone has decided to cash in on a successful film, but generally you'll get to see how they cashed in on multiple successful films.

After all, if you're going to be ripping stuff off you might as well cover as much ground as you can, right?

Well, Dawn of the Dead was a huge success and it was followed by Lucio Fulci's Zombie. Now, while Zombie didn't copy the plot of its inspiration, it was so obviously meant to cash in on its success that in Italy Zombie took its title from Dawn of the Dead's Italian release: making it actually Zombi 2.

Today's film, however, shamelessly copied Zombie's plot and also ripped off Cannibal Holocaust, to boot. Hence the title. However, it was re-christened for US release as Dr. Butcher, M.D. (which the poster above assures us means "Medical Deviate"), and had a few minor alterations made.

Unfortunately, I was only able to view this cut of the film in time for this review, but the differences are mainly a few scenes being trimmed for pacing reasons and the whole film being given a really, really goofy new soundtrack.

Oh, and it opens with a cheap sequence of a zombie rising from his grave and wandering what looks like Central Park, which was apparently lifted from a completely separate unfinished film by the distributors. Never mind that part, however, because it has absolutely nothing to do with our story.

Actually, you'd be better off forgetting about the very idea of zombies for most of the film, but more on that shortly.

The story proper starts off with someone in a New York hospital's morgue sawing off a cadaver's hand and making off with it. This makes things awkward for the anatomy class the next day when the cadaver meant to be examined shows up missing the hand that the professor's assistant, Dr. Lori Ridgeway (Alexandra Delli Colli), swears it had the night before. The professor proves to be a man with no sense of humor, since he dismisses the class as soon as someone makes a joke about the missing hand.

"Wait, how many hands does a human normally have, again?"
"Two, doctor."
"...I knew that."
This is apparently the most recent of a series of such corpse mutilations at this hospital. Hilariously, neither Lori nor the professor notices the orderly behind them looking hysterically shifty. At any rate, the professor refuses to go to the cops because it would make the hospital look bad.

At her hideously 70s apartment, Lori discovers that somehow the word has gotten out anyway, because she receives a visit from nosy reporter Susan Kelly (Sherry Buchanan). Susan has heard about the mutilations and she knows Lori's shift schedule, yet she somehow doesn't know that Lori is also an anthropologist. A certain dagger on Lori's wall is given significant attention during their conversation--most likely because the symbol on the handle will prove to also be present as a tattoo on the chest of the orderly when he is caught red-handed.

No, literally, he was about to eat a cadaver's heart raw.

"Uh, he was like this when I found him?"
However, now that the professor finally mentions the police, the orderly breaks free and leaps to his death out of a window. And in arguably the film's most infamous scene, the mannequin's arm plainly breaks off when we see him hit the ground, but his arm is intact when the actor reappears on the ground.

Dr. Peter Chandler (Ian McCulloch) and his associate George Harper (Peter O'Neal) are brought in to discuss the events, as it appears that this has happened in several other hospitals around the country. Only one other suspect was caught, but he was shot dead by the police--presumably for not being a white cannibal. Going over the slideshow of the crime scene photos, Lori notices something and asks for George to zoom in on the picture of the dead suspect.

I didn't even realize it was possible for the "enhance" cliche to utilized with a slide projector.

Sure enough, the dead man also had the same tattoo as the orderly from her hospital. It isn't long before Peter is able to dig up that both men came from the Molucca Islands in Southeast Asia. What's more, they confirm with Lori's anthropology colleague the symbol tattooed on both men belongs to a sect that worships the god Kito. Even more intriguing is that Kito is also the name of the island where this sect is based.

Peter intends to mount a small expedition to go find out why natives from that region are suddenly eating cadavers. Lori actually grew up in the Molucca region herself, but she isn't interested in offering any insight she has by coming along--especially once it's revealed that George is inviting his girlfriend, Susan, along.

However, after someone breaks into her apartment and steals her fancy Kito dagger, she apparently changes her mind.

You just can't get that quality of plastic craftsmanship anywhere but Kito!
Upon arriving, they make contact with Dr. Obrero (Donald O'Brien) to get the lay of the area first. Obrero is very little help, since he seems to loathe the area and the natives especially, considering them nothing but savages. Still, he advises he will let them borrow a boat and a few of his men to go visit the island of Kito the following day.

Did I mention that if you actually know who Donald O'Brien is, the American cut has already spoiled the reveal that he is "Dr. Butcher" in the opening credits? I mean, Obrero seems plenty shifty enough to give it away anyways, but still...

Of course, it's now time for Lori to strip naked so she can supposedly take a shower, but really so the audience can leer at her naked body. We're not the only ones leering, however. Lori doesn't notice the native peering in the window, so she's in for a surprise when she returns from her shower. After putting on nothing but a tiny t-shirt that barely reaches to her butt, she pulls back the bed cover--and discovers someone has left a maggot-covered severed head on the bed, next to the Kito symbol in blood.

"What can I say? Soon as my head hits the pillow, I'm dead! Get it? I'll be here all week, folks."
Everyone else comes to her room to see why she screamed, and Obrero rather casually writes it off as no big deal because the natives would have killed Lori if they wanted to. I really don't think that's the best takeaway from this, Doc.

Undaunted, our heroes continue to the island the next day with Obrero's man servant Molotto (Dakar) and three unnamed native bearers. Molotto unfortunately tells them they need to make a stop to fix the boat engine, which means they have to put to shore an island before they meant to. With night approaching, they make camp and one of the native bearers manages to disappear into the woods.

Peter sensibly, if callously, makes the decision for the group to wait until morning to look for the lost man. So naturally, in the morning they find his mutilated and partially devoured body.

"He doesn't seem grateful that we brought him our ideas of civilization."
Somehow, this makes Peter realize the island they're on is Kito. Molotto makes a rather flimsy excuse about forgetting which island is which, but Peter is not sure he buys that. However, they have bigger problems. Their first encounter with the island's natives quickly goes South when another bearer gets scared off and manages to run into a fatal trap. However, he survives the trap just long enough for the natives to catch up to him: they then slit his throat, drink his blood, and disembowel him to eat his intestines.

Okay, sure, zombies eating intestines is easy to buy because they're mindless eating machines--but why would cannibals go for the guts instead of any of the much better portions of human anatomy?

Peter and George kill a couple of the cannibals, but it becomes clear that they need to find a way off the island. Obrero reaches them by radio that night and tells them he will meet them at an old mission building on the other side of the island. However, the last bearer gets a bamboo spear through his belly and Lori only just saves herself and Susan from a cannibal sneaking in their tent by burying a machete in his forehead.

However, the next morning the cannibals intercept the group. Susan is carried off, but when they try to save her Peter and George are swarmed. George gets the short end of the stick, as he is not only disemboweled but has both of his eyes pulled out and eaten. The cannibals swarm Molotto and Lori, too, but they are scared off when several zombies finally show up.

"Brains! Braaaaains! Brai--aw, damn it, the cannibals already ate them all again!"
It's not really clear why the natives are so frightened at this point, since all the zombies do is stand around growling. Still, it lets Peter, Lori, and Molotto escape to the abandoned mission. Obrero is waiting, along with a couple men, but he claims the rest are hunting down the cannibals. He also tells Peter and Lori to go find a nearby dinghy and take it back to the main island, since he will be coming back with the boat once he wipes out the rest of the cannibals and maybe even rescues Susan.

Something about the whole thing makes Peter realize that things don't add up. He declines Molotto's help and, on the way to the dinghy, he confides to Lori that he realized that he never told Obrero which island they were on but he still found them with no problem. Unfortunately, the dinghy is a bust since only one of its two outboard motors still works--and that one's no good after Peter uses it to kill the zombie that suddenly attacks them.

Of course, Peter is right to be suspicious. After narrowly escaping a cannibal trap, they find a zombie that is wearing Susan's scalp like a wig and playing with her camera. The real Susan has been scalped by Obrero and he is preparing to transfer her brain into the body of a dead man. The most notable part of this sequence is when Obrero forces her mouth open and pulls out what looks like a tooth or a tonsil. It's notable because he claims her screams were bothering him so he "removed her vocal cords."

That's...that's not how that works, Doc.

Peter and Lori find their way back to the mission building, but they're too late to save Susan since her skull has already been cut open. Naturally, the zombies are working for Obrero and they capture Peter, while Lori escapes only to be captured by the cannibals.

He assures Peter that the work he has been doing will allow humans to live for hundreds of years. Though given all the shambling corpses I think maybe most humans would take issue with his plan. Obrero also helpfully advises that he's the one who convinced the natives to bring back the practice of cannibalism, though I don't really understand how that was helpful to his goals.

"All right, you're taking me out of this picture right now."
Obrero sets to work on doing the same thing to Peter he was doing to Susan, except he didn't think to keep the table of scalpels as far away from his victim as possible. So even though Peter passes out from anesthesia while trying to get a scalpel, when he comes to he finds that he did grab one and he starts cutting away his restraints.

However, Peter only manages to kill Molotto and then he gets recaptured. He'd be a complete goner if Lori hadn't somehow become queen of the cannibals in the interim. How? I have no idea, since all we see is the cannibals painting flowers on her naked body to prepare her for a ritual sacrifice. Yet, when they get her on a stone tablet that has a convenient imprint that fits her naked body perfectly, the tablet suddenly tilts--and this, for some reason convinces the cannibals that she should be their queen.

I don't know, man.

The film wraps up hilariously abruptly at this point, with the cannibals turning cavalry. They kill and eat Obrero's zombies--which can't possibly taste good--and then Obrero himself. Lori shows up and embraces Peter. And that's literally "The End."

Burning Man just keeps getting weirder.
This is an incredibly stupid movie. The plot makes basically no sense, the gore effects are exuberant yet awful, and the acting is delightfully terrible--you particularly have to love how bored Lori appears to be with being made into a human sacrifice.

I really did not expect much of this film, and that was definitely the way to approach it. I mean, you may have noticed this is probably the only zombie movie where the zombies are the ones getting their guts munched on. That's just one of the many things it does wildly wrong.

And yet, I would be lying if I said I didn't get kind of a kick out of this one. It moves at a pretty decent clip and while it's never even remotely bordering on good, it is at least fun.

If you want a pretty good Italian zombie movie, obviously you should watch Lucio Fulci's Zombie. However, if you want a hunk of shameless sleaze, this fits the bill nicely.

Welcome to the Day Twenty-Six of Hubri5Ween 2017, the fifth year of this nonsense! Click the banner above to see what everyone else did for Z!

And that's the end for 2017! Check back in with us again in 2018, to see if we still have the willpower to keep this going!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Hubri5Ween 2017, Day 25: Yeti (2008)

Y is a surprisingly tough letter to find a movie for. I considered using a Scrabble tile for this one, but I couldn't resist checking out a film about a man-eating Yeti attacking plane crash victims.

Unfortunately, said film was a SyFy Original Movie.

As I made pretty clear when discussing Terrordactyl, there's a reason I don't watch SyFy Original Movies. Bad movies can be a lot of fun, but the fun usually comes from a feeling that the people making them were genuinely trying to make something good but just couldn't.

SyFy movies, though, are something else completely. They're bad in a calculated, "let's just get this over with" kind of way. Hell, sometimes they just come across as lazy.

And lazy really describes Yeti in far too much of its running time. Which is a real shame, because there was genuine potential in the premise.

The true laziness of this film is made plain in its opening sequence. For no apparent reason, we open sometime in the 1970s as a few guys apparently hunting the Yeti make their way into a cave--and are promptly killed by the very beast they were hunting. This sequence has literally nothing to do with the rest of the film and clearly only exists to give us some Yeti action at the very opening.

Worse, it means that the film ignores the cardinal rule of a movie like this: you never show us the whole monster right away. Yet, less than five minutes into the film, we already know that the Yeti is a very shabby man in a suit. Unfortunately, it will also be rendered by some truly pathetic CGI in random sequences, in case the suit wasn't silly enough.

Also, not only is the suit goofy looking, it doesn't fit the creature it's supposed to be. A character will later theorize that the Yeti is a surviving Gigantopithecus, an actual species of extinct great ape that was roughly 9 feet tall when standing upright. However, the Yeti here looks nothing like any kind of ape. Not only does it have a weirdly cat-like face, it has only three fingers on its hands!

I honestly would prefer the Kong suit from King Kong Escapes.
At any rate, our story proper begins on a plane of an American high school's football team. They're on their way to a game in Japan, which for some reason requires them to fly over the Himalayas. I'm no expert, but I don't think any plane route would go that way.

Naturally, the plane crashes and the survivors have to try and find a way to survive the elements and not starve until they're rescued. Meanwhile, the Yeti keeps coming to the crash site to drag off the corpses of the dead to feed on.

I honestly don't care enough about the characters to try and tell you anything about them, but naturally there is one guy who is set up as a dick because he hides some candy bars and suggests that they need to turn to cannibalism to survive. However, he's kind of got a point.

Also, one of the survivors is an Asian woman with dreadlocks, which is...a hell of a thing.

Yeah, that was kind of my face when I saw the dreadlocks.
Said Asian woman with dreadlocks also dooms them all because she feels the dignity of the dead is more important than their survival. After the group eats part of one corpse, which she refuses to take part in, she burns all the other bodies. Not only does this deprive them of food, but as the jerk pointed out it also deprives the creature they've already glimpsed carrying off bodies in the night.

The Yeti attacks, kills several of the survivors, and then demonstrates a truly hilarious leaping ability to carry off the designated hero's love interest. For some reason the Yeti suddenly wants to spoon with her instead of eating her face. Considering there's a second Yeti in the cave when she wakes up, maybe they just wanted to swing?

"Well...this is awkward."
Luckily for her, SyFy Channel movies are only gory, not sexual--so she's in no danger of things taking a Night of the Demon turn. Also, the two mountain rescue characters finally meet up with the survivors and help them kill both Yetis in an improvised tiger trap. However, the group has to flee an avalanche that comes out of nowhere--and then one of the Yetis proves to still be alive.

The surviving Yeti quickly kills the jerk and the two mountain rescuers, until the survivors succeed in spearing it off a cliff. A helicopter shows up to save them...and then we get a really dumb stinger ending when a character supposed to be dead turns out to be alive, only to be confronted by another still living Yeti. It's so incredibly lazy.

Still, I gotta give the film this--it's not often a body count flick ends with 4 survivors, and two of them are the token black guy and Asian woman.

Finally, a gritty reboot of Ski Free!
There's honestly not a lot to say about Yeti, as far as bad films go. It does have a few moments where I found myself laughing at its badness, but for the most part it felt like a perfect movie to watch while doing laundry or some other menial task. There's absolutely no danger of becoming invested in what's happening, after all.

It really is a shame, however, because the concept of airplane survivors having to essentially fight a man-eating Yeti in order to eat their dead companions for survival is kind of amazing. Think of the potential for dark comedy alone!

However, the film does hardly anything with such a great premise. It's almost frustrating, except the film is so blandly bad that it's impossible to feel much of anything towards it.

Maybe some day we'll get lucky and someone who actually gives a shit will rip off the concept, with an actual eye toward exploitation and dark comedy. Not going to hold my breath, however.

Welcome to the Day Twenty-Five of Hubri5Ween 2017, the fifth year of this nonsense! Click the banner above to see what everyone else did for Y!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Hubri5Ween 2017, Day 24: XX (2017)

I've managed, almost totally by accident, to review multiple horror films by women for this year's HubrisWeen, but today's movie is the genuine mother lode: it's actually four horror movies directed by women.

Of course, while that sounds awesome on paper, it's still an anthology film. If you've run afoul of enough anthology films, you know that that means you're lucky if the majority of the stories are any damn good and you're just about guaranteed that one of them is going to suck. It's a truly rare thing to encounter an anthology film that has all of its segments be good.

Sadly, XX is not that rare film. However, that isn't as damning as it sounds.

Most anthology films have some kind of wraparound story, but this film goes for the rather unsettling adventures of a living doll house wandering around a seemingly deserted building. It makes for some arresting visuals, via some unsettling stop motion and time lapse animation, but it doesn't really add much. It does give us something to look at between segments, though.
The hand belongs to the living dollhouse. Don't try to make sense of it.
Our first tale is "The Box", based on the short story by Jack Ketchum--making it the only one of the segments that is explicitly adapted from a pre-existing work.

Susan (Natalie Brown) is taking the train home from some pre-Christmas festivities with her son Danny (Peter DaCunha) and daughter Jenny (Peyton Kennedy). Susan, our occasional narrator, mentions that Christmas was foremost in the minds of her children, which is most likely why Danny becomes fixated on a strange man (Michael Dyson) seated beside them with a box on his lap.

Despite Susan telling him to stop, Danny asks the man what the box is. The man assures Susan it's all right, then tells Danny, "It's a gift." He also lets Danny peek inside--and the boy goes eerily silent. When Jenny asks what was inside, he just tells her it was "nothing."

Never trust a man in a fedora.
Things only get weirder from there, as Danny oddly says he is not hungry when they join his father, Robert (Jonathan Watton), for dinner. That's not so unusual--except Danny refuses to eat for the next four days, claiming he simply isn't hungry.

Robert gets worried first and Susan takes Danny to the hospital, but the doctor can't find anything wrong with the boy and asks his parents to keep them updated. However, Susan catches Danny telling something to Jenny that evening, which he refuses to repeat to her.

Except, the next day Jenny is also suddenly "not hungry"...

Every parent has had this look on their face at least once.
Okay, I'm getting ahead of myself here, but the next segment is my favorite of the film: "The Birthday Party." It's also totally unlike the other three stories, since it isn't actually a horror story, per se, but more of a dark comedy--and it marks the directorial debut of its director: Annie Clark, better known as singer St. Vincent.

Poor Mary (Melanie Lynskey) is having a devil of a time getting her house ready for her daughter Lucy's (Sanai Victoria) seventh birthday party. Her weird housekeeper/nanny Carla (Sheila Vand) nearly gives her a heart attack when she appears out of nowhere to give her a mug of coffee. Even odder, Carla claims that she saw Mary's husband's car in the drive, but Mary protests he is still supposed to be on a business trip.

Well, she's quickly going to wish that that was the case, because she is shocked to find her husband, David (Seth Duhame) in his office. She's even more shocked to discover that he's dead, apparently a result of taking some of his medication with alcohol.

However, Mary is bound and determined that nothing is going to ruin her daughter's party, so her only choice is to try and hide the body. That's easier said than done, however, because the party is starting in less than half an hour...

Sadly, Neosporin is not effective against demonic possession.
Our next story is "Don't Fall" and calling it slight would be an understatement. I can literally sum it up in its entirety as follows:

Four friends go hiking, find an ominous cave painting, and when Gretchen (Breeda Wool) scratches her hand she becomes possessed by a demon and kills the other three.

That's it. That's all there is to it. About all that I can say for it is that it seems to imply that the two women in the quartet are a couple, but it never really makes it clear and it ultimately doesn't matter.

"You really do have your father's eyes."
Our final segment, "Her Only Living Son," has a very interesting premise in that it's an unofficial sequel to Rosemary's Baby. Unfortunately, it really has no idea what to do with it.

Cora (Christina Kirk) has been trying to hide her son, Andy (Kyle Allen), from his estranged actor father for years but the lad is now turning eighteen. Worse, he is showing horrifically sadistic tendencies while having the people around him totally wrapped around his little finger.

Well, that's because the actor wasn't his actual father, and Andy's daddy intends to collect his spawn before his birthday is over...

I can only hope none of my son's birthday parties go down like this...
To sum up XX as a whole, it must be said that the first two stories are its strongest. That's really too bad, of course, since it means that all the best stuff comes in its first half.

"The Box" is a really chilling, low-key horror story. It does require some patience, however, because it's a story that sets up a burning question and the whole point is that you can't get the answer. This is a story of existential dread and the horrors of the unknown. It cheats a little bit by using a dream sequence to inject a bit of bloody horror in a story that really didn't call for it, but I can excuse that as a means of keeping the viewer off-balance.

"The Birthday Party" is just delightful and hilarious, a pitch-perfect bit of dark comedy that builds to one of the greatest visual punchlines I've seen in quite a while. I don't mean to disparage the other segments, but if you were to turn the film off as soon as the dollhouse showed up again after said punchline, you wouldn't need to feel like you were missing anything.

It's not that "Don't Fall" is bad, mind you, but it's basically just a very average "spam in a cabin" style of story--or "spam in a camper," in this case--that's been squashed into an even shorter run time. It's ultimately just kind of bland, as a result. The creature design is pretty good, though.

If I'm brutally honest, though, "Her Only Living Son" is the film's worst segment. The premise is actually really good, but it's wasted on a story that is severely front-loaded with set-up and then just abruptly ends in such a way as to suggest that they had reached the allotted time for the segment and needed to wrap it up quickly.

A bad anthology segment is bad enough, but a bad segment with a really promising premise is so much worse.

In the end, I think that XX is worth watching. However, I definitely recommend going in with your expectations significantly lowered. With the right mindset, it's possible that even its weakest segments might surprise you.

Welcome to the Day Twenty-Four of Hubri5Ween 2017, the fifth year of this nonsense! Click the banner above to see what everyone else did for X!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Hubri5Ween 2017, Day 23: When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth (1970)

Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: even for a cavemen & dinosaurs flick, today's movie is stupid. Yes, it's even stupider than One Million Years B.C. because at least that film didn't try to sell us on its events taking place during a geological event that happened long before any animals lived on Earth.

That film also got made before the homophobic president of Hammer Studios decided that therapods like Allosaurus, Ceratosaurus, and Tyrannosaurus Rex shouldn't be featured in a dinosaur movie because he felt that they walked like gay men. Yes, really.

That's right, homophobia is so insidious it even affects fucking dinosaurs.
So despite said dinosaurs being wildly popular--and one plainly being featured on the poster I'm using for this review--we won't see a single one in this film. However, that's not really as big a negative as it sounds because such a restriction forced the filmmakers to think a bit outside the box on this one for the dinosaurs they chose.

However, yes, I am still going to mark the fact that this story takes place during the formation of Earth's moon as a negative.

When we open, we find ourselves amongst a tribe where blondes are considered the only suitable sacrifices for the sun god. We start with three reluctant potential sacrifices, but before the priests can choose the one to be sacrificed, one of them panics and manages to throw herself and one of the priests off the cliff to their deaths. This is apparently not good enough, however, so the ritual of choosing continues.

However, luckily for Sanna (Victoria Vetri), something strange begins to form in the sky and during the resultant windstorm, she is able to escape off the cliff into the ocean. She is rescued by a passing raft from another tribe, when Tara (Robin Hawdon) sees her. Of course, as movies have always taught us, cavemen prefer blondes--which means when the raft returns, Tara suddenly spurns the advances of Ayak (Imogen Hassall) in favor of Sanna.

Before the drama of that really has time to take hold, the Elasmosaurus that the tribe was trying to capture breaks free and goes on a rampage through their village before it is finally killed by oil and fire. And here I'm about to say something heretical: even at this point in the film it's clear that Jim Danforth's stop motion dinosaurs are way better than Harryhausen's were.

"Ha! Fire cannot kill a drag--wait, I'm not a dragon? Oh, bollocks!"
Now, I don't know what factors contributed to this. Either the budget for this entry was higher, there was more time to put the effects together, or the models were just better constructed. However, every dinosaur in this film is vividly alive and mark some of the most convincing dinosaurs ever put on film. Even the ones that don't hold up as well still look great.

Well, naturally, Ayak's jealousy of Sanna eventually spurns a fight in the surf. Ayak waits until Tara has gone fishing to try and accuse Sanna of stealing the necklace and knife he gave to her. However, the tribal elders take Sanna's side in the disagreement, which just makes her all the madder.

You better believe when representatives from Sanna's tribe show up, Ayak is all too eager to point them toward her hut. However, Sanna is able to escape into the jungle. The tribesmen who follow end up losing one man to a large python that Sanna manages to elude and then they find a cave they assume she is hiding in. Unfortunately, inside the cave is one pissed off Chasmosaurus that kills all but one of them--and he's left severely wounded.

"Hey, why are the closed captions calling me a Triceratops? Do you have any idea how offensive that is?!"
Tara returns and hears where Sanna went from Ayak, who seems to think that will make him just forget the blonde. Instead, he rushes off to find her. Tara does succeed in rescuing the wounded man and luring the Chasmosaurus off of a cliff, but he tragically finds Sanna's blonde hair in the jaws of a carnivorous plant and takes it back as proof of her death.

Naturally, we already know that she had tried to hide from some stock footage from The Lost World and accidentally got her hair grabbed by said plant. She cut it off in order to escape, and then managed to find herself adopted by a carnivorous dinosaur that found her in its nest along with one of its actual babies.

The species of dinosaur is totally bogus, since it's a quadrupedal carnivore that owes more than a little to the Rhedosaurus. Still, it behaves a lot like a big lizard so I'm going to go ahead and just call it an oversized Megalania to save myself some time.

"Huh. You sure are one ugly baby!"
Tara never quite gets over Sanna, but he still tries to just move on with life. Sanna, meanwhile, spends much of her time frolicking with and training her new family. She manages to avoid being seen, until fate manages to not only get her spotted by someone from her tribe but also to reunite her with Tara.

Sanna's tribesman spots her after he has some uncomfortably rapey sex with a woman (a scene cut from the original US edition) up on a cliff, and then he sees her leading the Megalania across the desert below. Tara manages to reunite with her after he is carried off by the best Rhamphorhynchus ever put to film. (Not that it has very stiff competition there) After killing the beast (noooo!) he runs right into Sanna and the Megalania, naturally shocked to find the lizard is her friend.

Hammer got Jim Danforth, Amicus got...muppets. 
Their loving and passionate reunion (also trimmed down by the US distributors on account of exposed T&A) is obviously not very fated to end well. When Tara returns to his tribe, the other tribe is there, too. Since Tara is obviously in cahoots with Sanna to piss off the sun god, he is put on a raft to be sacrificed to a hungry Mosasaur.

However, even if he survives that the cavemen at the heart of our story are all going to have a much bigger problem. The moon is finally finished forming, and its creation means a horrifying cataclysm is about to strike...

"Ooh! I love delivery!"
In addition to the superior quality of the dinosaur effects, another aspect of When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth that I like a lot better than the film it's cashing in on has to do with its cavemen storyline. Namely, I can actually understand what the hell is going on with it.

This film also utilizes the fake caveman language, but it does so in a much better fashion. Midway through the movie you actually begin to feel like you understand what each word means, or at least well enough to fake it. As a result the characters feel much more realized and you actually care what happens to them.

Now, of course, this doesn't mean it's a great movie. It's still based around a totally ridiculous story that thumbs its nose as grade school level science, after all. However, if you can look past that--and you really, really need to be able to if you're going to watch this--it's a very entertaining and engaging romp.

And no, I don't just like this film more because it has actual nudity in it. It's the Rhamphorhynchus that truly panders to me!

Who's a pretty boy, then?

Welcome to the Day Twenty-Three of Hubri5Ween 2017, the fifth year of this nonsense! Click the banner above to see what everyone else did for W!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Hubri5Ween 2017, Day 22: The Void (2016)

There's a common refrain these days that there just aren't enough original stories being told anymore. Usually this is just pointing out how sick to death we are of our only options at the modern cinema being sequels and remakes. However, the refrain tends to also imply to some degree that there is no value in stories that are unoriginal or at least that such stories are inferior.

This is patently false.

For evidence of that, look no further than The Void. It's a pretty standard protocol to describe a movie as "X meets Y" in order to give an audience a good idea of what to expect. You see this a lot in pull quotes. Oftentimes it isn't even all that accurate, but The Void could easily be sold as "Prince of Darkness meets The Thing and The Beyond" and it would be totally accurate.

The amazing thing is that that is not selling the movie short or criticizing it for being derivative. This is a perfect example of how to take well-known elements and mix them together into a genuinely good film.

We open as a man we'll later come to know as James (Evan Stern) flees from a farmhouse in the woods, with a door marked with a dark triangle. It's pretty clear something awful has been going on inside, but that's made crystal clear when a screaming woman rushes out, too. Unfortunately, she is shot by a man we'll later learn is Vincent (Daniel Fathers) and his seemingly mute son Simon (Mik Byskov). Vincent douses the wounded woman in gasoline and sets her on fire, promising Simon that James won't get far.

"I have got to find a better excuse for dramatically lighting cigarettes."
Luckily for James, though, he stumbles out of the woods and collapses in front of Deputy Daniel Carter's (Aaron Poole) police cruiser. Seeing that James is wounded, Daniel rushes the lad to the nearest hospital. Of course, that means he has to take him to the hospital that was largely abandoned after a fire. In fact, the staff there are really only there for absolute emergencies and to get the hospital's records and equipment transferred to a different facility.

Which means that there's an actual reason for the hospital being deserted, unlike many horror films.

It's a bit awkward for Daniel, though, because his estranged wife, Allison Fraser (Kathleen Munroe) works there as a nurse. The only other staff at the place at this time are Dr. Richard Powell (Kenneth Welsh), nurse Beverly (Stephanie Belding), and intern Kim (Ellen Wong). Kim is keeping a patient named Cliff (Matthew Kennedy) company in his bed when she is called to the front to assist Beverly with the files. Meanwhile, pregnant young woman Maggie (Grace Munro) and her grandfather Ben (James Millington) have arrived at the place in order to get Maggie a check-up.

When Daniel brings James in, the young man's behavior makes the staff suspect drugs are in his system and he has to be sedated. While Daniel is trying to call in to his office to update them, he happens upon the shocking scene of an entranced Beverely stabbing Cliff to death with scissors. Even worse, she has already cut off most of her own face. In a panic, Daniel shoots her dead.

"There, did that help with your headache?"
Naturally, this means someone else needs to be called in. Luckily, state trooper Mitchell (Art Hindle) was already on his way to question James after discovering the bloody scene at the farmhouse. He takes Daniel's gun, as is procedure. However, when Daniel goes outside to radio in about the shooting, he is attacked by someone in a white hooded robe with w triangle over the face.

Daniel manages to escape the cultist, but he is wounded badly. Worse, everyone sees now that a huge mob of robed figures has surrounded the hospital.

"I don't think these guys are here for the Trump rally..."
And then things get even worse. A scream from James's room leads Daniel and Mitchell to discover that Beverly has transformed into a horrid, tentacled monster and she is trying to eat James. They manage to rescue the poor bastard and lock her in.

So now they're not only trapped in the hospital by the cultists, but they're trapped in there with whatever Beverly has become. And when Vincent and Simon fight their way into the hospital, things naturally manage to get even worse...

"Tentacles. Why is it always tentacles?"
The influences of The Void are plain as day. Yet, while many movies would go out of their way to call attention to the fact that they know what movies they're copying, The Void accepts that you either know or don't and tries to focus on telling a compelling story with the motifs it is borrowing.

And, in some ways, it actually even improves on the elements it borrows. Much as I love Prince of Darkness, I think this film does a better job with a few of the set-pieces it copies.

What's more, it's always great to see a film that properly utilizes practical effects but also understands the benefits of said effects. There are a few moments of CGI in this film, in fact, because the filmmakers clearly understood what effects made the most sense for which parts.

I obviously left a lot out of my summary here, because I feel this is a film that really deserves to be seen with fresh eyes. It may not have very many surprises for the veteran horror viewer, but those it has are well worth being experienced on their own terms.

I genuinely hope that we will be seeing more horror movies like this in the years to come.

Welcome to the Day Twenty-Two of Hubri5Ween 2017, the fifth year of this nonsense! Click the banner above to see what everyone else did for V!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Hubri5Ween 2017, Day 21: Under The Shadow (2016)

Easily the greatest compliment you can give any horror movie is to say, "It was a really bad idea for me to watch this late at night by myself."

If you've seen enough horror movies, you know the kind of film I'm referring to. The sort that gets you questioning if you heard something that wasn't just your cat eating plastic, makes you swear you saw movement, or leaves you a bit reluctant to look too closely at the shadowy parts of your room. The kind that gets under your skin, both as you watch it and shortly afterwards.

Boy howdy, that describes Under The Shadow to a T.

It doesn't seem that way at first, of course, because this is a perfect case study in the "slow burn" style of horror film. We begin first with a title card explaining that we are in Tehran, Iran during the 1980s and smack-dab in the middle of Iran's war with Iraq. The opening credits roll over a montage of news footage from the period to truly drive home that this was a really rough time to be an Iranian citizen.

Of course, the regular threats of bombings are only one of the things weighing on Shideh's (Narges Rashidi) mind. For what seems like the dozenth time, she has tried to apply to be allowed to resume her studies at a medical school now that the schools have been re-opened to women. However, her involvement in leftist student groups during the cultural revolution means that she is once again rejected.

Returning home to her husband, Iraj (Bobby Naderi), and her daughter, Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) is not exactly well-suited to taking her mind off of things, either. Iraj actually got to complete his medical studies and become a doctor and it's clear that Shideh feels a tiny bit of resentment towards him as a result. So it isn't horribly shocking that Shideh pointing out that the cross tape on the windows (meant to reduce the amount of broken glass in the event of a strike) is starting to peel off quickly morphs into a fight about whether Iraj ever even supported her dreams in the first place.

The taped windows will loom ominously throughout the film.
It gets worse, however, because Iraj has been drafted to go serve as doctor in the field of battle. He tells Shideh to take Dorsa to his mother's home in the country, since there are reports that Iraq has shifted from bombing runs to missiles. However, Shideh refuses--at least partly because she has never felt welcome at his family's home, but mainly because she refuses to give up her home.

However, even before Iraj leaves things start to get strange. Dorsa hears strange noises in the night, which both of her parents assume was merely a dream. Except that Dorsa also tells her that the landlord's nephew, taken in after his parents were killed, has been telling her stories about Djinn. Assuming these stories are responsible for her daughter's night terrors, she asks the landlord's wife to tell the boy not to tell those stories any more.

There's just one problem with that seemingly simple request: the boy is a mute and has been since his parents died.

Dorsa also becomes obsessed with keeping her doll, Kimia, in her possession at all times. This means that when a dreaded missile attack finally occurs, Dorsa is still in the apartment instead of in the basement for safety. She manages to only get a bumped head, but becomes frantic because Kimia is missing. However, their frantic upstairs neighbor barges in to beg Shideh for medical help because her father is hurt--having apparently suffered a heart attack after the unexploded missile crashed into their living room.

Can't imagine why he had a heart attack.
Shideh can't save him, unfortunately. But the stranger thing is her neighbor later tells her that her father was fine after the bomb hit, but he saw something that terrified him afterwards. At any rate the neighbor is the first tenant to evacuate the building.

Dorsa comes down with a fever that neither Shideh nor a pediatrician can make sense of. Worse, she becomes convinced that her doll is inside the empty apartment, obsessively trying to get inside. She tells her mother that Djinn stole the doll, which just upsets Shideh all the more.

However, she starts to think maybe there might be something to all this when Iraj suddenly turns up in her bed. When he starts growling abusive comments at her, she realizes he can't possibly be there--and then he attacks her before seemingly vanishing.

Shideh can find no evidence of any actual attacker, so she has no choice but to write that off as a vivid nightmare. However, during a discussion of Djinn with the landlord's wife, Shideh once again scoffs at the idea that Djinn are anything but a fairy tale. However, when she mentions that Dorsa's doll is missing, the older woman gets very disturbed and tells Shideh that if a Djinn steals someone's possession, they can track them anywhere.

And then the human shape in a chador (a form of cloak worn by women, similar to a burqa) begins to appear, even though the building is virtually empty of all other tenants by this time. The chador sure doesn't move like anyone is inside of it--and then Shideh awakens to find a grey old man hovering in her bedroom doorway. When he flees from her, she chases after him: only to see his leg disappearing into a crack in the ceiling that seals up behind him.

It may be essentially a bed sheet, but that doesn't make it less horrifying.
Being a parent is rough. People tell you this, sure, but you don't really understand how rough until you are one--especially when it's not really on your terms. It can be very easy to misdirect anger and disappointment at other aspects of your life towards your child.

It's a theme we've seen before in films like The Babadook, but that film dealt with a threat that amplified the innate angers and insecurities inside the parent. Here the threat is entirely external, yet it uses a lot of the same themes to prey upon mother and daughter.

There's also a lot of brilliance in the choice of both the film's setting and the gender of its central protagonists. As a former radical activist and the only woman in her apartment complex who can drive, Shideh already finds herself in the position of an outsider before she ends up being alone in the building with her daughter and the Djinn.

However, Shideh simply can't rely on outside help at all. In one chilling scene, she flees a Djinn attack with her daughter out into the street. In her panic, she forgot to cover herself with a headscarf, and she is stopped by two military police and forced to answer for the crime of indecency to a cleric. The cleric lets her off with a warning, but he still harangues her for putting the physical safety of herself and her child ahead of modesty.

While the Djinn are certainly terrifying, we really have no way of knowing how sinister their motives are. On the other hand, we know exactly how sinister the motives of misogynistic fanatics can be.

Of course, even if you simply look past the social commentary the film deftly balances with its horror, this is a damned fine ghost story. I am actually loath to say much more, lest I spoil it for anybody. So I will leave you with this comment:

I hope I never, ever encounter an apparition under my son's bed that looks like the one that tries to trick Shideh into thinking it's Dorsa. *shudder*

Welcome to Day Twenty-One of Hubri5Ween 2017, the fifth year of this nonsense! Click the banner above to see what everyone else did for U!